Myths and legends usually belong to folklore, but Australian aboriginal tales helped scientists find meteorites and traces of a tsunami. One “legend describes the landing of a meteor in Australia’s Central Desert about 4,700 years ago.” Anglo prospectors found pieces of meteorites and the area is now Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve. Another led to the discovery of “a layer of ocean sediment, about 2m down… between 500m and 1km (0.6 miles) inland” that indicate a tsunami.
These indigenous peoples may have unique legends. Isolated on Australia for 50,000 years, they avoided the invasions, diasporas, and assimilation that swept larger continents. They also developed “very particular beliefs about the importance of telling stories properly… [and] employ a rigid kin-based, cross-generational system of fact-checking stories… rock paintings, drawings and engravings.” Stories that retain their basic truth for five thousand years and more leave me – holding my pile of defunct floppy disks – in awe.
With their devotion to accuracy, these Australians were the first citizen scientists, before science was invented. And they have more to teach us.
“Earlier this year, another team of researchers presented a paper arguing that stories from Australia’s coastal Aboriginal communities might ‘represent genuine and unique observations’ of sea level rises that occurred between 7,000 and 11,000 years ago.” This may be the only human record we have from the end of the last ice age.
Thanks to bbc.com for their article, which is quoted above.