Grounded: Indigenous Knowing in a Concrete Reality

by Lynne Kelly

Non-literate cultures depend on their memories to store all the information on which their survival depends, both physically and culturally. They effectively memorise entire field guides to the thousands of species of flora and fauna along with navigational charts, genealogies, astronomy, history, geology and the ethics and laws by which they live. How do they manage to remember so much information when they are dependent on the same fallible memory as you and me?

This essay will explain the mechanisms by which indigenous cultures know their world and how specific information can be remembered accurately over millennia.

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About the Author


Lynne Kelly

Dr Lynne Kelly is a science writer and Honorary Research Associate at LaTrobe University, Melbourne. After spending most of her career teaching mathematics, phyiscs and information technology at secondary school level, she returned to university to pursue an academic career. Becoming fascinated with the body of research on primary orality, Lynne has developed an understanding of the way non-literate cultures manage to memorise and teach a vast amount of practical information without writing. She has implemented many indigenous mnemonic technologies in a contemporary context and been astounded by their efficacy.

Lynne's research has been published in an academic monograph, Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies, CUP, 2015, and a book for the mainstream market, The Memory Code, Allen & Unwin, 2016. She is delighted to expand on indigenous memory methods and their implications for contemporary education in an essay for Rounded Globe.