Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Online talk: The Shifting Shoreline of Kamay (Botany Bay)

Organised by Bayside Council this talk by Dr Paul Irish on 8 October was about the shifting shoreline of this part of Sydney and its ancient past. Attending were 66 people at 1.37pm during the q-and-a segment. 

Dr Irish is the author of ‘Hidden in Plain View’ and is an archaeologist. His firm worked on the 2015 NSW History Fellowship Exhibition. Dr Irish won the 2017 Premier’s History Award. 

In the process of talking about ancient changes to the Botany Bay shoreline Dr Irish talked about Aboriginal people, whose spirit ancestors, they believe, created the country and the living things in it, giving laws. They care for the environment in a spiritual way. Language and country go together. They use language to assert connections to country. 

Bunabi is the northern headland of Kamay, Gibia is the southern headland. 20,000 years ago there was a global ice age. Here there was no ice, and the temperature was a few degrees colder, but Sydney was a different form from today. Seas were much lower than today, about 100m lower in Sydney. All of Sydney Harbour was dry land then. 

When Kamay looked like this (map by Paul Irish) Aboriginal people had been living there for 100s of generations. Rising water ate up land by small increments each year over the next 10,000 years. 7000 years ago the bay had taken its current form (see pic below; map credit also to Dr Paul Irish).

A 10,500-year-old fireplace found during construction of apartments at Wolli Creek. A fireplace at Randwick showed that 8500 years ago Aboriginal people were eating freshwater fish there. 6500 years ago water rose to two metres higher than it is today. Here is a map showing Botany Bay at the time of Captain Cook’s arrival.

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