Tag Archives: stories

Firepits of the Gods: ancient memories of maar volcanoes


The town of Schalkenmehren and its adjoining maar lake, Germany.
Wikimedia Commons

Patrick D. Nunn, University of the Sunshine Coast

In the heart of Takapuna, north-central Auckland, is a natural lake – Pupuke – while a little way offshore lies the volcanic Rangitoto Island. Long ago, a family of giants lived at Takapuna until one day, ill-advisedly, they insulted the irascible fire goddess Mahuika. Enraged, Mahuika tore a hole in the land where the giants lived, creating what became Lake Pupuke, dumping the material offshore to form Rangitoto Island.

Similar to other Maori stories about volcanic activity in New Zealand, this one is consistent with memories of the formation of Lake Pupuke and that of Rangitoto Island, the latter erupting into existence about AD 1312, perhaps just decades after people arrived in NZ.

Lake Pupuke sunset through trees.
Wikimedia Commons

Lake Pupuke formed far earlier, through a singular process involving liquid rock (magma) rising up through fissures in the earth’s crust until – close to the surface – it encountered bodies of cold groundwater. The juxtaposition of the cold and the extremely hot resulted in a spectacular explosion, splattering solidifying rock fragments into the air that settled to produce a ring of rock enclosing a crater.

These types of volcanoes are known as maars, after a German name given them in the Eifel Mountains where they are especially abundant. After maar craters form, most become filled with water, forming lakes like Lake Pupuke.

Many maars are polygenetic – they are sites of periodic volcanic activity – and it may well be that Lake Pupuke showed signs of activity at the same time as Rangitoto Island formed, leading Maori observers of the events to link them.




Read more:
Essays On Air: Monsters in my closet – how a geographer began mining myths


Since people arrived in Australia, maar volcanoes have erupted in both the southeast and the northeast of the country. Stories of these eruptions have been told, so convincingly that it is difficult to suppose they are not eyewitness accounts. As an example, the Dyirbal story of the formation of the Lake Eacham maar in Queensland recalls

The camping-place began to change, the earth under the camp roaring like thunder. The wind started to blow down, as if a cyclone were coming. The camping-place began to twist and crack. While this was happening there was in the sky a red cloud, of a hue never seen before. The people tried to run from side to side but were swallowed by a crack which opened in the ground.

Lake Eacham in Queensland.
Wikimedia Commons

Science shows us that Lake Eacham formed more than 9,000 years ago, meaning that the Dyirbal story is probably at least this old. Perhaps even older stories may apply to the formation of nearby Lakes Barrine and Euramoo.

Recent research has focused on ancient “maar stories” worldwide, highlighting their similarities but, most importantly, using these memorable events to illustrate the extraordinary longevity of human memories. Many maar stories must have endured for thousands of years, passed orally across hundreds of generations.

Minimum ages for some maar stories (after Nunn et al., 2019, Annals of the American Association of Geographers).

Some of the best-documented are those from the Lago Albano maar that towers above the Ciampino Plain, southeast of Rome (Italy). Formed maybe as recently as 8,000 years ago, stories about the Albano maar that were first written down about 2,000 years ago originated as oral traditions many millennia earlier.

Periodically, the Albano maar gurgles and moans as liquid rock and superheated water is shunted around within the Colli Albani volcano, of which it is part. Sometimes this causes the form of the maar crater to abruptly change shape, leading the lake to spill over its rim, events that flood the plains below.

Painting by Jacob Philipp Hackert (AD 1800), View of Lake Albano with Castel Gandolfo (Blick auf den Albaner See mit Castel Gandolfo), showing the contemporary form of the Lago Albano maar.

About 2,400 years ago (in 398 BC), during a prolonged drought, there are records showing that the lake level rose slowly and calmly up to the crater rim. According to the account of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the pressure “carved out the gap between the mountains and poured a mighty river down over the plains lying below”.

To prevent such events reoccurring, the Romans built a tunnel through the Lago Albano crater wall, an incredible 70 metres below the rim, that can still be seen today. No-one seems entirely clear how this engineering feat was accomplished or whether, as some accounts hint, the tunnel simply re-excavated an Etruscan tunnel built centuries earlier!




Read more:
Ancient Aboriginal stories preserve history of a rise in sea level


And so to Mexico, the eastern part of which is bisected by the active Trans-Mexican Neovolcanic Belt, parts of which are peppered with maars. Of one, Aljojuca, the story goes that countless years ago during a prolonged drought, a cow belonging to a poor family went off wandering and, some days later returned home, its feet wet.

Following the cow’s footprints, the family located a “puddle” where today lies a maar crater with a lake (axalapaxco). The story may recall the formation of Aljojuca Maar more than seven millennia ago.

How many more ancient stories might there be hidden under our noses, within tales we have hitherto dismissed as myth? Should we continue to conveniently dismiss all these stories or would we gain something from treating them as accounts of memorable events, conveyed in the language of science as it was known thousands of years ago?

Patrick Nunn acknowledges his collaborators, Loredana Lancini and Rita Compatangelo-Soussignan (Le Mans Université, France) and Leigh Franks and Adrian McCallum (University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia).The Conversation

Patrick D. Nunn, Professor of Geography, School of Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Telling the forgotten stories of Indigenous servicemen in the first world war


Jim McKay, The University of Queensland

Warning: This story contains images of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people who are deceased.


The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who served with Australian forces in the first world war is estimated to be in the range of 1,000-1,200. But the precise figure will never be known, because a number of those who served changed their names and birthplaces when they enrolled to get around racist enlistment practices.

Despite fighting and dying for Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders still weren’t considered citizens upon their return from the war. Many of these veterans were also denied repatriation benefits, and excluded from returned services clubs.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have long sought to gain recognition for the service and sacrifices of their men and women. Some do this by telling stories in their families and local communities about the military careers of their forebears.

These stories often take the form of oral histories. Oral history projects by groups of Aboriginal people have proven valuable for redressing the unrecognised service and racist treatment of their ancestors who served in the Australian Light Horse during the Sinai-Palestine Campaign of 1916-18.




Read more:
On Anzac Day, we remember the Great War but forget our first war


Commemorating the Battle of Beersheba

Although most Australians know little or nothing about the Battle of Beersheba, the Australian government funded its centennial commemoration at Beersheba (now in southern Israel) in October 2017.

One hundred Australian and a few New Zealand military history reenactors attended the joint service as part of a commercial tour, during which they rode in period military outfits along the route of their ancestors.

A group of Aboriginal men and women, who were descended from some of the estimated 100 Aboriginal members of the Australian Light Horse, also participated in the tour. Several had ancestors who were in the “Queensland Black Watch”, a predominantly Aboriginal reinforcement unit.

The group’s participation was enabled by a transnational network of organisations, but the key driver was Rona Tranby Trust, which funds projects to record and preserve Aboriginal oral histories. In 2017, it a group of Aboriginal men and women to complete 11 histories of their ancestors who fought and died in the Sinai-Palestine Campaign.

Like the other reenactors, Aboriginal participants were honouring their ancestors’ courage and sacrifice. But they also wanted to document the neglected stories of their service, and the racial discrimination their forebears experienced.

Here we share, with permission, some of the stories that came from the trip, and from the family history projects the group members continue to work on.

Ricky Morris

Gunditjmara man and retired Army Sergeant Ricky Morris was officially invited to lay a wreath on behalf of all Indigenous veterans at the service in Beersheba. Morris is the 19th of an astonishing 21 men and women Anzacs in his family. He served in a progeny of the Light Horse unit of his grandfather, Frederick Amos Lovett.

Frederick Amos Lovett of the 4th Light Horse Regimen and his grandson Ricky Morris.
Rona Tranby Trust

At a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were neither citizens nor counted in the census, Frederick and his four brothers left the Lake Condah Aboriginal Mission, 300 km west of Melbourne, to sign up.

But their service counted for nothing. Gunditjmara people were subjected to a “second dispossession” when they were forced off Lake Condah under the Soldier Settlement Scheme. The scheme granted land to returning soldiers, but like almost all Aboriginal applicants, the brothers were denied soldier settlement blocks.

Morris is a member of the Victorian Indigenous Veterans Association Remembrance Committee and gives talks at schools about Aboriginal culture and his family. He interviewed two elderly aunts for his family history project, which he described as:

…a unique opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those who fought and died for Australia, and the diversity of Australians who put their hands up to answer the call.




Read more:
In remembering Anzac Day, what do we forget?


Mischa Fisher and Elsie Amamoo

Mischa Fisher and her daughter, Elsie Amamoo, undertook the tour to obtain information for a website about Mischa’s grandfather, Frank Fisher.

Trooper Frank Fisher was an Aboriginal serviceman who enlisted in Brisbane on 16 August 1917.
Australian War Memorial

Frank was born into the Wangan and Jagalingou community in the goldmining town of Clermont, 1,000 km north of Brisbane. He was one of 47 men from Barambah Aboriginal Settlement who enlisted in the first world war. While Frank was away, his wife Esme was prevented from accessing his salary. After Frank was discharged, he was again placed under the control of the superintendent at Barambah.

Mischa and Elsie have interviewed Frank’s descendants, and accessed archival footage from the Ration Shed Museum – an Aboriginal heritage, educational and cultural centre. Elsie only recently learned that Frank, who is also the great-grandfather of Olympic 400m champion Cathy Freeman, was a member of the “Black Watch”.

While training for a reenactment of the Light Horse charge at Beersheba, she tearfully told a reporter what the project meant to her:

To me, it feels like I have got a missing piece of the puzzle of who I am […] That’s what it basically means to me: just being able to have that ability to close the gap in terms of my identity and knowing who I am and where I fit in the Australian history, but also within my family as well.

Michelle and Peta Flynn

Peta Flynn, great niece of Charles Fitzroy Stafford.
Rona Tranby Trust

Sisters Michelle and Peta Flynn are descendants of “Black Kitty”, a Cannemegal/Warmuli girl, who, in 1814, was among the first group of Aboriginal children placed in the Parramatta Native Institution at the age of five.

The sisters have been researching their family history for over 20 years. Their ancestors include the three Stafford brothers, who were in the Light Horse.

At Beersheba, Peta explained her motivation for writing a book about her great uncle, Charles Stafford:

My daughter, niece and nephews will be able to take [the book] into their schools and communities and actually be proud of who we are and where we come from – and ensure our family’s history will not be lost to future generations.




Read more:
Indigenous soldiers remembered: the research behind Black Diggers


Lessons and legacies

The experiences of Ricky Morris, Mischa Fisher, Elsie Amamoo, and Michelle and Peta Flynn show how exploring family histories can generate feelings of solidarity, honour and closure.

Although group members were on a reenactment tour, their emotions were typical of the inward pilgrimages often experienced by genealogical tourists. Past and present family connections were heightened by being there; feelings of sadness, solidarity and pride arose.

At the same time, these stories show the benefits of combining academic, public and vernacular accounts to study silences and absences in the histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The official commemoration at Beersheba will only ever be studied by a handful of specialist scholars, but the family histories of this group will have enduring value for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians alike.The Conversation

Jim McKay, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Archaeology is unravelling new stories about Indigenous seagoing trade on Australia’s doorstep



File 20190213 90497 12f9ric.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A Motu trading ship with its characteristic crab claw shaped sails. Taken in the period 1903-1904.
Trustees of The British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA

Chris Urwin, Monash University; Alois Kuaso, Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery; Bruno David, Monash University; Henry Auri Arifeae, Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery, and Robert Skelly, Monash University

It has long been assumed that Indigenous Australia was isolated until Europeans arrived in 1788, except for trade with parts of present day Indonesia beginning at least 300 years ago. But our recent archaeological research hints of at least an extra 2,100 years of connections across the Coral Sea with Papua New Guinea.

Over the past decade, we have conducted research in the Gulf of Papua with local Indigenous communities.

During the excavations, the most common archaeological evidence found in the old village sites was fragments of pottery, which preserve well in tropical environments compared to artefacts made of wood or bone. As peoples of the Gulf of Papua have no known history of pottery making, and the materials are foreign, the discovered pottery sherds are evidence of trade.

This pottery began arriving in the Gulf of Papua some 2,700 years ago, according to carbon dating of charcoal found next to the sherds.




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This means societies with complex seafaring technologies and widespread social connections operated at Australia’s doorstep over 2,500 years prior to colonisation. Entrepreneurial traders were traversing the entire south coast of PNG in sailing ships.

There is also archaeological evidence that suggests early connections between PNG and Australia’s Torres Strait Islands. Fine earthenware pottery dating to 2,600 years ago, similar in form to pottery arriving in the Gulf of Papua around that time, has been found on the island of Pulu. Rock art on the island of Dauan further to the north depicts a ship with a crab claw-shaped sail, closely resembling the ships used by Indigenous traders from PNG.

It is hard to imagine that Australia, the Torres Strait and PNG’s south coast were not connected.

The region termed the ‘Coral Sea Cultural Interaction Sphere’ where archaeology is gradually uncovering evidence of ancient interconnections.
Author provided

An unconventional trade

The trade itself was quite remarkable. When British colonists arrived in Port Moresby (now the capital of PNG) in 1873, some 130 kilometres from the start of the Gulf of Papua to the west, they wrote in astonishment of the industrial scale of pottery production for maritime trade by Indigenous Motu communities.

Each year, Motu women would spend months making thousands of earthenware pots. Meanwhile the men built large trading ships, called lakatoi, by lashing together several dugout hulls. The ships measured 15-20 metres long and had woven sails in the shape of crab claws.

In October and November, Motu men would load the pots into the ships and sail west towards the rainforest swamplands of the Gulf of Papua. The trade on which they embarked was known as hiri. The voyages were perilous, and lives were sometimes lost in the waves.

Rows of Motu pots ready for shipment to the Gulf of Papua. The pots are arranged on a beach situated in today’s Port Moresby region. Taken by Reverend William G Lawes in 1881-1891.
Trustees of the British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA

When the men arrived – having sailed up to 400 kilometres along the coast – the Motu were in foreign lands. People living in the Gulf of Papua spoke different languages and had different cultural practices. But they were not treated like foreigners.

Sir Albert Maori Kiki, who became the Deputy Prime Minister of PNG, grew up in the Gulf of Papua in the 1930s. He described the arrival of the Motu in his memoirs:

The trade was not conducted like common barter […] the declarations of friendship that went with it were as important as the exchange of goods itself […] Motu people did not carry their pots to the market, but each went straight to the house of his trade relation, with whom his family had been trading for years and perhaps generations.

In exchange for their pots, the Motu were given rainforest hardwood logs from which to make new canoes, and tonnes of sago starch (a staple plant food for many people in Southeast Asia and across the island of New Guinea).

The Motu would stay in Gulf villages for months, waiting for the wind to change to carry them back home.

Quantity overtakes quality

Pottery has been traded into the Gulf of Papua for 2,700 years, but the trade grew larger in scale about 500 years ago. Archaeological sites of the past 500 years have much larger quantities of pottery than those before them. The pottery itself is highly standardised and either plain or sparsely decorated, in contrast with older sherds that often feature ornate designs.

In the past 500 years it seems that pottery makers valued quantity over quality: as greater quantities of pottery were traded into the Gulf of Papua, labour-intensive decorations gradually disappeared.

Fragments of a decorated earthenware bowl dating to within the past 500 years. Found in an excavation at Orokolo Bay (Gulf of Papua, PNG) in 2015.
Photographs by Steve Morton (Monash University)

We think this is when the hiri trade between the Motu and rainforest villages of the Gulf of Papua began in earnest.

The coming decades promise further findings that will help unravel the forgotten shared history of PNG and Indigenous Australia across the Torres Strait. But it is becoming increasingly clear that Indigenous Australia was not isolated from the rest of the world.The Conversation

Chris Urwin, Researcher, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Monash University; Alois Kuaso, Deputy Director for Science Research and Consultancy Division at the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery, Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery; Bruno David, Professor, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Monash University; Henry Auri Arifeae, Cultural Coordinator, Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery, and Robert Skelly, Archaeologist, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


The stories behind Aboriginal star names now recognised by the world’s astronomical body



File 20171122 6055 1mdxnff.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Milky Way star map by Bill Yidumduma Harney, Senior Wardaman Edler.
Bill Yidumduma Harney, CC BY

Duane W. Hamacher, Monash University

Four stars in the night sky have been formally recognised by their Australian Aboriginal names.

The names include three from the Wardaman people of the Northern Territory and one from the Boorong people of western Victoria. The Wardaman star names are Larawag, Wurren and Ginan in the Western constellations Scorpius, Phoenix and Crux (the Southern Cross). The Boorong star name is Unurgunite in Canis Majoris (the Great Dog).

They are among 86 new star names drawn from Chinese, Coptic, Hindu, Mayan, Polynesian, South African and Aboriginal Australian cultures.

These names represent a step forward by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) – the global network of the world’s roughly 12,000 professional astronomers – in recognising the importance of traditional language and Indigenous starlore.

What’s that star called?

Many cultures around the world have their own names for the stars scattered across the night sky. But until 2016, the IAU never officially recognised any popular name for any star.

Instead, each star is assigned a Bayer Designation, thanks to a book published in 1603 by German astronomer Johann Bayer. He systematically assigned visible stars a designation: a combination of a Greek letter and the Latin name of the constellation in which it is found.

He gave the brightest star in a constellation the letter Alpha, then the next brightest star Beta, and so on down the list. For example, the brightest star in the Southern Cross is Alpha Crucis.

Alpha Crucis is the bottom star on the Southern Cross constellation on the right of this image, photographed from the Northern Territory over a two minute exposure.
Flickr/Eddie Yip, CC BY-SA

The IAU recognised that the lack of official star names was a problem. So the Working Group on Star Names (WGSN) was formed in 2016 to officially assign popular names to the hundreds of stars visible in the night sky.

That year the working group officiated 313 star names, derived mainly from the most commonly used Arabic, Roman and Greek names in astronomy. But the list contained few Indigenous or non-Western names.

That changed last year when the WGSN formally approved the 86 new star names drawn from other cultures. Aboriginal Australian cultures stretch back at least 65,000 years, representing the most ancient star names on the list.

The WGSN is looking to identify even more star names from Australia and other Indigenous cultures around the world. As Indigenous cultures have a rich collection of names for even the faintest stars, many new star names could gain IAU recognition.

So what do we know about these four stars and the origin of their names?

Wardaman star names

The Wardaman people live 145km southwest of Katherine in the Northern Territory. Wardaman star names come from Senior Elder Bill Yidumduma Harney, a well known artist, author and musician.

He worked with Dr Hugh Cairns to publish some of his traditional star knowledge in the books Dark Sparklers (2003) and Four Circles (2015). These books remain the most detailed records of the astronomical knowledge of any Aboriginal group in Australia.

Uncle Bill Yidumduma Harney, Senior Wardaman Elder.
Jayne Nankivell, Author provided

Larawag (Epsilon Scorpii)

The stars of the Western constellation Scorpius feature prominently in Wardaman traditions, which inform the procedures of initiation ceremonies.

Merrerrebena is the wife of the Sky Boss, Nardi. She mandates ceremonial law, which is embodied in the red star Antares (Alpha Scorpii). Each star in the body of Scorpius represents a different person involved in the ceremony.

Larawag is the signal watcher, noting when only legitimate participants are present and in view of the ceremony. He gives the “All clear” signal, allowing the secret part of the ceremony to continue.

Epsilon Scorpii is an orange giant star, lying 63.7 light years away.

Epsilon Scorpii in the constellation Scorpius. Scorpius is not to be confused with the Wardaman scorpion constellation, Mundarla, in the Western constellation Serpens.
International Astronomical Union, CC BY

Wurren (Zeta Phoenicis)

Wurren means “child” in Wardaman. In this context it refers to the “Little Fish”, a child of Dungdung – the life-creating Frog Lady. Wurren gives water to Gawalyan, the echidna (the star Achernar), which they direct Earthly initiates to carry in small bowls. The water came from a great waterfall used to cool the people during ceremony.

Just as the water at the base of the waterfall keeps people cool and rises to the sky as mist, the water in the initiates’ bowls keeps them cool and symbolically transforms into clouds that bring the wet rains of the monsoon season. These ceremonies occur in late December when the weather is hot and these stars are high in the evening sky, signalling the start of the monsoon.

Zeta Phoenicis comprises two blue stars orbiting each other, 300 light years away. From our perspective, these two stars eclipse each other, changing in brightness from magnitude 3.9 to 4.4 every 1.7 days.

Zeta Phoenicis in the constellation Phoenix.
International Astronomical Union, CC BY

Ginan (Epsilon Crucis)

Ginan is the fifth-brightest star in the Southern Cross. It represents a red dilly-bag filled with special songs of knowledge.

Ginan was found by Mulugurnden (the crayfish), who brought the red flying foxes from the underworld to the sky. The bats flew up the track of the Milky Way and traded the spiritual song to Guyaru, the Night Owl (the star Sirius). The bats fly through the constellation Scorpius on their way to the Southern Cross, trading songs as they go.

The song informs the people about initiation, which is managed by the stars in Scorpius and related to Larawag (who ensures the appropriate personnel are present for the final stages of the ceremony).

The brownish-red colour of the dilly bag is represented by the colour of Epsilon Crucis, which is an orange giant that lies 228 light years away.

Epsilon Crucis in the constellation Crux (the Southern Cross).
International Astronomical Union, CC BY

Boorong star name

Unurgunite (Sigma Canis Majoris)

The Boorong people of the Wergaia language group near Lake Tyrell in northwestern Victoria pride themselves on their detailed astronomical knowledge. In the 1840s, they imparted more than 40 star and planet names and their associated stories to the Englishman William Stanbridge, which he published in 1857.

In Boorong astronomy, Unurgunite is an ancestral figure with two wives. The Moon is called Mityan, the quoll. Mityan fell in love with one of the wives of Unurgunite and tried to lure her away.

Unurgunite discovered Mityan’s trickery and attacked him, leading to a great fight in which Mityan was defeated. The Moon has been wandering the heavens ever since, the scars of the battle still visible on his face.

Mityan, the Moon (the quoll) in Boorong traditions.
Wikimedia/Michael J Fromholtz, CC BY-SA

Unurgunite can be seen as the star Sigma Canis Majoris (the Great Dog), with the two brighter stars on either side representing his wives.

One of the wives (Delta Canis Majoris) lies further away from Unurgunite and is closer to the Moon than the other wife (Epsilon Canis Majoris). This is the wife Mityan tried to lure away.

On rare occasions, the Moon passes directly over the wife of his desires, symbolising his attempts to draw her away. He also passes over Unurgunite, representing their battle in the sky. But Mityan, and Moon, never passes over the other wife (with the Arabic name Adhara).

The ConversationDelta Canis Majoris is an orange-red supergiant that lies 1,120 light years away.

Sigma Canis Majoris in the constellation Canis Major.
International Astronomical Union, CC BY

Duane W. Hamacher, Senior Research Fellow, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Article: Embarrassing War Stories


The link below is to an article that looks at six embarrassing war stories for the countries involved.

For more visit:
http://www.cracked.com/article_20160_the-6-most-embarrassing-war-stories-all-time.html


Article: Crazy Stories from the Olympics


The link below is to an article reporting on some of the more strange things that have happened at the Olympics over the years.

For more visit:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/136316.


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