The mystery of Narrabeen Man

Step 3: Analyse sources

What did the archaeologists find? (Task 4a)

For Task 4, refer to Investigation kit: the mystery of Narrabeen Man (PDF, 731 KB)

Six 'exhibits' present sources of evidence on the death of Narrabeen Man:

  1. An archaeological drawing showing the position of the skeleton and the sharp spear points when the body was discovered in 2005. Not all the bones of the skeleton were in the grave. (Adapted from McDonald 2007).
  2. One of the sharp spear points lodged in Narrabeen Man's spine.
  3. A damaged vertebra where one of the sharp spear points was lodged.
  4. The arrow shows damage to the skull probably caused by the impact of a small, sharp stone point found next to it. The dark area below is evidence that the body was partially burnt after death.
  5. Forensic anthropologist Dr Denise Donlon with the bones of Narrabeen Man.
  6. A reconstruction of a 'death spear' from the time of Narrabeen Man. It shows how the small, sharp pieces of stone were fixed to the shaft of the spear with resin.

What did the experts say? (Task 4b)

Meet the experts:

  1. Dr Jo McDonald is an archaeologist and specialist in the cultural resource management of Aboriginal sites. She spent most of her career as a consulting archaeologist, during which time she excavated the burial site of Narrabeen Man. She has since taken up a prestigious university research position.
  2. Dr Denise Donlan is a forensic anthropologist and Senior Lecturer in Anatomy and Histology in the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney.
  3. Mr Allen Madden is the Cultural and Educational Officer with the Aboriginal Metropolitan Land Council of Sydney.
  4. Dr Paul Willis was a producer of science programs at the ABC.


Task 4 aims to help students synthesise the information provided in the sources of evidence and the interpretations of experts.

  • Ask students to review the questions they developed at the beginning of the investigation.
  • Students:
    • Write their questions in the spaces in the left column and add any additional questions they would like to answer.
    • Carefully examine the images of the discoveries and the information provided by the experts.
    • Select evidence that will answer the question and write it in the column on the right.
  • Emphasise that students must make precise reference to the evidence that is relevant to their question.
  • An alternative approach is to ask students for their interpretation before they consider the views of experts.