Oral tradition Down Under

Calendar systems in other pre-literate cultures

The pre-literate Greeks of Homer’s times and before were not alone in preserving knowledge of astronomy in their oral traditions and study of such learning in pre-literate societies throughout the world is an increasingly productive field.

A recent academic submission at https://arvix.org/abs/1607.02215 explores a culture that had ‘a significant astronomical component through oral traditions, ceremony and art.

‘This astronomical knowledge includes a deep understanding of the motion of objects in the sky which was used for practical purposes such as constructing calendars and for navigation,’ says Ray P Norris.

The astronomical knowledge of that pre-literate society could not be more distant from the lands and islands of Ancient Greece and is found in ‘the traditional cultures of Aboriginal Australians…’

‘Putative explanations of celestial phenomena appear throughout the oral record, suggesting traditional Aboriginal Australians sought to understand the natural world around them, in the same was as modern scientists,’ writes Norris.

The rhythms of the moon and stars by night and the sun by day and the need for ancient pre-literate peoples to ensure their survival by acquiring knowledge of astronomy, calendar-making and navigation on land and sea, were the first steps in creating the science of astronomy.

In the absence of writing systems these pre-literate societies independently devised systems to preserve learning essential to their own  cultures. .

See following posts for an introduction to Homer the Astronomer, Wisest of all Greeks.

© 2017 Kenneth and Florence Wood


About Florence and Kenneth Wood

Authors of Homer's Secret Iliad (John Murray, 1999) and Homer's Secret Odyssey (The History Press, 2011)
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