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Australian Indigenous Astronomy

Arcturus: Food and Seasonal Change

27 May 2013, 01:53 UTC
Arcturus: Food and Seasonal Change
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by Dr Duane HamacherAboriginal people have been using the stars as indicators of seasonal change for thousands of years. In the following series of blog posts, I will show you how this was done in some depth. Today, we begin with the brightest star in the constellation Bootis, a red giant called Arcturus.Yolngu - Arnhem LandOur first example comes from the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land. When the star Arcturus appears in the dawn sky (just before sunrise), the Yolngu people begin harvesting the corms of the spike-rush. The spike-rush (Eleocharis dulcis), also called the rakia, water chestnut, or gulach (Figure 1), is a grass-like sedge with an edible tuber, which can grow to a height of over 1.5 m and is found across northern Australia. The plant had numerous uses for Aboriginal people, which included making baskets or fish-traps from the grass-reeds or eating the carbohydrate-rich tubers. The growth rate of the spike-rush is dependent on the level of rainfall, with the tubers growing when the water saturates the top several centimeters of soil. Because Arnhem Land has a monsoonal climate with wet and dry seasons, the tubers are generally harvested during the wet season when the rains have ...

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