Youth and Education news
Volume 1 December, 2011
Aboriginal Stonehenge: Stargazing in ancient Australia
Australia: An egg-shaped ring of standing stones may be older than Britain's Stonehenge. It may also show that ancient Aboriginal cultures had a deep understanding of the movements of the stars.
It's thought that Wurdi Youang was built by the Wadda Wurrung people anywhere from 200 - 26,000 years ago. Fifty metres wide with 100+ basalt boulders, the rocks' messages were lost in the 1800s when native languages and practices were banned.
Now a team of archaeologists, astronomers and Aboriginal advisers are reclaiming that knowledge. They've learned that certain waist-high boulders point to the horizon where the sun sets at the summer and winter solstice - the longest and shortest days of the year.
The axis from top to bottom points towards the equinox - when the length of day equals night.
At Stonehenge, the sun aligns instead with gaps in the stones on these key dates.
NASA technology was used to measure each rock's position relation to the sun, and to show the connection with the solstices and equinox.
Indigenous customs vary among groups across Australia, but one story appears many local traditions. It is the tale of a great emu that sits in the sky.
The emu appears in the southern hemisphere during April and May-during the bird's laying season. During this southern autumn, the emu constellation appears right above a rock engraved with an emu. The constellation and bird shape carving are almost perfectly reflected by the engraving.
"This discovery has huge significance for understanding the amazing ability of this culture that is maligned," says Janet Mooney, head of Indigenous Australian Studies at Sydney University.
"It makes not only me, as an Aboriginal person, but a lot of Aboriginal people around Australia very proud."
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Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country.