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Was Captain Cook really the first European to land on Australia's east coast?

A skull of a white man found in New South Wales is raising questions as to whether Captain James Cook was indeed the first European to land in eastern Australia.

The centuries-old skull was first thought to be a modern-day murder victim but testing showed that it belonged to a man born in the mid-17th century.

The skull was found in the town of Taree, about 200 miles north of Sydney in 2011. There were no other skeletal remains nearby.

It is believed to be the skull of a Caucasian male, which would make him the first recorded European to reach the eastern part of the continent - long before Cook landed in 1770.

Carbon dating from teeth and bone fragments was used to make the finding.

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Though researchers were surprised about what they found, it does not necessarily mean another European reached east Australia before Cook.

"Before we rewrite the history of European settlement we have to consider a number of issues, particularly the circumstances of the discovery," archeologist, Adam Ford, told the Daily Telegraph.

"The fact the skull is in good condition and found alone could easily point to it coming from a private collection and skulls were very popular with collectors in the 19th century."

Dutch explorers were the first to land in Australia's north in the 1600s.

Cook arrived in 1770, claiming eastern Australia for Great Britain.

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