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Space Science

Aboriginal Folklore Leads To Meteorite Crater 233

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 ACDChook ( 665413 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:31AM (#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.
  • Emu Dreaming (Score:2, Informative)

    by idji ( 984038 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:32AM (#30680552)
    A very recent podcast [] with transcript [] (3. Jan 2010) called Aboriginal Astronomy [] from Radio Australia [] was about this topic, referring to this book Emu Dreaming [] by Ray Norris []
  • by popoutman ( 189497 ) * on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:35AM (#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 []

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:47AM (#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: []

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

  • Re:Coordinates! (Score:3, Informative)

    by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @07:49AM (#30680878)
    I had a look on Google Earth, and couldn't see anything out of the ordinary at that spot, either from a flat photo or from elevation (and it's in a nice high-resolution bit, presumably because it's only 15km from the nearest populated place - not far in Australia).

    24*3'10.06" S 132*42'36.98" E in DMS, for anyone else trying to see it. (* in place of degree sign because slashdot hates us).
  • by Jacques Chester ( 151652 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @07:54AM (#30680892)

    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 from Darwin in the Northern Territory, for example. Just a few hundred kilometres from that beautiful little town you can find traditional law being practiced in all directions.

    What cultures have survived are being studied by anthropologists, linguists and the like. Similarly, dreamtime stories and rituals are often sought for insight they can give into historical events and geological features.

    I don't think that all elements of some existing traditions are praiseworthy and deserving of retention. In many places, for example, traditional law is brutal and inhumane. However, much as European culture grew out of the comparable brutalities of the classical world, we can adopt and learn the best elements of tradtional cultures and combine them within our own in the centuries ahead. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Stasis can be as destructive to cultural survival as anything else.

  • by Jacques Chester ( 151652 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @08:06AM (#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 @09:08AM (#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.

  • Re:Coordinates! (Score:3, Informative)

    by corbettw ( 214229 ) <{corbettw} {at} {}> on Thursday January 07, 2010 @09:24AM (#30681424) Journal

    Look a little to the northeast of that location, just south of the fossil river. It's plain as day.

  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @12:07PM (#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.

  • by spasm ( 79260 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @04:30PM (#30687076) Homepage

    "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 as such. Let me give you an example. Any one geographic space may have multiple rights and duties associated with it. The right to hunt geese during the early part of the wet season. The right to collect turtle eggs when turtles are hatching on beaches. The right to move through the area. The right to set up camp during the dry season when there are few food resources. The 'ownership' of, or association with specific dreamtime entities whose stories connect with that area in some way. These different types and levels of ownership can and often are held by different groups, families, and individuals. There's any number of examples of what has gone wrong when Europeans have attempted to engage with this system even with good intent. A mining company, for example, might seek permission to do exploratory drilling, and ask around to find out who 'owns' the land. Directed to some imposing looking elder, they ask if he is the owner of the land and he says yes. They ask if there's any religiously sensitive places in the area and he says no. The offer a payment in exchange for exploratory drilling. All good, right? Except when the mining company rolls the drills out, all hell breaks loose with other groups of people turning up saying that they're the owners and they weren't consulted at all and there's a number of important religious sites within the area and so on. The mining company throws its hands up in disgust and declares the local community is just trying to screw them for more money. The real problem being the elder they consulted in the first place turns out to have rights to hunt in the area during parts of the year (and hence felt fine saying yes he 'owned' the land because loosely translated he did), but was either unaware or didn't care that other groups also had ownership rights over different aspects of the land and that there's a number of sacred spaces connected to exclusively-female dreamtime stories that he was (appropriately) unaware of, and so on. And this is what can happen when people are acting with good intentions, let alone if someone is actually deliberately trying to screw the locals over. Aboriginal law has complex, multi-layered conceptions of legal rights and ownership where there are many simultaneous and overlaying categories of ownership; European property law is largely an extension of feudal property law and, by contrast, is simple, static, and does not allow for simultaneous multiple types of ownership. To the frustration of both Europeans and Aboriginals, trying to shoehorn Aboriginal property law into European property categories for the sake of expediency and to allow things like mining or property development to be pursued in a timely manner has rarely produced entirely satisfactory results.

    To get back to my original point, the idea that Aboriginals "no concept of 'ownership' of land or property" merely displays breathtaking ignorance, and the fact that this is a widespread understanding among European Australians is, I think, both a national embarrassment and the basis for much of the ongoing misunderstandings between Australians of all backgrounds.

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