Indigenous Science Content – Skies

The skies have been used for millennia to encode Indigenous knowledge systems, serving as a library for oral cultures, and inform many Aboriginal cultural and scientific practices. Indigenous astronomy is a field that exemplifies the interconnected nature of Indigenous science and Indigenous knowledge systems as a whole. Each field of knowledge is tightly interwoven, and this section will go on to demonstrate how even features in the sky are connected to features with us on the ground.

This page is further divided into

Plants and Animals

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Indigenous astronomical oral traditions can inform us about changes in the land. Through the movement of stars and constellations, or the appearance or disappearance of various atmospheric phenomena, inferences can be made/ we can predict these changes in weather.

We can also use the land to establish rock sites relating to astronomical phenomena – forming traditional observatories. There are several instances of this in Indigenous astronomy. The Wurdi Youang stone arrangement tracks the summer and winter solstices, as well as the equinoxes, throughout the year. The Kuing-gai Emu tracks the Emu in the Sky constellation highlighting an important phase of the Emu’s calendar/cycle.

Animals – Vital to the survival of Australia’s first people’s was an understanding of everything around them. As a food source, an integral part of the ecosystem and as a source of materials for everyday life, animals were very important. The resources below give a good introduction to the connection between animals and the sky.

 

Landscape – As was demonstrated by the struggle of the first European settlers in Australia, if you didn’t understand the land, it was an almost impossibly tough life. However, Australia’s first people understood the their land. Each Nation saw themselves deeply connected to their land. Given the important on the land, it of course intersected with the sky, not just visually but in Lore.

This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to the intersection of the landscape with the skyscape. The resource con

LandscapeThis article at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is of interest as it describes a methodology for approaching Indigenous astronomical sites with an analytical lens. A Methodology for Testing Horizon Astronomy in Australian Aboriginal Cultural Sites: A Case Study 

Plants – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to plants within astronomy.

Plants – This article by Philip A. Clarke at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au provides insight into how the study of ethnoastronomy can provide insights into the Indigenous understanding and utilisation of plants. The Aboriginal Australian Cosmic Landscape. Part 1: The Ethnobotany of the Skyworld

Plants – This article by Philip A. Clarke at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au describes the links between the flora present in the Aboriginal Skyworld and its connection to the plants on the ground. The Aboriginal Australian Cosmic Landscape. Part 2: Plant Connections with the Skyworld

Stone arrangements – This paper by Ray P. Norris, Cilla Norris, Duane W. Hamacher and Reg Abrahams investigates the Wurdi Youang stone arrangement site and offers links between the site and solar positions. Wurdi Youang: An Australian Aboriginal Stone Arrangement with Possible Solar Indications. 

Stone arrangements – Orientations of Linear Stone Arrangements in New South Wales is an article published in Australian Archaeology by Duane W. Hamacher, Robert S. Fuller, and Ray P. Norris. It details an analytical methodology for verifying the significance of the orientation of Indigenous stone arrangements. 

Stone arrangements – This short Behind the News video explores the purpose of the Wurdi Youang stone arrangement as a site for tracking the Sun’s yearly path, and explores its significance as one of the world’s first observatories. ABC Classroom: Behind the News “Aboriginal Astronomy”

Weather – The Australian National Curriculum now incorporates resources and lesson plans to explain the understanding of stellar scintillation in Indigenous astronomy, and how this can be used to inform about weather patterns. Stellar Scintillation

Weather – This webpage from the Bureau of Meteorology is a searchable database of Aboriginal weather knowledge. Indigenous Weather Knowledge

Weather – This journal article by Donna Green, Jack Billy and Alo Tapim explores Indigenous understanding of weather systems while highlighting the value of Indigenous knowledge systems in understanding regional climate change.  Indigenous Australians’ knowledge of weather and climate

 

 

Indigenous astronomers tend to encode meteor and comet knowledge and sightings into oral traditions in the form of stories. As meteors and comets are frequently associated with death and bad omens in Indigenous astronomy, these stories tend to also educate community on the moral values of its people and in some communities, the physical meteorite rock may be used as tools of punishment or approval.

Comets – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to comets

Craters – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to craters.

Craters – This PDF of an article by Duane W. Hamacher and Craig O’Neill uses a case study of a specific meteorite impact event to illustrate how Indigenous astronomy has been historically overlooked in Western science. The Discovery and History of the Dalgaranga Meteorite Crater, Western Australia.

Craters – This PDF of an article by Duane W. Hamacher and John Goldsmith showcases examples of impacts described in oral traditions. Aboriginal Oral Traditions of Australian Impact Craters

Craters – This PDF of an article by Duane Hamacher illustrates how stories and science are tightly interwoven in Aboriginal culture through meteroitic examples. Geomythology and Cosmic Impacts in Australia

Meteors – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to meteors.

Meteors – This PDF of an article by Duane W. Hamacher describes the recordings and understanding of meteor events in Aboriginal astronomy

Meteors –  This PDF of an article by A.W.R. Bevan and P. Bindon discusses the observations of meteorite impacts in Indigenous astronomy and the possible application of meteors in tool making. Australian Aborigines and meteorites

Meteors – This PDF of an article by Duane W. Hamacher explores how descriptions of meteorite impacts in Indigenous astronomy can demonstrate the longevity of oral traditions. Recorded Accounts of Meteoritic Events in the Oral Traditions of Indigenous Australians

Meteors – This PDF of an article by Carla B. Guedes, Duane W. Hamacher and , John Barsa presents the cultural symbolic significance of meteors in Aboriginal astronomy. Death and Maier: meteors and mortuary rites in the eastern Torres Strait

 

The moon is often described as a man in Indigenous astronomical traditions.

It can be used to inform community about changes in the weather and environment. Moon halos are used as an indicator of wet weather, forming due to the presence of ice crystals in the atmosphere.

The phases of the moon correlate with changes in tidal conditions, allowing Torres Strait Islander astronomers to coordinate their fishing expeditions.

The angle of the moon cusps tilt, otherwise known as the crescent phases of the moon, are used as a seasonal calendar to indicate impending wet seasons.

Eclipses – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to eclipses.

Eclipses – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to eclipses.

Eclipses – This paper by Duane W. Hamacher and Ray P. Norris explores the descriptions of solar and lunar eclipses in Aboriginal astronomical traditions, and demonstrates their understanding of the motions and influences of the Sun-Earth-Moon system on eclipses and tides. Eclipses in Australian Aboriginal Astronomy 

Eclipses – This paper by Duane W. Hamacher and Ray P. Norris explores the descriptions of solar and lunar eclipses in Aboriginal astronomical traditions, and demonstrates their understanding of the motions and influences of the Sun-Earth-Moon system on eclipses and tides.  Eclipses in Australian Aboriginal Astronomy

Lunar phases – There is a known relationship between the lunar phases and the oceanic tides that is utilised by Indigenous astronomers and fishermen. This is a link to resources exploring this concept with lesson plans for students. Mathematics, moon phases, and tides

Aboriginal Astronomy: Moon – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to the Moon.

The planets have always been a point of mystery for astronomers worldwide.

On the surface, they appear to be stars. However, after a period of observation it becomes evident that these ‘stars’ do not behave like traditional stars. There are some key characteristics of planets that differentiate them from typical stars. They scintillate differently, they move irregularly when compared to other stars, and they also have a peculiar characteristic of retrograde motion –  phenomenon where they appear to be heading backwards.

There are 5 planets that tend to be observable by the naked eye due to natural limitations and these 5 planets pop up often in Aboriginal oral traditions – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Planets  – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to planets.

The Planets in Aboriginal Australia – This PDF of an article is a comprehensive overview of the interpretations of the observable planets in Indigenous astronomy for Indigenous communities across the continent.

Morning Star – ABC Education shares a video of the significance of the Morning Star (Venus) for Indigenous astronomers.

Dust Echoes: Morning Star – ABC Education has created an educational resource on the significance of the Morning Star (Venus) for Indigenous astronomers.

The way we view the night sky in the Southern hemisphere differs from that of the Northern hemisphere. Due to the Southern hemisphere’s optimal view of the Milky Way, Indigenous astronomy features Dark Sky constellations – constellations formed within the dark regions of the sky, within the dust lanes of the galaxy. 

Within the stars we find many constellations that can be used as calendars for various environmental phenomena. The star’s positions can inform us of incoming changes in animal, plant, and climate behaviour.  The stars are also used in aiding long distance travel – being used as stellar maps to navigate from coast to coast, and forming the basis of modern day highways.

Animals – This PDF of an article by Trevor Leaman details Indigenous constellations and their connection to fauna on the ground. Reading the Indigenous night sky to interpret wildlife patterns

Constellations – This PDF of an article by Duane Hamacher breaks down several stellar and dark sky constellations of various Aboriginal communities. Kindred skies: ancient Greeks and Aboriginal Australians saw constellations in common

Dark sky constellations – This PDF of an article by Steven R. Gullberg, Duane W. Hamacher, Alejandro Martín-Lopez, Javier Mejuto, Andrew M. Munro and Wayne Orchiston conducts a comparative analysis of cultural perceptions of dark sky constellations. A Comparison of Dark Constellations of the Milky Way

Dark sky constellations – This PDF of an article by Trevor M. Leaman and Duane W. Hamacher investigates dark sky constellations of Wiradjuri community. Baiami and the Emu Chase: An Astronomical Interpretation of a Wiradjuri Dreaming Associated with the Burbung

Navigation – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to starmaps.

Navigation – The Australian National Curriculum now incorporates resources and lesson plans to explain Indigenous Australians use of the stars and constellations in navigating vast distances across the continent. Stellar Navigation and Mathematics

Navigation – This PDF of an article by Ray P. Norris explains the purpose of Songlines for Indigenous astronomers as oral maps used to navigate from coast to coast with the assistance of the nightsky.

Navigation – This PDF of a literature review by Ray P. Norris explores how the stars are used to supplement Songlines in long distance navigation.

Scintillation – The Australian National Curriculum now incorporates resources and lesson plans to explain the understanding of stellar scintillation in Indigenous astronomy. A PDF of an article by Duane W. Hamacher, John Barsa,  Segar Passi and Alo Tapim describes how this can be used to inform about weather patterns.

Stars – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to stars

Supernovae – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to supernovae.

Supernovae – This PDF of an article by Duane W. Hamacher investigates the possible descriptions of supernova in Aboriginal astronomy. Are Supernovae Recorded in Indigenous Astronomical Traditions?

Variable stars –  This PDF of an article by Duane W.Hamacher describes the observations of variable stars in Indigenous astronomical traditions. Observations of red-giant variable stars by Aboriginal Australians

 

The Sun is an important object in Indigenous astronomy and has a different role for various groups across the continent.

Most commonly, the Sun is depicted as a woman bringing day to the land, often paving her way along the Great Ancestral path in the sky – the ecliptic.

The ecliptic is significant due to the fact that most of the unique planetary bodies follow its trajectory across the sky. These other bodies are our moon and our neighbouring planets.

The Sun features in astronomical traditions describing eclipses, parhelia, and the solstices.

Eclipses – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to eclipses.

Eclipses in Australian Aboriginal Astronomy – This paper by Duane W. Hamacher and Ray P. Norris explores the descriptions of solar and lunar eclipses in Aboriginal astronomical traditions, and demonstrates their understanding of the motions and influences of the Sun-Earth-Moon system on eclipses and tides.

Did Aboriginal Astronomers Record a Simultaneous Eclipse and Aurora in their Oral Traditions?  This article by Robert S. Fuller and Duane W. Hamacher demonstrates methods of dating back Indigenous recordings of ancient astronomical events.

Parhelia – Twin Suns in Australian Aboriginal Traditions – This paper by Duane W. Hamacher and Rubina R. Visuvanathan investigates recordings of parhelia by Aboriginal astronomers in oral traditions.

Solstices – This paper by Ray P. Norris, Cilla Norris, Duane W. Hamacher and Reg Abrahams investigates the Wurdi Youang stone arrangement site and offers links between the site and solar positions.  Wurdi Youang: An Australian Aboriginal Stone Arrangement with Possible Solar Indications

Solstices – This paper by Duane W. Hamacher, Rovert S. Fuller, Trevor M. Leaman, and David Bosun explores four case studies in Australia of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander astronomers tracking the positions of the sun and its solsctices and equinoxes.  Solstice and Solar Position observations in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions

Solstices – This short video explores the purpose of the Wurdi Youang stone arrangement as a site for tracking the Sun’s yearly path, and explores its significance as one of the world’s first observatories.  ABC Classroom: Behind the News “Aboriginal Astronomy”

Sun – This webpage at Aboriginalastronomy.com.au is a curation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems relating to the Sun.