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Wolfe Creek Crater

Aboriginal Oral Traditions of Australian Impact Craters

Following on from last week’s story about the use of meteoric iron in ancient Egypt, here’s a fascinating paper regarding Aboriginal oral traditions that reference Australian impact craters:

In this paper, we explore Aboriginal traditions relating to Australian impact craters and seek to find out if these traditions describe craters as originating from a cosmic impact. Data used in this paper were collected from ethnographic fieldwork, published ethnographies, historical and ethno-historical documents, linguistic material, and various Aboriginal artworks. This paper represents a treatise of Aboriginal traditions regarding confirmed Australian impact craters and provides new information that has not been reported in the literature.

In the following sections, we describe traditional knowledge regarding Gosses Bluff, Henbury, Liverpool, and Wolfe Creek craters but find none associated with Boxhole, Dalgaranga, or Veevers craters. We are faced with several possibilities to explain the presence or absence of these stories:

  1. The story is based on a witnessed event and was recorded in oral traditions;
  2. The formation of the crater was not witnessed, but was instead deduced and incorporated in oral traditions;
  3. The formation of the crater was not witnessed, and stories explaining it as an impact site are coincidental;
  4. The origin or nature of the crater is not part of a structured oral tradition (Dreaming), but is generically attributed to supernatural elements or grouped in with general landscape features;
  5. Impact stories were influenced by Western science;
  6. Related stories may have once existed but have been lost for whatever reason;
  7. No stories of the crater ever existed.

It is difficult to know which possibility is true in each instance, but we explore each of these with reference to the craters described above in the following sections.

As one example, the researchers mention that Jaru elder Jack Jugarie told a story of the crater’s origin shortly before his passing in 1999: “A star bin fall down. It was a small star, not so big. It fell straight down and hit the ground. It fell straight down and made that hole round, a very deep hole. The earth shook when that star fell down”.

Read the full paper:Aboriginal Oral Traditions of Australian Impact Craters“, by Duane W. Hamacher, John Goldsmith. (thanks Norman!)

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