The aboriginal tribes of Australia are some of the oldest people to still be currently alive in the modern world. They have kept their history through the use of art and stories, both of which are still alive today in modern aboriginal tribes. It is commonly believed that the first inhabitants of Australia arrived sometime between 60,000 and 45,000 years ago, but according to aboriginal stories they had come from a "Dreamland, an era long past when the earth was first formed" (Aboriginal people). Much of their world was surrounded in mythology and stories and that was how they, much like most other early peoples, were able to understand the natural world around them, such as the Windjina who were cloud and rain spirits and were responsible for the seasonal rains that would renew their desert homeland.
Kimberley Aboriginal Rock Art (Credit: Peter Eve)
The genetics of modern aborigines men have been sampled and it was found that the genes attached to the Y chromosome dated back to roughly 50,000 years ago and proved that they were some of the earliest settlers to move away from the African continent and to what they called Sahul, which was the ancient continent of modern day Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea (Genetic study reveals... 2016). This, then, comes as no surprise that the genetics of aboriginals is very closely related to that of ancient humans in Africa, which supports the theory that they came from Africa. The separation that the aborigines had kept them isolation from the rest of the world, in the ways of technology, knowledge, disease, culture, and virtually every imaginable aspect. They never moved past the stone age by developing the knowledge to smelt and forge copper, bronze, or iron tools and weapons, and this could be due in part that there was less competition for resources other than neighboring tribes which would not have given them the push that was created in the rest of the world that lead to the leaps in technology and infrastructure (Welch).
Windjina (Cloud and Rain Spirits) (Credit: Unknown)
The Rainbow Serpent (Credit: Unknown)
The culture of the aborigines was very much based on nature, much like the native peoples of the Americas, and houses one of the oldest beliefs that is still recognized today: The Rainbow Serpent. It is thought that the serpent resembled the rainbow that would come after a storm that would replenish the harsh, desert like environment that these people resided in, and in the story of the Rainbow Serpent it says: "...The country was flat. Goorialla, the great Rainbow Serpent, stirred and set off to look for his own tribe. He travelled across Australia from South to North...Goorialla left Naralullgan and his huge body made a deep gorge where he came down. He travelled North for many days and his tracks made the creeks and rivers as he journeyed North. Goorialla made two more mountains, one of the Naradunga was long made of granite, the other had sharp peaks and five caves and was called, Minalinha..." (The Rainbow Serpent). This story is very reminiscent of other stories of creation in the lore of some Native American tribes, where there is one main spirit that creates the life sustaining areas for man and beast alike and other spirits that resemble the wildlife in the region play minor roles in maintaining the land that is left behind by the creator. And just like most other native tribes they did not have much to any written history and what was kept was in the form of stories that were passed down generation to generation and some of those same stories can be heard today.
What is thought to be Barramundi, a species of freshwater fish (Credit: Luke Durkin)
If there was a way for us to look back into our history and see what early man was like and how our society would have been like, it is easy to say that the closest living people who would fit into this group would be the aboriginal people of Australia. They are more closely related to our ancestors from Africa than to modern European or Asian humans, they still keep records thousands of years old in the forms of stories that are shared around the warm glow of a fire in the cold desert night. There is so much we have learned from these people and who knows what else we still have to learn from them and what ancient peoples still have not made contact with the modern world.
- Works Cited:
- "Aboriginal people." Survival International. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.
- "Genetic study reveals 50 thousand years of independent history of Aboriginal Australian people." Sanger Institute. N.p., 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.
- "The Rainbow Serpent." Didj Shop. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.
- Welch, David M. "Introduction to Australia's Aboriginal Culture." Aboriginal Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.