Friday 4 December 2009

History Bites: The Ancient Flood

CairnsBlog brings you our weekly column, History Bites, a series of historical vignettes, pertinent to our unique and special region.

Produced by Dr Timothy Bottoms, a published and widely respected historian based in Cairns, North Queensland. He has spent ten years researching and writing City of the South Pacific, A History of Cairns.

History Bites is a series of unique and easily readable pieces for
CairnsBlog readers.
Dr Bottoms is a specialist in Aboriginal and North Queensland history and has wide experience in writing, producing and presenting radio documentaries and music biographies.

Artist: Frank McLeod, from M. Quinn, F. McLeod & R. Banning, Bulurru Storywater, Cairns, 1990, p.33.
In the last 15,000 years sea levels have risen over 100 metres, reaching their present level about 6,000 years ago.

The then coastline was out where Yurrbing (‘Grinding Teeth’, Great Barrier Reef), is now: all between, in those days was land. One Bulurru Storywater (Dreaming) that tells of this event, recalls Ngúnya (‘Goo-nya’ – a God-like Being of the heroic age), who lived with his sons and daughters beyond Green Island (‘Wunyami’) at a place called Wuranyaman.

Gambalguman, went there from the hills at Yarrabah and sought permission from Ngúnya to make wives of his daughters: Djarruga (scrub-hen) and Yulu (blue-spotted stingray).
After a while their father, the God-like Being, told them to go with the young warrior. On the way back home Gambalguman became thirsty and his wife Djarruga offered to get him water, but he refused, saying he would get it himself. This broke a fundamental tabu, as he was but recently initiated and his ‘marks’ had not yet healed.
His nose, also, through which a hole had been pierced for a nose-stick, was still sore. As punishment when he bent over to drink, a fish caught his nose. Angrily he called to Djarruga to bring his spear, but she refused saying that he must not ‘spoil’ her place. So, an enraged Gambalguman threw ‘rubbish’ [stupefier] into the water and all the fish floated.
Then contemptuously, he speared them. Insulted, Ngúnya caused the water to bubble up, preventing Gambalguman spearing any more. ‘A big-sea’ came up (a tidal wave) and covered the land. Ngúnya was very angry and said: ‘Why did you spoil my daughter’s place? Go now and take her with you.’
Immediately Gambalguman reached his home on Yarrabah Range, to save his country he threw hot boulders down into the sea from his ‘Kapa Mari’ (‘earth oven’), which stopped the waters from rising any further.

This is an extract from: A History of Cairns – City of the South Pacific 1770-1995, by Dr Timothy Bottoms, PhD, Central Queensland University, 2002, Photo 2.1, p.72.You can contact Dr Bottoms via email. There is more information on his website.

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