Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

QM’s Connections of the Coral Sea exhibition

Coral Sea – Dingaal Traditional Owners- Raynard Baru, Kenneth McLean (front), Jonathan Deeral. (Supplied).

Ricky Kirby, New exhibition reveals ancient trade connections of the Coral Sea, NITV News, 22 August 2022

Evidence of expansive voyaging and cultural interaction between Southern New Guinea, the Torres Strait and the northeast coast of Queensland is part of a new exhibition at the state museum.

From Queensland to the islands of the Torres Strait and New Guinea, ancient Indigenous trade routes are the focus of Queensland Museum‘s latest exhibition.

The exhibition, Connections of the Coral Sea, reveals trade routes of the Coral Sea which date back thousands of years and highlight a rich and important part of Queensland’s cultural history.

The trade routes, which link the north-east coast of Queensland, the Torres Strait and south New Guinea, are believed to have been used by Indigenous people for cultural movement, interaction, and exchange.

Alita Yoren from Walmbaar Aboriginal Corporation chat about the exhibition with curators and visitors. Source: Qld Museum.

The exhibition comes as new evidence was uncovered after years of partnership research between the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) and the Dingaal and Ngurrumungu Traditional Owners on Jiigurru (Lizard Island).

Kenneth McLean, Walmbaar Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson and Dingaal spokesperson said that the exhibition tells an important story.

“It’s a story that came from our Elders, it’s a part of our culture, it’s a story of movement and with the lore of the land and lore of the sea, you can see where our ancestors have been for the past thousands of years,” he said.

Until now, it was believed Indigenous people had no pottery practices, but fragments of pottery found on Jiigurru (Lizard Island) over 2,000 years old reveal links to an ancient form of globalisation.

Kids explore the replica of the archaeological site from Jiigurru. Source: QLD Museum.

CABAH Deputy Director, Distinguished Professor Sean Ulm from James Cook University said the findings give a better understanding of the deep Indigenous history of the Coral Sea than what was known before.

“Traditional owners already knew these stories through oral histories and through their ancestors who maintained these trading relationships over hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, which connected them with ideas and material culture and knowledge over such a vast expansive sea country,” he said.

“It’s by working on Country in partnership with Traditional Owners that that flow of knowledge between researchers and Traditional Owners take place, and we build a really coherent picture of that really deeply peopled and human past that has shaped all Australian landscapes.”

Continuing archaeological research in the area is hoped to lead to further discoveries and opportunities.

“Ongoing research would benefit our community, creating education and employment across our communities and the coral sea region,” Mr Mclean said.


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