Rivers of Knowledge
Contemporary Implications of People’s Memories of Millennia-old Geological Phenomena
Keywords:Ancient stories, sea-level rise, memory, submerged coasts, adaptation
Ancient stories recalling memorable events can be demonstrated as enduring in recognizable form in oral (non-literate or pre-literate) cultures for several millennia. As explained in the author’s 2018 book, The Edge of Memory (Bloomsbury, London), some of the most compelling of these stories are those recalling coastal ‘drowning’, interpreted in most instances as recalling the rise of sea level following the end of the last Ice Age; some of these stories from Aboriginal Australia can be given minimum ages of 7000-10,000 years ago. Examples are also given of ancient stories from Australia and elsewhere that recall volcanic eruptions and meteorite falls, both of which can be dated with some degree of certainty. This paper extends the arguments in The Edge of Memory to an analysis of stories that appear to recall people’s responses to rising sea level more than seven millennia ago and allow insights into their thinking. It seems clear that today, confronted by a similar phenomenon, we can learn from the actions of our distant ancestors.
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