Extinction, inscription and the Dreaming: Exploring a thylacine connection

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The thylacine, commonly associated with its Tasmanian extinction, also existed on the Australian mainland up until 3000-3500 years ago and is depicted in rock art sites in various locations around Australia. This lengthy period of extinction means we know little about Aboriginal Australians’ connections with this animal. This paper draws on available evidence to explore these thylacine connections. This exploration highlights the role that inscriptions, traces and narratives may play in facilitating continuing relationships with long extinct species. It also suggests that in these cosmologies, the material absence of a species does not necessarily correlate with ontological finality (of the kind generally considered central to the idea of extinction). The comparative perspective offered here complements work detailing extinction as a concept that has its own historical origins and developments, one that emerges as a specific cultural understanding about the nature of the world and its inhabitants.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalAnthropological Forum: a journal of social anthropology and comparative sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jun 2021


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