Oz scientist debunks myth of Aboriginal nomadic lifestyle

November 14th, 2007 - 2:02 am ICT by admin  
Anthropologist and architect Dr Paul Memmott has in his new research said, that Australia’s indigenous peoples lived in houses and villages, and used surprisingly sophisticated architecture and design methods for building their shelters.

The dwellings were constructed in various styles, depending on the climate. Most common were however, the dome-like structures made of cane reeds with roofs thatched with palm leaves, he said.

Dr Memmott said some of the houses were interconnected, as well, allowing native people to interact during long periods spent indoors during the wet season.

Dr Memmott said the myth that indigenous Australians were constantly on the move had come about because early explorers made their observations in good weather, when indigenous people were more mobile than at other times.

Incidentally, early white settlers used this very argument of native Aboriginals leading a nomadic lifestyle to claim that Down Under was terra nullius - the Latin term for land that belonged to nobody.

Dr Memmott said many of the shelters the Aborigines built were dome structures. In the rainforest area around Cairns, in Queensland, where there was heavy rain for much of the year, people would occupy such villages for up to a year, he said.

He said the villages were always located near a staple food source, such as rainforest trees, from which Aborigines could harvest nuts.

“Some of the nuts were poisonous, but the Aborigines developed a way of leaching the poisons out of them by burying them in mud for a period of time. This source of nutrition allowed them to remain put instead of forcing them to go off hunting,” said Dr Memmott.

Dr Memmott said, he also found evidence of dome housing on the west coast of Tasmania, with triple layers of cladding and insulation.

In western Victoria, the Aborigines built circular stonewalls more than a metre high, constructing dome-roofs over the top with earth or sod cladding, he said.

He said the early Christian missionaries drew on Aboriginal technology for buildings, using tree bark for roofs and walls, and grass thatching for gables, as well as reeds and animal hides.

Dr Memmott said, very little indigenous architecture in Australia now remained intact after local authorities burned or bulldozed the structures in the belief they were health hazards.

Dr Memmott published his research over the past 35 years, sourcing material from oral histories, explorers’ diaries, paintings and photographs in Gunyah, Goondie and Wurley, the first book to detail Australian Aboriginal architecture, reports the Guardian. (ANI)

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