Sunday, May 17, 2015

Let's talk

Fitzroy Island on the Great Barrier Reef.


New research into early Aboriginal stories set along Australia's coast has detected evidence of dramatically rising shoreline waters over several thousand years. It seems that sea level about 20,000 years ago was 120 meters below its current level, rising 13,000 years ago to about 70 meters below current sea level.

It seems today's sea level was finally reached only about 6,000 years ago. Linguists have also uncovered ancient Aboriginal tales about living where the Great Barrier Reef now stands.
"In the beginning, as far back as we remember, our home islands were not islands at all as they are today. They were part of a peninsula that jutted out from the mainland and we roamed freely throughout the land without having to get in a boat like we do today. Then Garnguur, the seagull woman, took her raft and dragged it back and forth across the neck of the peninsula letting the sea pour in and making our homes into islands."

This is part of an Aboriginal story about the origin of the Wellesley Islands in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.  It's a story that can be found along every part of the coast of Australia.  But these stories are not part of the "Great Flood" tales found all over the world, the difference being in the Aboriginal stories, the water does not recede and the land does not regenerate.  The sea levels changed around Australia after the ice ages and it's well known scientifically.  The source of the legends seems to be based on observations of events and preserved through oral traditions as the sea level rose all around the world but only here do the stories exist.

They may have existed elsewhere but scholars had the view that oral traditions rarely survive more than a millennium so probably never looked for them.  Australian Aboriginal storytelling is for preserving information, handing down from generation to generation with accuracy. Of course you have to try to make a distinction from the 'fact' story and the story for entertainment.

One of the comments on this article said that "Socrates was concerned that the switch to written language would mean a decline in people's cognitive abilities." "The skills required to remember a complex narrative are allowed to atrophy when you have that narrative available in written form."

I could not read Chaucer in the original old English. I have trouble with HipHop language.  I have trouble with some parts of Shakespeare although four hundred years separate his language from english now, we are still using phrases he invented.  But we could not repeat his plays word for word without printing.  I must admit I got a bit lost in the comments after a while, my brain went walkabout but when we read the laments about the burning of the great library of Alexandria, that is something that we, who rely on the written word, can relate to.  Can we relate to the loss of an oral tradition of a catastrophe if we never knew there was one?

I still have a Sony Walkman, tapes, vinyl records but I can't watch the 16mm films of the family made in the 70s unless I go to great expense of having them put on dvds.  I can tell you the family stories but with no-one to follow me, they'll die out.  So with all the blogs, tweets, facebooks or instagrams of the electronic age, we're still behind, way behind, the Aboriginal tradition of the Dreamtime storyteller.

But we still have our storytellers, bless Parliament and its contingent of accomplished liars.

(All that waffling to make that one point.  Don't you love language.)

12 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Blessing that particular contingent isn't my first reaction...
And yes, I do love language. And many stories.

Andrew said...

So aboriginal history has turned you into a climate change denier?

JahTeh said...

EC, we must bless the idiots for they know not what they do. Just read Joe Hockey's comments about women this morning.

Andrew, Que? No denier am I, the climate is just changing faster than it did in them olden days. The Aboriginals weren't bad either for wiping out various fauna and making the land the way they wanted it to be.

River said...

I remember reading about storytellers of long ago, who carried the histories and told tales around campfires, when they got older and travel became harder, they would recruit a youngster to travel along and learn the stories to continue the tradition.

Ann ODyne said...

re the receding shoreline and "Garnguur, the seagull woman"?
I saw her yesterday with 100's of her gully wullys and they were on Lake Bolac about 100 kms inland.

Frances said...

Well, I have the outpourings on irretrievable (except at Buffet money) floppy discs.
Seems to me that by calling these brittle discs "floppy", they were always telling me it was a con. I wasn't smart enough to get the message.

JahTeh said...

River, the storytellers were always valued and there must be something in us that wants them to be true or why else would we still listen to tales of King Arthur and Camelot.

Annie O, must be cousins of the flock that flew home from the local tip the other night and very low. The Bear was not impressed. Gulls being inland always meant according to lore, that storms were brewing at sea. Wish they would fly over Parliament with a load.

Frances, the article even mentioned that the reports from Voyager (original) have not been read because there's no way to do it now. And what about the people who believed that Beta would win over VHS.
Pencil and paper all the way.

Ann ODyne said...

oh Geoffrey Chaucer Hath A Blog
• Counte downe to Whan That Aprille Daye wyth the good folke of TEAMS Middel Englisshe Textes on twytter: @METS_Texts

• Maken a video of yowerself readinge (or singinge! or actinge!) and share yt on the grete webbe of the internette.

• Make sum maner of cake or pastrye wyth oold wordes upon yt, and feest upon yt wyth good folke and share pictures of yower festivitee.

• Yf ye be bold, ye maye wisshe to share yower readinge yn publique, yn a slam of poesye or a nighte of open mic.

• Yf ye worke wyth an organisatioun or scole, ye maye wisshe to plan sum maner of event, large or smal, to share writinge yn oold langages.

• And for maximum Aprillenesse, marke all tweetes and poostes wyth the hashtagge #whanthataprilleday15

*runs away*
our old pal Kerryn Goldsworthy follows Chaucer Doth Tweet ‏@LeVostreGC Thanke yow all for a wonderful #WhanThatAprilleDay15!

R.H. said...

When April with its sweet showers has pierced to the root the dryness of March...My Lit teacher in night school clenched his fists and stood there crouched "It's SPRING!!!" he declared. And oh my golly but he meant it.

Hullo me little darlin's, yes it's me, poor RH, calling for hordes to witness his tornado of passion! I love you, that's all, and it's not a feeling - it's a deluge, an earthquake, a drunken brawl!

Now I am reckless, lighting up a roll-your-own in Brunswick street, ordering a beer in a wine bar, staring at feminists tits, and so on.

Okay?

Shutup.

-Robert.
Old Etonian.

R.H. said...

Kerryn Goldsworthy is a total bird brain. She's bequeathed her old carcass to Adelaide university, but they don't want it.

Davoh said...

Um, self remains alive. Yer heading sez 'let's talk' Um.

Anyhoo, simply letting you and your feminine coterie know that this male person remains alive.

JahTeh said...

Robbert, my dear, how nice of you to call by. I was getting a bit worried that you had dropped off the perch.

Davoh, same to you.

Although lamentations would be heard throughout the country if two ancients like you actually croaked.