In a special ceremony in Canberra, the remains of Mungo Man, the first known Australian, have set off to a repatriation journey to Lake Mungo. Until today the remains which had been found in 1974 have been in the custodianship of the Australian National University.

The 40,000-thousand-year-old remains were handed over in a special ceremony organised on Wednesday. The car that was to carry the remains of Mungo Man, as well as those of 104 other ancient ancestors, to Willandra Lakes world heritage area had underwent a smoking ritual.

The procession was led by Matilda House and a Barkandji elder, Warren Clark, from Mildura spoke, thanking scientists and Jim Bowler in particular. He highlighted the importance of burying the remains of the ancestors back on their land so that their spirits would rest.

Dr Jim Bowler, 88, a geomorphologists from the Australian National University discovered the remains of Mungo Man in 1974.

A Mutthi Mutthi elder, Auntie Mary, also spoke during the ceremony, highlighting how relieved her people were with the repatriation and thanking the scientists who worked with the locals in the effort to bring back and bury their ancestors’ remains.

The remains of Mungo Man were held in a casket crafted out of 8,000-year-old river timber and donated by Bowler.

The three-day trip through Wagga Wagga, across the Hay Plains, to Balranald and then to Lake Mungo is expected to finish today. A select group of traditional owners will take the remains to an undisclosed location for a private burial.