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Wolfe Creek Crater

Ancient Meteorite Impacts Recorded in the Oral Folklore of Indigenous Australians

A couple of years ago I mentioned some fascinating research about ancient meteorite impacts being possibly recorded in the oral folklore of indigenous Australians. The researcher who wrote that paper, Duane Hamacher, has a new paper out on the same topic in the journal Archaeoastronomy (“Recorded Accounts of Meteoritic Events in the Oral Traditions of Indigenous Australians” – PDF).

One interesting example covered in the paper is that of the Henbury crater field, located in Central Australia roughly 150km south of Alice Springs, which was the site of a meteor impact around 5000 years ago. There was a vague suggestion that the event may have been commemorated in the name of the place (chindu china waru chingi ya bu – “sun walk fire devil rock”), but it was not until recently that it was realised there was other supporting evidence – evidence which had been around for some 90 years:

When James M. Mitchell visited the site in 1921, he took an Aboriginal guide. His interest was piqued when his guide refused to go
near them, saying that it was a place where a fire “debil-debil” [devil] came out of the sky and killed everything in the vicinity. He visited the craters again in 1934 and took another Aboriginal guide with him. The guide said Aboriginal people would not camp within two miles of the craters or even venture within half a mile of them, describing them as a place where the fire-devil lived. He claimed they did not collect water that filled some of the craters, fearing the fire devil would fill them with a piece of iron. The guide said his grandfather saw the fire devil and it came from the sun. Aboriginal groups to the north of Henbury (including the Kaitish and Warramunga) hold traditions that meteors are fiery “debil-debils” that hurtle from the skies to feast upon the entrails of the recently deceased.

Link: Recorded Accounts of Meteoritic Events in the Oral Traditions of Indigenous Australians (PDF)

(h/t @djp1974)


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