Ancient Flood Story Passed Down Accurately For More Than 10,000 Years
Aboriginal people from around the city of Melbourne, Australia, are telling a story, passed down for thousands of years, ever since the end of the last ice age. Without using any written words, they were able to pass down this story with an incredible accuracy. A scientific study concluded that the details and accounts told, were actual fact, despite the story being longer than 10,000 years.
“It’s quite gobsmacking to think that a story could be told for 10,000 years,” Nicholas Reid, a linguist at Australia’s University of New England specializing in Aboriginal Australian languages, said.
“It’s almost unimaginable that people would transmit stories about things like islands that are currently underwater accurately across 400 generations.”
After the end of the last Ice Age, some more than 10,000 years ago, the world began warming up and much of the polar ice caps, which were much larger than they are today, began to melt. This lead to sea levels rising all over the world, including Australia. In fact, stories related to floods are being recorded all over the world. Even Noah’s Ark is based on this period in time. But as we know how that particular story goes, with Noah gathering two of all animals in existence, the one told in Australia is far more accurate than this one.
Melbourne, the capital city and most populous centre in the state of Victoria, is the second most populous city in Australia. Port Phillip Bay, covering a staggering 750 square miles, sports a very salty and shallow waterway, less than 30 feet in some places. Back during Ice Age times, this place was actually dry land. And as the ice started to melt, this land became flooded, now making part of the sea floor. What’s surprising, the Aboriginals documented these changes as they were happening, and what’s more the names and locations of the, now gone, islands are still known by some members of these people.
Geographers and linguists began working together on the project and were able to confirm the veracity of 18 Aboriginal stories. Some of these were transcribed by the first European settlers before the tribes who told them succumbed to murder and foreign disease. By making use of scientific reconstructions of prehistoric sea levels, scientists have combed through these stories.
The results were quite surprising – the stories and the geographic data fit. But how could the story be passed on for so long?
“There are aspects of storytelling in Australia that involved kin-based responsibilities to tell the stories accurately,” Reid said. That rigor provided “cross-generational scaffolding” that “can keep a story true.”
Interestingly enough, this is not a unique case – stories have been told with surprising accuracy for thousands of years in other parts of the world as well.
“There’s a comparably old tradition among the Klamath of Oregon that must be at least 7,700 years old—it refers to the last eruption of Mount Mazama, which formed Crater Lake,” Nunn said. “I’m also working on ancient inundation stories and myths from India, and I’ve been trying to stimulate some interest among Asian scholars.”