Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu is in the news again, with the publication of a new book critiquing Pascoe’s arguments. Dark Emu builds on an earlier, less known work by archaeologist Rupert Gerritsen, who argued a number of regions across Australia should be considered centres of Aboriginal agriculture.
Historians Billy Griffiths and Lynette Russell, and now anthropologist Peter Sutton and archaeologist Keryn Walshe, have argued Pascoe has fallen into a trap of privileging the language of agriculture above hunter-gatherer socioeconomic systems.
We have been working in a landscape that provides an important test of the Dark Emu hypothesis. In partnership with the Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation, who occupy the Channel Country in Central Australia, we have begun investigating Aboriginal settlement sites, pit dwelling huts (known as gunyahs) and quarries.
Our landscape study, published in the journal Antiquity, has found over 140 quarry sites, where rock was excavated to produce seed grinding stones. We have also developed a method to locate traces of long-lost village sites.
Were First Australians farmers or hunter-gatherers? Contemporary archaeological research suggests it’s not such a simple dichotomy. Understanding the Mithaka food production system may well tell us whether such terms are a good fit for defining socio-economic networks in Aboriginal Australia.
Thanks, Davy for posting such an important and interesting subject, of course, you know better than anyone the resistance this subject gets among the Australian establishment. Keep on kicking on that door, my friend.
What we are really kicking against is the arrogance of the Europeans. When someone does not want to view a subject from another perspective as they are thinking their perspective is right and there is no other perspective than mine. That is arrogance pure and simple.
As what they are really telling you is that they are the superior ones and that has not change an iota since the Europeans began their wanderings and invasions of other lands new to them. That arrogance was most blatant back then as their writings from those days dripped with it.
Our answer to the neo-colonials who keep telling us that Aboriginal people didn't even invent the wheel is, 'neither did you!' ... more on the wheel below the important stuff.
QUOTE: "Aboriginal population matched the carrying capacity of the land because they saw their primary mandate as caring for the land and each other, their society was focused on the development of sophisticated technologies for land management, resource husbanding and population control.
The structure of Aboriginal society also reflected these ecological considerations and elder-ship was attained not simply through age, but by demonstrated and accumulated merit in both religious and secular knowledge. There was therefore no division between church and state, because elders had to demonstrate a unified knowledge base as well as a communal approach to decision making.
Through this blending of spiritual and secular authority in a system of elder-ship. Aboriginal society might be best described as a 'Druidic Meritocracy'. It was therefore a truly communalist society with no individual or specific group having control over resources.
There was no individual accumulation of wealth or power and as a consequence there was conversely no accumulated poverty or disadvantage. there were no social class differences apart from the respect due to age and merit, and as indicated. decision making was by consensus rather than edict.
All tribal areas were based on water catchment areas and the totemic system was utilised as a means of species conservation and land management.' The totem system therefore had a primary ecological purpose and all knowledge was integrated through the totem system to serve that primary ecological purpose.
This ecological focus was achieved by the universal way in which the totem system was structured across Australia and in turn how this determined the structure of Aboriginal society itself. Aboriginal family kinship was therefore an integral part of their system of ecological relationship and control. Aboriginal people therefore saw human society as an interdependent part of the whole ecology and not separate from or holding dominion over it.
For instance in all Aboriginal societies a Yin and Yang type of conceptual division existed, where every living and non living thing was divided between these two halves or 'moieties'. At the simplest level (and there were several ritual exceptions) this meant that an individual was not allowed to hunt or eat any of the animals in their own moiety. because they were his or her spirit cousins.
In this way at least half the food sources were taboo to an individual and for instance it might mean you could eat wallaby but not grey kangaroo, or ring-tailed possum but not brush-tailed possum. As indicated, the totem system also governed marriage and family relationships and together with common male and female contraceptive practices, all tribes ensured that their population remained consistent with the natural carrying capacity of the land.
This was however not just the carrying capacity of the land in a good or average year, but in the worst of years. For Aboriginal people abundance was the norm. “These land management and population control practices therefore meant that prior to British settlement in 1788 Aboriginal people in Australia enjoyed the highest common standard of living of any people in the world.”
Excerpt from 'The Dust of the Mindye' by Jim Poulter PhD.M.S.W. Dip.Crim. Dip. Soc.Stud. MAASW
BACK TO THE WHEEL
There are historical arguments about where the wheel came from, but a popular belief is that a wheel was first recorded in the middle east, in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) around the 4th century BC, or another popular belief is it was Mesopotamia an historical region of Western Asia around 3500 BC.
The wheel certainly didn't first arrive on the shores of this continent by the British, it is well known that many ships arrived before 1770, and some of these even traded with First Nations people for centuries, and most of the vessels had wheels for the visitors many uses, but it appears that no First Nations tribe or clan had any continuous need for them.
Good and informative post-Davy we make too many assumptions about the Aboriginal peoples. As for the invention of the wheel, people forget that it only needed to be invented once and then it spread around the world. Who First invented it is irrelevant, we are all human with the same mental capacity.
Quote from the article.
"Aboriginal society might be best described as a 'Druidic Meritocracy'"
This implies that the structure of our Society was vertical and lead by a religious elder which it was not. It was Horizontally structured with privileges being unheard of as the leaders were also governed by the Lore/ Law of the society. The only merit required was that you knew and understood both Lore and Law and knew how to apply the Law with wisdom.
Yes! The lore may seem religious but the reality was it gave the reason only for the Law which was secular. It also made it easier to teach the children the lore so as adult they understood better the Law of the people.
But then again sociologist can only visualise one form of social structure with the being a hierarchical structure society. So they frame every explanation within that vertical structure.