Echoes of initiation: The Waiet archaeology project in Torres Strait

Echoes of initiation: The Waiet archaeology project in Torres Strait
Echoes of initiation: The Waiet archaeology project in Torres Strait

Principal speaker

Dr Duncan Wright

Dr Duncan Wright from the Australian National University will be presenting a seminar titled "Echoes of initiation: The Waiet archaeology project in Torres Strait".

Initiation rituals (from Mithraism in ancient Rome to contemporary "hazing" rites of passage) provide a challenge for research. They were (are) frequently restricted, with information either not surviving in historical/ ethnographic records or encoded in ways that exclude the uninitiated. The chronology and nature of past performances may survive, however, in the archaeological record through ritual architecture, artefacts and iconography. In this paper we examine an ethnographically-significant (Waiet) initiation that was practiced many hundreds of years ago on Australia's northern border (western and eastern Torres Strait). In partnership with Goemulgal and Meriam communities, we trace through oral histories and archaeology, a consecrated journey taken by new initiates and ritual specialists. Our results provide insight into transitioning ritual activities over two millennia in both regions, and the structured process by which performances were emplaced through inhumation, rock art imagery and ritual architecture.


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