Indigenous Australian Astronomy.
This evening we had a fascinating and thought provoking talk from Dr Pete Kuzma of Edinburgh University. We were first introduced to the complexity and likely means of arrival, 45 – 65,000 years ago, in what would become modern Australia of the many nations of indigenous people from the Torres Strait to Tasmania.

Dr Kuzma used the framework of the major subject areas of astronomy, such as the Sun, Moon, planets and constellations to explore the way in which the ancient people of the land explained the sky above them for thousands of years before modern science.

It is extraordinary that over such a huge continent and between hundreds of nations that many beliefs are so similar. Stories like Ngalindi, the fat Moon Man being chopped up by his family to explain Lunar phases and the Sun capturing the Moon to explain Solar eclipses show the awareness, depth of observation and thought amongst First Nation peoples. Indeed there is some evidence that some nations could connect that Venus, the morning and evening “star” are the same object.

It is often easy to dismiss many of these beliefs as “primitive” but we must not forget that this is where Astronomy, the oldest science, really began.

Nigel Goodman