Fossils, Middens and the Pastness of the Past

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Last week I walked down to the evocatively named Fossil Beach, not far from my house, and walked beyond the track and the sea-wall over a litter of sharp and chaotic rocks to where they dig for fossils.

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Above: The work of fossil hunters

Fossil Beach is renowned in scientific circles for the fossils that have been found there over the years and I soon saw evidence of places where people had been tapping away, cracking open the rocks, looking for evidence of the ancient past.

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But what struck me, once again, even before I reached the fossils was the layer of shells by the path, the edge of a midden in the process of being revealed.

This was a place where Aboriginal people, the Bunurong people, lived and ate and died, for thousands of years. These shells are remnants of their meals and their community.

It reminded me of a poem that I wrote ages ago when I first realised that the beach I thought of as my own, belonged to someone else, originally.

Maybe it’s worth re-sharing this Australia Day weekend.

Shells

At the end of my street
blackened mussel shells
layered under earth
on the track to my beach

I read Gwen Harwood
about Oyster Bay
without connecting;
is this what dispossession is?

You can read more about Aboriginal middens HERE and HERE and about indigenous Australians on the Mornington Peninsula HERE

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