The dark constellations of the Aborigines

seminar presented by Dr Margaret Sharpe,

Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Disclipline of Linguistics and MSc candidate in Science and Technology, UNE

12pm Thursday 22 September 2016

Oorala Lecture Theatre, UNE

As well as stars, many of which were individually named, and asterisms (constellations), often different from European groupings of stars, Aborigines in Australia recognise a number of dark “constellations” in the sky. To the best of my knowledge only the Incas also recognised “dark constellations” in the dust clouds (including the Coalsack) in the fourth quadrant of the Milky Way. Neither group seems to have made “constellations” from the dark dust clouds in other parts of the Milky Way. Both groups saw animals represented in many of these clouds. They were llamas among others to the Incas.

The Sky Emu was recognised right across Australia, and it appears that there are also connections across Australia between the Sky Kangaroo and its association with initiation.

The connection has come to my notice from working on a Western Desert dialect (Ngalia) recorded by Peter Muir from his Ngalia wife some years back, and by the curious (to me) use of the word guruman meaning ‘old man kangaroo’ from the Northern Rivers and north and meaning ‘(uninitiated) boy’ south of that area.

A small side excursion is on star and asterism names used in Australia.

Margaret’s primary school ambition back in the 1940s was to be a physicist. She got side-tracked into linguistics.

Launch seminar recording