Mythology, volcanoes, and moving plates


Australian Aboriginal geomythology is being used to teach plate tectonics at Sanderson Middle School.

Indigenous ‘myths’ describing thousands of years’ old geological events are being compared to empirical science.

Science Teacher Megan Muir designed the course to include a “meaningful Indigenous perspective” to traditional treatments of earth science.

“There is a convergence between scientific research and traditional [Aboriginal] stories,” she said. “The accuracy of some accounts, stretching back thousands of years, have been confirmed.

“I have been reading about Aboriginal history and prehistory for years, so I was aware of this union of traditional stories and scientific research.

“My approach targets volcanism as plate tectonics phenomena. Australia is a tectonically inert place, but Aboriginal stories about several previously volcanic sites — including the 37,000-year-old Mount Eccles — have been verified.

“And stories of volcanism at Queensland’s Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine have been recorded as art.”

Ms Muir knows of no Aboriginal descriptions of Territory volcanism, but said geomythological references to coastal flooding due to sea-level rises, and the Territory’s Henbury Meteor craters, have been substantiated.

A mosaic of the creation of Lake Eacham, a volcanic crater lake, and the site of rainbow serpent (Yamani) anger at prohibited hunting by two newly initiated Aboriginal men.

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