Greater Ancestors

World Museum

Menenegie Gigantic Skull



One of the ablest scientists who have
visited Australia is Dr. Hermann
Klaatsch, Professor of Anatomy at the
Heidelberg University, Germany. He has
recently been in Adelaide attending the
Science Congres, and takes a profound in-
terest in the study of anthropology. In
fact, during the three years Professor
Klaatsch has spent in Australia,
a great deal of his time has been occu-
pied in gleaning personal information con-
cerning the history and customs of the
Australian aboriginals. Before leaving for
Sydney on Tuesday afternoon, the pro-
fessor was seen by one of our representa-
tives at the laboratory of Veterinary-Sur-
geon Desmond. Here the scientist was
making a close inspection of the skull of
a blackfellow, which Mr. Desmond had
obtained from Lake Albert, near Menin-
gie. The specimen was an old one, and
highly valuable,’from a scientific point of
view, because the jaws and teeth, which
showed abnormal development, were re
markably well preserved, considering the
great age of the skull The aboriginal
must have been a gigantic fellow.
The professor told the reporter that the
antiquity of the specimen was proved by
its state of preservation. There was an
entire absence of organic matter, but the
skull was not petrified. It was in a simi-
lar state to portions of a skull found by
the professor at Como, at the entrance of
one of the beautiful caves near the River
George, New South Wales. These seemed
to have been inhabited for thousands of
years by aboriginals, who bad left enor-
mous quantities of oyster-shells near the
mouths of the caves. While digging among
these shells one day he chanced to come
across some human bones at a depth of
between 2 and 3 ft., and on making a
careful search he brought to the surface
the relics of two skeletons and some bones
belonging to a third individual. The bones
were broken, and as there were no signs
of the ground around being an ancient
burial-place, he came to the conclusion
that the bones were left by cannibal
natives a long time ago.
The specimen in the possession of Mr.
Desmond is interesting for several reasons.
A curious feature is the formation of the
forehead, the ridge of which, is very pro-
nounced. This is a character to be ob-
served in the skull found by Professor
Klaatsch- “In my specimen,’ he said,
“the jaws are much broken up, but in
this one they ore relatively well pre-
served. They contain all the teeth, except
one in the upper jaw. This is an incisor,
and has been, knocked out, no doubt, m
accordance with a tribal custom of the
natives, which is practised even to this
day. It is an extremely old skull, but I
have no idea of the exact age. It evi-
dently belonged to a man of about 50 or
60 years old, because the sutures have dis-
appeared from the top of the bead. It
would be impossible to find such a beauti-
ful set of teeth, combined with so great
an age, in any other race in the world. lu
this respect the Australian blacks are
peculiar. The rows of teeth aïe remark-
able for the parabolic form of tile arch, the
narrowness of the palate closely re-
sembling that of the anthropoid monkey’s.
The complete formation of the upper jaw
nearly represents the whole human snout.
The lower jaw is of extraordinarily large
dimensions, the ascending branch being
very broad and massive. Despite thi^
wonderful development of bone, the teeth
are so large that they are crowded out of
position. Especially is this noticeable on
the right side of the lower jaw, where the
disturbance of the incisors has turned one
inward and another outward. One of the
canine teeth on the same side is displaced
outward and downward. Such irregulari-
ties are sometimes observed in human
beings at the present time, the size of the
jaw being out of proportion to the size of
the teeth; but they are seldom met with
in aboriginals.*’
A striking feature was the flatness of
the two rows of teeth where they met.
They fitted together in a vice-hke fashion-,
were still perfectly sound, and appeared to
have been ground level by means of a
file, though the professor thought it .had
been caused by natural means. Professor
? Klaatsch hopes that specimens of this
kind will be carefully handled, when
found, and sent to proper quarters, in the
interests of scientific research.

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