Star Maps – Australia’s Aboriginals & Ancient Greeks

THE pre-literate Greeks of Homer’s times and long before may be thought to have had little in common with the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.

They did, however, have the mutual problem of travelling over long-distances during times when neither the Greeks nor the Aboriginals had writing systems.

A broadcast on BBC television in March, 2017, indicates that two pre-literate societies living at opposite ends of the earth came up with very similar solutions – Star Maps.

Research by Robert S. Fuller, of the University of New South Wales, says the Aboriginal peoples  may be the world’s oldest astronomers, as their culture has retained much astronomical knowledge, passed down through stories, song and art.*

‘In some places, there is evidence that Aboriginal people used patterns of stars in the night sky to teach other persons how to travel outside their own country … These patterns are called star maps, and were used to memorise waypoints along a route of travel’, says Fuller.

The Greeks also used a cultural tool to preserve wide-ranging knowledge of astronomy, calendar-making … and long distance travel.

A major theme in Edna Leigh’s study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey as sources of wide-ranging astronomical knowledge, was her assertion that the pre-literate Greeks also used ‘maps’ based on patterns of stars in constellations to guide them on long-distance journeys.

An extensive and illustrated sampling of Edna’s research was published in Homer the Map-Maker, pp 239-262, Homer’s Secret Iliad (1999). Edna’s own research papers on this topic date back to the 1960s.

*http://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/news/aboriginal-star-maps

 

 

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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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