Looking back through my collection of history-related press-cuttings I have rediscovered a fascinating article by Tom Whipple, science correspondent for The Times newspaper, and entitled “Aboriginal stories stand test of time and rising seas” (The Times, Wednesday 28 January, 2015: p.25). This article provides an insight into how marine geography has now been able to prove the accuracy of the oral folk tales told by the Aborigines in Australia, some of which date back almost 300 generations. Remarkably, these folk tales provide a continuous flow of oral testimony from the last ice age.
Researchers at the University of New England (UNE) have found that Aboriginal stories map precisely on the geographical features that disappeared 10,000 years ago when sea levels rose.”
The article reflects upon how rare it is for this kind of oral testimony to have survived intact over such a long period of time, especially when placed in the context whereby in England, for example, there is no surviving testimony as to how the construction of the Stonehenge ancient moment was built. Whipple suggests that this may be due to the Aborigines having strong cultural mechanisms for ensuring that these oral testimonies are passed down through the generations without alteration:
If I am an Aboriginal in central Australia, my father tells me all the stories about my country. My sister hears the same stories and tells them to her children. Her children then have the responsibility for checking that I tell the same stories accurately, Ther’es a cross-generational scaffolding.”
A full version of this article is available via The Times newspaper website – Aboriginal stories stand test of time and rising seas (subscription required).