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Title: Indigenous Australian Stories and Sea-Level Change
Contributor(s): Reid, Nicholas J  (author)orcid ; Nunn, Patrick  (author); Sharpe, Margaret  (author)
Publication Date: 2014
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Abstract: Oral traditions, especially contrasted with written history, are typically portrayed as inaccurate. Commenting on native title claims in the US, Simic (2000) made the specific claim: "As a general rule, unwritten legends that refer to events more than 1,000 years in the past contain little, if any, historical truth". So can preliterate Indigenous languages tell us anything factual about the distant past, or does the transmission of historical facts become inevitably corrupted? Changes in sea levels around the Australian coast are now well established. Marine geographers can now point to specific parts of the Australian coast and know with some confidence what the sea levels were at a particular time before the present. This paper reports on a substantial body of Australian Aboriginal stories that appear to represent genuine and unique observations of post-glacial increases in sea level, at time depths that range from about 13,400-7,500 years BP. This paper makes the case that endangered Indigenous languages can be repositories for factual knowledge across time depths far greater than previously imagined, forcing a rethink of the ways in which such traditions have been dismissed.
Publication Type: Conference Publication
Conference Name: FEL XVIII: 18th Foundation for Endangered Languages Conference, Okinawa, Japan, 17th - 20th September, 2013
Conference Details: FEL XVIII: 18th Foundation for Endangered Languages Conference, Okinawa, Japan, 17th - 20th September, 2013
Source of Publication: Indigenous Languages: Their Value to the Community. Proceedings of the 18th FEL Conference, p. 82-87
Publisher: Foundation for Endangered Languages
Place of Publication: Bath, England
Field of Research (FOR): 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology
050201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Knowledge
HERDC Category Description: E2 Non-Refereed Scholarly Conference Publication
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School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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