A picture in Dr Memmot’s book shows an Aboriginal man sitting in the doorway of a dome-shaped building. Photograph: the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre collection
Before white settlers arrived, Australia’s indigenous peoples lived in houses and villages, and used surprisingly sophisticated architecture and design methods to build their shelters, new research has found.
Dwellings were constructed in various styles, depending on the climate. Most common were dome-like structures made of cane reeds with roofs thatched with palm leaves.
Some of the houses were interconnected, allowing native people to interact during long periods spent indoors during the wet season.
The findings, by the anthropologist and architect Dr Paul Memmot, of the University of Queensland, discredits a commonly held view in Australia that Aborigines were completely nomadic before the arrival of Europeans 200 years ago.
The belief was part of the argument used by white settlers to claim that Australia was terra nullius – the Latin term for land that belonged to nobody.
Dr Memmott said the myth that indigenous Australians were constantly on the move had come about because early explorers made their observations in good weather, when indigenous people were more mobile than at other times.