The Canovanogram Research Paleoanthropology Report
PINTUBI-1, A Modern Australoid Points To The Past
by jim vanhollebeke 2002
An anthropological paradox
The controversial Pintubi-1 skull of Australia
(pictured above) is a paradox of paleoanthropology. As a hominid
fossil, its so young that it has been assigned to a tribe that
survived into the last century. A modern aboriginal skull. Yet its
morphology could be described as archaic.
The skulls history is shrouded in mystery (not unlike others from the
down under). Even without documentation, its age and Australoid
identity are indisputable. The man it inhabited lived An anthropologic paradox
very recently (in paleo-terms), likely in the 1800s or later. It is in
perfect condition and shows no signs of antiquity. The skull was
discovered or obtained around 1905 near the lower Darling River in New
South Wales, Australia. Beyond that, all we are able to determine is
that it is said to be a large adult 50 year old male from the Pintubi
The last of the Pintubis (also called Bindaboos) surrendered their
nomadic Stone Age life styles in the 1960s. They were probably the
final example of unaltered stone age culture in Australia. They were
an incredible people who could live under the most unlivable
conditions ever encountered by humanity. Their culture, simple at
first glance, was incredibly complex as was their intimacy with their
Australian origins - An enigma
Scientific speculation of Australian aboriginal
ancestry has lately gotten bogged down with the Out of Africa vs.
Multiregional Evolution debate. Almost universally accepted is the Out
of Africa theory which states that fully modern man emerged out of
Africa only 100,000 years ago, spreading across the globe and wiping
out the (obsolete) archaic humans. Out of Africa insists that early
human species such as Homo erectus and Neanderthal became extinct -
evolutionary dead ends - and had nothing to do with the development of
Homo sapiens. That we are, therefore, all descended from this recent
wave of African humanity.
The not so popular multi-regional counter theory suggests many
regional pockets of gradual evolution throughout the old world with
emerging races or groups of humanity - groups that would remain
closely related through constant migratory or cross fertilization.
This globular gene flow would keep the entire group together as it
evolved over millions of years.
Employing the multiregional scenario for the origin of
the Australians, scientists have used fossils to demonstrate a
continuity beginning with Asias classic Java man through Ngandong
(Solo Man), Wadjak and on to Austalias present aborigines.
Much of the evidence for tracing them back to South East Asia and all
the way back to the extinct Indonesian archaics has been the cache of
recent fossils in Australias Kow Swamp locale. They were initially
described as very reminiscent of Javan Homo erectus. But a strong case
was made of the likelihood that artificial deformation was responsible
for their seemingly robust and primitive appearance. Even though many
of the specimens did NOT show signs of deformation, they all became
tainted with the label and were relegated to an area of relative
unimportance. The fact that these Kow Swamp bones were estimated to be
only 20 30,000 years old added to their seeming incongruity, the
vintage being much too young.
And of course, a sensitivity to racial considerations made the subject
all the more difficult if not taboo.
Only recently has sensational evidence come to light
that may force scientists to re-examine this issue and tilt the scales
on this human evolution debate.
Briefly these developments are:
In the last couple years, it has been established
that the Solo River (Ngandong,Java) variety of late Homo erectus may
have survived to as a mere 30,000 y.a.(years ago) in Java. It had
previously been thought to be extinct for a hundred thousand years
or longer. This prompts the revelation that Homo erectus and Homo
sapiens could have existed on Earth (and in the same region)
Prehistoric cave paintings have been discovered at
Australias Jinmium . Some tests indicate they might be 120,000 years
old. Australia had previously been thought to be inhabited by humans
for perhaps 40,000 years.
Traces of what have been perceived to be man made
fire have lately been documented and dated at 100-150,000 years.
New regional testing of human mitochondrial DNA has
indicated that the oldest sequences or versions of the human gene
are coming out of Asia and Australia (not Africa as expected) with
dates of 200,000 years ago.
The sum of these addendums would indicate human habitation in
Australia before the wave of African humanity could possibly have
gotten there. It also indicates that Homo erectus may be the first
sea farer by forging the strait from Asia to Australia ( if Man
inhabited Australia 200,000 y.a., Homo Erectus was the only model
These stated developments are not fully tested but are
certainly sending a buzz through the paleo-anthro community.
All this, coupled with the fact that occasional Kow Swamp
characteristics are still observed in some present day aborigines
lends credence to the argument that the multiregional S.E. Asian
ancestry scenario has renewed validity. The evidence is intriguing.
Returning to Pintubi-1
The subject skull, modern in age, yet archaic in
structure is a relevant example and deserves the following brief
Even if a pathological oddity it would demand attention but an
anthropologist at the University of Michigan assures us that this is
not the case and that this specimen isn't that unusual.
The present proprietor of Pintubi-1 (Canovan Researchs
designation) for study is not known. An excellent cast was supplied by
Bone Clones Inc. (http://www.boneclones.com/) for this description.
Excepting its missing teeth, the skull is complete and quite robust.
Quite long and somewhat low, its general measurements include a total
length of 8 ¼, by 5 ¼ in width, and a height of 8 ¼. The moderately
low vault has a marked frontal slope with a well developed saggital
keel along the midline. Despite the dramatic contours, there is no
hint of artificial cranial deformation. Although cranial capacity
remains unmeasured, the vault appearance doesnt indicate anything of
obvious note with the possible exception that it appears large. A
nearly unbroken but fairly well developed supraorbital torus is very
evident. Its development and prominence is complete over the nasal
area (medially) but has a more gracile lateral portion. Also notable
is the distinct nuchal torus (occipital bun) at the rear area of neck
muscle attachment. Measured horizontally, it is a good 3 ½ and very
pronounced with much expansion at the center. Above the torus is a
well defined groove. There is some thickening and angulation at the
temporal lines. The pentagonal shape of the vault from the rear is
quite remarkable. This same view does not show an obvious maximum
vault width at the top or at the bottom but callipers give a slight
edge to the bottom (5 vs. 4 ¾).
Top view indicates a well defined post orbital constriction (calipers
indicate 3 5/8 front vs. 4 ¾back).
Orbits are quite square and nasals are recessed at base as in typical
australoid morphology. The zygomatic flare is very wide and
pronounced. And the nasal aperture is notably broad.
The face is large, wide and forward projecting (prognathic) with very
large maxilla. The palate measures 2 7/8 in width x 2 ¾ long (roughly
equivalent to pithecanthropus IV). By comparison, our (pictured)
typical Euro-male sample measured 2 3/8wide x 1 ¾ long. All teeth are
exceedingly worn but massive. The molars are exceptionally huge. Most
upper teeth are present. They include all 6 molars, the 2 right
pre-molars, left canine (massive but worn at line of occlusion), 1
lateral right incisor heavily worn, and 2 partial but heavily worn
central incisors. There does not appear to have been any diastema
(gap) between canine and incisor.
Mandibular (lower jaw) teeth consist of all 6 left and right molars, 1
left rear pre-molar, and 1
right) canine. All intact and all radically worn at occlusion. All
four lower incisors are absent. In both lateral views, there is an
obvious gap between the third molar and the front of the ascending
ramus. Ramus of mandible is moderately wide but somewhat gracile when
considering the robusticity of the general skull. Mental eminence
(chin) is moderately weak with minimal forward projection.
Although we are describing differences that might seem
to approach speciation, we must remember that these are differences in
Affinities suggested by these descriptions are all Homo sapiens, to be
sure. Let no misinterpretation be made here.
There is, however, enough variance from the norm to suggest some
carry-over morphology from earlier or archaic anscestry. A continuity
or link to the past, as it were.
The link might be inferred to the influence of robust hominids of late
Pleistocene Asia. The obvious candidate for this backward probe would
be the aforementioned Homo erectus Soloensis of Ngandong, Java.
In a previous investigation, I was able to inspect casts of 2
calvarias - a 20,000 year old Australian aborigine (WLH-50) and an
Indonesian (Ngandong, Java) Homo erectus Soloensis and was amazed at
their nearly identical proportions.
A picture is worth a thousand...
This same Javan Ngandong sample will be shown in the photo section for
comparison to Pintubi-1.
The photographs are the meat of this essay. They are the evidence that
allow the reader to make his/her comparisons and judgements.
And so ...
Is this skull an argument for gene flow and continuity
pointing back to ancient Java?
It would seem so for this writer.
It is hoped that the scientific community will fully recognize the
data discussed here.
Perhaps an official and full description of Pintubi-1 can be
We are graced by a unique, endangered, and valuable people in once
They have always deserved better. As they return to their dreamtime,
one would hope they finally receive recognition and dignity.
Solo-6 calvarium cast (late Homo erectus,Ngandong
Pintubi-1 cast (Homo sapiens, Australia)
Pintubi-1 compared with average modern. Note contrast of
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Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen te Amsterdam B 23:1013-1051
Howells, William W.: The Pacific Islanders, NY, Scribner, 1973
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Tindale, N.B.: N.B.
Tindale's Aboriginal Tribes of Australia (1974)
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An excellent and extensive glossary of terms is
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