Literature on Aboriginal Astronomy and Related Subjects


  • Many of the works listed here are specialised - if you want a general introduction, see the books and links at the bottom of this page.

  • Click on those entries highlighted in blue below to see an electronic version. Electronic versions exist of most of the papers cited here. They will be made available here after appropriate permissions have been obtained.

  • See the note at the bottom of the Credits page about Copyright.

  • For an Introduction, I recommend our book Emu Dreaming, which gives you an easy-to-read introduction to what we know about Aboriginal Astronomy, and the current state of research into this area.


Recent Papers by Ray and his colleagues:

N324: Aboriginal People: How to Misunderstand Them
Ray P. Norris, 2014
The Conversation, 21 April 2014

N318: The Emu Sky Knowledge of the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi Peoples
Robert S. Fuller, Michael G. Anderson, Ray P. Norris, Michelle Trudgett, 2014
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, in press.

N315: Songlines and Navigation in Wardaman and other Aboriginal Cultures
Ray P. Norris & Bill Yidumduma Harney, 2014,
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, in press

N311: The Astronomy of the Kamilaroi People and their Neighbours
Robert S. Fuller, Ray P. Norris, & Michelle Trudgett, 2013,
Submitted to Australian Aboriginal Studies Journal

N301: The Astronomy of Indigenous Stone Arrangements
Ray P. Norris, Duane W. Hamacher, Robert Fuller, 2013,
in Proceedings of the 2013 Australian Archaelogical Society AGM, in press.

N287: Ethnoastronomy in Australia
Ray. P. Norris & Duane Hamacher, 2012
To appear in "Handbook of cultural astronomy", ed. C. Ruggles, Pub. Springer

N282: Astronomical Symbolism in Bora Ceremonial Grounds of Southeast Australia
Robert S. Fuller, Duane W. Hamacher, and Ray P. Norris, 2013,
Australian Archaeology, in press

N278: Orientations of Linear Stone Arrangements in New South Wales
Duane W. Hamacher, Robert S. Fuller and Ray P. Norris, 2013
Australian Archaeology, 75, 46-54

N268: "Bridging the Gap” through Australian Cultural Astronomy
Duane Hamacher & Ray P. Norris in IAU Symposium 278: Archaeoastronomy & Astronomy in Culture, ed. C Ruggles

N259: Eclipses in Australian Aboriginal Astronomy
Duane W. Hamacher and Ray P. Norris, 2011, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 14, 103.

N258: Wurdi Youang: An Australian Aboriginal Stone Circle with possible solar indications.
Ray P. Norris, Cilla M. Norris, Duane W. Hamacher, and Reg Abrahams , 2012,  Rock Art Research, 30, 55..

N255: Astronomical Symbolism in Australian Aboriginal Rock Art
Ray P. Norris & Duane Hamacher, 2011, Rock Art Research, 28, 99

N254: Australian Aboriginal Astronomy in the International Year of Astronomy
 Norris, Ray P., 2010, Communication Astronomy with the Public Journal, 9, 5 

N244: Comets in Australian Aboriginal Astronomy
Duane W. Hamacher & Ray P. Norris, 2010, Journal for Astronomical History & Heritage, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp 31-40

N243: Australian Aboriginal Geomythology: eyewitness accounts of cosmic impacts?
Duane W. Hamacher & Ray P. Norris, 2009 Archaeoastronomy. 22, 62-95.

N242: Meteors in Australian Aboriginal Dreaming
Duane W. Hamacher & Ray P. Norris, 2010, in WGN: The Journal of the International Meteor Organisation,

N232: Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy
Ray P. Norris, & Cilla Norris, 2009, published by Emu Dreaming, Sydney. ISBN 978-0-9806570-0-5

N230: The Astronomy of Aboriginal Australia
Ray P. Norris, Duane W. Hamacher, The Role of Astronomy in Society and Culture, Proceedings IAU Symposium No. 260, 2009, D. Valls-Gabaud & A. Boksenberg, eds. 

N220: Emu Dreaming
Ray P. Norris, 2008, in Australasian Science, Vol 29, No. 4 (May 2008)

N219: Star Dreaming in Arnhem Land
Ray P. Norris, 2008, Cosmos, April/May 2008.

N217: In Search of Aboriginal Astronomy
Ray P. Norris, 2008, Australian Sky & Telescope, March/April issue, 2008.

N214: Searching for the Astronomy of Aboriginal Australians
Ray P. Norris, 2007, in Astronomy & Cosmology in Folk Traditions and Cultural Heritage, ed. Jonas Vaiskunas
(Conference Proceedings from the VIIIth Oxford International Conference on Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture).



Other papers:

Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, 2003, “Aboriginal Rock Art”
A short leaflet introducing Australian Rock Art. No detailed info.

Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, 2003, “Aboriginal Stone Arrangements”
A short leaflet introducing Australian Stone Arrangements. No detailed info.

Allen, Louis A, 1975, ,”Time before Morning”, publ Cowell, NY
A detailed account of the Yolngu morning star ceremony & myths, with a foreword by Tindale

Andrews, Munya, 2004, The seven sisters of the Pleiades: Stories from around the world. Melbourne: Spinifex Press

Attenborough, David (1963) “Quest under Capricorn”, Lutterworth Press. Interesting from a historical perspective, as he presents one of the first popular views of the now-famous rock art in Kakadu.

Attenbrow, V., “Sydney’s Aboriginal Past”, UNSW Press, 2002.
Excellent authoritative coffee-table book from an archaeological perspective. Includes “Sites-to-visit supplement” which contains good descriptions of several engraving sites.

Ball, Diane, 1993, “Daughters of the Dreaming”, Allen & Unwin
A section includes the maintenance of a stone arrangement by Warlpiri women, somewhere near Alice Springs.

Basedow, H. (1925). The Australian Aboriginal. Adelaide, F.W. Preece and Sons.

Bates, Daisy (1944) "The Passing of the Aborigines". Idiosyncratic account of indigenous people in SA and WA in the early part of the 20th century.

Bell, D. (1983). Daughters of the Dreaming. Melbourne, McPhee Gribble.

Berndt, Berndt, & Stanton, 1993, “A World that Was”
Contains some (garbled) accounts of how initiation rites were connected to position of the sky.

Berndt, R. M. 1974, Australian Aboriginal Religion, Brill, Leiden.

Bhathal, Ragbir, & White, Graeme, 1991, Under the Southern Cross, Kangaroo Press Pty Ltd, Kenthurst. A book about the history of Australian astronomy which includes a section on aboriginal astronomy.

Bhathal, R., 2006, “Astronomy in Aboriginal Culture”, News & Reviews in Astronomy & Geophysics, Vol 47, Issue 5, p. 5.27-5.30. Popular article on aboriginal astronomy

Bhathal, Ragbir & Faye Moseley, 1996, “Aboriginal Astronomy”, Geo magazine, 18,86.
Popular article on aboriginal astronomy

Borsboon, A., 1978, “Maradjiri – a modern ritual complex in Arnhem Land”, PhD thesis, ANU.

Branagan, D.F., & Cairns, H.C., 1993, "Tesselated Pavements in the Sydney Region, New South Wales", Journal and Proceedings of The Royal Society of New South Wales, 126, 63-72.

Branagan, D.F., & Cairns, H.C., 1993, "Marks on sandstone surfaces - Sydney region, Australia: cultural origins and meanings?", Journal and Proceedings of The Royal Society of New South Wales, 126, 125-133.

Breeden, S., & Wright, B.,”Kakadu. Looking after the country the Gagudju way”,1991
Beautiful account of the interaction of people and place in Kakadu

Burra, L. , 2001, Spirit of the night sky. Marlston, SA: JB Books.

Cairns, H.C., 1991, "Is ancient sky-mapping expressed in prehistoric artistic material?" in Pager et al (eds) Rock Art - The Way ahead SARARA 1991 Conference Proceedings Occasional Publication 1, South African Rock Art Research Association.

Cairns, H.C., 1993, "Aboriginal sky-mapping Possible astronomical interpretation of Australian Aboriginal ethnographic and archaeological material" in C. Ruggles (ed), Archaeoastronomy in the 1990s. Group D publications, Loughborough.

Cairns, H.C., & Branagan, D.F., 1988, "Star patterns on Sydney Rocks", First AURA Congress abstracts, Occasional AURA publication 2:35

Cairns, H.C., & Branagan, D.F., 1992, "Artificial patterns on rock surfaces in the Sydney Region, NSW: evidence for Aboriginal time scharts and sky maps?. In J. McDonald and I.P.Haskovec (eds) State of the Art: Regional Rock Art studies in Australia and Melanesia. Occasional AURA publication No. 6 Melbourne, 25-31.

Cairns, H, 1996, “Sydney Rock carvings & Astronomy”
Proposes that Sydney rock carvings are representations of the sky.

Cairns, H., & Yidumduma Harney, B., “Dark Sparklers”, 2003. Privately published by Hugh Cairns. Also second edition publ. 2004. Detailed exploration of the astronomical lore of the Wardaman people. Probably the most detailed study we have of any Aboriginal astronomical culture, primarily concentrating on the symbolism and cosmology. Written in a provocative style, with fantastic illustrations by Sam Wortelhock. See for details.

Calvert, A.F., 1894, The Aborigines of Western Australia, Another short amateur ethnography, one of the few to discuss the Western Australian Aborigines. It includes the music notation for several short songs.

Campbell, David 1976, 'Ku-Ring-Gai Rock Carvings (Rock Carvings)', in The History of Australia: Drawings by Keith Looby Songs and Poems by David Campbell, Macleay Museum, Sydney.

Casey, D.A., 1938, Vict. Naturalist, LIV, 130-133, “An Aboriginal Ceremionial Ground at Lake Wongan, near Streatham, Victoria. Plan and description of lake Wongan Stone Arrangment.

Chaloupka, G., “Journeys in time, Sydney, 1993

Chaseling, Wilbur S. “Yulengor:Nomads of Arnhem Land”, Epworth Press, 1957
Chaseling was the first missionary at Yirrkala.

Chatwin, Bruce, “The Songlines”, first published by Joanathan Cape, 1987. My copy is published by Vintage, 1998. ISBN 0 09 976991 3 Part-autobiographical novel about a journey to the North of Australia to find out about the aboriginal songlines. Beautifully crafted book, in which he uses the history and culture of Australian aborigines as a metaphor for the origin of the human race, our relationship with our world, and our search for meaning. But it is also an excellent introduction to the contemporary culture of aboriginal Australia, and the challenges confronting a westerner who tries to make sense of their culture. Essential reading!

Chippindale,C., & Tacon, P., The Archaeology of Rock Art, Cambridge, 1998

Clark, Ian D, 1995, “Scars in the landscape: a register of masscare sites in Western Victoria, 1803-1859”, AIAS report, AIATSIS

Clarke, P.A., 1990, “Adelaide Aboriginal Cosmology”, J. Anthropological Soc. Of South Australia 28(1), 1-10.

Clarke, P.A., 2003, “Where the Ancestors Walked. Australia as an aboriginal landscape” pub. Allen & Unwin. Discusses how, far from being Terra Nullius, Australia in 1788 was a land that was the result of careful husbandry for thousands of years.

Clarke, P.A.,1997, “The Aboriginal Cosmic landscape of Southern South Australia”, Records of the South Australian Museum, 29(2), 125-145.
Useful discussion of SA aboriginal astronomy, including the role of the sky, evidence that some groups regarded the moon as male and others female, making notches to record lunar cycles as a way of counting age, lighting fires at full moon,etc.

Clegg & Barry 2002, “Snames and Science”
Snames are the circular depressions often found associated with Sydney Rock engravings. This paper tries to figure out what they are. Includes good survey of Elvina site.

Clegg, J. K. (in press), 'Berowra Waters Koala Engravings', in Daniel Lunney, Chris Ann Urquhart & Philip Reed (eds), Koala Summit: Managing Koalas in New South Wales. Proceedings of the Conference at the University of Sydney, 7-8 November 1988, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney.

Clegg, J. K. 1979a, 'Prehistoric Pictures', in Stanbury, Peter (ed.), 10000 Years of Sydney Life: A Guide to Archaeological Discovery, Macleay Museum, Sydney.

Clegg, J. K. 1979b, 'Science, Theory, and Australian Prehistoric Pictures', Mankind, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 42-51.

Cole, K, “Tokens and tamarinds”, 1973. Aborigines and Macassans in Eastern Arnhem Land. Deals with totemism on Bickerton Island and Groote Eylandt.

Cole, K., “ The Aborigines of Arnhem land”, 1979.

Collins, D. 1798-1802, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, London. The standard reference work if you want to know what the Eora people were doing when the British arrived.

Connah, Graham (ed) “Australian Field Archaeology – a Guide to Techniques”.
Useful but rather dated manual on techniques.

Critchett, J. (1981). Introduction to the Facsimile Edition. Australian Aborigines. J. Dawson. Canberra, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

Curnow, P, 2006b, “Kaurna Night Skies”, ASAA bulletin. Detailed discussion, with references, of the astronomy and cosmology of the Kaurna people in SA.

Curnow, P., 2006a, “The World’s earliest astronomers”, Sky & Space, March/April 2006, p.40. Description of the astronomy of the people of South Australia

Curr, E. M. (1886). The Australian race: its origin, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia and the routes by which it spread itself over the continent. Melbourne, J. Ferres.

Davenport, S, Johnson, P, & Yuwali “Cleared Out”
Incredible story of how Yuwali and her companions first encountered whitefellas in the 1960’s

David, B. (2002). Landscapes, rock-art, and the dreaming : an archaeology of preunderstanding. London, Leicester University Press.

Dawson, J. (1881). Australian aborigines, the languages and customs of several tribes of aborigines in the western district of Victoria, Australia. Melbourne, George Robertson.

Deregowski, J. B. 1980, Illusions, Patterns and Pictures, Academic Press, London .

Deregowski, J. B. 1984, Distortion in Art, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

Dixon, Ronald, 1916, "Oceanic Mythology" contains an overview of Australian mythology, as well as comparative material on other Pacific cultures

Drysdale Aboriginal Arnhem Land - The End Of Dreaming

Dun, W. S. 1985, Records of the Geological Survey of New South Wales, voI. 4, p. 167, pIs 23-4.

Edwards, Robert, 1979, “AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL ART”, Alligator Rivers Region NT(publ by AIATSIC)

El hakim, Fryer, Picard, & Whting, 2004, Digital Recording of Aboriginal Rock Art. Description of user laser scanning, including nice pics of Baiame cave

Elder, B, 1998, “Blood on the Wattle (expanded edition)
Harrowing story of the massacres and maltreatement of aboriginal Australians by white Europeans. Guaranteed to make your blood boil.

Elkin, A. P. 1949, 'The Origin and Interpretation of Petroglyphs in South-East Australia', Oceania, voI. 20, no. 2, pp. 119-57.
The first serious interpretation of the Sydney engravings, referenced by Stanbury & Clegg . Note that they say Vol 22 but it’s actually Vol 20.

Elkin, A. P., 1964, “The Australian Aborigines : How to Understand Them”. Sydney, Angus & Robertson.

Elkin, A. P., Berndt, Catherine, & Berndt, Ronald, 1950, “Art in Arnhem Land”, F. W. Cheshire, Melbourne.

Elkin, A.P., 1945, “Aboriginal men of high degree”. Fascinating book. Written in an idiosyncratic style which tells more about European attitudes of the time than of aboriginal culture (very patronising, and telepathy is apparently scientifically possible, but spirits are superstition), but also gives some good insights into aboriginal culture.

Etheridge, R. 1890, Records of the Geological Survey of New South Wales, voI. 2, 27, pI 2.

Etheridge, R. 1904, Records of the Australian Museum, voI. 5, pp. 118-22.

Fabian, S. M. (2001). Patterns in the sky : an introduction to ethnoastronomy. Prospect Heights, Ill., Waveland Press.

Flood, J., “Archaeology of the Dreamtime”, 1983-89. Excellent background.

Flynn, Rev. Frank, “Distant horizons: Mission Impressions”, 1947.
Account of the author’s time running the mission on Bathurst Isalnd.

Fredrick, S., 2005. “Thesis Chapter 1: Analysis of Previous Studies in Aboriginal Astronomy” (private communication)

Fryer, Chandler, and el-Hakim, 2005, “Recording And Modelling An Aboriginal Cave Painting : With Or Without Laser Scanning?" Not about aboriginal astronomy, but relevant to the question of how best to record sites that may be astronomical indicators.

Goldsmith, J., 1999, "The emu in the sky", Australian Geographic, 55, 19.

Griffiths, G. N. 1947, Point Piper Past and Present, Ure Smith, Sydney.

Griffin, J.G., 1923, "Australian Aboriginal Astronomy", J. R. Astr. Soc. Canada, 17,156

Haddon, A.C, 1908, Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Strait, CUP.

Harney, B., 1959, “Tales from the Aborigines”. Lots of good stories, but written in the usual patronising manner of the times. Includes a few astronomical stories. He wrote several other books in the same vein, which I don't bother listing here. Note that he was the father of Bill Yidumduma Harney, elder of the Wardaman people, and co-author with Hugh Cairns of "Dark Sparklers".

Hart, C.W.M, & Pilling, A.R., “The Tiwi People of North Australia”, 1960.

Haynes, R. D. (1992). "Aboriginal Astronomy." Australian Journal of Astronomy 4(3): 127 - 140. Reproduced by permission of Ros Haynes.

Haynes, R. D. (1995). "Dreaming the Stars. Astronomy of the Australian Aborigines." Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 20(3): 187 - 197.

Haynes, R., 1997, “Dreaming the Sky”, Sky & Telescope, Sept. 1997. p.72.
Popular article on aboriginal astronomy Reproduced by permission of Ros Haynes.

Haynes, R. D. (2000). Astronomy and the Dreaming: The Astronomy of the Aboriginal Australians. Astronomy Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Astronomy. H. Selin and X. Sun. Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers: 53 - 90. Good overview of the literature. Reproduced by permission of Ros Haynes.

Haynes, R.F., Haynes, R.D., Malin, D., McGee, R.X., 1996, “Explorers of the Southern Sky”, CUP. A general book about the history of Australian astronomy, which includes an excellent chapter on Aboriginal astronomy. Reproduced by permission of Ros Haynes.

Healy, G., 2003, “Sunset of the Dja Dja Wurrung”, Australian geographic, January-March 2003, p.24-25. Story of the Dja Dja Wurrung in Victoria. Includes an interview with John Morieson.

Herrmann, D. B., 2006, “The Sky in the World View of Indigenous Australians”, preprint. This English translation reproduced by permission of Prof. Dieter Herrmann.

Higgs & Clegg, 2004, Sydney Daramulan engravings. Extensive paper on the Elvina track site and other Daramulan engravings.

Hinkson, M., 2001, “Aboriginal Sydney”, published by AIATSIS, ISBN 0 85575 370 6
Good tour guide to engravings and other aboriginal sites around Sydney.

Horton, D. (1994). The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, society and culture. Canberra, ACT, Aboriginal Studies Press.

Isaacs, J. (1980). Australian Dreaming : 40,000 years of aboriginal history. Sydney, Lansdowne Press. Popular (but impressive) coffee-table book about indigenous cultures. Includes a chapter on astronomy.Wonderful introduction for the non-specialist. Rather dated now, but still full of valubale material. Can be found remaindered in many bookshops or on eBay.

Isaacs, Jennifer “Wandjuk Marika, Life Story”

Johnson, D., 1998, "Night skies of Aboriginal Australia : a noctuary. Sydney, N.S.W., University of Sydney." One of the very few authoritative modern works on Aboriginal astronomy.

Johnson, D., 2000, “The Pleiades in Aboriginal Art”, in “The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture”, ed. Kleinert & Neale, OUP. Examines how the Pleiades are seen by various Aborigine groups, looking at the similarities and differences.

Johnson, D., 2005, "The southern night sky" in "Macquarie atlas of Indigenous Australia", eds. Arthur & Morphy, Macquarie Library: Sydney.

Jordan, Mary Ellen, "Balanda. My year in Arnhem Land"
See review in Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2005/2, p.76

Kaberry, P. M. (1939). Aboriginal women, sacred and profane. London, Routledge.

Kohen, J., “The Darug and their neighbours”, 1993

Krefft, G. 1874, 'Aboriginal Australian Artists', Nature, voI. 9, p.322.

Lamshed,M.,1972,”Monty: The biography of C.P.Mountford”. Excellent background reading to get an understanding of the background and environment which generated Mountford’s work. Not much about the inner workings of the man himself, although this can be gleaned from his actions. Includes the statement (p.146) that “There was little doubt, he concluded, that further investigation would show that the aborigines evolved a working calendar based on the movement of the stars”.

Lane, L., & Fullagar, R., 1980,”Previously unrecorded aboriginal stone arrangements in Victoria”, Records of the Victorian Archaeological Survey, No. 10, June 1980, 134-151. Ministry for Conservation, Victoria. Surveys of Victorian stone arrangements

Langloh Parker, K. 1953, Australian Legendary Tales, Angus & I Robertson, Sydney, (rep. 1965), pp. 1-6, 7-8. ,

Layton, R., “Australian Rock Art: A New Synthesis”, Cambridge, 1992.

Lewis, D. (1976). "Observations on route finding and spatial orientation among the Aboriginal peoples of the Western Desert region of Central Australia." Oceania 46(4): 249 - 282.

Leyland, Estelle, 2004, “Wajarri Wisdom”, Yamaji language centre, Geraldton, WA.

Lockwood, D., “Crocodiles & Other People”,1959.

Lockwood, D., “I, the aboriginal”,1962. Biography of Philip Roberts Waipuldanya of Arnhem Land.

Lonely Planet Guide to Aboriginal Australia & the Torres Strait Islands. Excellent introduction to the background for the total neophyte.

Lough, J. 1973, 'Rock Art Recording: A Comparison of Techniques', Mankind, voI. 9, 1, pp. 32-4.

Love, William, 1988, “Aboriginal ceremonies of SE Australia”, MA thesis, University of Queensland. Decsription of a Bora.

Lowe, David “Forgotten Rebels – Black Australians who fought back”

MacKnight & Gray “Aboriginal Stone Pictures - Art In Eastern Arnhem Land”, 1969
Includes info on stone arrangements in Arnhem Land. Publ. by AIATSI ,35 pages It has 17 plates and 7 figures. Includes eastern Arnhem Land stone arrangements.

MacPherson, P. (1881). "Astronomy of the Australian Aborigines." Journal and proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales. 15: 71-80.

Maegraith, B.G., 1932, “The astronomy of the Aranda and Luritja Tribes”, Trans. Of the Royal Soc. Of South Australia, 56, 19-26.
Excellent description of Aranda and Luritja astronomy at Hermannsburg.

Malcolm, C. (1995). There's an emu in the sky. Carlton, Vic.: Curriculum Corporation

Manning, J. (1882). "Notes on the Aborigines of New Holland." Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales 16: 155 - 173.

Marawili, Djambawa, 2006, “The importance of literacy in English to participate in the wider world”. Speech given at Garma, 2006. Beautiful description of the challenges faced by Yolngu in trying to bridge Yolngu matha and English

Marshack The roots of civilisation

Massola, A., 1963, “Native Stone Arrangment at Carisbrook”, Vict.Nat., 80, 177.
First report of the discovery of Carisbrook

Massola, Aldo, Journey to Aboriginal Victoria

Massola, Aldo, 1968, “Bunjil’s cave: Myths, Legends and Superstitions of the Aborigines of South-East Australia.”, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne. A book all about aboriginal mythology in Victoria. Enormous amount of data, myths, and stories, and many references to constellations and the stories associated with them.

Massola, Aldo, 1969, “The aboriginal people”

Matthews, R.H., “The Burbung of the Darkinung Tribes”, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 10, 1 (1897): 1-12. An eyewitness account of the Burbung (initiation rite) of the Darkinjung people, North of Sydney.

Maynard, Lesley 1979, 'The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art', in Sidney M. Mead (ed.), Exploring the Visual Art of Oceania, The Universities Press of Hawaii, Honolulu, pp. 83-11C.

McCarthy, F.D., 1967, “Australian Aboriginal Rock Art”, (3rd ed.) publ by Australian museum, Sydney. Infuriating but useful book. Contains lots of useful info. Good pics, but disconnected from text.

McMah, L. M. 1965, A Quantitative Analysis of the Aboriginal Rock Carvings of the District of Sydney and the Hawkesbury River, BA Hons thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney.

Meier, L. & Balderstone, S., “Kakadu – a Heritage for the Future”, 1987.

Morieson, J. (1996). The Night Sky of the Boorong. Partial Reconstruction of a Disappeared Culture in North-West Victoria, Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Melbourne.

Morieson, J., 1994, “Aboriginal Stone Arrangements in Victoria”, unpublished?
He examines a number of stone arrangements (including some putative stone circles) and suggests that they contain astronomical alignments.

Morieson, J., 2002, “Stars over Tyrell: the Night Sky Legacy of the Boorong”. Published by “Sea Lake Historical Society”

Morieson, J., 2003,”Solar-based Lithic Design in Victoria, Australia”, in World Archaeological Congress,Washington DC, 2003. Suggests that some stone arrangements and rock pools are aligned to cardinal points and perhaps solstice setting points.

Morieson, J., 2004, “From “archaeo” to “ethno”.
Action research into Boorong astronomy over the last decade”, in proc of 7th Oxford conference in Arizona. Brief description of the Boorong astronomy, and interesting description of the cultural problems he has encountered in trying to give this culture back to the descendants of its owners.

Morieson, J., 2006a, “Aboriginal Connections with the Mallee Fowl”. Tourist leaflet, published privately(?). Brief introduction to the Boorong constellations and Neilloan (Lyra) in particular

Morieson, J., 2006d, “Ceremonial Hill”, published leaflet. Leaflet describing (for the public) the Ceremonial Hill at Kooyora and Mallee Fowl connections.

Morphy, H., Deveson, P, Hayne, K, 2005, “The Art of Narritjin Maymuru”. CDROM set giving great insight into Yolngu art

Morphy, Howard, 1991, “Ancestral Connections”

Morrison, Edgar, 1963, Daylesford & District Historical Society, “Memoirs of Edward Stone Parker, 1802-1865”. Interesting account of aborigines at that date in the Loddon Valley (area around Castlemaine and Daylesford). Note that the date is uncertain – 1963 is my guess.

Mountford “The Tiwi: Their Art, Myth and Ceremony: First Anthropological study of the Tiwi on Melville Island.

Mountford, 1927, “Aboriginal Stone Structures in South Australia” , Trans & proc. Roy. Soc. South Australia. Describes a number of square stone arrangements “173 miles N of Adelaide” near the Broken Hill railway line.

Mountford, C. P. (1939). "An Anyamatana Legend of the Pleiades." Victorian Naturalist 56: 103 - 104.

Mountford, C. P. (1958). The Tiwi:their art, myth, and ceremony, Phoenix House in association with Georgian House Melbourne.

Mountford, C. P. (1976b). Before time began: legends of the Dreamtime. West Melbourne, Thomas Nelson.

Mountford, C.P., “Australian Aboriginal Portriats”, 1967
Beautiful book of his portrait photos, taken during his expeditions.

Mountford, C.P., 1950, “Brown Men and Red Sand”
Mountford’s first anthropological book (His first book was “The Art of Albert Namatjira”), describing his travels around central Australia. Note his description of a sky legend (p. 134) and the use of standing stones (p.142)

Mountford, C.P., 1967, “Australian Aboriginal Portraits”

Mountford, C.P., 1976,”Nomads of the Australian Desert”
Seminal book describing his expeditions to central Australia. Includes a chapter on astronomy, and several other refernces scattered through the text

Mountford, CP, 1956, “Art, Myth, & Symbolism: Records of the Australian-American Scientific Expedition”. Detailed descriptions of stories and constellations of Arnhem land (Oenpelli, Millingimbi, Yirrkala, Groote Eylandt). But almost nothing about the Morning Star.

Mowanjum, 1980, “Visions of Mowanjum. Aboriginal writings from the Kimberley.” (No primary editor). The stories of the aboriginal people of the Kimberleys (Worora and others). Includes a bio of David Mowaljarlai, and two stories of ther Sun and the Moon.

Mullins,Barabra, Cook, Trevor, & Gerritsen, John, “Aboriginal Lore” – a pictorial review of Aboriginal life, ritual, and culture as recorded in the marks they left on the land.”

Mulvaney, D. J. and J. Kamminga (1999). Prehistory of Australia. St Leonards, N. S. W., Allen and Unwin.

Mulvaney, D.J., (ed), “Australian Archaeology: A Guide to field and laboratory techniques”, AIAS. Includes paper by McCarthy on recording rock engravings.

Needham, B., 1981, “Burragurra: The Spirit Walked: a study of the aboriginal sites in the Cessnock – Wollombi Region of the HunterValley, NSW.”
80-page description of the Wollombi carvings

Neidje, B, “Kakadu man”, 1986

Nicholson, C. 1879, 'Report of a Meeting of the Anthropological Institute Meeting, 25 March', Nature, vol. 19, p. 547.

Nobbs, M. F. & Dorn, R. I. 1988, 'Age Determinations for Rock Varnish Formation within Petroglyphs', Rock Art Research, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 108-24.

Norris, R.P., 2007a, "The Emu in the Sky and other Stories", CSIRO ATNF Newsletter, Nov 2007.

Norris, R.P., 2007b, "Searching for the Astronomy of Aboriginal Australians" in Astronomy & Cosmology in Folk Traditions and Cultural heritage, ed. Jonas Vaiskunas (Conference Proceedings from the VIIIth Oxford International Conference on Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture).

Norris, R.P., 2008a, "In Search of Aboriginal Astronomy", Australian Sky & Telescope, March/April issue, 2008.

Norris, R.P., 2008b, "Ancient Australian Astronomy" in "Zvaigznota Debess" ("The Starry Sky"), in press.

Norris, R.P., 2008c, "Star Dreaming in Arnhem Land", Cosmos, April/May 2008.

Norris, R.P., 2008d, "Emu Dreaming", Australasian Science, Vol 29, No. 4 (May 2008).

Norris, R.P., 2008e, "Australian Aboriginal Astronomy" in “Heavens Above" Proceedings of Fifth World Archaeological Congress, ed. Ruggles & Campbell, in press.

Norris, R.P., & Norris, P.M., 2009, "Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy", privately published.

Norris, R.P. & Hamacher, D.W., 2009,"The Role of Astronomy in Society and Culture", Proceedings IAU Symposium No. 260, D. Valls-Gabaud & A. Boksenberg, eds.  also in arXiv:0906.0155v1

O'Brien, M.L. (1990). The legend of the seven sisters. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.

Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art & Culture, 2000, ed. Kleinert & Neale, OUP.
Useful and voluminous reference if you are lucky enough to find what you are looking for, but otherwise an infuriating book with no proper index or contents pages to the reference section. Especially good for understanding links between the various periods of aboriginal art

Parker, K. Langloh, 1897, Australian Legendary Tales, A turn of the century collection of folklore of the Euahlayi (Noongahburrah) from NW NSW.

Parker, K. Langloh, 1905, The Euahlayi Tribe,an amateur ethnography of the Eulayhi. This book includes more depth on the culture, spiritual beliefs and ceremonies of the Euahlayi.

Patston, G.E.,1997a, “Dreamtime Stories for bedtime reading”, privately published

Patston, G.E.,1997b, “Aboriginal Astronomy Discovery centre”, privately published, ISBN 0 646 33655 X Guide book to Gordon Patston’s “Aboriginal Astronomy Discovery centre” at Dover, Tasmania. Appears to pull together elements of many different aborigional cultures and present it as a united whole.

Patston, G.E.,1997c, “Planetarium Presentation”, privately published.
Suggested script for a planetarium show on aboriginal astronomy

Peck, C.W., 1925, Australian legends.

Phillip, A. 1789, The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, Stockdale, London.

Pring, Adele, 2002, “Astronomy and Australain indigenous people” (AAIP).
Excellent review, written for teachers, of contemporary evidence and anecdotes of Aboriginal astronomy. Contains many quotes and material not found in the standard texts. Useful source.

Pring, A., 2006a, The Sun and the Moon - some Aboriginal perspectives Well-researched educational material

Pring, A., 2006b, The Planets - some Aboriginal perspectives Well-researched educational material

Ridley, W. (1873a). "Report on Australian Languages and Traditions." The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 2: 257 - 275.

Roberts & Mountford, “The Dawn of Time”
The first of a set of four small hardback books on aboriginal myths.

Roberts & Mountford, “The DreamTime”
The second of a set of four small hardback books on aboriginal myths.

Roberts & Mountford, “The First Sunrise”
The third of a set of four small hardback books on aboriginal myths.

Roberts & Roberts, “Dreamtime Heritage”
The fourth of a set of four small hardback books on aboriginal myths.

Robinson, Roland Aboriginal Myths & legends

Robinson, Roland, & Douglass Baglin The Australian aborigine

Roughsey, Dick Moon & rainbow

Rowley. CD Remote Aboriginals

Sharp, N. (1993). Stars of Tagai : the Torres Strait Islanders. Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press.

Sims, M., 1978, “Tiwi Cosmology”. In Hiatt (ed),”Australian Aborigianl Concepts”, AIATSIS

Smith, J. 1990, In Search of the Gundungurra, Three Sisters Pro­ductions, Winmalee, NSW.

Smyth, R. B. (1878). The aborigines of Victoria: with notes relating to the habits of the natives of other parts of Australia and Tasmania. Melbourne, J. Ferres gov't printer [etc.].

Spencer, B. S. and F. J. Gillen (1966). The Arunta. A Study of a Stone Age People. Oosterhout, Netherlands, Anthropological Publications.

Spencer, Sir Baldwin “ Across Australia”
A popular account of his classic books.

Spencer, Sir Baldwin “The native tribes of central Australia”
One of his two Classic works.

Spencer, Sir Baldwin, 1914, "The native tribes of northern Australia". The other one.This massive ethnography is one of the few books in the public domain which details pre-20th Century Aboriginal culture and traditions in a non-ethnocentric perspective.

Spencer, Sir Baldwin The Arunta: a Study of Stone Age People. His work on the Arunta tribe in Central Australia earned him international acclaim as an explorer, frontiersman, and scientist. He was appointed the Chief Protector of Aborigines in the newly-acquired Northern Territory. The first Protector who was not an army official or colonial bureaucrat

Stanbridge, W.E., 1857, “On the astronomy and mythology of the Aborigines of Victoria”, Proc of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria, Transactions 2, 137-140..
Important early work about aboriginal astronomy. Describes the constellations and a little orf the mythology of the Boorong people from around Lake Tyrill.

Stanbridge, W.E., 1861, “Some particulars of the general characteristics, astronomy, amd mythology, of the tribes in the central part of Victoria, Southern Australia., Trans. Ethnological Soc. Of London, Vol I, 286-303. A lovely (if dated in attitude) description of the lifestyle of the people.

Stanbridge, W.E., 1876. A listing of the translations between Dja Dja Wurrung and European constellation names, with a short description of the mythological creatures associated with them.

Stanbury & Clegg, 1990, “A field guide to aboriginal rock engravings”
Comprehensive account of the Sydney rock engravings.

Stanbury, P. & Myers, P. 1983, Aboriginal Rock Engraving Inter­pretation Centre, Macleay Museum, Sydney.

Strehlow, C. (1907). Die Aranda und Loritja-Stamme in Zentral Australien. Frankfurt.

Strehlow, T.G.H., “Central Australian Religion”

Stubbs, Dacre Prehistoric Aboriginal Art of Australia. A magnificent pictorial presentation and introduction to the rich art and cultural heritage of the Australian Aboriginal.

Sutton, Peter (ed) Dreamings – the Art of Aboriginal Australia. ISBN 0 670 82449 6. Publ Viking, in association with the Asia Society Galleries, New York (1988). Explains some of the symbolism and meaningn behind the painting. Includes a section on Yolngu painting, with extensive quotes by Morphy

Swain, T. (1993). A Place for Strangers. Towards a history of Australian Aboriginal Being. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. A rather idiosyncratic book. He maintains that most of what we know about aboriginal culture is actually about post-contact culture, and we have essentially no information on pre-contact Aboriginal culture

Tacon, P., 2000, “Rock Art”, in “The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture”, ed. Kleinert & Neale, OUP. Brief overview of Australian rock, art, which is useful in summarising the styles in different regions

Taylor, H.R., 1981, “Racial Variations in Vision”, American Journal of Epidemiology, 113, 62. Presents evidence that Aboriginal vision is sharper than European vision. Included here because people refer to it for evidence that Aborioginal people could see fainter stars.

Thomas, W.J., 1943, ”Some Myths & Legends of the Australian Aborigines”,
Starts: “When the white man first carried the burden and blessing of civilisation to the shores of Australia, he found the land inhabited by a very primitive race of people”. And so it goes. Sigh... An offensive book in its attitudes, but contains useful material if you can get past that.

Tindale, N. (1974). Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits and Proper Names. Berkeley, University of California Press. The classic. First attempt to delineate the various language groups, and still the basis of modern maps showing boundaries

Tindale, Norman B., Tindale, C.R., Tyler, M.J., & Davies, M., 1986, Ideas and Endeavours: The Natural Sciences in South Australia, Adelaide

Tindale, N. (2005 In press). Celestial Lore of Some Australian Tribes. Songs from the Sky. Indigenous Astronomical and Cosmological Traditions of the World. V. D. Chamberlain, J. B. Carlson and M. J. Young. Oxford, Ocarina Books: 358-379. Some very interesting insights, but suffers from many of the problems (generalisations, inductive leaps, prejudice) of literature from his generation. Note that this paper (same title, presumably the same paper) is refernced by Clarke (1997) as being presented at the first ethnoastronomy conference in Washington in 1983. Includes a brief description of the Yolngu morning star ceremony.

Victorian Archaeological Survey, 1986, “Carisbrook Stone Circles”, leaflet. Description of Carisbrook and other nearby wells etc.

Warner, W.L., “A black civilization: a social study of an Australian tribe”,1937, Harper, New York Extensive study of Yolngu people from around Yirrkala

Watson, Helen and David Wade Chambers (with the Yolngu community at Yirrkala). Singing the Land, Signing the Land. Account of the language and maths of Yolngu people, and the conceptual differences between Yolngu thought and western thought

Wells, Anne. "Skies of Arnhem land." Aboriginal sky stories in Arnhem Land. Simple stories with nuggets of astronomy, retold for children.

Wells, Anne, “Stars in the Sky” Aboriginal sky folklore in Arnhem Land. More detailed stories than “Skies of Arhmen Land”, and without the commentary stories.

Willey, Keith, 1979, “When the Sky fell Down”, Collins
Account of the destruction of the tribes of the Sydney Region. Well-researched, except it’s nearly all through the eyes of the whites, and tells you almost nothing of the culture of the aborigional people.

Willmott, E., 1987, “ Pemulwuy – the rainbow warrior”, Weldons.
Well-researched novel describing Pemulwuy and the Eora & Bidgigal people. Good background info.

Withnell, J.G., 1901, The Customs and Traditions of the Aboriginal Natives of North Western Australia. A short amateur ethnography, which is mostly of historical interest

Worawee (Emma Wilson), 1996, "Astronomy and Other Seasons", published by Manuta Tunapee Puggaluggalia Publishers. A description of Tasmanian Aboriginal Astronomy


Non-specialised Books and Articles recomended for the general reader.


Norris, R.P., & Norris, P.M., 2009, "Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy". 30-page booklet giving an introduction to what we know about Aboriginal Astronomy, and the current state of research into this area. Recommended for the non-specialist.
Norris, R.P., 2008b, "Star Dreaming in Arnhem Land", Cosmos, April/May 2008. Travelogue focussing on Aboriginal Astronomy in Arnhem Land.
Norris, R.P., 2008a, "In search of Aboriginal Astronomy" in Australian Sky & Telescope, March/April issue, 2008. This short article gives an up-to-date summary of much that has been found since the older references below.
Norris, R.P., 2008c,
"Emu Dreaming", in Australasian Science, Vol 29, No. 4 (May 2008)
Popular article focussing on the Aboriginal Astronomy of the Sydney Rock Engravings and the motivation for this project.
Norris, R.P., 2007, "Searching for the Astronomy of Aboriginal Australians" in Astronomy & Cosmology in Folk Traditions and Cultural Heritage, ed. Jonas Vaiskunas A specialist conference proceedings that goes into a little more detail than the popular articles above, with references.
Haynes, R.F., Haynes, R.D., Malin, D., McGee, R.X., 1996, “Explorers of the Southern Sky”, CUP. (reproduced here by kind permission of Ros Haynes) As a broad introduction to Aboriginal astronomy, I would recommend the chapter on Aboriginal Astronomy in Explorers of the Southern Sky
Cairns, H., & Yidumduma Harney, B., “Dark Sparklers”, 2003. Privately published by Hugh Cairns. Also second edition publ. 2004. See for details. Detailed exploration of the astronomical lore of the Wardaman people. Probably the most detailed study we have of any Aboriginal astronomical culture, primarily concentrating on the symbolism and cosmology. Written in a provocative style, with fantastic illustrations by Sam Wortelhock.
Johnson, D. (1998). “Night skies of Aboriginal Australia : a Noctuary”. Sydney, N.S.W., University of Sydney. A scholarly but fascinating account of the way that the sky is represented in Aboriginal art and story.
"Nomads of the Australian Desert", by Charles Mountford. A dated but riveting account is given in this classic work. This book is hard to find because it was at one point banned from sale, but is still available in some major libraries, and occasionally on eBay.
Isaacs, J. (1980). Australian Dreaming : 40,000 years of aboriginal history. Sydney, Lansdowne Press. I'd recommend this if you want to read more generally about Aboriginal cultures. It's a popular (but impressive) coffee-table book about indigenous cultures, and includes a chapter on astronomy. It's rather dated now, but still full of valuable material. It can be found remaindered in many bookshops or on eBay.
Lonely Planet Guide to Aboriginal Australia & the Torres Strait Islands. I'd recommend this if you're really short of time and want a quick potted account of the history, controversies, and current issues facing Indigenous Australians.
Wikipedia: OK, I know this isn't a book, but there's so much good stuff there! Try "Indigenous Australians",
"Australian Aboriginal Culture", and
"Australian Aboriginal Astronomy".


All material on this page © Ray Norris 2007 except where otherwise indicated.