May 2, 2016
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Gunyah and the Sacred Fish story from “The Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough” Ep. 1

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Transcript:

By combining computer modelling and radiocarbon dating, his team have been able to reconstruct the key stages in the development of the Great Barrier. Their research has helped identify an event between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago which may explain how the Great Barrier Reef was formed.
But surprisingly, scientists are not the only ones to tell this story. Australia’s Aboriginal peoples arrived on this continent around 50,000 years ago. They have been telling the story of how the reef was formed long before the world’s scientists even knew it existed.

To hear that story, the Alucia is taking us to Northern Queensland to meet a community with a very special connection to this underwater world. They are the Gimuy Walubara
Yidinji people. And they live just outside the city of Cairns. This community has dwelt alongside the reef for thousands of years. And many of their traditions hark back to those ancient times. And one of them tells how the reef came into existence. It’s a legend that has been passed down from generation to generation in the form of a dance.

(…) The part of the dance that really interests me is the story of Gunyah and the sacred fish. The story starts with Gunyah going out to sea. And he saw a glitter in the water, which he thought was a fish. And when he speared it, he actually speared our sacred fish, the stingray. So the fish got angry and it started to rise up. And with its wings, it made the sea rough and it caused the sea to rise.

(…) the coastline would have moved back by hundreds of metres every year.

(…) So our story is about the sea rising. And there used to be a cliff further out. And past the cliff is where the ocean used to be.

As David notes, this is remarkable.

The ancestral sawfish carves-out the Angurugu River on Groote Eylandt followed by three creator stingrays. An ancestral hunter watches from the riverbank, waiting to spear some rays for a feast. Culture: Anindilyakwa, Clan: Maminyamanja, Artist: Nekingaba Maminyamanja, Date: c. 1980. Collection of Matthew T. McDavitt. Permission for educational purposes.

The ancestral sawfish carves-out the Angurugu River on Groote Eylandt followed by three creator stingrays. An ancestral hunter watches from the riverbank, waiting to spear some rays for a feast. Culture: Anindilyakwa, Clan: Maminyamanja, Artist: Nekingaba Maminyamanja, Date: c. 1980. Collection of Matthew T. McDavitt. Permission for educational purposes.

  • [PDF] M. T. McDavitt, “The cultural significance of sharks and rays in Aboriginal societies across Australia’s top end,” Seaweek, 2005.
    [Bibtex]
    @Article{mcdavittculturalsignificanceofsharksandrays,
      author    = {Matthew T. McDavitt},
      title     = {The cultural significance of sharks and rays in Aboriginal societies across Australia’s top end},
      year      = {2005},
      month     = mar,
      note      = {The following organisations/individuals are acknowledged for their contributions: Funding: Natural Heritage Trust and the Fisheries Resources Research Fund (Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry). Coordination of project: Marine Industries Environment Branch and the Bureau of Rural Sciences (Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry). Artwork: Brett Cullen and Trish Hart. Reviewers: David Kaus, Stirling Peverell, John Stevens, Carolyn Stewardson, Albert Caton and John Ackerman.},
      file      = {mcdavittculturalsignificanceofsharksandrays.pdf:media/trismegisto/Vitamin/Documents/Bibliography/mcdavittculturalsignificanceofsharksandrays.pdf:PDF},
      journal   = {Seaweek},
      timestamp = {2016-07-28},
    }
  • [PDF] R. B. Dixon, Oceanic mythology, Boston, Marshall Jones.
    [Bibtex]
    @Book{oceanicmytholog02dixogoog,
      title =       {Oceanic mythology},
      publisher =   {Boston, Marshall Jones},
      author =      {Dixon, Roland Burrage},
      abstract =    {Book digitized by Google from the library of University of Virginia and uploaded to the Internet Archive by user tpb.; Each plate accompanied by guard sheet with descriptive letterpress; Bibliography: p.[345]-364},
      date =        {1916},
      editora =     {{University of Virginia}},
      editoratype = {collaborator},
      file =        {oceanicmytholog02dixogoog.pdf:media/trismegisto/Vitamin/Documents/Bibliography/oceanicmytholog02dixogoog.pdf:PDF},
      keywords =    {Mythology, Oceanic},
      pagetotal =   {491},
      timestamp =   {2016-05-02},
      url =         {http://archive.org/details/oceanicmytholog02dixogoog},
      urldate =     {2016-05-02}
    }

BBC.co.uk

Article Categories:
< 10,000 BCE · Australia · Dance · Illustration · Photography

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