Sunday, June 7, 2009

First astronomers...Aboriginal Australians?

"The Astronomy of Aboriginal Australia"


Ray P. Norris and Duane W. Hamacher


The traditional cultures of Aboriginal Australians include a significant astronomical component, which is usually reported in terms of songs or stories associated with stars and constellations. Here we argue that the astronomical components extend further, and include a search for meaning in the sky, beyond simply mirroring the earth-bound understanding. In particular, we have found that traditional Aboriginal cultures include a deep understanding of the motion of objects in the sky, and that this knowledge was used for practical purposes such as constructing calendars. We also present evidence that traditional Aboriginal Australians made careful records and measurements of cyclical phenomena, and paid careful attention to unexpected phenomena such as eclipses and meteorite impacts.

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