Unearthing Ancient Rituals: A Glimpse into GunaiKurnai Heritage

Unearthing Ancient Rituals: A Glimpse into GunaiKurnai Heritage

In a monumental discovery blending ancient tradition with modern science, the GunaiKurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, alongside researchers from Monash University, have unveiled profound insights into the rituals of one of the world’s oldest living cultures. Published in Nature Human Behaviour, the findings illuminate a heritage stretching back an astonishing 12,000 years, marking the end of the Last Ice Age.

Unearthing Ancient Rituals: A Glimpse into GunaiKurnai Heritage

Located within the rugged terrain of GunaiKurnai Country near Buchan, Victoria, Cloggs Cave has emerged as a crucial site. Recent archaeological excavations have unearthed two small fireplaces, each containing a unique artifact: a Casuarina stick, meticulously shaped and coated with animal or human fat. These sticks, dating to 11,000 and 12,000 years ago respectively, provide tangible evidence of ancient ritual practices.

Unearthing Ancient Rituals: A Glimpse into GunaiKurnai Heritage

Historical records and ethnographic accounts from the 19th century shed light on these practices. Descriptions by Alfred Howitt, an ethnographer of his time, detail rituals involving “mulla-mullung,” revered medicine men and women of the GunaiKurnai. The ritualistic use of shaped Casuarina sticks, adorned with fats and ritually manipulated, served as potent charms aimed at healing and spiritual intervention.

GunaiKurnai Elder Uncle Russell Mullett expressed profound reverence for the findings, emphasizing their role in preserving and passing down cultural knowledge across 500 generations. “For these artifacts to survive is just amazing,” remarked Mr. Mullett, underscoring their significance as a living link to an ancient past that continues to resonate within the community.

Professor Bruno David of Monash University’s Indigenous Studies Centre emphasized the continuity of GunaiKurnai cultural practices across millennia. “The connection between these archaeological discoveries and contemporary GunaiKurnai customs spans over 12,000 years,” noted Professor David, highlighting the enduring resilience of these traditions amidst changing landscapes.

However, the journey to this groundbreaking discovery has not been without its challenges. Previous excavations in the 1970s occurred without consultation with Traditional Owners, a stark contrast to today’s collaborative efforts between GLaWAC and Monash University. This partnership exemplifies a holistic approach, merging Western scientific methodologies with Indigenous knowledge systems to comprehensively interpret and celebrate these ancient practices.

As GunaiKurnai continue to reclaim and reinterpret their cultural narratives, the findings from Cloggs Cave serve as a poignant reminder of resilience and continuity. They illustrate a legacy of knowledge transfer that transcends time, enriching both the understanding of the past and the identity of a living culture deeply rooted in its ancestral heritage.

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Source: https://nit.com.au/02-07-2024/12271/new-archaeological-find-uncovers-12000-year-old-first-nations-ritual

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