Dr. Duane W. Hamacher
Duane Hamacher is a Lecturer and ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow at Nura Gili. His teaching and research focus on cultural astronomy, with an emphasis on Australia and Oceania (commonly called "Indigenous Astronomy" or "Aboriginal Astronomy"). His research involves understanding how Indigenous people developed and encoded scientific information in their Knowledge Systems, particularly knowledge related to astronomy but also with regard to geology, mathematics, and meteorology.
He leads the Indigenous Astronomy Group at Nura Gili and is the founder and Chair of the Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy and a Council member of the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture. His DECRA grant from the Australian Research Council (2014-2017) involves studying the astronomical knowledge and traditions of Torres Strait Islanders.
Born and raised in the U.S., Duane earned a degree in physics from the University of Missouri before moving to Australia to complete a Masters degree in astronomy at UNSW searching for extrasolar planets. He then earned a PhD in Indigenous Studies at Macquarie Universty, with a thesis on Australian Aboriginal astronomy before joining the academic staff of Nura Gili in 2012. Duane also works as a consultant curator at Sydney Observatory.
- Physical Address: LG 115 Balnaves Place, Electrical Engineering Building, UNSW, Kensington (G12)
- Mailing Address: Nura Gili Indigenous Programs Unit, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: (+61) 2 9385 2251
- BSc in Physics | University of Missouri | Columbia, MO, USA | 2004
- MSc in Physics | University of New South Wales | Sydney, Australia | 2008 | Thesis
- PhD in Indigenous Studies | Macquarie University | Sydney, Australia | 2012 | Thesis
Duane developed two undergraduate units for the Indigenous Studies undergraduate program, focusing on the Indigenous Knowledge Systems stream within the major. Both courses are also available as General Education units, making them accessible to any student studying at UNSW, including study aborad and exchange students.
He taught both courses in 2014, but from 2015 will only teach ATSI 3006, as he is on an ARC Fellowship with restricted allowance for teaching duties. He recruited Dave Harrington, formerly of Macquarie University, to teach ATSI 2015 for his extensive research and experince in fire ecology and ethnopharmacology.
ATSI 2015: The Science of Indigenous Knowledge
In this course students will explore the history, philosophy, theory, and methods of science and Idigenous Knowledge systems. Students will critique the development, application, and dissemination of Indigenous Knowledge, including astronomy, weather, medicine, fire ecology, ethnobotany, geography, and mathematics. 'ATSI 2015: Science and Indigenous Knowledge' provides a framework for students to explore the history and development of science in both Western and Indigenous contexts by learning how knowledge systems are developed and how this knowledge is passed down to successive generations through oral tradition and material culture. Students learn about the history of colonial "scientific" practices that disempowered Indigenous people and led to environmental damage and unsustainable practices. Students will discover ways in which Indigenous Knowledge can inform Western scientific practices, and learn how scientists and Indigenous communities are collaborating to provide new technologies and develope sustainable practices that are beneficial to all. Taught Semester 1 only.
ATSI 3006: The Astronomy of Indigenous Australians
This course will introduce students to the growing inter-discipline of cultural astronomy and explore the astronomical knowledge and traditions of Indigenous Australians. Students will learn about the history, development, theory, and methods of cultural astronomy, followed by a conceptual (non-mathematical) study of positional astronomy and celestial mechanics. Students will then learn about the various ways in which the sun, moon, and stars inform and guide Indigenous practices such as navigation, calendar development, and food economics, as well as social structure, marriage laws, and totem classes. Students will apply the methods and techniques of history, anthropology, and archaeology to critically analyse oral traditions and material culture in order to better understand the role and nature of astronomical knowledge in Australian Indigenous cultures. Students will conduct original research and undertake a project to develop educational materials and develop a cultural astronomy program. Taught Semester 1 only.
- Trevor Leaman (PhD) | Project: Wiradjuri Aboriginal Astronomy
- Melissa Razuki (PhD - RMIT) | Project: Charting Seven Sisters Dreamings across Australia
- Imogen Casey (Hons) | Project: Morning Star Ceremonies in Northern Australia
- Michelle Gantevoort (Hons) | Project: Tasmanian Aboriginal Astronomy
- Rose Tasker (BA - CSU) | Project: Mars in Indigenous Astronomical Traditions
- Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy - Chair and Founder
- International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture - Council Member
- European Society for Astronomy in Culture - Member
- Australian Anthropological Society - Fellow
- Astronomical Society of Australia - Member, EPOC Steering Committee (2013-2015)
- Australian Archaeological Association - Member
- Australian Rock Art Research Association - Member
- Hamacher, D.W., Leaman, T.M. & Carter, M. (2015). Aboriginal Astronomical traditions from Ooldea, South Australia, Part II: Animals in the Ooldean Sky. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, in prep.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2015). Native American oral traditions of Meteor Crater, Arizona. In preparation.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Nakata, N.M. (2015). Exploring the Astronomical Knowledge and Traditions of Torres Strait Islanders. Astronomy, Indigenous Knowledge, and Interpretation, edited by R. Thebe Medupe. In preparation.
- Norris, R.P., Hamacher, D.W. & Fuller, R.S. (2015). The Astronomy of Indigenous stone arrangements. In review.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Recorded accounts of meteoritic events in the oral traditions of Indigenous Australians. Archaeoastronomy, 25, in press.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Are supernovae recorded in Indigenous astronomical traditions? Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, 17(2), 161-170.
- Wyatt, G., Stevenson, T. & Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Dreamtime Astronomy: development of a new Indigenous program at Sydney Observatory. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, 17(2), 195-204.
- Leaman, T.M. & Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Aboriginal Astronomical traditions from Ooldea, South Australia, Part I: Nyeeruna and the Orion Story. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, 17(2), 180-194.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Comet and meteorite traditions of Aboriginal Australians. Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, 3rd Edition, edited by Helaine Selin. Springer-Netherlands, pp. 1-4.
- Nakata, N.M., Hamacher, D.W., Warren, J., Byrne, A., Pagnucco, M., Harley, R., Venugopal, S., Thorpe, K., Neville, R. & Bolt, R. (2014). Using Modern Technologies to Capture and Share Indigenous Astronomical Knowledge. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 45(2), 101-110.
- Norris, R.P. & Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Australian Aboriginal astronomy: an overview. Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, Vol. III, edited by Clive Ruggles. Springer-Verlag, pp. 2215-2223.
- Britton, T.R. & Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Meteors in the Maori astronomical traditions of New Zealand. WGN - Journal of the International Meteor Organization, 42(1), 31-34.
- Fuller, R.S.; Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2013). Astronomical orientations of Bora ceremonial grounds in Southeast Australia. Australian Archaeology, 77, 30-37.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Goldsmith, J. (2013). Aboriginal oral traditions of Australian impact craters. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, 16(3), 295-311.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2013). Aurorae in Australian Aboriginal traditions. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, 16(2), 207-219.
- Hamacher, D.W. & O’Neill, C. (2013). The discovery and history of the Dalgaranga meteorite crater, Western Australia. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, 60(5), 637-646.
- Norris, R.P.; Norris, P.M.; Hamacher, D.W. & Abrahams, R. (2013). Wurdi Youang: an Australian Aboriginal stone arrangement with possible solar indications. Rock Art Research, 30(1), 55-65.
- Hamacher, D.W.; Fuller, R.S. & Norris, R.P. (2012). Orientations of linear stone arrangements in New South Wales. Australian Archaeology, 75, 46-54.
- Hamacher, D.W.; Clegg, J.K., & Pankhurst, R.S. (2012). Rock art at the ‘Mini-Yengo’ site near Kulnura, New South Wales, Rock Art Research, 29(2), 23-25.
- Hamacher, D.W.; Buchel, A.; O'Neill, C. & Britton, T.R. (2011). An impact crater in Palm Valley, Central Australia? Australian Space Sciences Conference Series, Vol. 11, edited by Wayne Short & Iver Cairns. National Space Society of Australia, pp. 129-140.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2011). Eclipses in Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, 14(2), 103-114.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2011). Meteoritics and cosmology among the Aboriginal cultures of Central Australia. Journal of Cosmology, 13, 3743-3753.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2011). Comets in Australian Aboriginal astronomy. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, 14(1), 31-40.
- Norris, R.P. & Hamacher, D.W. (2011). Astronomical symbolism in Australian Aboriginal rock art. Rock Art Research, 28(1), 99-106.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2011). "Bridging the gap" through Australian cultural astronomy. Archaeoastronomy & Ethnoastronomy: building bridges between cultures, edited by Clive Ruggles. Cambridge University Press, pp. 282-290.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Frew, D.J. (2010). An Aboriginal Australian record of the Great Eruption of Eta Carinae. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, 13(3), 220-234.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2010). Meteors in Australian Aboriginal Dreamings. WGN - Journal of the International Meteor Organization, 38(3), 87-98.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2009). Australian Aboriginal geomythology: eyewitness accounts of cosmic impacts? Archaeoastronomy, 22, 60-93.
- Norris, R.P. & Hamacher, D.W. (2009). The astronomy of Aboriginal Australia. The Role of Astronomy in Society and Culture, edited by D. Valls-Gabaud & A. Boksenberg. Cambridge University Press, pp. 39-47.
- Christiansen, J.L.; Derekas, A.; Kiss, L.L.; Ashley, M.C.B.; Curran, S.J.; Hamacher, D.W.; Hidas, M.G.; Thompson, M.R.; Webb, J.K. & Young, T.B. (2008). The University of New South Wales Extrasolar Planet Search: a catalogue of variable stars from fields observed 2004-2007. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 385(4), 1749-1763.
- Christiansen, J.L.; Derekas, A.; Ashley, M.C.B.; Webb, J.K.; Hidas, M.G.; Hamacher, D.W. & Kiss, L.L. (2007). The first high-amplitude delta-scuti star in an eclipsing binary system. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 382(1), 239-244.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2005). The Umm Al Binni structure and Bronze Age catastrophes. The Artifact: Publications of the El Paso Archaeological Society, 43, 115-138.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2008). A search for transiting extrasolar planets from the Southern Hemisphere. Master of Science thesis, Department of Astrophysics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2012). On the astronomical knowledge and traditions of Aboriginal Australians. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Department of Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Stories from the sky: Astronomy in Indigenous Knowledge. The Conversation, 1 December 2014.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Dreamtime Astronomy. In the '2015 Australian Sky Guide,' edited by Nick Lomb. Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Editorial. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, 17(2), 140.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Obituary: Dr Dianne Johnson (1947-2012). Archaeoastronomy, 25, in press.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Geomythology and cosmic impacts in Australia. West Australian Geologist, 505, 11-14.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2013). A shark in the stars: astronomy and culture in the Torres Strait. The Conversation, 10 July 2013.
- Hamacher, D.W & Leaman, T.M. (2013). The Wiradjuri Astronomy Project. A report prepared for the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority, Forbes, NSW.
- Hamacher, D.W.; O'Neill, C.; Buchel, A. & Britton, T.R. (2010). Evidence for a putative impact structure in Palm Valley, Central Australia. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 45(Supplement), A73.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2011). Letter - Reply: Meteors in Australian Aboriginal Dreamings. WGN - Journal of the International Meteor Organization, 39(3), 58.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2009). Meteorite Falls & Cosmic Impacts in Australian Aboriginal Mythology. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 44(7), A85.
- Christiansen, J.L.; Hidas, M.G.; Ashley, M.C.B.; Webb, J.K.; Hamacher, D.W.; Young, T. & Lopez-Morales, M. (2007). Byproducts of the University of New South Wales Extrasolar Planet Search. Transiting Extrapolar Planets Workshop, edited by C. Afonso, D. Weldrake, and Th. Henning. ASP Conference Series, 366, 102-104.
- Hidas, M.G.; Webb, J.K.; Ashley, M.C.B.; Phillips, M.A.; Christiansen, J.L.; Hamacher, D.W.; Curran, S. J.; Irwin, M.; Aigrain, S. & Irwin, J. (2007). The University of New South Wales Extrasolar Planet Search. Transiting Extrapolar Planets Workshop, edited by C. Afonso, D. Weldrake, and Th. Henning. ASP Conference Series, 366, 45-50.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). The Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 17(6), 1-5, 6-7.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). The Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 17(5), 2-4.
- Fuller, R.S. and Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Bora ceremonial grounds and the Milky Way: a connection? Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 17(4), 2-4.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). The Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 17(4), 5-6.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). The Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 17(3), 7-10.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). The Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 17(2), 3-7.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2013). The Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 16(6), 2-5.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2013). The Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 16(5), 3-6.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2013). Indigenous Astronomy with Duane Hamacher. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 16(4), 1-4.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2013). Vandalism is the disease. Is astronomy the cure? Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 16(1), 1-4.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2012). Solar Eclipse and the Aboriginal Astronomy Project. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 15(6), 1-3.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2012). The Aboriginal Astronomy Project. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 15(5), 6-7.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2012). Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 15(4), 3-4.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2012). The Aboriginal Astronomy Project - Macquarie University. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 15(2), 4.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2012). Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 15(1), 2-3.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2011). The Aboriginal Astronomy Project. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 14(6), 2-3.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2011). The Australian Aboriginal Astronomy Project. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 14(3), 1-2.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2011). The Australian Aboriginal Astronomy Project. Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, 14(2), 3-4.
- Guest Editor: Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage (Volume 17, Issue 2)
- Panel of Consulting Editors: Archaeoastronomy - Journal of Astronomy in Culture (Volume 25)
- 2014-2017: Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, Australian Research Council ($352,000). "Exploring Cultural Astronomy in the Torres Strait"
- 2013-2015: Research Grant, Central Tablelands Local Land Services ($26,000). "Researching Wiradjuri Astronomical Traditions"
- 2012-2012: Jenni Chandler Grant, Melbourne Community Foundation ($20,000). "Understanding Australian Aboriginal Astronomy"
- 2008-2012: Research Excellence Scholarship, Macquarie University ($180,000). "On the Astronomical Knowledge and Traditions of Aboriginal Australians"
- 2006-2008: Postgraduate Scholarship, University of New South Wales ($24,000). "A Search for Transiting Exoplanets in the Southern Hemisphere"
- Stone Compasses and Aboriginal Astronomy. Weekend Breakfast, ABC TV (Jan '15)
- Studies in Australian Indigenous Astronomy. Australian Academy of Science (Dec '14)
- Cosmic Conversations: Under Aboriginal Skies. University of Missouri (Nov '14)
- National Science Week: Under Indigenous Skies. Mt Burnett Observatory (Aug '14)
- Cultural Astronomy in the Torres Strait. ISAAC Symposium, Cape Town (Jul '14)
- GAM14: Aboriginal Astronomy, Music and Art. Google Hangout (Apr '14)
- Charcoal Nights: Indigenous Astronomy. ABC 24 Live (Feb '14)
- Look Up! There's an Emu in the Sky! TEDx NorthernSydneyInstitute (Aug '13)
- Charcoal Nights: re-imagining the night sky. Murray Arts (Aug '13)
- Rare Aboriginal Rock Art Under Threat. ABC 7.30 Show (Nov '12)
- Speaking With: Duane Hamacher on Indigenous Astronomy. The Conversation radio (Dec '14)
- Behind the Tweed: Indigenous Astronomy. ABC Radio National (Dec '14)
- The Southern Cross - A Star Guide. 666 ABC Canberra (Jan '14)
- Aboriginal Astronomy. What are their constellations? SBS Radio - Latvian (Oct '13)
- Did Indigenous people use rock formations for astronomy? SBS Radio (May '13)
- Meteors and Aboriginal Traditions. The Wire – Real Radio (Feb '13)
- Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. BBC World Discovery Programme (Oct '11)
- Wurdi Youang and Aboriginal Astronomy. Noosa Community Radio (Feb '11)
- Wurdi Youang and Aboriginal Astronomy. ABC's Science Show (Feb '11)
- More Australian Archaeoastronomy. CheapAstro Podcast (Sep '10)
- The Aboriginal Dreaming and the Science Curriculum. Let's Talk, 98.9 FM (Mar '10)
- The Dreamtime meteor crater. CheapAstro Podcast (Jan '10)
- Profiles in Versatility: Indiana Jones with a Physics Degree. APS News (Jan '15)
- To find meteorites, listen to the legends of Australian Aborigines. Smithsonian Blog (Oct '14)
- Science Week fun at Jigamy Farm. Eden Magnet (Aug '14)
- Science Week challenge. Sydney Morning Herald (Aug '14)
- Summer Solstice 2014. IB Times-UK (Jun '14)
- Bora Ceremonies and the Great Emu in the Sky. Australian Archaeological Association Blog (Jun '14)
- Ancient story tells of star's variable nature. ABC Science (Apr '14)
- Southern 'fire' an omen in Aboriginal cultures. ABC Science (Oct '13)
- Starry, Starry Night to Learn. Border Mail (Jul '13)
- Science Grants to Regional Arts Initiatives. Regional Arts NSW (Jun '13)
- Aboriginal Sky Stories Project. Nura Gili News (May '13)
- Rock Art and ancient knowledge of astronomy. Australian Archaeological Association Blog (Apr '13)
- Australian Cultural Astronomy. Nura Gili News (Mar '13)
- Eclipse holds deeper meaning for Indigenous Aussies. World News Australia (Nov '12)
- Stories in the Sky. Uniken Magazine (Spring 2012, Issue 66, pp. 22-23).
- Meteorites: when fireballs strike the earth. Australian Geographic (Issue 107, Mar-Apr '12, p. 36-38)
- Dreaming on the Stars. Campus Review (Oct '11)
- Walls may hold heavenly secrets. Sydney Morning Herald (Oct '11)
- Aboriginal Astronomy - Visions of Space seminar in Melbourne. Sydney Observatory Blog (Sep '11)
- Ancient Aborigines Understood Eclipses. ABC Science (Jun '11)
- Beware the Eclipse: Common History of Fear. Australian Geographic (Jun '11)
- Dreamtime Astronomers Understood Meteors. ABC Science (Mar '11)
- Were Aborigines The World's First Astronomers? The Freeborn Times (Feb '11)
- Exploding star recorded in Aboriginal Dreamtime. Australian Geographic (Nov '10)
- Aboriginal astronomers recorded a "supernova-impostor" event. Macquarie University Newsroom (Nov '10)
- Comets triggered Aboriginal tales of doom. ABC Science (Oct '10)
- Aboriginal folklore leads to meteorite crater. Cosmos Magazine (Jan '10)
- Cosmic find unearthed using Aboriginal Dreaming story. Macquarie University Newsroom (Dec '09)
- Australia's First Astronomers (Big Aussie Starhunt). ABC Science (Jul '09)
The following is a list of potential Honors, Masters, and PhD projects, but other projects are available or may be proposed by students. HDR candidates with a range of backgrounds can take on these projects.
Because Nura Gili is not part of a Faculty at UNSW, students will be enrolled in one of the other faculties, such as Arts & Social Science, Education, or Science, but will be supervised by me. You can find information about postgraduate research degrees and scholarships below:
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Master of Research (MRes)
- Honours in Indigenous Studies (Hons)
- Applying for Admission
If interested, please contact me by email at email@example.com or phone at (+61) 02 9385 2251.
Potential Research Projects
The Morning Star Ceremony
This project will investigate the various Morning Star ceremonies prominent in Aboriginal cultures across Australia. This will involve surveying the literature and archival materials and conducting ethnographic fieldwork at places such as Yirkalla in eastern Arnhem Land. A cross-cultural study investigating Morning Star ceremonies from around the world as part of the research is also possible.
Planets and Planetary Motions in Astronomical Traditions
Many Aboriginal and Islander cultures differentiated planets from stars, but little is known about these traditions. This study will survey the ethnographic, archaeological, linguistic, and historical records for information about the role planets had in astronomical traditions. This would include investigating planetary motions, the retrograde motion of Mars, brightness changes, their relationship to stars along the ecliptic, the possibility of people observing the largest Jovian moons, and understanding how the planets were incorporated into oral traditions of Indigenous groups across the continent.
Researching the Astronomical Traditions of Particular Indigenous Communities
There are hundreds of distinct Indigenous language groups and communities across Australia, each with unique traditions and customs. This project will involve working closely with community elders and custodians to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the astronomical knowledge and traditions of a particular community or language group. It is important to investigate the role of astronomy in both pre-colonial and contemporary Indigenous cultures and understand how it relates to identity and spirituality.
Indigenous people across Australia and Oceania used the sun, moon, and stars for navigation, both on land and sea. Unfortunately, little is known about the navigational techniques of most Indigenous groups. This project will explore the historic and ethnographic record for information regarding navigation by Indigenous people. An ethnographic component is possible.
Many Indigenous communities shared information through song and dance. This project will involve working with communities to record and understand the role of astronomy in song and dance. In the 1980s, Richard Moyle conducted a comprehensive survey of Alyawarra music, in Central Australia. Some of which contains astronomical significance. Hundreds of other communities exists with similar songs, yet little is known about the musical structure or astronomical significance. Alternatively, the composition of new music based on Indigenous music are possible (click here for an example).
Astronomical Symbolism in Rock Art
This project will involve surveying and studying rock art across Australia to study their astronomical significance. There is a probable anthropological component, as many of the sites are looked over by Aboriginal custodians, who will provide the meaning and context of the rock art.
Astronomical Orientations of Stone Arrangements & Ceremonial Sites
This project will involve surveying and studying stone arrangements across Australia to determine if they have astronomical orientations. Recent research shows that stone arrangements are oriented to the positions of the sun at solstices and equinoxes, cardinal points, or celestial objects such as the Milky Way.
The Emu in the Sky
The motif of the celestial emu spanning across the Milky Way is found across Australia, with close similarities in South America. In this project, the student will conduct a comprehensive, cross-cultural survey of oral traditions regarding the emu in Australia and the counterparts in the New World. Fieldwork is possible, but most of the research will involve archival and historical studies.
The dark spaces in the Milky Way are seen by Indigneous peoples across the world as being "dark constellations". These include snakes, kangaroos, emus, crocodiles, llamas, partridge, toads, and foxes to name a few. This project will investigate, analyse, compare, and contrast different views of dark constellations from around the world.
Stellar Variability in Oral Tradition
Variable stars, including novae, supernovae, eruptive variables (e.g. Eta Carinae), and periodic variables (e.g. Algol), are detectable to the naked eye, or have been visible in the past. Recent studies show that Indigenous oral traditions noted the brightness changes of some stars, such as Eta Carinae and possibly Betelgeuse. Using a range of cultural data, the student will determine if any of these types of variable stars were noted and included in oral traditions.
Solar and Lunar Traditions
The sun and moon play an important and role in Indigenous practices, culture, and traditions. This project will explore this link with respect to time keeping, calendars, tides, and many other solar-lunar relationships.
Cross-Cultural Study of Celestial Objects
Celestial objects, such as constellations, asterisms, stars, star clusters, galaxies, or nebulae, have a particular role in the astronomical traditions of Indigenous cultures. Curiously, many of these stories are very similar despite being separated by distance and time. Why, for example, are the Pleiades typically associated with women and the stars of Orion with men, chasing the women? Why is the Aboriginal name for the Milky Way so common across the country? This project will involve choosing specific objects and conducting a cross-cultural study to better understand the origins and connections of oral traditions across Australia and other parts of the world. Historical, anthropological, and linguistic analysis may shed light on these questions.
Theoretical Frameworks in Cultural Astronomy
Despite being an established academic field for well over 30 years, the interdisciplinary field of cultural astronomy - which merges the physical, natural, social sciences and humanities - it is still struggling to find its place in wider academia. Stanislaw Iwaniszewski once noted that "For a long time I have believed that such diversity [in cultural astronomy] requires the invention of some all-embracing theory. I think I was very naive in thinking such a thing was ever possible." But as the scholarship evolves, we are developing new approaches to this, particularly in an Indigenous context. Using established and emerging scholarship, this project will explore ways in which we can develop new and innovative methodological and theoretical frameworks for cultural astronomy research and education.
Indigenous Knowledge and the Education Curriculum
Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into primary and secondary school programs, particularly in the sciences, is essential for the new curriculum. But accomplishing this is difficult as few people have the broad background in education, Indigenous Studies, and science that is necessary to tackle the challenge. This project will involve using teaching pedagogies, combined with the latest research, to develop appropriate and regionally specific programs and materials for incorporating IK into the primary and secondary education curriculum.
Mathematics in Indigenous Culture
This project will explore the myriad ways in which mathematical knowledge is developed and used by Indigenous cultures (dubbed "ethnomathematics"). This may involve studying Indigneous number systems, understanding the algorithms of marriage or totemic systems, or geometrical and spatial skills.
Studies in Geomythology
Many oral traditions describe various geological events, such as volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes, and meteorite impacts. This project will involve surveying the historical and archival records for accounts of geological events, then working directly with community elders and custodians. Using geological and archaeological techniques, the student will analyse evidence of these events. For example, many Aboriginal traditions across Victoria and South Australia describe volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, but we do not know if these traditions are describing specific events. The project may also involve working with elders and custodians at places such as Liverpool Crater in western Arnhem Land or the volcanic Crater Lakes in northern Queensland.
Weather and Climate Knowledge
The student will investigate how weather patterns, seasons, and climatic cycles were used by Indigenous people and incorporated in their traditions. Relationships between the environment, climate change, land resource management, and weather patterns and their application will be studied.
Media and Production Projects
Projects in music, media, theater, dance, art, and video relating to Indigenous astronomy, science, or mathematics are possible. Enrollment would be through UNSW Art & Design.