AAA2020 Virtual Conference Banner 7 - 10 Dec

Superfood for thought: Celebrating and preserving Aboriginal Intangible Heritage

Alice Mora 
Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University 

Co-Author/s
Darren Griffin, Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
Daniel Clarke, Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
Ben Muir, Wimmera Management Catchment Authority
Maurizio Campanelli, Department of Archaeology and History

Food nourishes and strengthens the body against diseases. Food connects people in communal gatherings. Traditional ways of processing food are transmitted across generations keeping alive ancestral and cultural identities. Indigenous cooking techniques and the organoleptic characteristics of the processed food are invaluable aspects of Culture to be preserved and protected as Intangible Heritage.

Throughout the last three centuries, Aboriginal Australia experienced forced disconnection from Country, losing powerful memories of food processing and taste. In south-eastern Australia, yam daisies (Microseris spp.) were a staple food with significant cultural and socio-economic value. Yam keeping, harvesting, and cooking in earth ovens was a social practice that involved the participation of all the community, with a special role held by Indigenous Australian women.

This paper explores how stratigraphic reconstruction of the archaeological record, experimental archaeology and community engagement came together to successfully revitalise the traditional way of cooking one of the most symbolic and nutritionally important Aboriginal tubers. It is highlighted the significance of cooperatively practising earth-oven cooking and experiencing the familial taste of Murnong in reconnecting people to Country. Moreover, it is described how the re-empowered feeling of identity fostered the creation of an annual festival event celebrating traditional earth-oven cooking and the continuity of its knowledge.

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