Places

The astute who glance at the picture of Bardi places in the post below will notice something interesting: there are almost no names inland; they are all on the coast.

That’s not an error. The interior of the pensinsula is without permanent surface water (as the front cover photo of my fieldwork book and the header to this post might imply) and there isn’t a lot of the desert game there. Small kangaroos, echidna, goannas, etc, but not nearly the wealth of stuff that can be got along the shore and in the sea. And most of the bush tucker can be got a few hundred metres inland too. The interior seems to have been a ‘crossing over’ track set, but all the places that I’ve been on the interior are referred to by their roads towards the coast (e.g. ‘we’re at the turnoff to Ngamoogoon’).

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One response to “Places

  1. A similar situation exists on the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, where the various indigenous groups all live on the coastline and even today spend most of life on or near saltwater. The interior of the many large islands was traditionally explored, but nobody spent any time there short of occasional inland hunting expeditions. Archaeologists and anthropologists have sometimes claimed that the Northwest Coast could have supported far larger populations at the time of European contact, but they often ignored the fact that most of the land was largely useless for coastal people. Too mountainous, little soil, poor drainage, and impassably thick forests, as well as being pointless for people largely uninterested in agriculture. It was only up the great rivers that pierce the Coast Range where inland settlement was feasible, and then because the rivers provided convenient transportation past the coastal rainforests and into the drier interior taiga. The placename maps produced for various parts of the Northwest Coast bear this out, with the island interiors largely void of names for anything besides prominent mountains easily seen from the water, and with the mountain-piercing rivers appearing as long beaded strings of placenames dispersing into the vast interior continent.

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