Sahul.

The same editing job that led me to complain about the hominid/hominin confusion brings us another such: the prehistoric continent now known, to some at least, as Sahul. To quote the Wikipedia article:

Archaeological terminology for this region has changed repeatedly. Before the 1970s, the single Pleistocene landmass was called Australasia, derived from the Latin australis, meaning “southern”, although this word is most often used for a wider region that includes lands like New Zealand that are not on the same continental shelf. In the early 1970s, the term Greater Australia was introduced for the Pleistocene continent. Then at a 1975 conference and consequent publication, the name Sahul was extended from its previous use for just the Sahul Shelf to cover the continent.

In 1984 W. Filewood suggested the name Meganesia, meaning “great island” or “great island-group”, for both the Pleistocene continent and the present-day lands, and this name has been widely accepted by biologists. Others have used Meganesia with different meanings: travel writer Paul Theroux included New Zealand in his definition and others have used it for Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. Another biologist, Richard Dawkins, coined the name Australinea in 2004. Australia-New Guinea has also been used.

What a mess! I swear, scientists enjoy sowing confusion.

By the way, does anybody know anything about the etymology of Sahul? Wikipedia says merely “The name ‘Sahull’ or ‘Sahoel’ appeared on 17th century Dutch maps applied to a submerged sandbank between Australia and Timor,” and maybe that’s as much as can be known, but I can’t help but be curious.

Comments

  1. I remember the news in 2017 when another bunch of scientists decided to sow just as much confusion by announcing that Zealandia (next door to Sahul) had every right to be counted as a continent. Just like any other continent apart from being almost entirely under ocean.

    Why should a bit of sea level rise matter when we can just redefine ‘continent’?

  2. We should stick it to Japanese and call it Austraria.

  3. Bathrobe says:

    Austraria (Ōsutoraria) refers only to ‘Australia’.

  4. That’s what I expected. My proposal will put Japanese in ultimate confusion.

  5. What about Arabic “sāḥil”, meaning coast or shore? Lots of Arab traders in that area back in the day / Arabic terms in Malay. It would be very interesting if Australia and the Sahara were described by the same word (the Sahel)

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%AD%D9%84

  6. SFReader says:

    so Sahul and Swahili have same etymology?

  7. What about Arabic “sāḥil”, meaning coast or shore?

    “Sahel” from the same root, referring to the ‘shore’ of the Sahara desert(?)

    … same etymology Yes, says wp on ‘Sahel’. But careful! Proto-Basque is from Saharan/South East Nigeria or something.

  8. Another biologist, Richard Dawkins, coined the name Australinea in 2004.

    If that’s a combination of Australia and New Guinea, then it would be pronounced like… “Australinny”? That’s gonna be a yikes from me, dawg.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    Dawkins isn’t good at this. Exhibit A: theorum “large, robust scientific theory”.

  10. SFReader says:

    travel writer Paul Theroux included New Zealand in his definition

    Most ridiculous suggestion ever.

    How can New Zealand be part of greater Australia if they don’t even have kangaroos?

    New Guinea has them, by the way.

  11. Dawkins isn’t good at this.

    I’d say meme was a success (despite being limited in too many people’s usage to photos with text superimposed).

  12. if they don’t even have kangaroos?

    They successfully introduced possums, though.

  13. January First-of-May says:

    despite being limited in too many people’s usage to photos with text superimposed

    I sadly don’t recall when or where I originally pointed out that at least meme is a better term for such photos than demotivator.

  14. @Kieth Ivey: I have tried to convince my teenaged daughter that meme means more than just a “captioned picture you can download from the Internet,” but she refuses to believe me.

  15. Michael Eochaidh says:

    Shouldn’t that be Proto-Saharan-Basque?

    Anyway, it’s nice to see a crank in a less popular field like entomology (and one with a UW-Madison connection, which makes me nostalgic even if he got his doctorate before I was born).

  16. John Cowan says:
  17. they don’t even have kangaroos

    Actually there’s a community of Wallabies around Waimate in the South Island.

    They successfully introduced possums

    Wrong adverb: that should be ‘disastrously’. Possums are now a species in decline in Australia. You can have all ours back, please!

    incredibly rude hear! hear!

  18. Hawaii has at least one very elusive wallaby who was captured on film recently by news media, but is still on the loose, so we’re on our way to biotic Meganesia, despite our complete lack of other marsupials. No possums yet. Like NZ, we do have some megaflora and flightless birds, and lack the snakes and crocodiles of Australia and New Guinea. Idiots have brought in snakes, but so far no breeding pairs, AFAIK.

  19. Proto-Basque is from Saharan/South East Nigeria or something

    Am I reading this right? Someone who’s not Edo Nyland and is regardless taking his work seriously? I feel just buying into the Basque cipher theory has to net an additional 100 mNy right away.

  20. Someone who’s not Edo Nyland and is regardless taking his work seriously?

    At least two people, neither of them linguistically trained AFAICT, although one (now dead) was a published author, and held cultural positions at the U.N.

    I don’t know if U Cal at R is aware it’s hosting such nonsense; or what it has to do with a Professor of Biological Control.

  21. john welch says:

    Mahendra Gondwana , “eastern forests”, is the island off to the right from the south pole. This is correct because my locality is Nganywana ” all our forest” in the patch of Australia having trees. Wanaruah “hills and plains” is nearby and also has forest . These names have been used for 800 years . “Australia” really means Antarctica.

  22. John Cowan says:

    There are more tigers in Texas than in India.

  23. john welch says:

    The sensible etymology for Sahul is IE sā́u̯el-, sāu̯ol-, suu̯él-, su̯el-, sūl- “the sun” , PIE sehuel. As Australia is legally a Dutch possession the name now is Neergaand Bewusteloos.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    Submerged unconscious?

    Dreamtime?

  25. john welch says:

    Yes , and Down Under the sun. Sanskrit ravi “sun god” is from PII hraja, PIE hrego “reign” in straight lines. Egypt’s Ra sun-god may be IE and Akhenaten’s sun had straight lines with a hand on the end holding an ankh and pointing to text. Malay raja is ” writing, diagram” which is the original. Old Java raken ( ra.aka) is “chief” and may be Aboriginal Raukkan , a ruling council. Nothing new , they say.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    …Oh, are you serious? I thought you were making an obvious joke?

  27. I assume he’s joking, but it is very deadpan.

  28. David Eddyshaw says:

    There are more tigers in Texas than in India.

    I am given to understand that the entire point about Texas is that there is more of anything in Texas than anywhere else (I believe they are now going for more liberals, even.)

  29. john welch says:

    Old Java rawi “sun-god” is Skt ravi.
    ra : before nouns of category of persons of certain rank.
    Raukkan
    “An inscription from 13th century Hindu Sumatra in Old Malay and Tamil mentions an official, senapati rakan Dipangka. ( naval commander). In later times , rukun meaning “harmony” became a Malay / Javanese ideal for government. Indonesian rekan/ Malay rakan means “associate, companion”. ” Malaysian Public schools recite the Rukun “harmony” pledge weekly after the singing of the Malaysian national anthem, Negaraku. The Rukun Negara “principles of nation” is in exercise books used by Malaysian public school students” .
    Arabic ra-iyya “subjects” seems only an influence on Old Java raken “chief”.
    A skull with sword-cut from central Australia is dated 1200s and they had no metals.
    There is 1 famous false cognate, Aboriginal: English, in Aust , dog:dog. But Raukkan is with 4 other cognate terms for governing, Aboriginal: Old Java , and another OJ cognate term in the adjoining language.
    6/6.

  30. David Marjanović says:

    So you’re serious. And you seriously believe you can’t find a common sequence of just two common sounds in more than two words with vaguely resemblant meanings by chance?

    Do you have a source for that skull with a sword cut? I’ve never heard of it, and there’s probably a reason for that.

  31. john welch says:

    The 1 Australian false cognate is famous, “one in a million”. RW Dixon.
    Essential Chomsky – Page 430 – Chomsky, ‎Noam.
    “.a more recent example, in R. W. Dixon, Linguistic Science and Logic”.. (for Dixon’s reputation on a different topic).
    You feel “chief of group” and “ruling council” are vaguely resemblant? There is mukuta “head” and mukarta “head”. Tendi “person’s self” and tendi “person”. 300 Indonesian loans are known in north Australia.
    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquity/article/death-of-kaakutja-a-case-of-perimortem-weapon-trauma-in-an-aboriginal-man-from-northwestern-new-south-wales-australia/3E957293B27AB3CD1A30FA7F3DB2BC80
    Kaakutja, Perhaps the First Known Boomerang Victim – The New York …
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/18/science/first-boomerang-victim-australia.html
    Oct 17, 2016 – They named him Kaakutja, after the Baakantji word for “older brother,” . was crying out for help. Its mouth was wide open.. (Old Java kaka “elder brother” . ujar “speech”.)
    The text says an African Samburu sword is the closest weapon tested compared with the trauma. My Synbone test and that author’s test on pig-skull confirms steel not wood.

  32. One in a million for being exactly [dɒg] ‘dog’ in both. Once you start allowing seemingly minor differences like /-uk-/ ~ /-aʈ-/ or ‘person’ ~ ‘self’, finding false cognates for any one word is more like one in a thousand; finding a few false cognates across a language’s entire vocabulary, pretty much guaranteed.

    300 comparisons would sound much more impressive, though I’d still default toward skepticism (including the dating and routing of any that hold up etymologically).

  33. A skull with sword-cut from central Australia is dated 1200s and they had no metals.

    The link you gave says in its abstract

    ” Analysis indicates that the wooden weapons known as ‘Lil-lils’ and the fighting boomerangs (‘Wonna’) both have blades that could fit within the dimensions of the major trauma and are capable of having caused the fatal wounds.”

    Are your alleged 300 cognates going to exhibit a similar lack of scholarship? We have already done this masses-of-cognates thing thoroughly to death in another place, in three rounds. I’ve no appetite for another round.

  34. john welch says:

    /-uk-/ ~ /-aʈ-/ is actually /-ut-/ ~ /- aʈ -/
    After 600 years and non-written memory expressed in English the “self” is a refined difference. Comments on some-one’s “personality” don’t usually include a gloss on medieval philosophy and psychology.
    The lost ‘Macassar language’ of northern Australia – ResearchGate
    https://www.researchgate.net/…/323522147_The_lost_’Macassar_language’_of_northern…
    Oct 7, 2018 – By example, the use of the Macassan loan word ŗuppiya, derived from the Malay term rupiah, (‘money’) still used in reference to present day Australian …

    The only “capability” evidenced is the length of wooden blades. A wooden ruler is that long but won’t cut your bread .The shape of wooden blades is mentioned , like a “sabre”.
    As a UK forensic anthropologist , endorsed by Aust Fed Forensics , commented : why use metal weapons if wood can slice bone? A pre-school child may believe that a wood sword can cut your head off….ANU Canberra says that “unfortunately” the boomerang didn’t cause trauma. The author Xrayed the skull and then blamed the pig.

  35. John Cowan says:

    The Zompist’s satire on Greenberg and Ruhlen, doing mass comparison between Quechua and Chinese and finding quite a list of resemblant forms.

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    Favourite quote therefrom:

    This seems to be hard for some people to accept. Just look at ren and runa, or gaijin and goyim, they seem to think– how could that possibly be due to chance?
    These people should be treated with respect. They are the people who made Las Vegas what it is today.

  37. David Marjanović says:

    Old Java kaka “elder brother”

    Turkmen kaka “dad”. I forgot where kaka “uncle”. Generic Romance caca “doodoo”, northern German Kacke “crap”.

    Do not try to trace language relationships with mama-papa words.

  38. @John Welch, your post of March 19 at 6:33 pm has lately appeared. I guess it was released from durance vile. You’ve also made several posts on other threads in the same ‘style’. (If that’s the right term.)

    I don’t get what you’re trying to do. For me, chiefly you are failing to communicate. There is no need to be so telegraphic. Posts here can be quite long (just look around!). And if you have several things to say that are only loosely connected, by all means post several comments.

    Your syntax reminds me of a few things:

    – a correspondent on another (deeply technical) blog I participate in. I’m perfectly capable of being deeply technical myself; but only in English. For them, clearly English is not their first language, and most of what they write seems to be calqued from Flemish. (I’m sure their English for day-to-day purposes is perfectly understandable.)

    – the idiosyncratic shorthand of Edo Nyland. His texts seem to be written in the sort of interior monologue/nerdspeak of somebody who is so absorbed in a line of enquiry, he’s entirely failed to notice how far contra to common sense his claims have become.

    – the self-reinforcing ‘in’ language of certain social media-based countercultures. Oblique, ironic-but-not-really-wink-wink; we all know what we really mean, so we don’t need to spell it out. The current POTUS seems to excel at it.

    To the extent that I understand you (not much), you seem to be making extraordinary claims. They need extraordinary evidence. Linking to an article that directly contradicts one of your claims is all very well in the interests of balance/fairness. Except you’ve failed to link to anything that ‘lands’ your claim in the first place. Repeated asseveration is not evidence.

  39. The only “capability” evidenced is the length of wooden blades. A wooden ruler is that long but won’t cut your bread .The shape of wooden blades is mentioned , like a “sabre”.

    As a UK forensic anthropologist , endorsed by Aust Fed Forensics , commented : why use metal weapons if wood can slice bone? A pre-school child may believe that a wood sword can cut your head off….ANU Canberra says that “unfortunately” the boomerang didn’t cause trauma. The author Xrayed the skull and then blamed the pig.

    I see no references here. There’s a few quote-marks, but no actual quotes in context.

    This skeleton appears to have suffered blunt-force trauma to the skull, ribs, arm. None of them fleshy parts of the body, so not needing slicing-through as of bread. (But anyway neolithic cultures were perfectly capable of butchering their meat without using metal blades.)

    AFAICT nobody is claiming a wooden weapon “slice[d] bone”, nor cut heads off. Breaking ribs is not ‘slicing’.

    ” the largest [boomerangs are] over 180 cm (5.9 ft) in length.” (wikipedia, with photos) “Some boomerangs were not thrown at all, but were used in hand to hand combat by Indigenous Australians.” The ‘lil-lil’s do indeed look like fearsome “battle-axes”, as the NYT article puts it.

    For a comparison I’m aware of: the Maori pre-European contact had no metals. They had frequent inter-tribal conflicts, which included cutting heads off: exhibiting the shrunken head of an opponent, with its distinct moku (facial tattoos), was a mark of the mana (respect) due to a warrior. Maori have a terrifying array of wooden traditional weapons.

  40. john welch says:

    AntC
    My comments are replying to the immediately preceding posts. I will try to be more elaborate , but which “an article” that “one of your claims” are you trying to name?
    If it’s the boomerang , then the evidence within ‘Antiquity’ text is only for steel . There is no example of wood . Medical research can be illegal if such contrary conclusions are published . The elder W Bates in the TV doco stated that they had no weapons that could do that. I wrote to Dept Health suggesting wooden chisels for bone surgery be approved but they said wood wouldn’t, would it. Do you want such comments ad nauseam? (Surgery lecturer , our butcher , the forensics from Richard III skull , ice hockey puck in cortex .)

    I submit that “Macassan loan word ŗuppiya, derived from the Malay term rupiah,” has as much variation as /-ut-/ ~ /- aʈ -/. ( Another linguist complained because some cognates were too similar …)

    .”Each territorial clan was administered by a group of ten to twelve men or elders, referred to as the Tendi. The Tendi from each clan collectively elected.. ” .
    https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1mXWo6uco/wiki/Ngarrindjeri.html

    I was reading that as tendi “man” but evidently it means the electoral body Tendi . In that case, the shift from tendi “person’s self. personal destiny” in Sumatra Indonesia to “electoral college” may accord with the shift from Javanese rakan chief to Raukkan council. Metonymy , my new word for the day.

    “.in the upper world is a mighty tree.. All the possible different fates of the person are entered on the leaves…Every tendi that wishes to descend to the middle world must first ask for one of the leaves .. Whatever is written on the leaf chosen by him will be his destiny in the middle world. the tendi is not tied to the body; it can also live for a time outside the body.” Batak wikipedia.
    This has aspects of elections with destiny and choice , for elector and elected .

  41. john welch says:

    “Roots of molars on upper and lower jaw were exposed where alveolar bone was “shaved off” . . A circular segment of cortical bone was removed on the shoulder “with clearly defined sharp edges” measuring 14mm diameter . “Trauma on Kaakutja was very different to any previously described in the Australian archaeological record .. ..of the weapons tested , by Lewis 2008, the frontal wound in Kaakutja most closely resembles that by an African Samburu sword ..”
    ‘Antiquity’ (Westaway 2016) .
    “The wound to Kaakutja’s face and the slice off the humeral head are consistent with a very sharp blade – even a very hard wood could not be sharpened to this extent. . the strikes to the face and shoulder would have resulted in fractures and not the fine slices into bone seen here.” ( Smith, Martin 2017).with permission, unpublished.
    Principal Academic in Forensic & Biological Anthropology , Bournemouth Uni UK

    “Now I see the full significance of your conclusion ! Martin Smith is a well-known expert so a good endorsement.” ( Robertson 2016). with permission.
    James Robertson is currently the Vice President of the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society and President of the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences and chairs the Advisory Forum to the National Institute of Forensic Sciences (NIFS) and Standards Australia Forensic Committee.

    No the article doesn’t say “slicing” because that suggests something . NY Times says the skull has “a gash” which applies to flesh or hill-side and not to bone or rock. Skull cortex is about 9mm thick and the skull-cut is flat about 4mm deep and 20x40mm across. Is that a “slice” in your opinion ? The bread cutting comment meant that wood won’t slice flesh or bone. Surgical chisels are 2mm thick to avoid random bone-cracking in surgery (Braun Surgical). Boomerang blades are 5-10mm thick at 10mm back from edge and bi-convex profile ( bullet nose shape). That’s because wood is made from wood and not from metal. The contact edge is almost a right angle and the Kaakutja strike was angled obliquely , increasing the blunt effect . So my boomerang just bounced off pig-skull and it took 6 strikes straight down to make a 10mm long shallow groove. Flints of course can cut through bone over time but this trauma was a single strike , about 150mm long .

    Ice hockey pucks can be about twice the velocity of standing sword-blow and are similar weight , hardness and edge to boomerang blades. They don’t cut smoothly like Kaakutja skull.
    https://i.pinimg.com/originals/61/04/2f/61042f460f0994fd41144e7797c51d2b.jpg

  42. john welch says:

    The ‘lil-lil’s do indeed look like fearsome “battle-axes”, as the NYT article puts it.

    William L. Shirer’s book, Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941, in which he recorded the following entry for 27 November 1940:

    X.. says the British intelligence in Holland is working fine. Both sides in this war have built a number of dummy airdromes and strewn them with wooden planes. X says the Germans recently completed a very large one near Amsterdam. They lined up more than a hundred dummy planes made of wood on the field and waited for the British to come over and bomb them. Next morning the British did come. They let loose with a lot of bombs. The bombs were made of wood.

  43. David Marjanović says:

    Wikipedia: Makassan contact with Australia “began […] sometime around the middle of the 1700s, first in the Kimberley region, and some decades later in Arnhem Land”.

    My comments are replying to the immediately preceding posts.

    That’s a dangerous assumption – it often happens that one person posts while another is writing.

    Anyway, are you aware that the link to that paper on ResearchGate you posted didn’t get through because you copied & pasted a masqued version with “…” in it?

    I wrote to Dept Health suggesting wooden chisels for bone surgery be approved but they said wood wouldn’t, would it. Do you want such comments ad nauseam?

    You know as well as anyone that hitting someone with a big, heavy, sharp piece of wood will do a lot of damage. What is your point? The limits on your imagination?

    A circular segment of cortical bone was removed on the shoulder “with clearly defined sharp edges” measuring 14mm diameter .

    Yep, that sounds like it can’t be done with wood. It sounds like surgery, which can be and has been done with flintstone.

    NY Times says the skull has “a gash” which applies to flesh or hill-side and not to bone or rock.

    …Of course it does…?!?

    the skull-cut is flat about 4mm deep and 20x40mm across.

    It’s 2 cm wide, and you call it a “cut” and talk about a steel blade? Am I understanding this correctly?

  44. It’s a waste of time arguing with people like that. I mean, go ahead if it gives you pleasure, this is Liberty Hall, but I don’t see the point. (I swear I thought he was kidding…)

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