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Category of Astronomical Heritage: tangible immovable
Wurdi Youang, Australia

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    Presentation

    Geographical position 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 1
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2011-08-22 11:08:01
      Author(s): Ray Norris

    Near the village of ‘Little River’, between Geelong and Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

     

    Location 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 3
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2013-01-15 16:03:11
      Author(s): Ray Norris with contributions by Clive Ruggles

    Latitude (of the local cultural center) 37.8956° S, longitude 144.4662° E. Elevation 80m above mean sea level.

     

    General description 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 1
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2011-08-22 11:08:01
      Author(s): Ray Norris

    The Wurdi Youang site is one of a number of stone arrangements known in the state of Victoria that were built by Aboriginal people before European settlement. It is on land traditionally owned by the Wathaurong Aboriginal people and may be an initiation site.

    Its construction date is unknown, and could be anywhere in the range c. 25000 BC to about 1835 AD. All records of its use have disappeared. Archaeoastronomical surveys indicate that it was related to observations of the changing setting position of the sun on the western horizon.

     

    Brief inventory 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 9
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2017-06-07 16:50:31
      Author(s):

    The Wurdi Youang Aboriginal stone arrangement, also known as Wada Wurrung and the Rothwell Archaeological site, consists of a roughly egg-shaped circle, about 50m in diameter, of about 100 basalt stones. The stones range from small rocks about 20cm in diameter to standing stones about 1m high—some of which appear to be supported with ‘trigger stones’—with an estimated total mass of about 23 tonnes.

    <strong>Fig. 1: </strong> Plan of the Wurdi Youang

    Fig. 1: Plan of the Wurdi Youang site showing the solstitial and equinoctial alignments from the westernmost stones. The scales are in metres. © Ray Norris

    The three largest stones in the circle are placed together at the western end, from which a number of small outlying stones indicate the setting position of the Sun at the solstices and at the Equinox, to an accuracy of a few degrees. The straight segments on the north-east and south-east sides of the ring also indicate the sun’s setting points at the two solstices when viewed from the eastern apex of the ring.

    <strong>Fig. 2: </strong> The view to the west fro

    Fig. 2: The view to the west from the westernmost part of the circle, including the three largest stones. Photograph © Clive Ruggles

    <strong>Fig. 3: </strong> The view to the west fro

    Fig. 3: The view to the west from the eastern side of the circle, showing the solstitial alignment of the straight sections. Photographic and graphic © Ray Norris and John Morieson

     

    History 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 1
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2011-08-22 11:08:01
      Author(s): Ray Norris

    The area has been occupied by the Wathaurong hunter-gatherer Aboriginal people from about 25000 BC until their culture was destroyed in about 1835. Since then, the area has been farmed by European settlers, although the Wurdi Youang site itself has been untouched.

     

    Cultural and symbolic dimension 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 2
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2012-05-13 15:07:36
      Author(s): Ray Norris with contributions by Clive Ruggles

    Aboriginal cultures have long been neglected, and until the last few decades there were systematic attempts by the European majority to suppress them (e.g. children were punished for speaking their indigenous language in school). That repression has thankfully largely disappeared, and both Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups are now working to consolidate and rebuild the indigenous cultures. While Aboriginal art, music, and dancing are well known, only recently has attention been paid to other aspects of indigenous culture, such as astronomy. The study of astronomy in Aboriginal cultures is in its infancy, but there has been much interest in it both from indigenous and European groups, resulting in a great deal of media coverage and related activities.

     

    Comparative analysis 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 1
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2011-08-22 11:08:01
      Author(s): Ray Norris

    Alignments in the cardinal directions are common among stone arrangements in Victoria, which implies that the Wurdi Youang alignments are not fortuitous.

     

    Authenticity and integrity 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 2
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2012-04-29 15:34:54
      Author(s): Ray Norris with contributions by Clive Ruggles

    The site is classified as an Aboriginal Heritage Site by the relevant department in the State government, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria. This is based on the fact that:

    • similar stone arrangements are known elsewhere in Victoria, although none exactly resembles Wurdi Youang;
    • the stone arrangement is on a property that has been owned by one family since first settlement, and the family tradition rules out a European origin; and
    • the arrangement has no known counterpart among colonial structures. It is on rocky ground with no commercial or agricultural value, and it would not have been suitable for defining the boundaries of a sheep dip, sheep pen, or cattle dip. There is no evidence that it ever formed part of a fence or building.

    Some stones may have been removed, but in general the site is probably in a similar condition to when it was last used by the Wathaurong people in about 1835.

     

    Documentation and archives 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 1
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2011-08-22 11:08:01
      Author(s): Ray Norris

    Aboriginal Affairs maintains a site register, which includes all known accounts of the site.

     

    Management and use

    Present use 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 1
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2011-08-22 11:08:01
      Author(s): Ray Norris

    Wurdi Youang is situated in rural agricultural land, with unadvertised public access to the stone configuration. There is no current agricultural or other use of the land at the site, but arable farming takes place within 50m.

     

    Main threats or potential threats 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 1
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2011-08-22 11:08:01
      Author(s): Ray Norris

    There are no obvious threats at present, but the imminent publication of its astronomical significance introduces potential threats from vandalism if the site receives publicity.

     

    Protection 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 2
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2012-05-13 15:10:00
      Author(s): Ray Norris with contributions by Clive Ruggles

    Wurdi Youang is a protected Aboriginal Heritage site. The ‘tradition owners’ are the Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative Limited.

     

    Archaeological / historical / heritage research 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 1
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2011-08-22 11:08:01
      Author(s): Ray Norris

    The existence of a tangible astronomical connection at the site was recognised by John Morieson in the 1990s, and has been recently confirmed by archaeoastronomical surveys by Ray Norris and others.

     

    Management, interpretation and outreach 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 1
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2011-08-22 11:08:01
      Author(s): Ray Norris

    There are no interpretative signs at present at the site.

     

    References

    Bibliography (books and published articles) 
    • InfoTheme: Indigenous uses of Astronomy
      Entity: 15
      Subentity: 1
      Version: 3
      Status: PUB
      Date: 2012-04-29 15:40:26
      Author(s): Ray Norris with contributions by Clive Ruggles

    • Morieson, J. (2008). ’The case study of the Boorong‘, in Jonas Vaiškūnas (ed.), Astronomy and Cosmology in Folk Traditions and Cultural Heritage, pp. 258-262. Klaip─ùda: Klaip─ùda University Press (Archaeologia Baltica 10).
    • Mountford, C.P. (1927). ’Aboriginal stone structures in South Australia‘, Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of South Australia 51, 169-172.
    • Mountford, C.P. (1976). Nomads of the Australian Desert. Adelaide: Rigby.
    • Norris, R.P., Norris, P., Hamacher, D.W. and Morieson, J. (2010). ’Wurdi Youang—an Aboriginal stone arrangement with possible solar alignments‘, Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture, 22, in press.

     

    Theme

    Indigenous uses of Astronomy

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