The Swamp Demon from Dungeness

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This unusual artwork of nature was washed up on the shores of the small village of Dungeness on the  Hinchinbrook Channel in north Queensland. It was found well above high water mark, where it had been left 'high and dry' by cyclonic storm surge.

Its visual similarity to an ancient rock carving of a fish that evolved into the powerful Rainbow Serpent in Aboriginal mythology many thousands of years ago is remarkable.

In a report in the November 1996 issue of Archaeology in Oceania, it is explained how the Rainbow Serpent image derived from this species of pike fish. The significant representation of this ambiguous creature throughout 'dreamtime' provided the impetus for unity and peace amongst Aboriginal tribes, whose land was overtaken by a rising sea level over 6,000 years ago.

According to the extensive scientific study, the aborigines of what is now called Gondwanaland, created a dynamic and powerful symbol from the opportunistic pike-fish (which traveled landward with the shore line as the sea inevitably engulfed their land). This symbol today is undergoing a revival in many Australian aboriginal communities.

Through the 'religious' phenomenon of common symbolic identification, the Australian aboriginals  were able to deal collectively with  social conflict  brought about by the sea level rise that occured thousdans of years ago.

One may ask -does the contemporary revival of the Rainbow Serpent symbol offer an opportunity to appreciate  this ancient  story  in the light  of the profound change that   may possibily result from  human induced climatic change and associated sea level rise?

- Lucinda, Queensland, Australia 1993

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Photography by Melanie Russell, Steve Furzey, Hoagy Van Ewyk and Marco Fabbro