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Aboriginal Australian Memories May Go Back More Than 7000 Years

2015-09-22

An article published in the Australian Geographer last week related the oral traditions of twenty-one locations around the coast of Australia that described sea-level rises, occurrences that are reliably dated to 7-13000 years ago.  The oral histories are in the form of myths that describe magical people and animals who induce the water to rise, in some cases suddenly, inundating passages between islands, creating bays, and sometimes submerging entire islands.  All of these things happened during the last Interglacial sea level rise, occurring after the end of the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago.  Since that time, for the last 7000 years, the sea level has been relatively constant; yet all of the coastal cultures seem to have these myths that describe a sudden sea level rise.

The paper is long and carefully reasoned, and worth reading if you are interested in Aboriginal myths.  The article also mentions myths of the Great Flood and of Gilgamesh in passing, but these myths are quite different and speak of a permanent rise in the sea level of a relatively moderate degree.  In all, I rate the reasoning as credible, and that it is possible for some cultures to retain in oral traditions, memories of events as much as 7000 years ago.

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