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Space Science

Aboriginal Folklore Leads To Meteorite Crater 233

Posted by samzenpus
from the bunyip-approved dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An Australian Aboriginal dreaming story has helped experts uncover a meteorite impact crater in the outback of the Northern Territory. From the article: 'One story, from the folklore of the Arrernte people, is about a star falling to Earth at a site called Puka. This led to a search on Google Maps of Palm Valley, about 130 km southwest of Alice Springs. Here Hamacher discovered what looked like a crater, which he confirmed with surveys in the field in September 2009.'"
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Aboriginal Folklore Leads To Meteorite Crater

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  • by YankDownUnder (872956) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @04:45AM (#30680360) Homepage
    It's just too bad that so much of the Indigenous Australian's stories are "turned aside" by Western culture; they've been here AT LEAST 75,000 years (and most likely far longer than that) and there is so much within the framework of the Dreamtime stories and legends that bespeak heaps of extremely interesting occurrences - cosmic, geological and human. There's much more to be learned from studying what is left of their culture - and it's extremely important to preserve what we have now - for future generations. The Indigenous culture here is dying off at an alarming rate, and little care is aimed at this travesty.
    • by krou (1027572) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:02AM (#30680440)
      On my brief visits to Australia, I was always fascinated by Indigenous Australian culture and history, and made a point of learning more about it. What struck me, though, was how present day Australia has assimilated their culture as a marketing tool, and done next to nothing to allow their people and culture to survive. You can buy cheap Indigenous Australian "art" tat at airports that are made in China, while the vast majority of Indigenous Australians seem to have been left to rot, poor and drunk, in the gutter. There is such a deep undercurrent of racism against them, that I find it remarkable that they still exist at all. Everywhere I went, I heard the same stories of how lazy and worthless they are, they just squander everything they're given, they're all just drug addicts and drunks, stupid, and child abusers, which sounded eerily similar to the attitude of whites towards blacks that I remember from South Africa. I see a deep irony whenever I hear white Australians talk about preserving the white, Christian culture of Australia as justification for their immigration policies: they basically don't want someone to do to them what they did, and are doing, to Indigenous Australians.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:29AM (#30680534)

        And what would you suggest we do to fix this? We've tried the 'just leaving them alone'. We've tried the 'throw copious amounts of money at them to promote development'. We've tried the 'educating them to help themselves'. We've tried both the carrot, and in the past, the stick, unfortunately.

        But nothing changes. And you can understand why ... their culture is most fundamentally a nomadic one. They have no concept of 'ownership' of land or property, and rarely stay in one place for long. Thus no amount of providing infrastructure does anything ... they simply aren't interested in that. They are quite happy doing what they've done for the last 80,000 years. And more power to them I say - except that the scourge of alcohol and other Western influences has corrupted this traditional lifestyle for many to such a point where their societies collapse.

        Australians are just as ashamed at the situation as you are. We've handed back vast tracts of traditional lands to the Aborigines (much like the Indian Nations in the US), but the native Americans seem to have done much better for themselves than the Australian Aborigines (from what I have seen during my numerous trips to the US, they are quite prosperous on their reserves and have good self-determination and leadership).

        Sure there are some racists around, like anywhere, but I firmly believe the vast majority of Australians are not prejudiced against the Aborigines. But the problems you describe are deep and very, very difficult to fix.

        • by phyrz (669413) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:03AM (#30680662)

          I spent a bit of time during some touristy native american stuff while i was in canada and alaska last year, those tribes are (were) WAY more advanced than the Australian native peoples that the comparision just doesn't apply.

          Native americans built full blown cabins where aborigionals largely still lived in caves and temporary shelter. They had a far better chance at integration.

          Yeah its sad whats happened to the aussie abos, but at the end of the day they, as a people, need to save themselves - they have been given whatever resources they need. And perhaps they are making progress like alcohol bans in some towns up north, mon-fri boarding schools for children so they get proper rest at night, and pouring money into aborigional art and expression (hip-hop, dance and so on).

          The biggest problem is that a large proportion of this and the next generation of aboriginal kids will be growing up with fetal alcohol syndrome. those kids dont have a chance.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MichaelSmith (789609)

            Its about the worst possible interface. Aboriginal people are about the most primitive culture in the world today. They were always going to get steamrolled by Europeans.

            As a white Australian I would favour vastly expanded alcohol and petrol bans. Lets talk about the entire Northern Territory. Include South Australia and Western Australia more than 100km outside their capital cities.

            I live in Melbourne and a schoolmate of my son is Aboriginal. He is being raised by a white woman who adopted him and arranged

          • by digitig (1056110) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @09:13AM (#30681904)

            I spent a bit of time during some touristy native american stuff while i was in canada and alaska last year, those tribes are (were) WAY more advanced than the Australian native peoples that the comparision just doesn't apply.

            Native americans built full blown cabins where aborigionals largely still lived in caves and temporary shelter. They had a far better chance at integration.

            So you define "advanced" as "more like you"? Has it occurred to you that permanent shelter is just not the issue in a generally warm place like Australia than in a generally cold place like Alaska? That they might not have made those "advances" because they have no need of them? That "integration", whatever benefits it might have, might not be the best way to preserve the culture, and that the later is a valid choice?

            pouring money into aborigional art and expression (hip-hop, dance and so on).

            Hip-hop is an aboriginal Australian form of expression?

            • by rident (1287114) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @10:14AM (#30682582)
              I had the same opinion when I read that. The Lakota, Mandan, and other tribes from northern North America required better shelter to survive. They had very large animals (bison) to kill and process for food, shelter, and clothing. There are also vast forests as you progress farther north in their area of what is now the northern Minnesota and southern Ontario. All of which makes a big difference when you need to learn to survive. It's -9 F outside right now and I'm guessing the temps weren't that much different back then. Compare that to the arid plains, desert, and relatively small prey size which the Aboriginals had to contend with. I saw others mention the concept of land ownership. That was also a new idea to Native Americans when the Europeans arrived also. Sure there were tribes with their semi-staked out hunting lands and there were battles over that space but I would say it was more for basic resources which grew or fed upon that land than the land itself.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              So you define "advanced" as "more like you"? Has it occurred to you that permanent shelter is just not the issue in a generally warm place like Australia than in a generally cold place like Alaska? That they might not have made those "advances" because they have no need of them?

              That's irrelevant. It's true that, if advances aren't really needed, they won't be made (or will be made and then quickly discarded). However, regardless of the reasons, the civilization with more advances is, well, more advanced, pretty much by definition.

              That "integration", whatever benefits it might have, might not be the best way to preserve the culture, and that the later is a valid choice?

              Not integrating is a valid choice, absolutely, but if you don't integrate, then don't complain that the society you didn't integrate into doesn't consider you a part of it, and speaks in "us vs them" terms.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by digitig (1056110)

                That's irrelevant. It's true that, if advances aren't really needed, they won't be made (or will be made and then quickly discarded). However, regardless of the reasons, the civilization with more advances is, well, more advanced, pretty much by definition.

                Too simplistic. I bet the aboriginal society is more "advanced" than White or Asian Australian in terms of surviving in the bush. "Advances" aren't simple, counatble things.

        • by Jacques Chester (151652) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @07:06AM (#30680938)

          But nothing changes. And you can understand why ... their culture is most fundamentally a nomadic one. They have no concept of 'ownership' of land or property, and rarely stay in one place for long.

          Because of the construction of townships and outstations, this is no longer true. Or rather, it is not as completely true as it used to be.

          It is very simplistic to say that "their" culture is nomadic. Firstly, there are dozens of distinct cultures, each with different features, languages and laws.

          Secondly, aboriginals understand freehold title pretty well at this point. It's not as if they haven't hundreds of years of seeing everyone else have it except for them!

          We've handed back vast tracts of traditional lands to the Aborigines (much like the Indian Nations in the US), but the native Americans seem to have done much better for themselves than the Australian Aborigines...

          You are probably thinking of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory), the High Court decisions in Mabo and Wik and the Native Title Act which followed those decisions.

          However, the Land Rights Act did not give aboriginals freehold or even leasehold. Instead it created monstrously bureaucratic Land Councils which have mostly enriched a very few at the expense of the many. Thus the average aboriginal living on "their" land which was "given" to them can't actually do anything with it. They don't own it, and they can't own it. Consequently they can't start a business, or own a house. They cannot get a loan secured by the land. They can't do anything with it, in fact, except hope that they have mates in their Land Council.

          As for Native Title, again it grants nothing like freehold rights to land. All it grants is traditional rights, and only under very particular and difficult-to-prove conditions. Win Native Title and you might get Crown land back, but not always as ordinary freehold. Most likely you'll only get hunting rights or ceremonial access. Again it's basically economically useless.

          Aboriginals are human beings. They behave according to their perceived self-interest. I suspect that if we gave them freehold of their land, instead of trying to put them in a sort of cultural museum to assuage our own guilt, we'd learn that they're a smart and capable people.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2010 @08:08AM (#30681284)

          Its a bit sad to see how racist some of the comments from fellow Australians are on this matter. Coories or any other "race" should not be judged on European standards.

          The are not nomadic, the indiginues Australians lived in many differnt specific areas, and tended to remain in that area for a great deal of time.

          To place them in a category of always drinking, or have no respect for property is just plain wrong, racist and stupid.

          A group of people who can live for thousands of years, in harmoney with the enviroment, and not hurting anyone, no human sacrifices and generally peacefull.

          Im embarassed to see other Australian, (even if we are all immigrants) showing so much racims.

        • by neonsignal (890658) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @09:25AM (#30682014)

          Talking about 'them' and 'us' is perhaps the first root of your problem.

          If you really think that Aboriginal cultures are 'nomadic' and 'have no concept of ownership of land', then you aren't even at a wikipedia level of understanding of traditional cultures. Not to mention that many Aboriginal Australians are living in cities.

          You are correct that the problems are complex, which is why the solutions need to go beyond political grandstanding and patronizing platitudes. At the root of the matter is a lack of respect.

          Prejudice is to pre-judge a person. There is plenty of that going around in Australia, whether or not you like to think of it as racism.

          • by bug1 (96678)

            At the root of the matter is a lack of respect.

            Group A loses respect for group B because they dont conform to the social norms of their group, so group B is excluded from group A and the cultural differences stay the same or get worse.

            How do you bring two separate cultures together and still maintain them as seperate cultures (so one cultures identity isnt weakend or lost) ?

            Maybe everyone should just accept there are two different cultures and not expect people to live upto the values of the other culture.

        • by pnewhook (788591)

          And what would you suggest we do to fix this? We've tried the 'just leaving them alone'. We've tried the 'throw copious amounts of money at them to promote development'. We've tried the 'educating them to help themselves'. We've tried both the carrot, and in the past, the stick, unfortunately.

          Has anyone tried ASKING them what they want, instead of just assuming a solution?

          If they want, empower them. Give them the right to decide their own destiny. Stop treating them like a problem to be solved.

          This should be true of all natives and minorities throughout the world. History is full of this ridiculous interference where it is not wanted. Too often people try and 'fix' the 'problem' by making them just like the people trying to solve the problem, without actually asking what they want.

        • by Nadaka (224565) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:07AM (#30683418)

          What vast tracts of land were returned to the native american people? They currently have tiny tracts of the most desolate and inhospitable land in the US. Every time land was set aside for them in a binding treaty, that treaty was broken. I hear time and time again that in the US, treaty trumps all law, even the constitution. This is a lie, every single treaty with the native people has been broken. They were "given" (aka removed from all land that is not) all land west of the Apalacha's. That was taken and they were given all land west of the Mississippi. Then all land west of the rockies. Then a few large reservations. Then the reservations shrank. etc.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by spasm (79260)

          "They have no concept of 'ownership' of land or property, and rarely stay in one place for long"

          I'm going to pick on this specific example of horrendous ignorance, but believe me it's just a single example of the kind of nonsense I'm seeing on this thread.

          The historic problem hasn't been that Aboriginals haven't had a concept of land ownership, rather than they have a whole body of legal concepts which are more complex than the feudally-based concepts brought by Europeans, and hence were rarely recognized a

      • Flamebait, really? The mod should read up on Aborigene history - especially the last 200 years or so. It's the unfortunate truth.

      • This is NO DIFFERENT from what racially privileged people have been doing EVERYWHERE since the dawn of racial privilege. I could as easily rewrite your last sentence as "I see a deep irony whenever I hear white Americans talk about..." etc etc. Oh noes the border is failing, the brown people are coming back! We invited them back... to clean hotels and offices and pick lettuce and strawberries.

        I live in Lake County, California which gives me some very close perspective on what you are talking about; for over 10,000 years it was the home of the peaceful Pomo people who enjoyed a land covered with acorn-dropping oaks and filled with deer and elk, a lake filled with fish, and a day's walk to a coast well-encrusted with shellfish (and peopled with other peaceful peoples.) I live in Kelseyville, named after a slaver rapist whose wife helped bring him to his deserved conclusion by sabotaging the weapons. Every time I go out I encounter Pomo-lite who glare at me (I'm big and somewhat evanescent in most lighting conditions) for my part in their oppression, though all I ever did to them was run reports against a casino database for one of their casinos. For my part, I'd prefer to return this land to the way it was before "we" came to mess with them, but you'd have to replant it with oaks and wait a hundred years before it would even be possible.

        • by TheKidWho (705796)

          This is what we call White Man's guilt.

        • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday January 07, 2010 @10:02AM (#30682450)

          Wow, looks like someone really bought into that noble savage horseshit. I can almost picture the wind blowing through the Indian's hair as I read your post. But here is my non-hippie interpretation of the noble native American (you politically-correct types might want to avert your eyes):

          The "Native Americans" were actually many different tribes, many of whom despised one another. They fought wars with one another where torture, enslavement, rape, and various other atrocities were common. Some even practiced human sacrifice. They did not use "every part of" whatever animal they killed. They were not environmentalists. They were not peaceniks. They weren't even really "natives" (having immigrated from Asia once themselves). The relationship between Europeans and natives was a very complex one. It was not just a case of evil Europeans stealing the land of the noble savage and displacing some romantic hippie communal lifestyle. Some tribes welcomed Europeans, some fought them (using the same brutal tactics they used before the colonists came), some assimilated, some didn't. Many tribes appreciated the technological improvements of the Europeans, some spurned them. Different European "tribes" also treated the natives differently. The Spanish were much more open to intermarriage with the natives than the English. The French were more reluctant to build permanent settelments than the Spanish, British, or Portugese. Again, it was all a very complex cultural interaction--with plenty of atrocities and injustices to go around on all sides.

          Today's Native Americans still love to bitch about the evil white man--but few turn down our vaccinations or technology. And far too few turn down our hand-outs and alcohol. When they build casinos, they don't do it with "noble savage" architects. Again, it remains a complex situation--easy to romanticize, but much harder to *really* understand.

          • by pnewhook (788591)

            The "Native Americans" were actually many different tribes, many of whom despised one another. They fought wars with one another where torture, enslavement, rape, and various other atrocities were common. Some even practiced human sacrifice. They did not use "every part of" whatever animal they killed. They were not environmentalists. They were not peaceniks. They weren't even really "natives" (having immigrated from Asia once themselves).

            You could easily replace 'native americans' with 'europeans' and it would be very true of the state of europe over 1000 years ago.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            Wow, looks like someone really bought into that noble savage horseshit.

            Wow, looks like I'm about to get a ration of propagandist bullshit.

            I can almost picture the wind blowing through the Indian's hair as I read your post.

            She bit into a York(tm) peppermint patty.

            But here is my non-hippie interpretation of the noble native American

            It's also non-relevant. As is the fact that you're not a hippie. You're also not the president, but you didn't mention that.

            The "Native Americans" were actually many different tribes

            You are hereby fined your fucking credibility for misusing quotation marks. Now, I do understand that you're just flying off on a fucking rant here, which you're entitled to do any old time. But you're doing it in response to my comment, and like it or not, that makes it a reply

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        The same goes for indigenous Americans. What is it with we descendants of Europeans, both in America and Australia? Are the Europeans who stayed in Europe like that too?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AndersOSU (873247)

          It's not a european trait, it's a human trait.

          The privileged want more privilege, and they get it by taking from the already less privileged.

          In Europe, the pendulum was on it's way back to (relative) equality since the feudal system collapsed (for a whole variety of reasons, severe inequality cannot be sustained in the long run.) When Europeans started establishing colonies, it was a whole new dynamic, and exploitation ruled.

          If you look, you will find throughout history dominant cultures expanding and crus

    • by hwyhobo (1420503) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:04AM (#30680454)

      The Indigenous culture here is dying off at an alarming rate, and little care is aimed at this travesty.

      Dying off of cultures and civilizations is a natural process. What must be preserved is their collective knowledge. Written records of their stories may one day prove to be a giant shortcut for future research.

      • Speaking of dying cultures, I can hardly believe I'm reading comments like this modded up. I think we've come far in not being the ones who dismiss the knowledge of our ancestors. When I first became a reg on this site it felt like my fellow slashdotters were trying to wipe my memory and reinstall Linux when I voiced such opinions. :b

        Knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Feels good man.

      • by pnewhook (788591)

        Dying off of cultures and civilizations is a natural process. What must be preserved is their collective knowledge. Written records of their stories may one day prove to be a giant shortcut for future research.

        Hey! We could do that to the Americans! Ok, for everyone that lives in the US, write down what you know and send it to someone who lives in another country. That way when your country self destructs, your knowledge and culture will be preserved. Kinda like the Romans.

    • by derdesh (652578) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:14AM (#30680496)

      Okay, I admit, I RTFA, and the crater in question has been dated as millions of years old, long before *anyone* claims humans capable of cultural transmission visited Australia.

      According to the article, the author himself thinks that the aboriginal Australians were sophisticated enough to recognize impact craters on the landscape, and what might have caused them, and concoct legends about falling objects to explain them.

      With all due respect to the parent post, the Indigenous Australians may have great knowledge that has been dismissed by their Western colonizers, but this is not evidence of such.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @08:43AM (#30681588)

        According to the article, the author himself thinks that the aboriginal Australians were sophisticated enough to recognize impact craters on the landscape, and what might have caused them, and concoct legends about falling objects to explain them.

        With all due respect to the parent post, the Indigenous Australians may have great knowledge that has been dismissed by their Western colonizers, but this is not evidence of such.

        So, figuring out what happened after the fact is not as impressive as witnessing it?
        Seems backwards to me.

    • by ACDChook (665413) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:31AM (#30680544)
      It's doubtful they've been here much longer than 40000 years. Genetic evidence indicates they are descended from the same group of people that left Africa about 70000 years ago as every other non-African person on Earth.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        One thousand years is a long time. If you put your mind to it you could walk from Africa to Asia or Europe in a year. I reckon 1000 years is easily enough to go from Africa to Australia. Quite possibly 100 years. Remember they are not diffusing like animals. Once they decide to go from A to B that is what they do. And the people who left Africa at 70000 BP were genetically identical to us, with the same potential.

        And I have this idea that sometimes the safest way to be is to move fast, especially if you hav

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Potor (658520)

          Once they decide to go from A to B that is what they do.

          Are you implying that they knew what B was, and where it was? If they didn't, they were essentially wandering.

          • Once they decide to go from A to B that is what they do.

            Are you implying that they knew what B was, and where it was? If they didn't, they were essentially wandering.

            I think they were smarter than we give them credit for being. They were essentially the same as us after all. For sure they wouldn't have known that there was a continent ahead, but they might have decided to walk in a particular direction and see where it took them.

            • by Potor (658520)

              I agree with your position against the noble savage, but if they were seeing where there journeys took them, then they did not have a B, a destination, in mind ...

              Thus the speed you attribute to decisiveness is lacking.

        • by Jacques Chester (151652) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:41AM (#30680836)

          Dissipation is slower than centuries for two reasons:

          1. People get used to where they grow up. It's not as though every generation set themselves the task of moving as far from their parents as possible.
          2. Land bridges depended on ice ages. Australia was settled by (depending on who you consult) 2 or 3 waves of humans, corresponding with ice ages making it possible to easily reach Australia from the Indonesian / PNG archipelago.

          As for the grandparent's claim that Aboriginal Australians have been on this continent longer than 75,000 years, the evidence is based on a single highly polluted sample. The evidence for 40,000 years of settlement is much stronger and corroborated by multiple sites.

          • by Cimexus (1355033)

            Either way ... 40,000 years is a phenomenal amount of time. I mean, that's 10 time older than the pyramids.

            History is a funny thing ... here's an interesting thought experiment:

            One of the key drivers for Britain settling Australia was the US War of Independence, 12 years earlier in 1776. The Brits lost their American colonies, which they used for several things, including the shipment of convicts (yes the US had them too ... always remember that when making your 'haha Australians are convicts' jokes people!

        • by ACDChook (665413)
          Well, IIRC, following the archaeology from Africa, through the middle east, India, SE Asia, to Australia, it basically shows a slow progression around the shore. With arrival in Australia being 40-50k years ago.
        • Primitive people would have needed to figure out their environment first. That is something you can't do in a few decades, specially when you are not using s systematic approach to collecting knowledge (the scientific method is a recent invention and is not innate as far as we know).

          Most likely people would move to one place or area, stay there for several hundreds of years, and groups would move slightly further away to adapt to new environments slowly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The Indigenous culture here is dying off at an alarming rate, and little care is aimed at this travesty.

      Most traditional Aboriginal cultures have already been lost since British settlement. Depending on who you ask, there might have been 600 independent cultural-linguistic "nations" in Australia in 1788 with the British claimed approximately 2/3rds of the continent as "New South Wales".

      Nevertheless, a large amount of traditional culture still exists throughout the centre and north of the continent. I am fro

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      that's because 99.999% of the stories are bullshit, same as our legends and myths. Back to my "Thors-day" at work, don't want to make the big god with the hammer who makes thunder pissed at me by not working on his day.....

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here [google.com.au] it is. I went looking for it when the original story broke, without a picture or link, and easily found it. I knew where Palm Valley was, and from there the crater was pretty obvious. Mind you, it would be easy to dismiss it as an odd shaped formation if you didn't know you were looking for a crater, so hats off to Hamacher and the accuracy of "legend".
    • " In remote central Siberia, there was a time when the Tungus people told strange tales of a giant fireball that split the sky and shook the Earth. They told of a blast of searing wind that knocked down people and whole forests. It happened, they said, on a summer's morning in the year 1908. "

      About 20 years later the legend of the fireball led to the search and discovery of what has become known as the 'Tunguska Event'.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunguska_event [wikipedia.org]

      As seen in Carl Sagan's Cosmos, episode 4, Hea

  • by Angostura (703910) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @04:53AM (#30680396)

    .... as far as I'm concerned is...

    Despite the link to the dreaming story, weathering and the absence of meteorite fragments suggest that the crater is millions of years old and humans could not possibly have witnessed the event, Hamacher said.

    .

    His suggestion is that Aborigines may have learned to recognise craters from more recent impacts and then deduced the origin of the Palm Valley and Gosse's Bluff craters. Now, I don't know about you, but that feels extraordinarily unlikely to me, given the frequency of large meteorite strikes. But that might just be because I don't have the aboriginal sensibilities for land features.

    • by Arker (91948) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:02AM (#30680434) Homepage

      Much of "dreamtime" and similar bodies of lore elsewhere, but the australian dreamtime is the canonical example by most accounts, is "cultural geography." The stories were adaptive strategies for human groups which travelled great distances and relied on their knowledge of local features for survival. If a person can predict features of geography in an area he has never been before because he remembers stories which encoded those features, this is a huge advantage. So that accurate information can be decoded from them should hardly be surprising.

      Nor would it be very surprising that they correctly deduced that craters are caused by meteor impact. The frequency of *large* meteorite collisions may be quite low, but the frequency of medium and small impacts is orders of magnitude greater, and they also leave craters. Simply dropping a rock into a still body of water forms a crater as well, even though it erodes away in the blink of an eye many people have sat dropping rocks into a pond and observing what happens as well.

    • by dargaud (518470) <[ten.duagradg] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:19AM (#30680510) Homepage

      His suggestion is that Aborigines may have learned to recognise craters from more recent impacts and then deduced the origin of the Palm Valley

      I would like to point to a similar story. In France the town of Rochechouart [france-for-visitors.com] sits on a meteor crater. The name of the town, dating back centuries, literally means 'Fallen rock'. But the crater is 200e6 years old and is hardly recognizable from the ground (it's 21km in diameter, yes, it was a big hit). So who and how did they name the city ?

      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:32AM (#30680550) Homepage Journal

        His suggestion is that Aborigines may have learned to recognise craters from more recent impacts and then deduced the origin of the Palm Valley

        I would like to point to a similar story. In France the town of Rochechouart [france-for-visitors.com] sits on a meteor crater. The name of the town, dating back centuries, literally means 'Fallen rock'. But the crater is 200e6 years old and is hardly recognizable from the ground (it's 21km in diameter, yes, it was a big hit). So who and how did they name the city ?

        Many people in history and pre-history mined meteorites for iron. They learnt to associate meteorites with impact events and so associated iron mines with impacts.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:47AM (#30680616)

        Although the "roche" part of the town's name does indeed mean rock, the other part, Chouart, does not mean fallen. It comes from the name Cavardus, the original owner of the fortification built on a rocky pillar there. Check out the official town history through a translation machine of your choice: http://www.ville-rochechouart.fr/Tourisme/Histoire/index.php [ville-rochechouart.fr]

      • I would like to point to a similar story. In France the town of Rochechouart [france-for-visitors.com] sits on a meteor crater. The name of the town, dating back centuries, literally means 'Fallen rock'.

        Actually it doesn't. There is no plausible etymology from choir ("to fall", from latin cadere) to "chouart". Rather, the term "Rochechouart" comes from "Cavardus' rock" [wikipedia.org], referring to the man who built a fort in the area.

    • by bcmm (768152)

      that feels extraordinarily unlikely to me, given the frequency of large meteorite strikes

      Perhaps not if you consider the extraordinary age of some Australian aborigine cultures.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Perhaps not if you consider the extraordinary age of some Australian aborigine cultures.

        They know because they were the citizens of the now-lost city of Atlantis, just off the coast of Australia, destroyed by meteor impact.
        I kid, I kid, but it sounds like a decent short story...

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Goa'uld

    • by hey! (33014)

      Now, I don't know about you, but that feels extraordinarily unlikely to me, given the frequency of large meteorite strikes.

      On the other hand, that same infrequency doesn't seem to have prevented geologists from European cultures from figuring it out.

      • by delinear (991444)
        It's much easier to figure things out when you have the writings of those who went before you to help. Or to put it another way, several people may have "guessed" how the craters came to be, individually they just had interesting stories, put them together and you have something worthy of scientific investigation and then corroboration, all of this is a lot easier when you have writing.
  • Wonder... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plasticsquirrel (637166) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @04:54AM (#30680412)
    I wonder how many "myths" have such a basis in true events? I'm reminded of the "hobbit humans" story where the native people had stories about them that had been passed down reliably for thousands of years. It seems that in our rush to be certain about our world, we are often too eager to dismiss the ideas of ancient people. It is unfortunate as well, because they cannot defend themselves, so they are especially easy prey for academics looking for notoriety.
    • by vadim_t (324782)

      Such things are worthless if there's no evidence to back them up.

      All those myths get warped radically when they're passed from one generation to another. By the time we hear them, there are good chances they indicate nothing of use, even if they refer to a real event.

      Take something more recent and well known such as the tale of the Little Red Riding Hood, for instance. The original had the wolf leave the grandma's meat and blood for the girl to eat, then asked her to strip naked and throw the clothing into

      • It is not true that they are worthless without evidence. They are not only cultural and historical treasures, but may be preserved for a later date when evidence has been found. And even if they are never found to be accurate about history, they can still tell us about a culture and its people.

        As for Little Red Riding Hood, I do not know if that is true or not. However, if it is, that is simply one example of how a story may change. However, TFA is an example of how a story did not, and it was indeed very
        • by vadim_t (324782)

          It is not true that they are worthless without evidence. They are not only cultural and historical treasures, but may be preserved for a later date when evidence has been found. And even if they are never found to be accurate about history, they can still tell us about a culture and its people.

          Oh, I agree that mythology is interesting. But I wouldn't trust it much for geological research. For each story that has some relationship with reality there are hundreds about things like women that can sever their t [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      It seems that in our rush to be certain about our world, we are often too eager to dismiss the ideas of ancient people.

      The continued popularity of Judaism - and it's offspring, Christianity and Islam - tends to counter your claim. As does the number of people who have adopted various older forms of beliefs, from Paganism to Buddhism to Feng Sui and Tai Chi. If anything, the opposite of your claim is true - people tend to have a knee jerk tendency to accept the "wisdom" of "ancient culture", while rejecting "western science" as commercialized or "closed minded".

      It is unfortunate as well, because they cannot defend themselves, so they are especially easy prey for academics looking for notoriety.

      Nonsense. College campuses and left-leaning political movemen

      • Unfortunately those who jump up to such defence are by majority much more enthusiastic than skillful or informed. They provide their detractors with a straw man to beat up, and get loud and obnoxious in their own failing. The detractor then promptly declares victory on false grounds. That such arguments are motivated by wanting to "win" it rather than wishing to learn something new speaks of their futility.

        Having spoken with people who are very well-informed, and sometimes skilled, in spiritual arts I form

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The continued popularity of Judaism - and it's offspring, Christianity and Islam - tends to counter your claim.

        All of these religions are having increasing trouble gaining converts. If they grow they do it by reproduction (which is why Catholicism is running strong — they heavily targeted peoples with high birth rates, then proceeded to tell them they would go to hell if they used birth control. A brilliant strategy.)

        If anything, the opposite of your claim is true - people tend to have a knee jerk tendency to accept the "wisdom" of "ancient culture", while rejecting "western science" as commercialized or "closed minded".

        I disagree. People only enjoy the wisdom of ancient culture when it has been made more palatable, like Wicca which is a bullshit fabrication but which is made up of ancient traditions. In that res

    • by sznupi (719324)

      All myths have a basis in true events in regards to how they came to be - a story of certain function grown out of particular community. Some just took "artist license" in regards to their narrative further than the others, so to speak.

      It would be also a good idea to look at all myths like that if you want to wonder about them. "Western" ones aren't any more enlighted. Ancient ones or belonging to indigenous people living today are also regarded as more or less factual, by their adherents.

  • The Earth has been hit literally countless times by meteors and the best places to find craters are ones which have very sparse vegetation like Australia (there are around 25 known craters in Australia). The fact that they tell 'lots of stories' about stars falling out the sky with a noise like thunder coupled with the relative commonality of impact craters on the continent along with the fact that there was not a precise location, just a general area, makes it sound an awful lot like coincidence. I'm not
    • With those magnificent dark skies the Aboriginal people must have seen a lot of brilliant fireballs over the millenia. Some would generate a shock wave as well. For every crater on the ground I am sure many meteors were seen in the sky.

      When you sleep in the open you spend a lot of time staring straight up...

  • by Enleth (947766) <enleth@enleth.com> on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:21AM (#30680514) Homepage

    Just as I was thinking of some way to spice up a Call of Cthulhu adventure located in Australia for my players - a million years old crater from the aboriginal dreams pops up, and it's a genuine, real one. A little too far to the east for the original plot location, but that's nothing, just might be a tad more difficult for them to reach. Brilliant.

  • Emu Dreaming (Score:2, Informative)

    by idji (984038)
    A very recent podcast [abc.net.au] with transcript [abc.net.au] (3. Jan 2010) called Aboriginal Astronomy [abc.net.au] from Radio Australia [abc.net.au] was about this topic, referring to this book Emu Dreaming [emudreaming.com] by Ray Norris [csiro.au]
  • by popoutman (189497) * on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:35AM (#30680564) Journal

    In a 1988 or 1989 edition of Astronomy Now (an english astronomy magazine), there was a very interesting article detailing Australian meteor craters.
    In this article, there were about 30 craters listed, along with pictures and descriptions of the area, with the best-guess ages of the craters. Along with the radio-isotope dating, if there was a local name for the area that implies a large amount of sky-based fire in an area without volcanic activity, and without the vegetation to have a large bushfire.
    A great examle of this is the Henbury Craters complex (NT, 24 34'S, 133 10'E) which is a collection of 14 craters, about 130 kilometres south of Alice Springs. They are scattered over an area of about one square kilometre. The craters range from 10 metres to about 73 metres across. The Aboriginal name for these craters is ''chindu chinna waru chingi yabu'' which roughly means ''sun walk fire devil rock''
    text quoted from http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/trek/4wd/Over11.htm [abc.net.au]

    Typical! I read the fine article, and it looks as though the article already has this listed.....

  • at a site called Puka

    That was no meteorite, that's where Harvey's spaceship touched down.

  • I saw that crater from a vantage point during September.

    The guide told us the dream story and that it was a crater. Old, weathered info signs said the same. I did not get any specifics, but everything I heard and saw makes me believe that this has been known for a long time.

  • Now THOSE would be fun . . .

    I guess the trouble is the signal to noise ratio . . . for every myth that might have the potential of being true, there are 1,000 that are quite utterly bogus.

    It's like a Website that you read . . . when too much garbage flows in, you don't take anything on it seriously, or stop reading it altogether.

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Thursday January 07, 2010 @09:53AM (#30682366) Journal
    • We are wrong about how long humans have been on the planet
    • We are wrong about how long ago the impact was
    • We are wrong about the level of sophistication of pre-human ancestors in the area to relate such folklore
    • It is a serendipitous coincidence that such folklore happens to appear to match up with an actual meteor impact.

    The latter seems to me to be the most likely explanation at this time. There would need be far more such occurrences before I would even begin to start to presume one of the others.

  • australian army officials are trying to determinehow a mushroom smoking, dijeridoo blowing, hippie unknowingly discovered the site of a top secret nuclear test detonation in the middle of the outback...

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

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