Dr. Duane W. Hamacher
Lecturer and ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher
Duane's research focuses on cultural and historical astronomy and meteoritics, with an emphasis on Australian and Oceanic Indigenous astronomical knowledge and traditions. His teaching explores the crossroads of Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge, with an emphasis on astronomy.
Duane earned graduate degrees in astrophysics and indigenous studies, with a doctoral thesis on Aboriginal Astronomy. He is the founder and Chair of the Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy (ASIA) and a Fellow of the Australian Anthropological Society.
He serves on the Steering Committee of the 'Education & Public Outreach Chapter' (EPOC) of the Australian Astronomical Society, is a consultant with the ARC funded "Space 2 Grow" Project, and works as an astronomy educator and consultant curator at Sydney Observatory.
- Research Gate
- UNSW Research Gateway
- Google Scholar
- Astrophysics Data System
- Student Research Projects
- Society Membership
- Publications (Refereed)
- Publications (Unrefereed)
- Selected Media
- BSc in Physics - University of Missouri (2004)
- MSc in Astrophysics - University of New South Wales (2008)
- PhD in Indigenous Studies - Macquarie University (2012)
- Physical Address: LGQ5 Balnaves Place, Electrical Engineering Building, UNSW, Kensington (G12)
- Mailing Address: Nura Gili Centre for Indigenous Programs, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia.
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: +61 2 9385 2251
ATSI 2015: The Science of Indigenous Knowledge
In this course students will explore the history, philosophy, theory, and methods of Western science and ethnoscience. Students will critique the development, application, and dissemination of traditional Indigenous knowledge about the natural world, including astronomy, weather, medicine, geography, and mathematics. ATSI2015 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 and benefit Western science, and investigate how scientists and Indigenous communities are now collaborating to provide new technologies and developing sustainable practices that are beneficial to all. Students will use the tools they learn to benefit their careers and practices to move toward a sustainable and mutually beneficial future. Taught Semester 1, 2014.
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 undertake a project working with a museum curator or educator to develop educational materials, curate an exhibit, or develop a cultural astronomy program for an observatory, school, or museum. Taught Semester 1, 2014.
Trevor Leaman | Co-Advisor: Stephen Muecke (FASS) | Thesis: Astronomical Traditions of the Wiradjuri People of central New South Wales
Emma McDonald | Co-Advisor: Ray Norris (CSIRO) | Thesis: Astronomical Traditions of the Worimi People of coastal New South Wales
David Pross | Project: Astronomical Symbolism in Rock Art of the Sydney Region
- Australian Society for Indigenous Astronomy - Chair
- International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture - Member
- European Society for Astronomy in Culture - Member
- Australian Anthropological Society - Fellow
- Astronomical Society of Australia - Member
- Australian Archaeological Association - Member
- Australian Rock Art Research Association - Member
- Leaman, T. & Hamacher, D.W. (Forthcoming). Astronomical Knowledge of the Wiradjuri people of central New South Wales. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, in review.
- Pross, D.R., Pankhurst, R.C. & Hamacher, D.W. (Forthcoming). Sky Knowledge and Rock Art in the Sydney Basin. Rock Art Research, in review.
- Leaman, T. & Hamacher, D.W. (Forthcoming). Did Aboriginal people of South Australia record the variability of the star Betelgeuse? Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, in review.
- Leaman, T. & Hamacher, D.W. (Forthcoming). Aboriginal Sky Knowledge of the Great Victoria Desert, South Australia. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, in review.
- Hamacher, D.W. (Forthcoming). Are Supernovae Recorded in Australian Indigenous Oral Traditions? Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, in review.
- Norris, R.P. & Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Australian Aboriginal Astronomy: An Overview. Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, edited by Clive Ruggles. Springer-Verlag, in press.
- Britton, T.R. & Hamacher, D.W. (2013). Meteors in the Maori astronomical traditions of New Zealand. WGN - Journal of the International Meteor Organization, Vol. 41(6), in press.
- Fuller, R.S.; Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2013). Astronomical Orientations of Bora Ceremonial Grounds in Southeast Australia. Australian Archaeology, No. 77, pp. 30-37.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Goldsmith, J. (2013). Aboriginal Oral Traditions of Australian Impact Craters. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, Vol. 16(3), pp. 295-311.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2013). Aurorae in Australian Aboriginal Traditions. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, Vol. 16(2), pp. 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, Vol. 60(5), pp. 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, Vol. 30(1), pp. 55-65.
- Hamacher, D.W.; Fuller, R.S. & Norris, R.P. (2012). Orientations of Linear Stone Arrangements in New South Wales. Australian Archaeology, Vol. 75, pp. 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, Vol. 29(2), pp. 23-25.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2012). On the Astronomical Knowledge and Traditions of Aboriginal Australians. Thesis: Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
- Hamacher, D.W.; Buchel, A.; O'Neill, C. & Britton, T.R. (2011). An Impact Crater in Palm Valley, Central Australia? A preliminary Survey. 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, Vol. 14(2), pp. 103-114.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2011). Meteoritics and cosmology among the Aboriginal cultures of Central Australia. Journal of Cosmology, Vol. 13, pp. 3743-3753.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2011). Comets in Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, Vol. 14(1), pp. 31-40.
- Norris, R.P. & Hamacher, D.W. (2011). Astronomical symbolism in Australian Aboriginal rock art. Rock Art Research, Vol. 28(1), pp. 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, Vol. 13(3), pp. 220-234.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2010). Meteors in Australian Aboriginal Dreamings. WGN - Journal of the International Meteor Organization, Vol. 38(3), pp. 87-98.
- Hamacher, D.W. & Norris, R.P. (2009). Australian Aboriginal Geomythology: eyewitness accounts of cosmic impacts? Archaeoastronomy, Vol. 22, pp. 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.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2008). A Search for Transiting Extrasolar Planets from the Southern Hemisphere. Thesis: Master of Science, Department of Astrophysics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
- 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, Vol. 385(4), pp. 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, Vol. 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, Vol. 43, pp. 115-138.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2014). Obituary: Dr Dianne Johnson (1947-2012). Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage, in review
- Hamacher, D.W. (2013). Vandalism is the disease. Is astronomy the cure? Indigenous Science Network Bulletin, Vol. 16(1), pp. 1-4.
- 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, Vol. 45(Supplement), p. A73.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2011). Letter - Reply: Meteors in Australian Aboriginal Dreamings. WGN - Journal of the International Meteor Organization, Vol. 39(3), p. 58.
- Hamacher, D.W. (2009). Meteorite Falls & Cosmic Impacts in Australian Aboriginal Mythology. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, Vol. 44(7), p. 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, Vol. 366, pp. 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, Vol. 366, pp. 45-50.
- Hamacher, D.W.; Eyermann, S.; Speck, A.K. & Meixner, M. (2005). HST study of the molecular gas in planetary nebulae. Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, Vol. 37, p. 1162.
- Aboriginal Astronomy. What are their constellations? SBS Latvian (October 2013)
- Southern 'fire' an omen in Aboriginal cultures. ABC Science (October 2013)
- Look Up! There's an Emu in the Sky! TEDx NorthernSydneyInstitute (August 2013)
- Charcoal Nights: re-imaging the night sky. Murray Arts (August 2013)
- Starry, Starry Night to Learn. Border Mail (July 2013)
- A Shark in the Stars: Astronomy and Culture in the Torres Strait. The Conversation (July 2013)
- Science Grants to Regional Arts Initiatives. Regional Arts NSW (June 2013)
- Did Indigenous people us rock formations for astronomy? SBS Radio (May 2013)
- Aboriginal Sky Stories Project. Nura Gili News (May 2013)
- Rock Art and ancient knowledge of astronomy. Australian Archaeological Association Blog (April 2013)
- Australian Cultural Astronomy. Nura Gili News (March 2013)
- Meteors and Aboriginal Culture. The Wire (February 2013)
- Guest editorial: Vandalism is the disease. Is astronomy the treatment? Indigenous Science Network Bulletin (February 2013)
- Eclipse holds deeper meaning for Indigenous Aussies. World News Australia (14 November 2012)
- Meteors and Aboriginal Traditions. The Wire – Real Radio (11 February 2013)
- Rare Aboriginal Rock Art Under Threat. ABC 7.30 Show (30 November 2012)
- Stories in the Sky. Uniken Magazine, Spring 2012, Issue 66, pp. 22-23.
- Meteorites: when fireballs strike the earth. Australian Geographic (Issue 107, March-April 2012, p. 36-38)
- Dreaming on the Stars. Campus Review (17 October 2011)
- Walls may hold heavenly secrets. Sydney Morning Herald (11 October 2011)
- Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. BBC World Discovery Programme (4 October 2011)
- Aboriginal Astronomy - Visions of Space seminar in Melbourne. Sydney Observatory Blog (27 September 2011)
- Ancient Aborigines Understood Eclipses. ABC Science (15 June 2011)
- Beware the Eclipse: Common History of Fear. Australian Geographic (14 June 2011)
- Dreamtime Astronomers Understood Meteors. ABC Science (15 March 2011)
- Were Aborigines The World's First Astronomers? The Freeborn Times (25 February 2011)
- "Ancient Aborigines were keen astronomers" - Wurdi Youang and Aboriginal Astronomy. Noosa Community Radio (21 February 2011)
- Wurdi Youang and Aboriginal Astronomy. ABC's Science Show (5 February 2011)
- Exploding star recorded in Aboriginal Dreamtime. Australian Geographic (11 November 2010)
- Aboriginal astronomers recorded a "supernova-impostor" event. Macquarie Newsroom (9 November 2010)
- Comets triggered Aboriginal tales of doom. ABC Science (18 October 2010)
- More Australian Archaeoastronomy. CheapAstro.com Podcast (21 September 2010)
- The Aboriginal Dreaming and the Science Curriculum. Let's Talk, 98.9 FM (15 March 2010)
- The Dreamtime meteor crater. CheapAstro.com Podcast (29 January 2010)
- Aboriginal folklore leads to meteorite crater. Cosmos Magazine (7 January 2010)
- Cosmic find unearthed using Aboriginal Dreaming story. Macquarie Newsroom (21 December 2009)
- Australia's First Astronomers (Big Aussie Starhunt). ABC Science (27 July 2009)
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)
- Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Bachelor with Honors (Hons)
- Applying for Admission
If interested, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org 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. Collaboration with Indigenous communities is probable.
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 with the Earth and people.
Cross-Culture 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 reasoning 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, or working directly with community elders and custodians. Using geological and archaeological techniques, the student will search for 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 that may or may not be known to Western science. 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 the College of Fine Arts (CoFA).