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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 YankDownUnder ( 872956 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:45AM (#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 Arker ( 91948 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:02AM (#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 krou ( 1027572 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:02AM (#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 hwyhobo ( 1420503 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:04AM (#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.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:32AM (#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 [] 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 MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @07:15AM (#30680696) Homepage Journal

    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 for him to have a liver transplant, which saved his life. She takes him home to see his birth family every year. Its a variation of the mistake which led to the stolen generation, but its the only way for this boy.

  • Re:Wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @07:26AM (#30680760)

    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 movements are chock-full of people willing to jump to the defense of any culture which incorporated mysticism. If you want evidence, just attended any protest put on by "environmental" groups, and ask a random person about their spiritualism.

  • by kklein ( 900361 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @07:38AM (#30680820)

    Then you have no idea what is happening in Australia.

    Weaker cultures/civilizations being replaced by stronger ones is exactly what has been happening in Australia, and North America, and South America, and that's only in the last couple centuries. It has happened countless times throughout history. It's normal. That's isn't an excuse to be dicks about it, but it happens to every culture eventually. We're sitting here typing in the language of the people who had their own fine and dandy language which was decimated by Nordic raiders who took over the northern parts of their island and started supplanting bits of their culture with their own, then came the Normans who enslaved them for 300 years and relegated some of their best words (fuck, shit) to the "dirty" category... Oh, and don't forget about the Romans...

    We are the lucky benefactors of several waves of colonization. Just because our culture was the last to really go on a colonizing bender doesn't mean we were the first, or the last.

    That's what "natural" means.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2010 @08:25AM (#30681050)

    Then die at 30 like the average life expectancy of a "native" human due to measles or some other easily treated disease.

  • by corbettw ( 214229 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @09:09AM (#30681296) Journal

    Strictly speaking, the language we're using right now came from those Nordic raiders. The one used by the indigenous people in Britain was more like modern Irish (not that you hear that much anymore, either).

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @09:43AM (#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 digitig ( 1056110 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @10:13AM (#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 dow ( 7718 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @10:18AM (#30681944)

    I do not understand why you both have been modded down. You both have views which may be against what the majority of people feel, but they are valid points and you should be able to express your opinion without being modded flamebait and redundant. It's not as if you posted as anonymous coward or anything, just that your opinions are against the left wing attitudes which seem to be a lot more prevalent and enforced here than they were a few years ago.

  • by neonsignal ( 890658 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @10:25AM (#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 elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:02AM (#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 rident ( 1287114 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:14AM (#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.
  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @01:15PM (#30684496)

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

    I'd assume the answer would be:

    "Pack up your belongings and go back where you came from."

    Not sure how much that helps...

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @01:19PM (#30684548) Journal

    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.

  • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @01:47PM (#30684958)

    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 BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @03:55PM (#30686634)

    The smallpox thing is not a myth. There is no evidence to suggest it did not happen, and there exists documentation to suggest it did. You can doubt it if you'd like, but you have no basis for the label of 'myth'. Even if it were not successfully carried out, even the act of planning it is despicable, so I fail to see what your nit is gaining, exactly.

    These people are not being turned into anything. I am demonstrating how our colonial governments treated them a sub-human, and subjugated them summarily, but that does not change them in the slightest.

    Saying there was no 'these people' is like saying there are no 'white people' because they all come from various European ancestors. You're varying the definitions of the words to make a point, and I find this form of argument non-compelling.

    Finally, I'm not necessarily advocating their nobility in a vacuum. But once compared to the absolutely vile behavior that was inflicted upon them as a group, they do come out looking far better. Bear in mind also that WE are the ones that wrote the history books! So it stands to reason that the events depicted are the MOST FAVORABLE ACCOUNT POSSIBLE. And in that light, I must wonder about the motivations for your 'horseshit' position.

    Personally I hope that we look back on what we did and remember how vile it was. Otherwise we'll simply wind up making these same mistakes in the future. Attacking the 'noble savage' notion as an apologist is shameful behavior.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur