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The edge of memory : ancient stories, oral tradition and the post-glacial world / Patrick Nunn.

By: Nunn, Patrick D, 1955-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookSeries: Bloomsbury sigma series: Publisher: London ; Bloomsbury Sigma, 2018Description: 288 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly colour), maps ; 22 cm.Content type: text | still image | cartographic image Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 1472943287; 9781472943286; 1472943260; 9781472943262.Subject(s): Folklore -- History | Ocean -- Folklore | Storytelling -- History | Legends | Oral tradition | Oral history | Aboriginal Australians -- Social life and customs | Indigenous peoples -- Social life and customsDDC classification: 398/.3 Summary: In today's society it is generally the written word that holds the authority. We are more likely to trust the words found in a history textbook over the version of history retold by a friend – after all, human memory is unreliable, and how can you be sure your friend hasn't embellished the facts? But before humans were writing down their knowledge, they were telling it to each other in the form of stories. "The Edge of Memory" celebrates the predecessor of written information – the spoken word, tales from our ancestors that have been passed down, transmitting knowledge from one generation to the next. Among the most extensive and best-analysed of these stories are from native Australian cultures. These stories conveyed both practical information and recorded history, describing a lost landscape, often featuring tales of flooding and submergence. These folk traditions are increasingly supported by hard science. Geologists are starting to corroborate the tales through study of climatic data, sediments and land forms; the evidence was there in the stories, but until recently, nobody was listening. In this book, Patrick Nunn unravels the importance of these tales, exploring the science behind folk history from various places – including northwest Europe and India – and what it can tell us about environmental phenomena, from coastal drowning to volcanic eruptions. These stories of real events were passed across the generations, and over thousands of years, and they have broad implications for our understanding of how human societies have developed through the millennia, and ultimately how we respond collectively to changes in climate, our surroundings and the environment we live in.
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Non-Fiction (NEST) 398.2 NUN Available

Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

In today's society it is generally the written word that holds the authority. We are more likely to trust the words found in a history textbook over the version of history retold by a friend after all, human memory is unreliable, and how can you be sure your friend hasn't embellished the facts? But before humans were writing down their knowledge, they were telling it to each other in the form of stories.
The Edge of Memory celebrates the predecessor of written information the spoken word, tales from our ancestors that have been passed down, transmitting knowledge from one generation to the next. Among the most extensive and best-analysed of these stories are from native Australian cultures. These stories conveyed both practical information and recorded history, describing a lost landscape, often featuring tales of flooding and submergence. These folk traditions are increasingly supported by hard science. Geologists are starting to corroborate the tales through study of climatic data, sediments and land forms; the evidence was there in the stories, but until recently, nobody was listening.
In this book, Patrick Nunn unravels the importance of these tales, exploring the science behind folk history from various places including northwest Europe and India and what it can tell us about environmental phenomena, from coastal drowning to volcanic eruptions. These stories of real events were passed across the generations, and over thousands of years, and they have broad implications for our understanding of how human societies have developed through the millennia, and ultimately how we respond collectively to changes in climate, our surroundings and the environment we live in.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

In today's society it is generally the written word that holds the authority. We are more likely to trust the words found in a history textbook over the version of history retold by a friend – after all, human memory is unreliable, and how can you be sure your friend hasn't embellished the facts? But before humans were writing down their knowledge, they were telling it to each other in the form of stories. "The Edge of Memory" celebrates the predecessor of written information – the spoken word, tales from our ancestors that have been passed down, transmitting knowledge from one generation to the next. Among the most extensive and best-analysed of these stories are from native Australian cultures. These stories conveyed both practical information and recorded history, describing a lost landscape, often featuring tales of flooding and submergence. These folk traditions are increasingly supported by hard science. Geologists are starting to corroborate the tales through study of climatic data, sediments and land forms; the evidence was there in the stories, but until recently, nobody was listening. In this book, Patrick Nunn unravels the importance of these tales, exploring the science behind folk history from various places – including northwest Europe and India – and what it can tell us about environmental phenomena, from coastal drowning to volcanic eruptions. These stories of real events were passed across the generations, and over thousands of years, and they have broad implications for our understanding of how human societies have developed through the millennia, and ultimately how we respond collectively to changes in climate, our surroundings and the environment we live in.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Chapter 1 Recalling the Past (p. 9)
  • Chapter 2 Words that Matter in a Harsh Land (p. 33)
  • Chapter 3 Australian Aboriginal Memories of Coastal Drowning (p. 63)
  • Chapter 4 The Changing Ocean Surface (p. 109)
  • Chapter 5 Other Oral Archives of Ancient Coastal Drowning (p. 139)
  • Chapter 6 What Else Might We Not Realise We Remember? (p. 167)
  • Chapter 7 Have We Underestimated Ourselves? (p. 201)
  • Notes (p. 209)
  • Further Reading (p. 269)
  • Acknowledgements (p. 279)
  • Index (p. 281)

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

Nunn (Vanished Islands and Hidden Continents of the Pacific), a geography professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, unites his interests in earth science and oral history in this intriguing work that seeks to discover how long humans can preserve memories of significant events in the planet's past. He leads readers through a tour of 21 sites throughout Australia, all of them linked to a story from Aboriginal oral tradition describing some offshore feature of the site that was once accessible. For each, he provides an estimate of how far below the current sea level the waters must have been for the story to be true, and then follows with a discussion of sea level rises and falls over the last 150,000 years, concluding this section with a chart giving estimates (ranging from 7,450 to 13,310 years ago) of when the water depths he has calculated existed. This brief for the antiquity of aboriginal stories represents his strongest argument, with other sections on sea level change in other locales and on other geological events such as volcanic explosions being less fully considered. Still, Nunn's hypothesis-that "human memories can remain alive for many millennia" through oral tradition-deserves consideration by earth scientists, folklore scholars, and interested nonspecialists. (Jan.) c Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Book Review

Ancient folktales recount verifiable environmental events.Examining stories handed down from nonliterate cultures, Nunn (Geography/Univ. of the Sunshine Coast; Vanished Islands and Hidden Continents of the Pacific, 2017, etc.) mounts compelling evidence to argue that these tales offer valuable insight into dramatic climate changes. He criticizes scientists who quickly dismiss such tales rather than attend to their significance for our understanding of the Earth's geological history. The author homes in on "a time from the coldest part of the last great ice age about 20,000 years ago, to 1,000 years or so ago," during which knowledge and observations were communicated orally. He asserts that "the edge of our memories today lies 10 millennia or so in the past," regretting that much of what modern humans experienced before that timefor almost 200,000 yearshas been lost. Nunn focuses most extensively on stories about "coastal drowning along the Australian fringe," northwest Europe, and the edge of the Indian subcontinent to glean insight into massive flooding that occurred as the Earth warmed after the last great ice age. Melting glaciers caused the sea level to rise: The coast of northern Australia, he reports, may have been "submerged every day during the more rapid periods of postglacial sea-level rise," fueling stories about inundation as well as the disappearance of some plants and animals. Sometimes these tales took the form of descriptions of transformed environments, sometimes of myths that attribute environmental changes to the actions of nonhuman or superhuman beings. Besides flood narratives, Nunn looks at folktales recording earthquakes, crashes of meteorites, the disappearance of islands, and volcanic eruptions. For example, for 7,000 years, the Klamath Indians handed down a story about the creation of Crater Lake, in Oregon, that began as an eyewitness account of the eruption of the volcano Mt. Mazama. Other tales have led archaeologists and geologists to locate submerged towns or land bridges that explain human and animal migration.A surprising, well-supported perspective on Earth's distant past. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.