Australian Aboriginal Astronomy
The first Australians are thought to have arrived around 50,000 years ago. These migrants are sometimes referred to as the world's earliest astronomers , although this seems unlikely if current theories of early migration are true (people would have used the stars for navigation long before reaching Australia). However Aboriginal Australians were probably the first people to document stars in the southern hemisphere .
Ancient drawings depict the Sun and Moon, and Aborigines are thought to have used the stars for navigation and as a calendar reference.
Aboriginal groups were spread across the continent, and developed many different versions of astronomical mythology.
- Many groups saw the Sun as female and the Moon as male (the reverse was more common in other ancient cultures).
- The Pleiades star cluster was often seen as a group of women. Some groups saw it as a group of kangaroos or trees, while some considered it a resting place for the dead. The heliacal rising of Pleiades was known to signal the start of dingo breeding season, indicating an easy source of food.
- The Southern Cross (Crux) featured prominently, being variously interpreted as: A stingray being pursued by two sharks (the pointers); An eagle's talon; and two hunters or old ladies at their campfires.
- Scorpio (the scorpion in Western starlore) was seen as: A crocodile, with the head where the scorpion's tail would be; An emu .
- In South Australia, The Milky Way was seen as a river flowing through plains. In other locations it was seen as an emu (where the emu shape is actually the dark dust obscuring the glactic plane) .