Reconstructing the Star Knowledge of Aboriginal Tasmanians

Michelle Gantevoort, Duane W. Hamacher, Savannah Lischick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The canopy of stars is a central presence in the daily and spiritual lives of Aboriginal Tasmanians. With the arrival of European colonists, Tasmanian astronomical knowledge and traditions were interrupted and dispersed. Fragments can be found scattered in the ethnographic and historical record throughout the nineteenth century. We draw from these ethnohistorical documents to analyse and reconstruct Aboriginal astronomical knowledge in Tas- mania. This analysis demonstrates that stars, the Milky Way, constellations, dark nebula, the Sun, Moon, meteors and aurorae held cultural, spiritual and subsistence significance for the Aboriginal cultures of Tasmania. We move beyond a monolithic view of Aboriginal astronomical knowledge in Tasmania, commonly portrayed in previous re- search, to lay the groundwork for future ethnographic and archaeological fieldwork with Aboriginal elders and com- munities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-347
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Cultural Astronomy
  • ethnoastronomy
  • Indigenous Knowledge Systems
  • Aboriginal Australians
  • Tasmania

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