The Aboriginal people were the first Australians to have lived on the continent over 60,000 to 70,000 years. Using the evidence of carbon deposits in deserted campsites and geographical center samples, the scientists have argued that the Aboriginal people occupied Australia over 100,000 years ago. In the southern part of Australia, the oldest archeological sites were discovered, but until recently, some of older sites are being exposed to the north of the continent. The oldest human fossil, Mungo Man, was found near Lake Mungo in Australia. His exact age is disputed, but it is approximately 40,000 years old. It is believed that the flow of aboriginal population had found its way to the southern regions during the period when the southeastern Asian shores were closer to Australia and when the Australian landmass consisted of New Guinea and Tasmania. The aboriginal people settled in Tasmania which later on separated until the 1400s when the Indonesian fishermen and traders made contact with the unique people who had developed over the millennia.
In the nineteenth century, the social setting was different especially regarding communication due to the diversity of language and different customs. The oral communication between the natives was impossible because Tasmania Island had five different languages spoken (Clarke 10). Communication became involved due to the different territorial boundaries. The estimated population of the Aboriginal Australian people is between 600,000 to 1 million. However, it is not assumed that this is the steady population number of the people since the fossil records a significant population migration of the native. They lived around an extensive lake system that aided them in their economic activities of gathering food. The Aboriginal society was reserved and highly respected their customs and traditions. They believed that their ancestral spirits had established territories that the successors should follow and they felt no need to possess the lands of other tribes. The aboriginal tribes raided each other for women and revenge. The fierce clashes and conflicts were quite common in the society. The Aboriginal community consisted of several groups of clans who came together to form a larger unit during ceremonies such as weddings and religious ceremonies. The women were taught to help out in gathering food and also to be good wives as the men hunted and protected the society.
Women played a significant role in the economic sector. Their major work was to gather food and cook food for the society; therefore, they were not entirely capable of enjoying their mothering activities as the men hunted animals (Clarke 12). The aboriginal people participated in trading activities. The archaeologist found traces of materials such as pearl shells a few kilometers away from their place of origin. They also participated in subsidence husbandry in reproduction cycles of animals and the recurring variations in vegetation.
The aboriginal people had established tribal territories (Clarke 13). They had a system of religious beliefs and practices which they believed had been passed down by their ancestors. They were divided into clans which came to form a significant unit during traditional ceremonies. The Aboriginal people thought that every geographical feature, animals, and plants that existed in their community represented spiritual beings of the great ancient times that overshadowed the land and they preserved and protected it. It was their responsibility to protect and maintain the property as a continuing relationship with their ancestors. It resulted in a close link to its geographical territory that affected them severely during the colonial rule by the Europeans since they grew attached to their ancestral land making it difficult for them to relocate.
The elders of the community ensured that the laws of the land were strictly adhered to and followed by the people. Any violations were dealt with harshly by banishing the wrongdoer from the tribe. The system favored those who acquired wealth or possessions and those who were born into the ruling society. The aboriginal people take pride in their personal and group identity. They were seen as the Paleolithic Stone Age people who had developed, and they were on their way to civilization. Throughout the history of the aboriginal people, there were many changes even before the invasion of the Europeans. Many different forms of rock art emerged in various regions, and the evolved over time from the ancient symbolic engravings to the colorful rock art.
The European invasion affected the aboriginal people in different ways. Some collaborated with the Europeans while others fought against them to preserve their culture and heritage. Christianity was also adapted by some of the indigenous people. The traditional practices were banned by the Europeans, the aboriginal language could not be spoken, and they were given manual work. They fought against the Europeans which resulted in too many deaths and injuries so as to retain their identity and culture. Clarke states that "The British were confronted by the aboriginal who were not prepared to lose their identity and their traditions." (18). However, in 1967 referendum, Commonwealth gave the government power to legislate for the Aboriginal Australian people. The Torres Strait Islanders had expressed their desire for their history and culture to be recognized, and therefore, every region in Australia had their land council and preserved their culture and festivals.
Clarke, FG 2014, The history of Australia, Greenwood Publishing Group.
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