Monday, November 15, 2010

1988 Ten Dollar Note

This note was issued by the Reserve Bank of Australia to mark the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first European settlers. Designs on the note celebrate the variety of cultures within the country. One side depicts the ship HMS Supply and a group of people against a view of the early British settlement at Sydney Cove. The other side of the note portrays elements of Aboriginal culture, including ancient rock painting, an Aboriginal youth and a ceremonial Morning Star Pole.

Background patterns are taken from designs specially commissioned from Aboriginal artists. The note is also unusual because it is not made of paper. There had been earlier experiments with plastic notes, in Haiti and the Isle of Man, but this Australian note is printed on a polymer material developed after many years of research. All Australian notes are now made of polymer.

The Reserve Bank of Australia was involved in a dispute with a north eastern Arnhem Land artist named Terry Yumbulul who argued the RBA used an unauthorised reproduction the “Morning Star Pole” on the 1988 commemorative ten dollar bank note. The “Morning Star” ceremony is a very important ceremony, and the pole plays an important role in the ceremony. Mr. Yumbulul complained that his permission had not been obtained to reproduce the pole on the bank note with the result that he believed that the importance of the pole had been diminished by an inappropriate reproduction.

There was a resolution between Mr. Yumbulul and the Reserve Bank, which unfortunately for him did not involve the Bank conceding to Mr. Yumbulul’s claim for damages in relation to the bank note. But it still involved a gesture of recognition by the Reserve Bank towards Mr. Yumbulul and the payment of some money.

The bank note has historical value as evidence of the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations and the recognition of the cultural diversity that had evolved in the Australian community up to that time. The bank note is evidence of the Australian Government openly embracing multiculturalism and attempts to reflect a modern nation, as evidenced in the imagery and language on a new technology and currency.

The bank note represents a time when the Australian nation had to come to terms with its British penal beginnings and the dispossession of the Aboriginal people, the White Australia policy of the late nineteenth and the twentieth century and the multiculturalism that had evolved from the waves of mass migration after World War Two.

The Bicentennary in 1988 is a time when the Australian community appears to be at ease with the multiple layers and the many voices of their history and were engaged in celebrating this cultural diversity and recognising the Aboriginal past. The bank note represents a coming of age that officially acknowledges these themes on a medium that is handled by millions of people daily.

European Discovery and the Colonisation of Australia

The European Discovery and the Colonisation of Australia

The Australian Government's culture portal has some very good informationa nd sources relating to all aspects of Australian society and culture. The page on contact history is paricularly good.   

The Draught Instructions For Governor Phillip, 25 April 1787

 The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney had an exhibition called Objects Through Time... One of the exhibits was the document that Governor Phillip was given instructing him how to found the colony of New South Wales.

The Draught Instructions for Governor Phillip is the first official communication concerning the occupation and settlement of Australia. It empowers Captain Arthur Phillip to establish the first British Colony in Australia and to make grants of land and issue regulations for the Colony. They comprise a type of founding ‘Constitution’ for the new Colony. 

 Objects Through Time...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Watkin Tench

Leiutenant-General Watkin Tench (6 October 1758 – 7 May 1833) was a British Marine officer who is best known for publishing two books describing his experiences in the First Fleet which established the first settlement in Australia in 1788. His two accounts, "Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay" and "Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson" provide a fascinating and entertaining account of the arrival and first four years of the colony. Little is known of Tench apart from what he writes in his three books and his service record.

Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson

The Port Jackson Painter

The following site has a collection of paintings completed between 1788 and 1797. They show the first settlement at Sydney Cove and the life of the aboriginal people of the area. What do they tell us about aboriginals in the Sydney area?

The Natural History Museum

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An Aztec Quiz

Try This Quick Quiz

1. What was the name of the Aztec capital city?

2. What lake was it built on?

3. Who, or what, was "The Feathered Serpent"?

4. Who, or what, was "Blue Hummingbird"?

5. Who was the god of rain?

6. What is obsidian?

7. Who were the Calpulli?

8. Who, or what, were Pochtecas?

9. Why were the Spanish called "conquistadors"?

10. Who was Hernan Cortes?

11. How did the Spanish and Aztec ways of fighting differ?

12. What forms did Aztec sacrifice take?

13. Why would the Aztecs have sacrificed children?

14. What goals did the conquistadors have in Mexico?

15. What is a codex?

16. How did the Aztecs deliver fresh water to their capital city?

17. What is a causeway?

18. What were Chinampas used for?

19. In what year did the Spanish finally conquer the Aztecs' capital city?

20. What did the Spanish build on the site of the Aztec Templo Mayor (Great Pyramid)?

Now for a couple of more detailed questions!

21. List the effects that the Spanish conquest had on the Aztecs and their culture.

22. Outline reasons why the Aztecs decided to build their capital city where they did.

23. Eplain why the Aztecs carried out human sacrifice.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Aztec Writing and Counting

The following information is taken from the Ancient Scripts Website.

Aztec writing had three primary functions, namely to mark calendrical dates, to record accounting mathematical calculations, and to write names of people and places. No continuous texts like those of the Maya or Olmec writing system has been be found.

The writing system of the Aztecs is very rudimentary. Its core consists of a set of calendrical signs and a number system. Like other Mesoamerican people, the Aztecs used the 260-day sacred calendar, which in Nahuatl (Aztec) was called tonalpohualli. The tonalpohualli is essentially two parallel and interlocking cycles, one of 20 days (represented by "day signs"), and one of 13 days (represented by numbers called "coefficients"). The following are the 20 day signs in the Aztec sacred calendar. The Nahuatl names are in red, and their meanings in English are in blue.

A date in the tonalpohualli is composed of a day sign and and a coefficient. So, for example, the first day in the 260-day cycle would be 1 Cipactli. As both the day sign and the coefficient moves forward, the next day would be 2 Ehecatl. This goes on until 13 Acatl is reached, at which point the coefficient cycle loops back to 1, and hence the next day would be 1 Ocelotl. Similarly, upon reaching the last day sign on day 7 Xochitl, the day sign cycle goes back to the first sign, and the next day would be 8 Cipactl.

The Aztecs had a 365-day solar calendar called xiuhpohualli, which consisted of 18 months of 20 days, and an unlucky 5-day period at the end of the year. However, they rarely recorded dates in the solar calendar on manuscripts, and never on monuments.

In addition, like other Mesoamerican cultures, the Aztecs also employed the Calendar Round, a 52-year period created by interlocking the 260-day and 365-day cycles. A year in the Calendar Round was named by the tonalpohualli name of last day of the last month in the xiuhpohualli for that year. Because of the way the math worked out, only four day signs, namely Calli, Tochtli, Acatl, and Tecpatl, could be part of a year's name, and hence they were called "year bearers". Accompanying the year bearers were coefficients, which could range from 1 to 13. To distinguish Calendar Round years from days in the 260-day calendar, years glyphs were drawn inside rectangular "cartouches". A good example occurs in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, a document written after the Spanish Conquest but at a time when knowledge of the pre-Columbian culture was still available. In this document, Aztec years are correlated to Western Gregorian years.
As you have probably gathered by now, Aztec numbers are represented by long sequences of dots. In general, the Aztecs almost exclusively used dots on manuscripts as well as on stone monuments, but the more ancient bar-and-dot system does make rare appearances on carved monuments as well, primarily due to artistic consideration. The dot system, while feasible for calendrical use (since no number will ever exceed 20), was impossible when dealing with accounting, especially since the Aztecs had to record large amounts of tribute frequently demanded from its provinces. The Codex Mendoza, another post-Conquest manuscript, depicted life in Central Mexico around the time of conquest and also contained a section on the tribute exacted by the Aztec Empire. To count items in excess of 20 efficiently, the Aztecs used glyphs for the numbers 20 (a flag), 400 (a feather), and 8000 (a bag of incense).
For example, the number 500 would be a feather and five flags (400 + 5 x 20 = 500). To indicate that the multiple glyphs forming a number belong to a single sign group, a line is drawn to connect all the glyphs. The line is then connected to the object it is counting.

In addition to calendrical and numeric signs, a number of highly pictorial logograms were used to write down personal names, names of places, and historical events. For example, there are many records of the Aztec army conquering other cities documented in the Codex Mendoza. To show that a city has been conquered, the city's name is written next to the "conquered" glyph which is a temple (pyramid) in smoke and flames with its top toppling over. In the following example, the ancient cities Colhuacan and Tenayucan were shown to be conquered. And to drive the point home, Aztec warriors are shown with captives.

 Since Aztec names tend to be composed of words in the Nahuatl language, names are often written as groups of highly pictorial logograms that make up the roots of the name. However, sometimes names also contain phonetic elements in the form of rebus writing to either disambiguate the reading, or explicitly spell out the entire name.

The following is a small set of toponyms (place names) as found in various post-Conquest manuscripts. The first set of examples are names spelled out mostly by pictorial logograms.

Explanations for the previous example:
  • Chilapan, from chilli + apan, meaning "at the water of chiles". The picture of a chile pepper provides the first root chilli, while the ending apan, meaning "place of water", is provided by water in a canal.
  • Colhuacan, from colhua + can, meaning "twisted or crooked hill". Clearly illustrated by the twisted hill top.
  • Ocelotepec, from ocelotl + tepec, meaning "hill of the ocelot". The ocelot is wildcat common to the Americas and is depicted here by its head. Also, in Nahuatl, can is synonymous with tepec, and hence both words are represented by the same sign.
  • Coatlan, from coatl + tlan, meaning "place abundant with snakes". Here we encounter the first example of using phonetic elements. Teeth in Nahuatl is tlantli, and so a set of teeth is conventionally read as tlan, which is a Nahuatl suffix meaning "place abundant with".
  • Coatzinco, from coatl + tzin + co, meaning "little Coatlan". The ending tzinco is represented phonetically by the lower half of a crouching man, which in reality carries the meaning of 'buttocks'. The word 'buttocks' in Nahuatl is tzintli, and conveniently spells out the syllable tzin.
  • Ahuacatlan, from ahuacatl + tlan, meaning "place abundant with avocadoes". Once again the ending tlan is represented by a set of teeth, but this time incorporated into the avocado tree.
The following examples have more extensive use of phonetic elements in the form of rebus writing.

 Explanations for the previous example:
  • Capulteopan, from capulli + teopan, meaning "the temple of the neighborhood". The word "temple", teopan, is clearly depicted, but "neighborhood", capulli is harder to visualize. Rebus writing comes to the rescue in that capulli is phonetically similar to capulin, which is a Mexican plant related to cherries. By drawing the capulin tree, the sound capul is expressed.
  • Mapachtepec, from mapach + tepec, meaning "near the hill of the raccoon". Instead of drawing a raccoon, mapach in Nahuatl, a hand (maitl) and a piece of moss (pachtli) are drawn together. By taking the first syllables of both words, /ma/ and /pach/, we obtain mapach.
  • Miacatla, from mitl + aca + tla(n), meaning "place abundant with arrows". The picture of an arrow, mitl logographically represents the first part of the word. The ending, acatla, is provided phonetically by the depiction of a reed, acatl in Nahuatl.
  • Amacoztitlan, from amatl + cozti + tlan, meaning "place abundant with yellow papers". The concept of a yellow paper is expressed in the yellow rectangular in the middle of the signs. Water, atl, on the bottom is used phonetically to provide the initial vowel /a/, reinforcing the reading of "amacoztli". The set of teeth on the top phonetically provide the ending tlan.
  • Pantepec, from pan + tepec, meaning "upon the hill". The particle pan carries the meaning of "above" or "upon", which is depicted by the picture of a flag, pantli in Nahuatl.
  • Tepechpan, from tepexitl + pan, meaning "above the crag". The phonetic elements consist of tetl and petlatl, which together approximates the initial tepech. The final syllable pan is indicated figuratively by placing a house above the tepech component at the bottom, effectively giving the reading of "above the crag".
You might find that from the above examples that the way to read place names is complicated and not straightforward to modern eyes. Signs could be polyvalent, such as the "hill" sign which can stand for both can and tepec. Glyphs in a place name are not always read in a linear fashion but could jump from one end to another. And sometimes, visual metaphors come into play, such as the position of glyphs itself representing a sound. It is true that for the most part this system did not record human speech or long texts, and it might seem to be not a true writing system. However, it does exhibit a lot of regular rules and conventions. The seemingly random reading order often can be inferred by the knowledge of language and naming convention.

Signs used for phonetic values are not randomly drawn from the logograms but actually from a very predictable and minimal set. But, most of all, since the knowledge of the underlying language, Nahuatl, is essential to fully interpret the glyphs, the Aztec script most certainly classifies as a writing system.

Despite the limitation of their writing systems, the Central Mexicans must have produced countless numbers of manuscripts with subject matters as diverse as time-keeping, astronomy and astrology, mythology, genealogy, and history, all attesting to the power of the written word.

The toponyms in the previous examples were taken from Nombres Geográficos de México project website.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Chinampas of Mexico

Mexico City, a thriving metropolis of 20 million, is built on and around the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.  Founded in 1325, this city was at its greatest a sophisticated and technologically-advanced city of 200,000 inhabitants nestled in the valley of Mexico and surrounded by a series of connected lakes.

The market district, Tlateloco was estimated by Spanish explorer Bernal Diaz del Castillo to be twice the size of Seville and bustling with over 60,000 shoppers and traders. The produce and goods for this market and several others in the city came mostly from the intricate and efficiently irrigated gardens created by the Aztecs in the shallow lakes surrounding the city.  These gardens, called chinampas , were artificial island plots of 30 x 2.5-3 meters.  These “floating gardens”  produced 3 crops a year and grew at least a half to two-thirds of the food consumed by the 200,000 residents of Tenochtitlan.

 Irrigated by the surrounding lake water, the chinampas were fertilized by digging up the nutrient-rich mud from the bottom of the canals and also by using human waste from the city itself.  In this way, Tenochtitlan was able to better fertilize its crops while treating its wastewater― creating a healthier living environment for all. Crops were easily transported to market along the many canals and lakes surrounding the chinampas.  When the Spaniards arrived it did not take them long to dimantle the complex system and put in place traditional monocropping.  Today, some chinampas survive in the Xochimilo area close to Mexico City.  They are cared for in the traditional way and create both food and an opportunity for a healthy tourist industry.  Mexico city is currently trying to create a waste-water treatment system incorporating the use of chinampas similar to the ones used by the Aztecs so long ago.


The Mexican Flag

This is the flag of Mexico. Red, white, and green are the colors of the national liberation army in Mexico. The central emblem is the Aztec pictogram for Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) thee centre of their empire. It recalls the legend that inspired the Aztecs to settle on what was originally a lake-island. According to the legend Huitzilopochtli (the Aztecs' principal deity) appeared to their leaders and guided his people to a place where a great eagle perched on a cactus killing a snake. This was the place elected for them by the god, the place where they will found their capital Tenochtitlan. The year was 2 Calli (Two House) or A.D. 1325.

Blood and Flowers

The following documentary tells the story of Aztec society and culture.

Hernan Cortés

The following link will take you to a translation of one of the letters written by Hernan Cortes to Charles V, King of Spain, outlining his observations of the Aztecs and Tenochtitlan.

Hernan Cortés: from Second Letter to Charles V, 1520

The Aztecs and Tenochtitlan

This is the Mexican village of Mexcaltitan. It is built on an island in a lake very much like Tenochtitlan only much smaller. Legend has it that it was the Aztlan of the Aztecs, their home city and birthplace from where they set out on their pilgrimage in 1091 that led them to the founding of Tenochtitlan.

This 1524 map depicts the thriving Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, 
based on the eyewitness account of Hernán Cortés.

Map of ‘The Valley of Tenochtitlan as seen by Cortez’ 
published in 1869 by George F. Cram in Illinois

This map of Juan Gómez de Trasmonte shows Mexico City in 1628, 
a century after the Conquest... and reconstruction. 
The island has now been connected to the shore of the lake 
and the lake has begun to be drained.

 A map showing the various precincts of Tenochtitlan.

 A modern map of Tenochtitlan.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Plains Indians

Your Task: To discover who the Plains Indians were, where they lived, what their lives were like, the differences between various groups and the effect of contact with European settlers on their lives both individually and collectively.

You will write the information in a word document, or powerpoint, or in your exercise books. You may work in pairs as long as you both have the information written down. If using a computer you must save your work on a USB at the end of the lesson.

Include maps and illustrations where appropriate as long as they are referenced in the text or correctly labelled.

Begin in general terms but move towards a specific group of Plains Indians.

You will find the following websites useful:

You may also research your own websites.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Guns, Germs and Steel

Jared Diamond is a professor at UCLA and his book "Guns, Germs and Steel" attempts to explain why European and Asian civilizations, as a whole, have survived and conquered others. 

The book's title is a reference to the means by which European nations happened to conquer populations of other areas and maintained their dominance, often despite being vastly out-numbered – superior weapons provided immediate military superiority (guns), diseases weakened and reduced local populations, making it easier to maintain control over them (germs) and centralized governmental systems promoted nationalism and powerful military organizations (steel). The book uses geographical factors to show how Europeans developed such superior military technology and why diseases to which Europeans and Asians had some natural immunity devastated populations in the Americas and elsewhere.

The Wikipedia entry can be found here.

The book spawned a documentary which is available on YouTube. This is the first episode.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Australian Aboriginal in a Classical Pose?

Have a look at the following painting. It is a watercolour that was painted some time between 1788 and 1797. Beneath the painting is an inscription that reads, "A Native Wounded while asleep".


Now look at the following Ancient Roman sculpture called "Dying Gaul". It is a (probable) copy of a Greek original and dates from around 100 to 200 B.C.E.

Why are the poses similar? What point, or impression, was the artist in Australia trying to make? Is it an accurate source when studying Contact History?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Using Our Wiki

First of all watch this short film.

We have a class Wiki for Year 8 History. While the Blog will allow us to access resources on the web, the Wiki will allow us to share information, comment, offer ideas etc. Feel free to use it in any way that will help you understand or enjoy the study of History. First you will have top join the Wiki. Then, once you are able to edit it, you can write anything you want. My only request is that you include your name after what you have written. Here's the address: Year 8 History

Aboriginal Australia Seen Through European Eyes

'Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos', Joseph Lycett, c1820, watercolour

A collection of great Joseph Lycett (ca.1775-1828.)paintings depicting Aboriginals can be found at the National Library of Australia.

What conclusions can we draw about the life of aboriginals in Australia based on these paintings? Which is your favourite and why? What other information would you like to discover? What sources would be valuable to a historian examining aboriginal society and culture in the early years of the 19th century?

Aboriginal Australia Before 1788

The anonymous convict artist now known only as 'The Port Jackson Painter' had more success than most early artists in depicting the appearance and lifestyle of the Sydney Aboriginal people, as shown in the painting.

From at least 60,000 B.C. the area that was to become NSW was inhabited entirely by indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with traditional social, legal organisation and land rights. The population of NSW was at least 100,000 with many tribal, clan and language groups. There were several tribes living in the Sydney region including the Kuringai whose appearance prompted the first Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip, to describe them as "Manly", the description surviving in the name of one of Sydney's best-known beach suburbs.

However, once European settlement began, Aboriginal rights to traditional lands were disregarded and the Aboriginal people of the Sydney region were almost obliterated by introduced diseases and, to a lesser extent, armed force. First contacts were relatively peaceful but Aboriginal people and their culture were as unfamiliar to Europeans, initially, as the landscape, flora and fauna of the new land.

Information from The Parliament of NSW website.

Welcome To Year 8 History

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana)

Aboriginal and Indigenous Peoples, Colonisation and Contact History

The following information is from the Board of Studies Stage 4 and 5 History Syllabus. All syllabus materials can be found at the Board of Studies.

This topic builds upon prior learning of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal contact history in K-6. The nature of colonisation and its impact on Aboriginal peoples outside the Sydney region will lead to further study in Years 9 and 10. Students will also develop an
understanding of the impact of colonisation upon another indigenous people.

Inquiry questions
• What can we learn about Aboriginal and indigenous peoples?
• What has been the nature and impact of colonisation?

Throughout this topic, students work with particular focus on the outcomes
listed below.

A student:
4.2 describes significant features of Aboriginal and indigenous cultures, prior to colonisation
4.3 explains the ways indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of the world have responded to contact with each other
4.7 identifies different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the past
4.9 uses historical terms and concepts in appropriate contexts
4.10 selects and uses appropriate oral, written and other forms, including ICT, to communicate effectively about the past

In Year 8, students have the opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding of:
• Aboriginal and indigenous cultures
• the impact of European colonisation on Australian Aboriginal and worldwide indigenous
• the responses to contact with colonising peoples
• the impact of colonisation and government policies on Aboriginal peoples
• the diversity in the cultures, beliefs and values of different societies in the past

Students in Year 8 have the opportunities to develop knowledge and understanding of:
• effects of historical events on the culture of peoples and their rights and responsibilities
• impact of exploration and colonisation on Aboriginal and indigenous peoples
• importance of preservation and conservation of heritage
• different experiences of being a citizen and forms of government in civilisations of the
• the impact of difference on marginalised groups, including the impact of colonisation
• similarities and differences between cultures of the past
• the roles and contributions of men and women in the past

Students must study Section A and at least one country or region from Section B.

Section A - Australia 1788-–1900
The Nature and Impact of Colonisation and Contact
• pre-contact Aboriginal culture
• Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal perspectives of the relationship to land and country
• British contact with Aboriginal peoples to 1820
• differing experiences of contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples from 1820 to 1900. These
could include:
                     -the impact of disease
                     -land disputes
                     -massacres and frontier wars
                     -Aboriginal responses to dispossession
• increasing government control of the lives of Aboriginal peoples
• the consequences of colonisation

Section B - North America & Central America
• the nature of colonisation
• the features of a pre-colonial indigenous culture
• the nature of contact between the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples
• the responses of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples to colonisation
• the consequences of colonisation
• the experiences of colonisation