Monday, 23 June 2014

The first Australians

This post is based on part of an article in the third issue of the Lyra's Letters newsletter:

50,000 years after modern man started spreading out of Africa, people appeared in Indonesia. These people crossed to New Guinea and then to the continent of Australia. They were the first Australians.

Scientists are still unsure of where humans first came to Australia, although evidence supports the theory that man first came to Arnhem Land. Arnhem Land is a crocodile -- infested part of the coastline in Northern Territory. Many areas in this part of Australia were and still are very lush and capable of supporting stable ecosystems. The Aboriginal Australians thrived here. However, conquest of the continent was slow, as Arnhem Land is surrounded by arid desert.


Aboriginal Australians crossed the Blue Mountains 20,000 years ago. By this time, they had developed a significant part of their culture. These people did not invent the bow and arrow, as many other cultures did. Instead, they invented tools like the boomerang and the woomera.

Chances are you already know what the Boomerang is. It was used for hunting birds. Since the Boomerang has no center of gravity, and follows a curved route, the bird does not see the boomerang coming. The Woomera is used as an extension of the arm for throwing spears.

The most special weapon for the Aborigines, however, was fire. Fire was used to create grasslands that attracted kangaroos and other game. Fire was used to create conditions that encouraged the growth of plants used for food. These controlled burns helped nature in many other ways as well.


Much art from the first Australians comes in the form of carvings in the rock. All of these have no sharp corners. Another type of art was made by scraping moist sandstone against hard rock. Both types of art are common in many reserves around Australia. 
There were two musical instruments used by Aborigines. One was the clapping sticks. These were made out of selected, hollow pieces of wood and often had designs burnt into them. Another was the didgeridoo. This instrument makes a strange, low sound that can be changed depending on how the player blows into the narrow end.

The people

Right before white men first came to Australia, there were roughly one million people, 40,000 tribes, and 3,000 languages in Australia. People lived in every corner of the vast continent.

Each of the tribes had a number of leaders. The Aborigines sometimes traded. There are 100,000 Aborigines still living in the world today.

Every year, people hundreds of miles around traveled to Mount Bogong to catch bogong moths, a source of food. People also gathered from miles around if a freshly dead whale washed up onto shore. The Aboriginal Australians almost never fought.

Myths and other beliefs

Here is an Aboriginal myth from South-east Australia. Someone threw an emu egg up into the sky. The egg hatched the sun, which set fire to a pile of wood in the sky. The sky god saw that the light was good for man, so he told his servants to put more firewood in the sky every night for the sun to light the next day.

Aboriginal myths included gods that represented animals and powerful forces.
Aboriginal Australians believed in the Dreamtime, a time when everything they knew was created.


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