Indigenous Science Content – Technology

While it is a common myth that Australia’s first peoples didn’t have any technology that is categorically untrue. The technology used and perfected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders throughout Australia shows regional adaptation, development over time, a long history, and a strong understanding of the resources available. In this section, you will find resources about how aquaculture systems were built into the rock and how you have to understand aerodynamics to make a good boomerang. 

Technology

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander technology does not get talked about very often in Australia resulting in many assuming that it does not exist, or potentially was minimal or in some way not important. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Technology was vital in everyday life for the first Australians. From food processing and storage to hunting, housing, grinding bread, and building weirs and fishing traps. 

These technologies have been developed and refined over the 80,000+ year long history of Indigenous culture on this continent and feature as some of the world’s earliest examples of particular universal practices. For example, archaeological findings in Cuddie Springs NSW has determined that the grinding of grain into flour in order to bake bread has been in practice for a minimum of 35,000 years. These findings challenge previous conclusions that the world’s first bakers belonged to Egypt 17,000 years ago by doubling the length of time in history.  

 

Weapons

An understanding of precision aerodynamics is a necessity in order to create many Aboriginal tools. A boomerang is a versatile tool used in hunting, fighting, and ceremony. The boomerang also features in the oldest of Aboriginal oral traditions, appearing on 20,000-year-old Kimberley rock art paintings. The boomerang can be either returning or non-returning, with its design and purpose varying greatly depending on geographical location across the 250 different language groups.   

Another instrument requiring precision in design is the woomera, a spear-thrower which acts as an extension of the thrower’s arm to increase the length of leverage in order to launch spears at a greater velocity, with a greater force. The design and purpose of the woomera varies across geographical location. 

 

 

 

Housing

There a few significant and well-known sites that show a variety of Australian Indigenous housing types from before colonisation and the years soon after. Not surprisingly housing styles were/are highly dependant available materials and location. This resource by Paul Memmott about Aboriginal architecture and housing structures. This is one of the few close-to contemporary records of the Lake Condah villages.

Brough Smythe Papers, c 1840, Accession number: MS 8781, State Library of Victoria’s Manuscripts collection

 

One well-known example is the Gunditjmarra in Western Victoria who made buildings out of basalt base walls which can still be seen today. This video by SBS gives a brief summary. In Tasmania, there are areas where hut depressions can be seen which indicate the position of a former house.  

 

Other Technology

The list of Indigenous technologies is vast, and includes a complex understanding of thermoplastic resins as adhesives for structural, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes, a development of engineering and architectural practices for the modification and management of aquaculture systems to sustainably harvest eel (also covered in ecosystems), and the refinement of wind instruments.