WHP Logo

The White Horse Press

Environment and History

Contents of Volume 22

Other volumes of E&H

Environment and History

Australian Aboriginal Traditions about Coastal Change Reconciled with Postglacial Sea-Level History: A First Synthesis

Patrick D. Nunn

Environment and History 22 (2016): 393-420. doi: 10.3197/096734016X14661540219311

Download reference in Endnote or BibTex format

Like some other oral traditions of Australian Aborigines, those that relate to widespread and enduring coastal inundation appear to be several thousand years old. The best-documented traditions, some mythologised, are presented for six sites around the Australian coast (Bathurst and Melville Islands, Northern Territory; Rottnest, Carnac and Garden Islands, Western Australia; Spencer Gulf, South Australia; Kangaroo Island, South Australia; Port Phillip Bay, Victoria; Cairns and Fitzroy Island, Queensland). The minimum depths at which each tradition would have been true is determined from local bathymetry. These depths are then compared to postglacial sea-level history and minimum ages for each tradition calculated. These range from 7,500-13,400 years Before Present and represent unique observations of postglacial sea-level rise and its effects that have significant implications for an appreciation of the longevity of such traditions in preliterate societies.

KEYWORDS: Oral traditions, Australia, sea level, myth, environmental change

Download full text (PDF format) from IngentaConnect. Access is free if your institution subscribes to Environment and History.
Reprints of this article can be ordered from the British Library

Contact the publishers for subscriptions and back numbers of Environment and History.

Other papers in this volume

The Old Vicarage, Winwick
Cambridgeshire, PE28 5PN, UK
Tel: +44 1832 293222