Ethnocartography: understanding central Australian geographic literacy
David Nash


Aboriginal people of the central Australian arid zone commonly draw maps on the ground ('sand maps') as part of expressing knowledge of country. This paper presents sand mapping as a type of conversation, details some of the conventions used in sand maps, and shows how sand maps combine various semiotic systems in the culture, notably the spoken language, gesture and iconography, as well as song, handsign and dance. The observations can contribute to a comparative understanding of the universals and particulars of human symbolic expression, especially of human relationship to country. The paper is illustrated by excerpts from two video-recordings of mapping discussions by Warlpiri and Warlmanpa people. Back to Papers