Aboriginal memories of inundation of the Australian coast
Presented by Nicholas Reid, researched jointly with Patrick Nunn.
18,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, when sea level was about 120 metres below its present level, land ice started melting and sea level began rising, a process that ended some 6000 years ago around Australia. Postglacial sea-level rise transformed the coastline of this island continent, permanently inundating vast expanses of the continental shelf and severing the mainland from New Guinea, Tasmania and countless of today’s offshore islands. The drowning of Australia’s coast affected the ways in which its inhabitants – the Aboriginal peoples who arrived there 50-60,000 years ago – lived, principally by submerging lands on which they had previously lived.
The changes to the geography of coastal Australia wrought by postglacial sea-level rise were so noticeable that its inhabitants created stories – both mythical and narrative – that described the observed changes for posterity. Owing to the remarkable effectiveness of trans-generational storytelling in Aboriginal cultures, some...