Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday Morning Musings - just a flicker in time


Just at the moment I'm bogged down in a question of geology. Rod Holland kindly gave me access to a copy of this PhD thesis.

Sounds dry, doesn't it? Yet it gives me some basic information that I need on New England during the Pleistocene and Holocene periods. Mind you, to get that basic information I actually have to learn what some of the words mean! Then I have to write it up in ways that non-geological noddies like me can understand.

My main writing priority at the moment is to complete a first working draft on Aboriginal New England, that section of my history that deals with human occupation of the North up to 1788. It's not the first study that deals with this topic. I am writing a general history and could not do so without standing on other's shoulders. However, it will be, I think, the first attempt at a full synthesis of a pre-European history of a particular large region within Australia. That's quite exciting.

Humans are pattern animals. Just as New England's Aboriginal peoples sought for patterns in the world around them, so I am seeking the patterns in their lives over the millennia since they first arrived in what would become New England.

We just don't know when the first human being set foot on New England. My best guess at the moment is between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago. That's a very long time. Our lives are short. It's only when we stand back and look over millennia, over generation after generation, that we get a real feel for transition and longevity.

The first families that entered the new territory never seen before by humans did not just enter a different world, although to them it was probably not so much different but a transition from an adjoining area, they entered a world that was very different from that we know today.

I say transition because human expansion across the globe was really a movement from one place to a neighbouring place. I say very different because the long period of human occupation of New England provides plenty of time for basic planetary forces to work their will. What we think of as the present coastline, a line that we try to defend, is just one dotted line on a map that has varied hugely during the human occupation of New England.

The certainties that modern humans have as to place and the appearance of the world around them are just a flicker in a process of eternal change.    


Rod said...

Hi Jim,

So glad you could get hold of Drury's thesis. The first volume provides a great overview of the physical geographical history. I'm going to do some blog posts in the coming months on the Quaternary. I've never really considered the Quaternary period but seeing what Drury has shown can understood (I thought it was all just a muddy mess!, literally!) has changed my opinion greatly.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good, Rod. That will help me indeed!