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Issue Details: First known date: 2017... 2017 The Crankhandle of History : Bruce Chatwin's Song to the Songlines
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Epic of Gilgamesh” is Google’s answer to “what is the oldest known literature”. Unknown scribes in the city of Ur picked the poem out in cuneiform letters some 4500 years ago. These clay tablets preserved an older oral tradition, but that part of the story is usually left out. Instead, the Mesopotamian epic fits easily into that cartoonish diagram of the Ascent of Man, where civilisation means writing, a sequence of metals and a procession of capitals: Memphis, Babylon, Athens, Rome.

'Compare this lineage to the ceremonial songs of Aboriginal Australia. Their absolute vintage is unknowable, but the best estimates run to at least 12,000 years old. At this distance in time, the study of literature needs not just linguists but geologists. There are songlines that accurately describe landscape features (like now-disappeared islands) from the end of the Pleistocene epoch. Their provenance may stretch even further back, all the way into the last ice age. They are also alive. The last person to hear Epic of Gilgamesh declaimed in her native culture died millennia ago. Songlines that may have been born 30,000 years ago are being sung right now.'   (Introduction)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon The Monthly no. 137 September 2017 11986074 2017 periodical issue 2017 pg. 35-42

Works about this Work

Travel and Endless Talk Connected Me to Details Chatwin’s Songlines Missed Paul Daley , 2017 single work column
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 16 October 2017;

'Bruce Chatwin’s book opened my mind to Indigenous spiritual belief. I’ve since learned to glimpse beyond his take on ‘songlines’.' 

Travel and Endless Talk Connected Me to Details Chatwin’s Songlines Missed Paul Daley , 2017 single work column
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 16 October 2017;

'Bruce Chatwin’s book opened my mind to Indigenous spiritual belief. I’ve since learned to glimpse beyond his take on ‘songlines’.' 

Last amended 30 May 2018 12:56:50
35-42 The Crankhandle of History : Bruce Chatwin's Song to the Songlinessmall AustLit logo The Monthly
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