Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Aboriginal Use of Bogong Moths                                                                                                   

The Bogong Moths (Agrotis infusa) was a major seasonal food source in the southern highlands of New South Wales. Collecting the moths was made easy by the moths' habit of each resting on the one in front, so that they could be collected simply by holding a container beneath them a running a stick along the line of moths causing them all to fall into the container. There was also a special fine-mesh net made from the fibre of the Pimelea shrub or Kurrajong tree, that when stretched  between 2 sticks could be poked into narrow crevices to collect the moths. In some cases smoke was used to get the moths out of particularly difficult places.

The cooked moths were ground to a paste on flat river stone that was not altered artificially, with a pestle of the same type of stone, the stones being recognised by their position in the high country well away from the rivers that shaped them. To find evidence that they were used for grinding they were exposed to UV light. They fluoresced under the UV indicating that they had organic material on their grinding surfaces, both on the flat stone and on 1 end of the pestle, as was found from the same type of stone from archaeological sites. One of these sites in Bogong Cave is still a place for bogongs to aestivate, but it also has an occupation site with charcoal that has been dated to 1000 years ago. So the practice of grinding moths has been carried on for at least 1000 years. The climate that causes the moths to get away from the heat of their feeding grounds has existed since the end of the ice age, for about 7,000 years, so the collection of bogong moths has been taking place for sometime between 1000 and 7000 years.


Sources & Further reading

Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J. B. Publishing



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                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading