RSAA Colloquia / Seminars / Feast-of-Facts: Thursday, 29 October 2015, 11:00-12:00; Duffield Lecture Theatre

Duane Hamacher

"The Science of Australian Indigenous Astronomy"

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people developed complex knowledge systems around the sun, moon, and stars. Stellar positions and properties (such as declination, colour, brightness, and scintillation) were important for navigation, calendars, economics, and time-keeping. Transient astronomical phenomena (including comets, meteors, eclipses, and aurorae) reinforced sacred law and cultural practices and served as a moral charter. This talk will explore the various ways in which scientific astronomical knowledge was encoded in Indigenous oral and material traditions. Videos of dances and songs recently recorded during ethnographic fieldwork in the Torres Strait will be presented for the first time.