Fuller, Robert S.: Ancient Aboriginal star maps have shaped Australia’s highway network

Fuller, Robert S.

How ancient Aboriginal star maps have shaped Australia’s highway network‘, The Conversation, 7 April 2016

Fuller writes about the extensive network of trade routes used by Aboriginal people before 1788 for trading in goods and stories. Aboriginal people used ‘star maps’ to navigate outside their local country, using them as a memory aid to help them navigate over long distances.

[After some mentoring from Ghillar Michael Anderson, a Euahlayi Culture Man] I did some research [says Fuller], and looked at a route from Goodooga to the Bunya Mountains northwest of Brisbane, where an Aboriginal Bunya nut festival was held every three years until disrupted by European invasion.

It turned out the pattern of stars showed the “waypoints” on the route. These waypoints were usually waterholes or turning places on the landscape. These waypoints were used in a very similar way to navigating with a GPS, where waypoints are also used as stopping or turning points.

Fuller goes into detail about how the technique worked and how the knowledge came down to settler Australians working and living in the same areas. Settler explorers like Thomas Mitchell used Indigenous guides who carried the relevant knowledge.

These directions would no doubt reflect the easiest routes to traverse, and these were probably routes already established as songlines. Drovers and settlers coming into the region would have used the same routes, and eventually these became tracks and finally highways.


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