Science & Technology

How Aboriginal people mapped Australia through ritual chants

By Rocio Otaya

Adelaide, Jun 30 (EFE).- Imagine navigating your way around with songs and rituals. No more Google maps, no more indications nor directions, just the sound of spiritual music leading your way.

This is most probably how Aboriginal people, who arrived in Australia some 60,000 years ago, drew the map of the 7.7 million square island they inhabited.

Also known as song lines, a repertoire of sounds and rituals based on Aboriginal ancestry and mythology drew pathways through the continent’s roads and ecosystems.

“As they travelled through the landscape and learned the new landscape, they would have been encoding that information in some way, which we can call song lines,” archeologist, Sue O’Connor, told Efe.

Even though there is no definitive evidence, O’Connor said it was very likely that Aboriginal people used song lines – often marked by ritual or creation events – to map the terrain and record it onto collective memory for the next generations.

“Encoding it as ritual knowledge, it becomes knowledge that is transmitted to generations so gradually over time that knowledge is built up and you end up with a track way,” she added.

The ritual pathways would map important places, such as water sources, and guide Aboriginal people through the wild red desert or dangerous tropical forests by telling them where to go and how to behave in order to survive.

The song lines would also act as a cultural passport, as different tribes would chant different rituals, to travel across villages.

One of the most impressive song lines is the Seven Sisters, a 3,000 kilometer square area mapped by complex rituals that lead the way from the northwestern Kimberley region through the desert to the northeastern Queensland coast.

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