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Stone hatchets and knives.--Nature of stone weapon is determined primarily by that of the material available.--Spears; various types.--Clubs and throwing sticks; various types.--Spear throwers.--Bags and baskets; various types.--Trumpets.--Fire making and cooking.--Challenge sticks.--Rasp.--Spindle.--Fan.--Corrobboree wand.--Boats.

THERE IS much similarity amongst the more important weapons and implements made and used by the mainland tribes in the Northern Territory, and most of them have been fully described already by various writers.

The most characteristic weapons are (1) stone hatchets and picks, the latter of which do not apparently extend farther north than, approximately, Daly Waters, (2) stone knives, (3) spears, either wooden- or bone-barbed or stone-headed, (4) spear throwers of various forms, and (5) fighting sticks or clubs.


At the present day it is not common to meet with stone hatchets except amongst the tribes in far outlying parts, and these are so wild that white men very seldom come in contact with them. For very many years past, the natives, partly through intercourse with whites, and

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partly, along the seaboard, through intercourse with Malays and others, have been well acquainted with the use of iron. Amongst the Northern Central tribes, we have previously described in detail the nature and manufacture of their stone hatchets, picks and knives,[1] and, in all important respects, what we wrote concerning these tribes is true of those with which I am now dealing. As I have pointed out before, the terms Eolithic, Palæolithic and Neolithic have no meaning whatever when used in connection with culture stages or periods in reference to Australia.

The one thing that stands out clearly, is that the nature of the stone weapon, or implement, used by an Australian aboriginal is determined, primarily, by the nature of the material available. If he lives where he can secure only quartzite, or some such rock, then he makes chipped and flaked implements. These may be as crude as the crudest so-called Palæolithic implements, or they may be as beautifully and delicately chipped as the finest arrow heads found in European prehistoric collections. If he lives where he can secure diorite and rocks of that nature, then he grinds his stone implements and, if he lives where he can obtain both quartzite and diorite, then he makes flaked, chipped and ground implements, just according to what material lies handiest. It is no uncommon thing, or was not until the Northern Central tribes came into contact with foreigners, to find one man carrying with him, at one and the same time, a ground and hafted stone axe, a flaked pick, a flaked stone knife, and a few small, crudely flaked, or perhaps flaked and chipped stones. He might even have also a beautifully chipped spear-head and, at the same time, you would find him using in camp a stone that he had just picked up

[1. Northern Tribes of Central Australia, Chap. xxiii., p. 633.]

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and roughly flaked to serve some passing need. sonic indeed, of their stone implements are so crude that, if found fossil, they would only be recognised as being of human manufacture by those who have had personal experience of the Australian aboriginal, and have actually seen him at work, and even then in many cases it would be difficult to be absolutely sure.

It is not, I think, too much to say that we can now, amongst Australian stone implements, find parallels for all the various types that have been described elsewhere, and the interesting feature is that they all exist and either now are, or until very recently have been, in use side by side.

Tribes like the Larakia, Worgait, Warrai and others have practically no stone weapons left. They use iron or, perhaps, if they do not happen to have a white man's knife or hatchet with them, they may use a flaked stone which is thrown aside as soon as it has served its temporary purpose.

Amongst the less contaminated tribes of the interior, hatchets, knives and picks are still met with, though, yearly, in decreasing numbers. Amongst the coastal tribes two influences have been at work tending to lessen the importance of stone cutting implements. In the first place the natives have, for long years past, secured a certain supply of iron hatchets and knives from Malays and others visiting the northern coasts of Australia in search of trepang and tortoiseshell. In the second place they have found that shells, such as a large species of Cyrena, very common on Melville and Bathurst Islands. make admirable cutting and scraping tools. The I result is that stone implements of all kinds are now comparatively rare.

On Plate XII. four specimens of hafted stone axes

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are illustrated which are interesting because of their crudeness. Figs. 1, 2 and 3 are from the Kakadu tribe on the Alligator River. In the first specimen the stone is evidently a naturally wedge-shaped pebble of diorite. It measures six and three-quarter inches in length, three in greatest width and, in thickness, diminishes from one and a quarter inches to three-quarters of an inch just above the cutting edge. The latter has been worked on both sides. In the second and third the stone is also a diorite pebble. The second has evidently had chips knocked off the side which lies to the right in the figure, and both surfaces, close to the cutting edge, have been ground to a slight extent. The third has one surface left in its natural condition, the one seen in the figure has been roughly worked and there is just a slight, but only a very slight, indication of grinding close around the cutting edge. In each of these three specimens, the handle has the form of a bent withy, passing round close to the wider end of the stone, which, together with the withy, is enclosed in a mass of beeswax.

Fig. 4, which came from Melville Island, represents the crudest hafted axe that I have ever seen in Australia.[1] It is simply a roughly shaped block of ferruginous sandstone, measuring six and a half inches in length, four and a quarter in width, and two and a quarter in greatest thickness. It has been very roughly flaked so as to reduce it to its present shape and to form, also, what must have been a very unserviceable cutting edge, but there has been no attempt at grinding. It is the only example, that I have seen in Australia, of a hafted axe which has been flaked and not ground. The withy passes

[1. Unless the extraordinary, roughly shaped little blocks of granite, hafted in resin and formerly made by certain West Australian natives, can be called axes.]

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almost round the centre of the stone, to which it is I attached by kapei, that is a hard, brittle resin, derived from the root of the ironwood tree (Leschenhaultia sp.), the two halves being tightly bound together by strips of bark.


In regard to spears there is very considerable variety. Most of the types, however, that are met with in the Northern Territory have been already described and are well known.[1] We have previously described eleven types as follows:--

(1). The heavy unbarbed spear of the Arunta tribe, with flattened blade.

(2). The barbed spear of the Arunta, peculiar to this tribe and the Luritja.

(3). The unbarbed spear of the Arunta with separate, flattened, head and shaft.

(4). Single-pronged, multi-barbed spears, with the barbs on one side only. The shaft distinct from the head and made of either light or heavy wood.

(5). Single-pronged, multi-barbed spears, with shafts of light wood or reed. The barbs are arranged along two or more sides of the head.

(6). Multi-pronged, multi-barbed spears, with shafts of light wood or reed.

(7). Unbarbed spear, with single, flattened, wooden point attached to a reed shaft.

(8). Stone-headed spear, with the head made of flaked quartzite and the shaft of reed.

[1. Cf. Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes, p. 670. Etheridge, Macleay Mem. Vol. Linn. Soc. N.S.W., 1893. Stirling, Rep. Horn Expd., Pt. 4, Pl. 5. Basedow, Trans. R.S., S.A., Vol. xxxi., and J.R. Anthr. Inst., Vol. xliii. 1913.]

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(9) Stone-headed spear, with the head made of chipped slate and the shaft of reed.

(10). Stone-headed spear with the head made of chipped opalescent quartzite. The main part of the shaft is of reed, on to which a short length of hard wood is hafted.

(11). Short, light spears, with a thin tapering point of hard wood and a reed shaft, used for spearing fish.

(12). The single-pronged hafted, bone-tipped spear, called Jiboru by the Kakadu (Plate XIII., Fig. 2).

(13). The four-pronged, hafted, bone-tipped spear, called Kujorju by the Kakadu (Plate XIII., Fig. 3).

To these we may now add the following types:--

(14). Single-pronged, long, unbarbed and unshafted spear, round and pointed; the Wallunka of the Melville and Bathurst Island natives (Plate XIII., Fig. 1).

(15). The single-pronged, unhafted, heavy spear, with barbs on one side only, called Anurgitj on Melville Island (Plate XIV., Figs. 8, 9, 10, and 11).

(16). The single-pronged, unhafted, heavy spear, with barbs on both sides, called Tjunkuletti on Melville Island (Plate XV).

(17). The double-pronged, unhafted, unbarbed, heavy spear on Melville Island (Plate XIII., Fig. 5).

(18). The double-pronged, unhafted, barbed heavy spear on Melville Island (Plate XIII., Fig. 4).

(19). The short, reed hafted, sharp wooden-pointed spear, called Kunjolio by the Kakadu.

In June, 1911, on Melville Island, I saw, for the first time, the remarkable spears that are characteristic of this and Bathurst Island, and again, in 1912, saw many more of the same type, and also one or two new and interesting types, amongst the Kakadu and allied tribes. In all the latter the commonest spear is type 4, as described above.

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It is not actually made by the Kakadu natives, but by a tribe called Kuluunglutji, who trade it to the former in exchange for another special form of spear called Kunjolio. There are two forms--the ordinary barbed spear called Irpull and the curious one in which the barbs are indicated, but, though a series of holes is cut through the blade, the edge of the latter is left intact. This is called Yeripul, or Mikul, by the Kakadu, and is not uncommonly met with in the tribes inhabiting the country on the Gulf of Carpentaria and along the northern coast. The spear, type 5, with barbs along each side, is also common, and is called Mitjupali.

A new form that I had not seen before is represented in Plate XIII., Fig. 2. It is called Jiboru. Its total length is nine feet eight inches, the greater part of which consists of a thin shaft of hard wood only, at most, three-quarters of an inch in diameter. At the handle end there is a short length of reed or bamboo measuring twelve inches and made so that the point of a spear thrower can be fitted into it. At the opposite end there is a single sharpened bone, which projects for an inch and a quarter from a small mass of hard kapei, that is, the resin derived from the root of the ironwood tree.

Amongst the Kakadu, Geimbio, Umoriu., and Iwaidji tribes there is one special form of spear peculiar, so far as I am aware, to this part of the country. It is called, by the Kakadu, Kujorju, or Kumbata, and is shown in Plate XIII., Fig. 3. The total length is only five feet three inches. It consists, essentially, of four prongs of hard wood, and a short length of bamboo, into which they are inserted. The prongs are free for just three feet. From this point downwards towards the handle they are arranged around a central stick, immediately above which a pad of paper bark is inserted between the prongs,

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which are then bound tightly round outside for four inches, first with banyan bark string and then with split cane. As the natives say, ranken araji, bori ganji, that is, paper bark inside, string outside. The result is that, as shown in the figure, the prongs are divergent at their free ends. Beyond the split cane the four prongs and central stick are uncovered, then comes a length of bamboo measuring twelve inches, into which they are inserted, fitting tightly. For some six inches the upper part of the bamboo is wound round with banyan string, evidently to prevent it from splitting, as the pressure is considerable. Each prong ends in a sharp pointed bone, an inch long, projecting from a rounded mass of kapei resin. This special form of spear is never decorated with colour and is mainly used for catching fish and the large fresh-water snake, called Tiradjuno, of which the natives are very fond.

A third type is called Kunjolio and is made especially by the Kakadu. It is only a small one, usually not longer than about five feet, but is much the most dangerous one when thrown by an expert native. It has a sharp end, tapering almost to a needle point, called mageriyu and made out of a hard wood known as ainya, a species of Acacia. The shaft is of marlu, or bamboo, coloured with kuderi, the ordinary red ochre. A few inches at the lower end may have resin put round it coloured with nungorli, the burnt red ochre. It always has a hole, called munjan jil, into which the spear thrower fits. This is, really, though small and light, only weighing a few ounces, the most effective weapon that the Kakadu native possesses. It can be hurled with great speed and accuracy of aim, and has wonderful penetrating power.

The spears made by the Melville and Bathurst Islanders

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are remarkable by reason of their, relatively, ponderous weight and size, and also because of their characteristic decorations. They might better be described as javelins. They are all made of wood, and amongst the many scores that I have seen and handled. there has not been a single hafted one, though there are indications, on some, that hafting may have been once employed. At the present day each is made out of a single piece of wood, and may be divided into five groups, or types, a representative series of which is illustrated in Plates XIII., XIV. and XV.

The first consists of a simple long, round, unbarbed and sharply pointed stick. (Pl. XIII, Fig. 1.) This particular specimen measures eight feet four inches in length, and for about one-third of its length is ornamented with alternating bands of white, yellow, and red, otherwise it is perfectly plain and simple. The second consists of single pronged spears with barbs on one side only. They seldom measure less than ten feet in length. There are two kinds of single barbed spears, though to a certain extent they merge into one another. In one kind, as seen in Plate XIV., Figs. 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7, the barbs are relatively small and, more or less, widely separated from one another. The Melville Island name for these is Wallunka. The one represented in Fig. 1 is exceptionally short, measuring only seven feet seven inches in length, and only three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The barbs, of which there are nine altogether, only extend for a distance of seventeen inches from the end. The decorations consist of broad bands of white and red with much narrower ones of yellow. The one represented in Fig. 2 is much the same except that it measures ten feet three inches in length. Fig. 6 shows a somewhat different form. It measures eleven feet five inches in length and has nine barbs, the point of

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the last barb being twenty-two inches from the tip. This is succeeded by a length of seven inches, the surface of which, corresponding in position to the barbs, is marked by fourteen serrations. The decoration is very distinctive and is of the type more clearly seen in Fig. 10 and again in Fig. 5 on Plate XXXVI. The background of the whole of the barbed part is black. There is a white line along each side; alternate barbs are crossed by white and yellow lines and there is a definite pattern of the same along the back of the barbed part. The remainder of the spear is decorated with broad bands of white, red and yellow.

Specimens such as those shown in Figs. 4 and 5 lead on to the second series of the single-barbed forms. The barbs increase in size and are placed more closely together. Figs. 8, 9, 10 and 11 may be regarded as typical of this form of spear which is called Aunurgitch. The one represented in Fig. 4 measures ten feet six inches in length. There are twenty-one barbs, the point of the first is nine inches, and that of the last forty-six inches from the tip. The greatest width across the barbs is two inches and the longest barb measures four and three-quarter inches. Each one, in shape, is very much like a scale on a pine cone. It is attached to the blade of the spear by a very thin flattened stalk which swells out into a thicker part with a very distinct ridge leading to the point.

In Fig. 10 we have a very characteristic form. It measures eleven feet five inches in length and has nineteen barbs, the point of the last one being fifty-two inches from the tip of the spear. The last barb has a total length of ten inches. Immediately beyond the barbs there is a length of four inches where the blade is flattened from side to side and ornamented with serrations; beyond this

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again there is a length of three inches wound round with vegetable fibre string. This is very suggestive indeed of hafting, in fact, in the case of any ordinary spear from the mainland, the binding round with string in this part might safely be taken as a proof of hafting. The decoration of this specimen, also, is very characteristic. The ground work of the blade is black, the barbs are some of them black with red bands and white spots, others are red with white bands, others are black with white bands. In essential features it is similar to the coloured illustration, Fig. 5 on Plate XXXVI. Fig. 11, which has a total length of nine feet five inches, is a very good example of the type called, by the Melville Islanders, Aunurgitch. There are twenty-nine barbs, long, thin and close set, occupying a length of forty-two inches back from the tip of the spear, which tapers to a very sharp point just ten inches in front of the first barb. The whole of the surface in each of the three upper spears is marked with fine longitudinal grooves, right from the tip to the end of the handle. In some of the spears only the head end is grooved, the shaft being scraped; in others the whole surface is scraped. In most the shaft has been more or less carefully straightened, if it was not so to begin with, by heating it over a slow fire, but, in some cases, as in that of Fig. 9, the terminal third is very twisted and crooked. In all cases the handle end tapers to a point, and there is no indication of a hole for the insertion of a spear thrower, the use of which is not known, so far as I could ascertain, on either Melville or Bathurst Island.

A third, very characteristic, type is represented by the specimens shown on Plate XV. They are called Tjunkuletti, on Melville Island, and are cut out of the solid, various forms of wood being employed. The three upper ones are in process of manufacture out of

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iron wood and show the manner n which the barbs are cut, The surface was so smooth that at first I thought they must be cut by a knife, but this was not so. The native whom I watched at work had no knife but used the sharp edge of a bivalve shell (Cyrena sp.), which is very abundant on the coast, and forms a most excellent cutting implement. He first of all carefully incised lines, indicating the outline of a barb and then cut deeper and deeper until the barb was completely outlined. It was a work of infinite patience, and yet they readily parted with these spears for a stick or two of tobacco.

Fig. 4. was relatively a short one, measuring ten feet. it has fifteen barbs on each side, arranged, as is the case in all these spears, quite symmetrically on either side the middle line. The greatest width across the barbs, which are, relatively, flat, broad and short, is four inches. The whole surface has been smoothed, and it will be noticed that immediately beyond the barbs there is a length of two and a half inches tied round with string, which has been covered with beeswax and then whitened, exactly as if the head were hafted on to the shaft. By means of the scheme of colour decoration the barbs are divided into three successive series, lying one behind the other. The tip end of the spear is red, a central line of the same colour extending down the middle to the imitation hafting. On one side the successive series are yellow, white, yellow; on the other they are white, yellow, white, this alternation of colours being eminently characteristic of the decorative schemes of the islanders. The dark cross lines are red.

The spear represented in Fig. 5 measures twelve feet one inch. There are only eleven barbs on each side, which are somewhat more elongate than those in the first spear. Immediately behind the barbs, the greatest width

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of which is four inches, a square opening has been cut through, marking the termination of the blade.[1]

Fig. 6 represents one of the longest spears. It measures thirteen feet three inches, with a maximum width across the barbs of two and three-quarter inches. There are twenty-one barbs on each side. The blade, from the very point to the tip of the last barb, has a length of exactly five feet. Immediately behind the barbs are four rings of abrus seed set in beeswax. The whole surface is scraped smooth.

Fig. 7 is an admirable example of one special form in which the barbs are few in number--only five in this specimen. They increase markedly in size from the point towards the shaft, and the distance between the points of successive barbs is very great as compared with the other specimens. The decoration is also very characteristic, and the old hafting is indicated by a flattened band, grooved on both its upper and lower surfaces, and decorated with abrus seeds on both sides.

Figs. 8, 9, and 10 are characteristic examples of Tjunkuletti, in which the barbs are numerous, close-set) and narrow across from side to side. In the specimen represented in Fig. 9 there are thirty-three barbs, the tip of the last one lying forty-four inches behind the point of the spear.

These spears are extraordinary structures, and might better be called javelins.

Mr. Cooper and myself investigated the throwing capacity of some of the men. The spear we chose for the purpose was a double-barbed Tjunkuletti, a good average specimen, measuring ten feet six inches in length and four pounds in weight. The throwing took place on the open beach,

[1. The decoration of the spears figured on this Plate is dealt with in the chapter dealing with decorative art.]

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where the sand was hard and afforded a good foothold. The spear was, of course, thrown with the hand, no spear thrower being known in Melville Island (Fig. 72). We gave the nine men who competed for the prize that we offered (a tomahawk), three tries each, and allowed them a preliminary run of twenty feet. They entered with zest into the competition, which was watched with interest by the other men in camp. It was interesting to note the varying degrees of ability, not only in regard to distance but to accuracy of aim displayed by the competitors. As a matter of fact, there was comparatively little accuracy, and provided, of course, only one or two spears were thrown, there would be no difficulty in avoiding them. The distances thrown were as follows:--


No. 1





No. 2





No. 3





No. 4





No. 5





No. 6





No. 7





No. 8





No. 9






The fourth type of spear is a rare one. It is double-pronged, cut out of the solid and barbed. The specimen represented in Fig. 4 on Plate XIII. measures twelve feet nine inches in length. The barbs, of which there are twenty-two on each side, are arranged with perfect symmetry and, as usual, the colour alternates on the two sides. On the one prong it is red with narrow, white cross bands, and on the other white with narrow red bands.

The fifth type of spear is a rare one. It is double-pronged, cut out of the solid, and unbarbed. In the specimen represented in Fig. 5, Plate XIII., the total length is seven feet nine and a quarter inches. The prongs

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measure thirty-two inches in length, and the distance between their points is one and three-quarter inches.

Like many other parts of Australia, the boys on Melville and Bathurst Islands make toy spears. They take short lengths of stick, two feet six to three feet ill length, and sharpen one end to form a point. The other they leave blunt. When being thrown it is held in the right hand, sometimes with the forefinger against the blunt end just as if it were the point of a spear-thrower, The boys divide into two opposing parties and, stationed at a distance of perhaps ten or twelve yards from one another, indulge in a mimic fight, one side throwing and the other dodging. They are remarkably clever both in aiming and in dodging, and any specially good shot, or clever avoidance of the same, is much appreciated. Out in the scrub also they are continually cutting off lengths of reed and aiming these at one another.


On the mainland there are at least four main types met with, each of which is represented on Plate XVI. They are used by one or other of the Northern coastal tribes and I collected all the four types figured amongst the Kakadu tribe on the East Alligator River. Figs. 1, 2 and 3 represent a very common form of club that has often been described. It is made of hard wood, is always circular in section and blunt at both ends. Of the three figured, the longest measures five feet one and three-quarter inches, and the shortest four feet eight inches. The handle end may be daubed over with beeswax, the opposite, which is slightly the broader of the two, is ornamented in various ways, with lines and bands of white, black and red.

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Fig. 4 represents a club which Is also common but of very constant form and always well made. It is somewhat flattened with a broader end, bluntly pointed, and a narrower one which is always marked by a very distinct concavity. The one figured, both in shape, size and decoration, may be taken as a very typical form of this club, which. the Kakadu tribe call Periperiu; the Iwaidji, at Port Essington, where the first example was seen and described by Macgillivray in his "Voyage of the Rattlesnake," call it Miru. The specimen has a total length of fifty-eight inches and a maximum breadth of three and a half. In section it is slightly, but distinctly, bi-convex. The general surface is dull red ochre in colour, but a special bright red ochre is used for the tip and the five bands that run across from side to side. The two broad bands are ornamented with fine, cross-hatched white lines leaving lozenge and crescent-shaped areas of dull red. There is a narrow median band with a row of white circles and four short slanting lines attached to each. This is a very characteristic form of decoration for these instruments. The handle end is distinctly flattened; for a distance of fifteen inches it has been smeared over with beeswax, between two lines of white, and the terminal five inches is bound round with vegetable fibre string.

The two remaining types are much rarer and more restricted in their distribution. I do not think that they are found to the west of the Alligator River country. The one represented in Fig. 5 is used by the Iwaidji at Port Essington and the Kulunglutji and Geimbio tribes to the south-east, but is not made by the adjoining Kakadu or Umoriu tribes. It is called Mabobo or Wakadi. The one figured measures forty-seven inches in length and is decorated in much the same way as the Periperiu,

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from which it differs in being more club-like in form and in the shape of its blunt handle end. The fourth type, represented in Fig. 6, has much the shape of a bat, and is also made by the Kulunglutji, who call it Wakerti or Wakadi; the Kakadu name is Kadimango. Its length is forty-one inches and its greatest width five inches. it has a very distinct handle and the form of decoration is much the same as that of the Periperiu and Mabobo.

The above four, together with the simple straight club met with in Northern Central tribes, such as the Warramunga and Tjingilli, represent the only types of this weapon met with on the mainland.

It is, therefore, simply astonishing to cross from the latter to Melville and Bathurst Islands and meet, in such a small, restricted area, with a series of clubs and fighting sticks so varied as those represented on Plates XVI., XVII., and XVIII. It is all the more remarkable when one realises the fact that not more than a very few miles, easily crossed in a dug-out canoe, separates the southeastern corner of Melville Island from Coburg Peninsula on the mainland, inhabited by the Iwaidji tribe, who have none of these.

I have no doubt but that the Melville and Bathurst Islanders have other forms of clubs and fighting sticks beyond those now described; they will, however, probably differ from these only in detail.

They may be, roughly, divided into two groups (a) single-pronged and (b) double-pronged. Amongst each of these there are many types.

(a) Single-pronged.

To take the single-pronged ones first, because they probably represent the simpler types. it is very difficult to classify them satisfactorily, but we may conveniently divide them first of all into two sets (a) those that are

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circular in cross section and (b) those that are flattened or elliptical in cross section.

(a) Those that are circular in cross section.

These again are, more or less satisfactorily, divided into two groups (1) those with blunt and (2) those with pointed ends. Amongst the first of these we have two types:--

Type 1. A more or less curved stick, about twenty inches in length, with a very decided difference in the thickness of the handle and head end. Examples of this, which is perhaps, the commonest form, are seen in plate XVII, Figures 10 and 11. The weapon is made of hard, dark, heavy wood, such as that of an Acacia or Ironwood, and the surface is decorated with strongly incised parallel grooves which curve round the head end and meet at a very blunt point, in some cases, indeed, there is a slight concavity towards which they all converge. The diameter of the swollen end is not more than two inches and the surface is variously decorated with bands of yellow, red and white.

Type 2. An approximately straight stick, about twenty inches in length, or slightly more, with no strongly marked, swollen head (Fig. 9, Plate XVII.). The surface is covered with incised grooves and decorated just as in the preceding form.

Amongst those with pointed ends there are at least five types and there may be more.

Type 3. A straight stick (Plate XVII., Fig. 7) with a very marked swollen head and a more or less rapidly tapering point. The surface is strongly grooved. In its widest part the diameter is two inches or slightly more.

The Melville Island name for it is Muragugna.

Type 4. A somewhat longer stick than the last one,

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measuring thirty inches or more (Fig. 6, Plate XVII.), It gradually increases in size towards the head end the greatest diameter of which is about all inch and quarter. It has a long tapering point.

Type 5. This is a very characteristic form. It is made, like all the above, out of heavy dark wood and measures about two feet in length. It gradually increases in size towards the head end, which is bluntly rounded and has a sharp projecting point, five-eighths of an inch in length (Fig. 8, Plate XVII.).

Type 6. This is a very remarkable type (Fig. 5, Plate XVII.). It measures twenty-seven inches in length, and, in general form, is intermediate between types 4 and 5. The head end is more swollen than in type 5, so much as in type 4, and the form of the tapering point is also intermediate between the two. It is remarkable however. in having two distinct series of serrations on opposite sides of the swollen head.[1] The whole surface is strongly grooved.

Type 7. This is an interesting type which is evidently a further development of, in one direction, type 6. The swollen head of the latter merges at each end into the main body. In this type (Plate XVIII., Fig. 8) the head part is of the same diameter throughout, and is distinctly marked off from the rest. It is also somewhat flattened sideways. The serrations, which are indicated in type 6, are here much more strongly marked, and, oil a small scale, are closely similar to the barbs of a spear. The total length is rather more than thirty inches, the pointed end. beyond the head, measuring ten inches. The coloration: The tip is white, followed by a red band. The serrations are red; the flattened surface on each side

[1. The serrations on the upper part are much more clearly marked than they appear to be in the figure.]

{p. 371}

is yellow outlined with white; the handle has successive bands of red, white, red, yellow.

Type 8. Just as type 7 appears to have been derived from type 6 by development of the serrated head part, so as to mark this off more distinctly from the body, so in type 8 development has gone, as were, in the opposite direction. It is represented by Fig. 4 on Plate XVIII. It is twenty-seven inches long, and the swollen head part, with serrations, is much larger than in type 6. The point also is much blunter. The swelling is so formed that one surface is nearly flat, the other very distinctly convex. on the upper, flat, surface there is a series of deeply cut serrations running across at right angles to the length of the club, but on what may be called the under surface, the serrations, which on type 6 were suggestive of spear barbs, are now very clearly of this nature. They are seven in number, the longest measuring four and a-half inches. The whole surface is marked with longitudinal grooves. The tip end is red; the upper, small, serrations are red; the lower barbs are white; on each side of the head the space between the serrations and barbs is outlined by a yellow band and crossed by eight narrow bands of red, leaving square patches of dark coloured wood between them; the head is succeeded by a narrow band of red, then a still narrower one of white, and finally the rest of the handle is a bright orange red.

Type 9. This is much simpler in form than the preceding one, but, like it, may probably be derived from type 6. The swollen head part has practically disappeared, as have also the serrations on the upper part. Those on the lower side have been drawn out for a considerable distance, the last one being nineteen inches away from the sharp-pointed tip, into which the original head now gradually tapers (Plate XVII., Fig. 3).

{p. 372}

(b) Those that are flattened or elliptical in cross section.

Type 10. This is represented by the specimens show, on Plate XVIII., Figs. 1, 2 and 3, and Plate XIX., Fig. 1. It varies somewhat in form but consists, essentially, of a flat slab of wood, varying in length from two and a half to four feet, in width from two to three inches and its thickness is an inch, or a little less. A handle end may be indicated in various ways, as can be seen in the figures, but there are no serrations. The surface may be either grooved (Plate XVIII., Figs. 2 and 3) or roughly smoothed down, and the decoration takes the form of a series of bands of red, yellow and white. The Melville Island name for it is Iruella.

Type 11. This is a much more ornate type, in which the handle end has serrations and both it and the blade may be pierced by openings. It is represented by the specimen on Plate XIX., Fig. 6. The total length is fifty-four inches; the greatest width three inches, and the thickness one inch. The decorations are crude but effective, the colours employed being yellow, red, black and white. A very characteristic feature of this and other of the Island implements is seen in connection with the method of coloration of the middle and terminal parts. The whole surface is, first of all, coated with red ochre; this has then been covered with a thin layer of white which has in its turn been scratched through across to show the red beneath.

Type 12. This is a very well marked and characteristic type, called Arrawunagiri by the Melville Islanders. It is represented by Figs. 5 and 7 on Plate XIX. The natives told me that they used it for catching fish in the mangrove swamp. The man sits on a mangrove, above the water, and "jabs" it down on a passing fish. One would have thought that a sharp-pronged implement, such as is

{p. 373}

represented in the adjacent Fig. 8, would have been more serviceable for the purpose, but the natives were quite definite on the point. The total length of Fig. 7, which is slightly larger than Fig. 5, the two being otherwise precisely similar to one another, is fifty-five inches. The head end is flattened, twenty-one inches in length, two and three-quarter inches in width, and one inch in thickness. It is succeeded by a round part, one inch in diameter and a foot in length. The next part for a distance of fourteen inches is flattened and the same width as the blade. It carries, on each side, six barbs, which are precisely similar to those of the spears. The handle is rounded, with a knob in the middle. The most remarkable feature of this club is the strong development of the barbs which, apparently, are not only useless, but must be a source of danger to anyone holding the weapon and making a downward thrust, because the points of the barbs are directed towards the handle end, and if the hand of the man using the weapon were to slip, the result would, inevitably, be a nasty wound.

(b). Double-pronged.

There is very considerable variation amongst these both in size and form. The smallest of those illustrated (Plate XVII., Fig. 1) has a total length of nineteen inches and a quarter, the longest (Plate XIX., Fig. 8) measures slightly less than seventy-two inches. It is, in fact, rather difficult to know where to draw the line between clubs and spears, and to group the present series together, under the common heading of double-pronged, is really an arbitrary proceeding. It includes two distinct series, in one of which the prong indicates the handle, and in the other the opposite end of the weapon.

(a) Clubs in which the handle is pronged.

Type 13. This includes a considerable series which

{p. 374}

cannot well be differentiated from one another. They differ much in regard to size and ornamentation but agree in the fundamental feature of possessing a prong which is relatively small and placed at what is evidently the handle end. They are represented by those illustrated it, Figs. 4, 5, and 6 on Plate XVIII., and Figs. 2, 3, and 4 on Plate XIX. The simplest and also most suggestive one, which gives us the clue to the true relation of the prong to the rest of the club, is the one shown in Plate XIX. Fig. 4. It lies next to three simple unpronged ones and there can be no doubt whatever that the prong is the handle end and merely a further differentiation of the same part in the simpler forms. Also it is called Iruwalla or Iruella, just as the latter are. The others are merely variations of this, all of them with the widest and main part of the implement at the opposite end to the prong and, with very rare exceptions, some special feature to indicate that the prong is the handle end. In Fig. 4. for example, on Plate XIX., we have an admirable illustration. It measures just four feet in length, three inches in width, and seven-eighths of an inch in thickness. The distance separating the points of the prongs is two inches and three-eighths. The length of the prongs is seven inches. Immediately beyond them vegetable fibre string is wound round for a space of five inches, in the way most characteristic of handles, and beyond this there are projecting ridges. From this the blade is uniform to the end, where it is bluntly rounded.

Type 14. In this type I group a series of double-pronged forms of comparatively small size, in which the prong is at the opposite end to the handle. They are represented by the specimens illustrated on Plate XVII. Figures 1 and 2, and Plate XVIII., Fig. 7. They vary

{p. 375}

somewhat in size and form. The prongs may be short and stout, or long and thin, but they are quite distinct from the handle end. Perhaps the commonest form is that represented in Plate XVII., Fig. 2. It measures twenty-one inches in length and two and a quarter in greatest width, the prongs) to the end of the central incision, measuring eight inches. It is made of very heavy wood, the prongs are beautifully shaped and very sharp, and the whole surface is covered with very regular, longitudinal grooves. The greatest relative length of prong is seen in Fig. 7, Plate XVIII., when they measure seventeen inches out of a total of thirty. The least relative length is seen in Fig. 1, Plate XVII., where they measure only two and a half out of nineteen inches. Despite their variation they are all members of the one type to which the natives give the common name of Japururunga or Taburaringa.

Type 15. This is a very distinct type and, to a certain extent, is intermediate between a club and a spear. It is represented in Plate XIX., Fig. 8. Its total length is seventy-one inches and a quarter; its general width is three inches and its thickness one inch, the proportions of these measurements being indicative of a club rather than a spear, the main shaft of which is typically circular, or nearly so, in section. The prongs measure fifteen inches in length and, at the opposite end, there is a very well marked handle, measuring seven inches in length. The decorations are very characteristic and a portion of the club, drawn in colours, on a larger scale, on Plate XXXVI., Fig. 1, serves admirably to illustrate the general colour schemes of the Melville and Bathurst Island implements,

{p. 376}


There are four types of spear throwers amongst the northern tribes, one of which is especially widely distributed, and is met with from the Kaitish tribe, at Barrow Creek, in the south, right across the continent to the northern coast, eastwards to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and westwards to the Indian Ocean. It has the form of a simple, straight, flattened blade of wood. It is usually made of a relatively light, soft wood, but may occasionally be made of a dark, heavy wood, such as an Acacia. At one end the blade is cut away on both sides, so as to form a serviceable handle, which can be easily gripped. Sometimes, but by no means always) string or tendon is wound round this part. At the other end, towards which it usually slightly tapers, there is a mass of either resin or beeswax, into which a small wooden point is fixed. In most cases it is coated with red ochre, but sometimes it may be decorated with a definite pattern. It seldom exceeds a length of three feet six or eight inches, and one of these implements is to be found amongst the possessions of almost every man amongst the northern tribes. In the central tribes, amongst the Warramunga tribe, it is called Wanmaiia. The Larakia name for it is Bletta, the Worgait is Kallum. In the Larakia an important man is called Bletta dunkal, which means a strong womera, or spear thrower; in other words, a good, strong fighter. Bletta is also the name of the tree out of which the spear thrower is made. So, again, in the Worgait tribe, an important man is called Kallum kundira, which means a strong womera.

The other three types are much more limited in distribution. One of them consists of a straight stick, circular in section, and not more than three feet long. At one

{p. 377}

end it has a tassel of human-hair string. This is really a fringe consisting of a long piece of fur string with twisted strands of hair string hanging down from it, very closely together.[1] At the opposite end there is a small knob of wax or resin with a little rounded knob of wood that fits into a small hole in the end of the spear. This type is met with especially amongst the Gnanji and Umbaia tribes, and, once more, I met with it along the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, but not in the more northern tribes) though it is said to have been met with amongst them. They certainly do not make it, but, of course, like everything else, spear throwers are traded from one part of the country to another.

A third type, entirely peculiar to certain of the northern coastal tribes, is represented on Plate XX. Figs. 1 and 2 represent it in course of manufacture; Figs. 3 and 4 show the finished article. It consists of a lath of hard, dark wood, such as an acacia, which may sometimes be straight, but is more usually distinctly curved, like a boomerang. The one represented in Fig. 3 may be taken as very characteristic of this type. The total length, in a straight line, is just four feet; the greatest width is two inches and five-eighths, and the thickness of the blade is only three-sixteenths. The handle is a truncated knob of kapei, or ironwood tree resin, measuring two and three-quarters of an inch in length and one and three-quarters in diameter. Its surface is worked in such a way as to give the appearance of strands of string running round either end and lengthwise across a band in the middle of the knob. The Kakadu, who make this form of spear-thrower, call it Palati. The wax knob is called kuleryu. At the other end there is a small knob of wood an inch in

[1. The method of attachment of the tassel, etc., is described in Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 580]

{p. 378}

length and tapering rapidly from a diameter of five-eighths of an inch to a point. From the broader end there is a short projection, which is laid on one of the flat sides of the blade, and, after being enclosed in kapei resin, is wound round and round with Banyan fibre string. The wooden knob is called inedi. This form of thrower requires considerable experience in its use, but is most effective in the hands of a skilful native, because, unlike most other throwers, the thin edge of the blade cuts through the air, resulting in there being practically no friction.

Fig. 5 represents a very simple, distinct type, widely scattered amongst the northern coastal tribes who use the light, reed-hafted spear, called kunjolio by the Kakadu, It is merely a thin stick, from forty to forty-five inches in length and one-quarter to one-half of an inch in diameter. At the handle end it is coated with kapei resin, with a raised rim about five inches from the end, which makes a very efficient handle. At the other end a small, pointed knob of kapei is fixed on slantwise.

Fig. 6 is merely a small edition of this, made and used by the children for their toy spears.

Spear-throwers belonging to one or another of these types are found amongst all the northern tribes except on Melville and Bathurst Islands, where they are entirely unknown.


There are, according to the material out of which they are made, four main groups of baskets to be distinguished, (1) those made out of palm leaves, (2) those made out of paper-bark for temporary use, (3) those woven out Of grass, rushes or split cane, and (4) those made out of the

{p. 379}

bark of a gum tree. These are especially characteristic of Melville and Bathurst Islands, (S) Knitted bags. A striking feature of all the northern coastal tribes is the absence of the wooden troughs, or pitchis, that are so characteristic of the central tribes.

(1) Baskets made out of palm leaves.

These are very ingeniously made. A fan-palm leaf is taken with its attached stalk. While the leaf is soft and pliant the free end is folded in such a way that there is a median and two lateral folds, as seen in Plate XXI., Fig. 3. These three folds form the side of the basket opposite to that to which the leaf stalk is attached. The end of the stalk is bent over and then passed between the median fold and the two outer ones on the opposite side of the basket. It is then bent back on itself outside the latter. The edges of the folds, around the handle thus formed, are sewn together with thin split cane, the extent of the sewing varying much in different baskets. In the specimen figured (Plate XXI.) the sewing is confined to the upper edge, but the line of split cane may follow round the margin of the outer fold till it comes to the turned back leaf stalk, after which it may follow along the margin of the covered fold till it once more reaches the upper edge of the basket.

These palm leaf baskets vary much in size. The one represented in Fig. 2 measures eleven inches in greatest and eight in least width, its depth being nine inches. It has been covered externally with red ochre and then ornamented with white circles. Fig. 3 is quite plain. It is eleven inches broad at the top and only four in its narrowest and lowest part. Figs. 4 and 6 represent very small examples. In fact, the former is rather like a lady's large purse. Its greatest width is four inches and

{p. 380}

it is red-ochred all over. It is, however, just as carefully made as the larger ones. In this particular Instance the original attachment of the stalk is not used, probably because it would form too large a handle in proportion to the size of the basket. The leaf has therefore been folded on both sides, just as it is on one side only it, Fig. 3; the edges of the folds have been sewn and the handle attached also in the same way. It seems a great deal of trouble to take, because the basket is so small that it only serves to hold very little, in this particular case it contained only a little red ochre.

Fig. 6 represents also a small one, but here the attached stem is used as a handle. It is painted with red and yellow ochre, and ornamented with a flattened out tassel, consisting of a central mass of beeswax whitened with pipe clay, from which radiate the hairs forming the terminal tuft of a dog's tall. These particular specimens came from the Alligator River, but similar ones are widely spread amongst the Northern tribes.

(2) Baskets made out of paper bark.

In Plate XXI., Figs. 1 and 5, two types of these are represented. The first is, roughly, rectangular in shape. It measures eight inches in length by four in width, and the same in depth. The bark, which the Kakadu natives call ranken, is composed of sheet after sheet of soft, pliable material, each sheet not much thicker than tissue paper. The sheets very readily peel off so that the surface is always ragged. The handle is made out of a thin piece of cane. At each end it is passed through the folded bark and twisted back on itself. Split cane is used to bind together the bark and the handle.

The second type is still rougher. It consists Of thick sheet of paper bark, the two ends of which are

{p. 381}

pinched together and tied round with strips of bark, so that a kind of trough is formed. The one shown in Fig. 5 measures sixteen inches in length, seven in width and five and a half in depth. For some reason it has attached to it one of the small spherical bags, called Ballduk, which the natives usually wear suspended from a string round the neck and in which they carry small personal belongings.

(3) Baskets woven out of grass, rushes or split cane.

These form a very distinctive series and can be divided into two main groups, one containing three and the other two types. So far as my experience goes there is wonderful uniformity in the manner of their actual manufacture but, whilst this is so, they afford the natives more scope for the display of decorative work than any other of their ordinary implements. The names that I use are those in use in the Kakadu tribe. The first group (A) consists of those that have a neck, the mouth opening of the basket being greater in diameter than the part immediately succeeding it. The second group (B) consists of those in which there is no neck.

(A) Baskets with a neck.

These vary much in size and amongst them three types may be recognized.

Type 1. This is represented by the specimens figured in Plate XXII., Figs. 1 and 4. It is called Kurokura. The meshwork is very open. The longitudinal strands vary in different specimens. In the larger ones, such as Fig. 1, which measures twenty inches in length, they may be formed of thin pliant twigs, but in smaller ones they are made of stiff grass or rushes, called woirnya. The transverse

{p. 382}

lines are each made of two strands of plaited) bark fibre string, called meribainja. Four inches below the open end, in Fig. 1, there is a raised line made by the plaiting of three, instead of the usual two strands. The margin of the opening is bounded by a circle of cane wound round with fur string and, immediately below this, are two other narrow circles of wood which serve to preserve the shape of the opening and are kept in place by string which can be seen passing round them and the marginal circle. The base of the basket has a very strongly marked indentation. The decoration is very simple, and consists, first, of a band of white, passing all round the neck region for a breadth of four inches. Below this there are eight white lines enclosing as many longitudinal spaces. Two of these, which are opposite to one another, and one of which can be seen on the right side of the figure, have five rectangular spaces of red ochre, outlined with white; on each side of these there is a yellow band and between these a red one.

To one side of the opening there is attached a loop of banyan fibre string, by means of which the basket is carried.

In the second specimen (Fig. 4) the margin has been broken away, and there is no colour decoration. I found it in the possession of a lubra camped by the side of a lagoon at Oenpelli, near the East Alligator River, and, on investigating its contents, discovered that they consisted mainly of the bones of her young child, who had died a few months previously.

Type 2. This is represented by the specimen figured on Plate XXIII., Fig. 4. It is called Djilara. As compared with the Kurokura, this and the next type are characterised by the relative closeness of the mesh-work. The longitudinal strands of the Djilara are made of grass stalks,

{p. 383}

called mugana, or mukana. The cross bands are made of plaited, single strands of string. Sometimes the longitudinal bands are made up of two or three fibres, which look much as if a single grass stalk had been split longitudinally. Around the margin of the basket the ends of the longitudinal stalks are turned down and bound round, together with other stalks, by means of a double strand of shredded bark, to form a definite margin to the opening.

The total length of the basket is fourteen inches, the diameter of the opening is seven, and that of the neck five. The decoration is very simple. There are a series of crossing and slanting yellow bands, outlined with white, that enclose a number of lozenge-shaped light red spaces.

Type 3. At first sight this is very like the Djilara, but, on closer inspection, it is seen to differ very distinctly. It is represented by the specimens figured on Plate XXII., Fig. 3, and Plate XXIII., Fig. 5. It is called Nuborgo, and resembles the Djilara in having, as compared with the Kurokura, a comparatively close mesh-work. A typical example is shown in Fig. 3, Plate XXII., the total length of which is nineteen inches and the width of the opening eight inches. The longitudinal strands of the Nuborgo are usually made of twisted grass stalks or shredded fibres of Pandanus leaves. The cross bands always differ from those of the Djilara in being composed of double strings, whereas, in the latter, each of the two plaited strings is a single fibre. In Fig. 3, at the base of the basket, about fourteen of the longitudinal strings are gathered together, bound round with fine string and then pass up the opposite side; the other longitudinal strands are similarly bound together and pass under, and at right angles to the first series. In this specimen there 'I no attempt at decoration, but in Fig. 5, Plate XXIII.,

{p. 384}

there is a more or less elaborate scheme. There series of light red bands outlined with white, enclosing dark red triangular spaces.

(B) Baskets without a neck.

These are much more common than those of the first group, but, though very numerous, and differing very much in size, they may all, so far as these northern coastal tribes are concerned, be divided into two types.

Type 4. In this, which is called Maleba, the meshwork is open; not nearly so much as in the Kurokura, but sufficiently so as to render it unsuitable for carrying fluid material. It is represented by the specimens illustrated on Plate XXIII., Figs. 3 and 6, and Plate XXIV., Figs. 1, 2, and 7. Fig. 3, Plate XXIII., may be taken as a typical example. It measures seventeen inches in length and five and a half in diameter. The longitudinal bars are made of two, or more, split grass stalks, or shreds of Pandanus leaves; the transverse lines by two, plaited, single strands of string. just as in the Djilara. Around the margin of the opening, the ends of the longitudinal bars are cut off abruptly and a strand of string is threaded in and out to form a binding. To carry the basket a loop of four strands of vegetable fibre string is attached to one side, which may be spoken of as the back of the basket because, here, there is left an uncoloured band, four inches wide, running along the length of the basket, the rest of which is ornamented with bands of light red outlined with white and enclosing spaces of dark red. Fig. 7, Plate XXIV., has lines of the bright coloured feathers of the Blue Mountain parakeet woven into the grass strands so as to outline rectangular spaces, all of which have been painted over with red ochre and most of them then crossed with lines of white. Of the

{p. 395}

three specimens illustrated on Plate XXIV., Fig. 2 is interesting because of its design, to which reference is made later, and the one represented in Fig. 7 because of its relatively small size. It measures eight inches by two and a quarter.

Type 5. This is represented by the specimens illustrated in Plate XXII., Figs. 2 and 5, Plate XXII., Figs. 1 and 2, Plate XXIV., Figs. 3. 4, 5, and 8. It is called Numalka, or Numalga, and its characteristic feature is the way in which the strands are so closely woven together that the basket can be used for carrying fluid material, such as honey or even water. In addition to this, the surface is always crossed by paired ridges, each one made by the weaving in of an extra strand of string. So far as shape, size and the nature of the strands are concerned, it is similar to the Maleba, but the open mesh-work of the latter and the closed one of the Numalka, serve, at once, to distinguish these two types. Fig. 2 on Plate XXII. is a good, simple example of this type. It measures twenty-five inches in length and seven in diameter. A little way below the mouth a circle of Blue Mountain Parakeet feathers has been woven in to the uppermost of the cross ridges. These are arranged in pairs and are utilised in the design, which consists only of alternate bands of light and dark red ochre, the former always including, and terminating with, the ridges. As in the Maleba, so in the Numalka, the loop, which serves for carrying the strand, is woven into the strands at two points on what may be called the back of the basket, because here the raised ridges and the colour bands are absent. The ends of the longitudinal strands of grass, rushes or Pandanus leaves, used in the making of the basket, are cut off abruptly round the margin of the mouth and a strand of two-ply string is

{p. 386}

threaded in and out, just as in the Maleba. This thread always passes through the side of the basket between the second and third transverse strands of string. Fig, 5, Plate XXII., measures eighteen inches in length and eight in width. It is decorated in squares and the ridges end in a curious asymmetrical way on the back, some projecting much further than others on to the uncoloured median space. The remaining specimens differ from one another mainly in regard to size and decoration, which will be referred to later. Fig. 8, Plate XXIV., is one of the smallest examples, measuring only seven inches in length, Fig. 3, Plate XXIV., however, is somewhat interesting, In this one the shape is distinct, inasmuch as the mouth of the basket, which measures fourteen inches in length, is decidedly smaller in diameter than the lower part of the basket. This may possibly be intentional, but the natives called it by the same name that they gave to the specimens represented in Figs. 4, 5, and 8 (Plate XXIV). By some chance the maker, Or, perhaps, some one at a later period, had secured a few rags of cloth which, by way of ornament, he had woven into the strands. They formed an unpleasant contrast to the circle of beautiful parakeet feathers running round a short distance below the margin.

(4) Baskets made out of bark.

Bark baskets are known from other parts of Australia, but those made by the natives of Melville and Bathurst Islands are remarkable both for their great size and bold designs. They are entirely different in this respect from any known elsewhere (Plates XXV., XXXIV., XXXV.).

They are made, apparently exclusively, from the bark of one particular series of Eucalyptus, known as the stringy-bark gum tree, out of which, also, the natives

{p. 387}

make their bark canoes and lean-to shelters. The island name for them is Wunga-dunga, the second half being the word for bark. The bark can only be stripped off with ease during, the wet season, and it is at this period that these baskets are made. From the point of view of design they are dealt with in the chapter on Decorative Art.[1] They are all made in a precisely similar way, however small or large they may be. An oblong piece of bark of the desired size is cut from the tree, now-a-days by means of an iron tomahawk, but originally by the sharp edge of a shell or a stone axe. It is first of all carefully scraped over, to remove the outer, rough surface . Then it is bent double on itself, and the two sides sewn firmly together by means of strands of split cane. In many cases a thin coating of wax, or resin, is added, but, whether this be so or not, the edges are always so closely united that the basket will hold water. The handle is always very small, and, in many cases, appears to be quite inadequate in size and strength. It is attached to what may be described as the back of the basket, and is made sometimes out of banyan bark string, sometimes out of split cane. In either case each end of the loop passes through the bark and is knotted on the inner side. When empty it may be carried in the hand, but when full of yams, or other food, it is carried on the back by means of a stick passed through the handle. In many cases, as in Fig. 1 on Plate XXXIV., the two sides are strengthened, near the opening, by special strands of split cane sewn across from side to side in criss-cross fashion. In every basket the margin on the back is sewn Over with a double strand of split cane, also in criss-cross, the object evidently being to prevent the bark from splitting down, as it might easily do in this part where the

[1. See Chapter xiv.]

{p. 388}

pressure is greatest around the handle. The cane sewing is, also, always continued round each side, where the two edges have been originally united, and for a short distance on the front margin.

These bark bags vary very much in size. Figs. 1 and 2, on Plate XXXV., represent specimens of, probably, maximum size--at least, amongst a great number I have never seen any larger ones, and, when full of yams, one of these is quite enough for an ordinary blackfellow to carry. The largest measures thirty inches in height, and fourteen from side to side, across the opening. The specimen between the two larger ones measures a foot in height, Four of fair average size are shown on Plate XXV, Fig. 1 measures sixteen inches in height; eight across the opening and fifteen at the base. The corresponding, measurements in Fig. 2 are fifteen, ten and a half, thirteen and a half; in Fig. 3 they are sixteen, ten and a half, twelve; in Fig. 4 they are fifteen, eleven, fourteen. One of the smallest of these bark baskets is represented in Fig. 4. Plate XXXIV. It measures only eight inches in height, five across the mouth and seven at the base.

(5) Knitted Bags.

In all tribes knitted bags are met with. They vary much in size from little ones. a few inches in length, to large ones which, when flattened out, are typically broader at the base than the mouth and may measure two feet, or even more, across in the widest part and are carried by means of a string loop. The Kakadu people have two distinct kinds, one, called Mela, in the knitting of which a knot is employed and another, called Nunguluwara, in which there is no knot. The favourite material for making them is string, called Mukinoborbo, made out of Banyan bark, though other kinds may also be used.

{p. 389}

These bags, like the baskets, are often carried by the women, suspended down their backs with the loop passing across the forehead.

There is one very characteristic little bag which is worn by men only. In the Kakadu and allied tribes every man has one of these. Each is spherical, from two to two and a half inches in diameter, with a loop of string, the two ends of the loop being tied round and round close to the mouth of the bag, which is thereby tightly closed. In this bag the man keeps little odds and ends, perhaps a cutting flake, or a bit of resin, or if he can secure it a little bit of tobacco. It is, if not full, padded out with paper bark and is always spherical. It is called Ballduk and is worn suspended from the neck (Fig. 8) usually in front but sometimes in the middle of the back. The string is always long enough to allow the bag too be held in the mouth. During fights and ceremonies when the men get excited one of the first things that they do is to put the bag between their teeth and bite it hard. A man wearing it is shown in Fig. 8. Spherical masses of birds' down of the same size and known by the same name, are used as ornaments. One of them is carried by the Mikinyertinga girl during the initiation ceremonies in the Melville Island tribe. (Fig. 7, Plate 1.)


These are identical with those that we have described before[1] and are of two types (1) those made out of hollow branches of gum trees, ironwood, etc., and (2) those made from bamboo.

The term "trumpet" is, of course, a misnomer, but it is popularly applied in Australia to this native musical

[1. Northern Tribes.]

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instrument, for which the name conch would, perhaps, more appropriate. The Australian aboriginal has two forms of musical instruments; one consists of sticks, which he clangs together, and the other of a hollow stick or small log, through which he blows.

The trumpets, or conchs, are much used during both the ordinary corrobborees and the sacred ceremonies and, under ordinary circumstances, produce a monotonous booming sound, much like a continuous repetition of the words "biddle-an-bum," with a long, strong emphasis on the "bum." the "u" sound being long-drawn-out, There is, however, very considerable variation in regard to the ability of different musicians. In the Kakadu, for example, there is one man who is notably good and will imitate wonderfully well the calls of various birds, such as the native companion. When in camp he is constantly asked to perform and the natives listen to him by the hour. Most of the music is, however. extremely monotonous and one can often hear the trumpets booming away, till late at night, out in the scrub, where the natives are singing and dancing round their camp fires.

Five typical examples are shown on Plate XXVI., Fig. 1 is just four feet long and two inches in diameter; it is made out of a gum tree branch which has been smoothed down. Fig. 2 is very crude and unfinished, the bark still remaining on it. The twist in the branch is not a matter of importance, in fact, some of the best trumpets have a decided twist or bend and it is surprising how much difference there is amongst them. Fig. 3 is a well-made specimen, measuring five feet in length and tapering from a diameter of three inches at one end, to one and a quarter at the mouth end, which is coated over with beeswax. The two remaining ones are made of bamboo, and, like all of these, are

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ornamented . with an incised design. The latter is very simple, consisting only of a series of zig-zag lines.

It, the case of the gum tree branches there is no difficulty in regard to the hollowing out. It is very rare, in any of the northern parts; of the Territory, to find any branches which are riot hollow, so that the natives can easily secure one that is suitable for a trumpet. In the bamboo, the partitions that pass across the nodes have to be removed, which can be done by means of a fire stick. As a general rule, the mouth end is coated with wax so that the lips can fit on tightly.


There are two methods of making fire amongst these, as, indeed, amongst many Australian tribes, in their primitive condition. The first is the drill. In the Kakadu tribe, which may be taken as representative, the fire sticks are relatively short, usually under two feet in length. Those illustrated in Plate XXVII., Fig. 4, vary between eighteen and twenty-two inches. In some tribes, such as the Binbinga, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, the lower stick is made of soft, and the upper, which is twirled upon it, of hard wood. In the Kakadu there is no distinction made, and both sticks are called Ningornu. When making fire by this process the native lays a Pandanus leaf on the ground; on this he places the lower stick, which, squatting down, he holds with either one or both feet. He has previously prepared a little tinder, which consists of a little dry, shredded Pandanus leaf. Then he proceeds to twirl the upper on the lower stick, using the palms of his hands for this purpose. By the side of the concavity, which is soon made in the lower stick, a small notch is cut, so that the hot, powdered wood can tumble out. The

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tinder is always made up into the form of a minute nest, so that the red-hot powder tumbles down right into the middle of it. During the process, one of the Kakadu natives whom I watched making fire, stopped the whirling process at a certain point--when the wood was fairly warm--and rubbed the warm end of the drilling stick against his nose, so as to press out on to it a little of the greasy secretion of the sebaceous glands, which the Arunta natives call ernia. He also put a very little pinch of fine sand into the hole so as to increase the friction. When the embers were smouldering the little sphere of tinder was wrapped round in a few shreds of Pandanus leaf and very carefully blown until it burst into flames.

The fire sticks are always carried about, as seen in Plate XXVII., Fig. 4, with one of their ends wrapped up in some material, such as paper bark. In many cases a length of bamboo is used, with the closed end ornamented with a knob of resin, or wax, studded over with bright red abrus seeds.

A second method of fire making is by means of a sawing motion. In the Arunta the same principle is applied, but in a different way. There, a soft-wood shield forms the under piece, and the edge of a spear thrower, made out of hard mulga or gum-tree wood, serves for the saw. In these northern parts the shield is replaced by a cleft stick, which is placed on the ground and held by the feet while another stick is run across, the cleft. The hot, powdered wood falls amongst some tinder placed in the cleft. As a matter of fact, the native does not often have to make fire, because the women, when moving from camp to camp, always carry lighted fire sticks with them.

So far as cooking is concerned, there are two main methods. The first is the simple one of cooking on the open fire in a very rough and ready way (Fig. 19). If,

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for example, they catch a flying fox (a large bat), which is a favourite and, in many parts, easily secured article of food, they first of all singe the hairs off, then dislocate the limbs, and perhaps, as I saw the Waduman women doing in their camp on the Flora River, they will tear it up with their teeth and cook the parts separately. As a general rule, however, the body is not opened, so as to keep all the juices within. When they cook a snake, for example, they will, if they are not in a hurry, coil it round hot embers or stones, and, when it is done to their liking, they carefully make an incision in the belly wall and then, lifting each end of the snake up, apply the hole to their mouth and carefully drink all the fluid from the body-cavity.

A more careful and very favourite method of cooking amongst all the northern tribes consists in making an earth oven, which the Kakadu call Peindi. The size of the hole varies, of course, according to the size of the food to be cooked. It is used for both yams and animal food. An average sized Peindi will be from one to two feet deep and about two feet in width--for yams it may not be more than a foot deep. It is dug by means of a simple, sharp pointed digging stick or Wairbi. First of all a fire is made in it and a number of rounded stones placed on the fire until they are really hot. Then the fire, if anything save embers remains, is raked out, leaving the stones, upon which grass or green twigs are placed. On these the food is laid and covered with grass or twigs, or if they can get it, Ranken or paper bark. Then the earth is piled over, forming a small mound, and in this Peindi the food remains until they judge it to be sufficiently cooked. It is the savage precursor of the modern paper-bag cookery.

In many tribes, such, for example, as the Waduman, special precautions are taken with regard to the cooking of special yams that are said to be "hot." There is one,

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for example, called Nongura, which must, first of all, h, cut up into slices and then put on an open fire for about a quarter of an hour. Then it is pounded up on stone and made into little cakes. Two stones are used, a large under one called Kari, and a smaller one with which the actual pounding is done, called Mumburra. The cakes must be placed on the fire again. Then they are. made up into a big damper and put on the fire for a time, then once more the pounding process is repeated and, finally, it is again placed on the fire, after which it may be eaten, The damper itself is called Tjalangi.

Another form of yam called Magolu is treated very differently. First of all it is skinned; then it is cut into slices, placed in a basket and soaked for some hours in water. Then it is pounded on stone, made up into a damper and cooked, always in an earth oven, or Peindi. These yams vary in size from small ones not much larger than a big marble to others the size and shape of large potatoes, while some are as big as "Turk's heads" and others perhaps two feet or more in length and shaped like swollen, crooked roots. So far as food is concerned, and apart of course from special food restrictions, the natives eat everything that is edible. Their stock vegetable supplies being yams, grass seed of various kinds, which they pound up on stones and make into dampers that may be cooked in the embers of an open fire or in a Peindi, and, in parts where they grow, the seeds, stem, and roots of the Red Lotus (Fig. 74), and the ordinary Lily. In places such as Oenpelli, where the backwaters are full of lilies, you can see the little black faces of the women just above the water all day long gathering lily "tucker," which they call Wuridjonga. The seeds they pound up and make into a damper, which is baked on the fire; the stalks they eat raw, and the roots they cook in the open fire.

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In the Kakadu tribe there are certain challenge sticks, called Medjingeli, that are sent out to invite natives of other camps or tribes to take part in a fight. Two of them are represented on Plate XXVII., Figs. 1 and 2. The upper one measures thirty-nine inches in length, and is a solid stick with a bunch of stiff grass stalks attached at one end by means of shreds of banyan bark. The whole thing is whitened with pipe clay, and looks like a miniature broom. This form is sent out as a challenge for a general fight. The second one is smaller, and measures only twenty-one inches in length. It is made of reed or thin bamboo, is red ochred, and has the grass stalks bound round with banyan bark string, otherwise it is essentially like the first, and is used as a challenge to a single fight with a club called Periperiu (Plate XVI., Fig. 4).


Amongst the possessions of a Kakadu man I came across a very simple but effective rasp (Plate XXVII., Fig. 6). I thought at first that it must be of extraneous origin, but the men assured me that it was not. They call it Munum-bura-bura. It is made of a small flat slab of wood, just a little less than a foot in length, tapering slightly towards the handle end.

Starting from the broad end, a piece of stingaree, or shark skin, studded with five sharp denticles, was tightly stretched across one of the flat sides for a length of seven inches, the two edges of the skin being sewn together on the opposite side. It certainly made a very effective implement for smoothing down the surface of a club or spear, but I have not met with it elsewhere.

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In all these tribes some form of spindle is used for making hair-string. Vegetable-fibre string is made by twirling the fibre round on the thighs by means of the palm of the hand. There are two main forms of spindle; in the one which is almost always used in the centre of the continent there is a central stern with two, usually curved, pieces at right angles to one another. In the Kakadu and other tribes the one most generally used has simply a little terminal hook, which serves to hold one end of the twine while the spindle is rapidly rotated on the thigh. The hair, or fur, as the case may be, is served with the other hand. Normally the right hand is used for twirling and the left for serving. The spindle is called Kopeida (Plate XXVII., Fig. 5).


In the coastal area practically every woman has a fan, or Norkun, though these are often used by the men also. They are always made out of two wings of the palmated goose, a bird which is very abundant on the billabongs and backwaters. The two wings are always tied together with human-hair string. It is a most useful implement in a country where flies by day and mosquitoes by night are often a perfect pest. No woman is without her norkun (Plate XXVII., Fig. 10).


This, apparently, is only met with amongst the coastal tribes. The total length is approximately a foot and the diameter two inches. It is called Yai-illa by the Kakadu

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and is made by tightly wrapping together strands and folds of paper bark (Fig. 73). There is an outer covering of the same material which leaves one end free, as seen in the figure. This is the handle end and, during corrobborees, the men squatting down strike the ground with the Yai-illa, keeping time to the singing.

It also has a quite different use, in connection, really, with magic. If a man has a pain in his back he will fasten one of these into the small of his back by means of his waist girdle. The pain, or rather evil magic causing the pain, is supposed to pass into the Yai-illa and can then be thrown away with this.


The natives on the northern coast use two very different kinds of boats, one of which is indigenous, the other has been derived from the Malays. The first is the bark canoe[1] which is met with all along the northern coast, on the islands, and round the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria. This is made in parts where the natives can obtain suitable material. The first that I saw, in 1900, was at Boroloola, on the Macarthur River, near the Gulf of Carpentaria. In this six natives had come across to the mainland from the Pelew Islands, and then more than fifty miles up the river. The water was, of course, smooth, but this is a long journey for so frail-looking a craft, and two of the men were kept busily at work baling with a large shell (Melo diadema). These bark canoes are all made in essentially the same way. The material used seems to be generally, if not always,

[1. This was figured and described by Mr. Gillen and myself in Northern Tribes, 1902. It has recently been described and figured again by Dr. Basedow, J.A.I., Vol. xliii, plate II, 1913.]

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stringy-bark, a species of Eucalyptus, the same one that is used for the manufacture of bark baskets. The bark is cut during the wet season, when it is more easily worked and far less brittle and liable to crack than in the dry season.[1] It is trimmed down with the sharp edge of a Cyrena shell and cut into the required shape, the sheet is folded and the two ends sewn together. Sometimes only one sheet seems to be used, but at others more than one may be employed, as, for example, in the specimen first described by Mr. Gillen and myself. Along each side runs a long mangrove stem which is sewn on to the edge of the bark, and usually projects where the bark bends in to form the bow and the stern. From four to six pairs of sticks, placed crosswise in the interior of the canoe, and the same number passing across in a corresponding position from gunwale to gunwale, serve to assist in maintaining the shape of the boat and also to prevent it from collapsing. In most cases, either end serves as stern or bow, the two being identical in form, but in some, one end is curiously shaped.[2] In one that I brought back from Apsley Strait one end was shaped very much like the tail of a shark turned upside down. It was one of six canoes that put out from Bathurst Island to interview Mr. Cooper and myself when we were passing through Apsley Strait in his lugger. These canoes vary in length from twelve to fifteen feet, and there is no difference whatever in the essential method of construction of, on the one hand, those on Melville and Bathurst Islands and, on the other, those, far away, on the Macarthur River.

Of the dug-out canoes I saw two quite distinct types,

[1. The natives told me that neither baskets nor bark boats are made during the dry season.

2. Good figures of one of these are given by Dr. Basedow, op. cit.]

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one of which is the common one, the other is apparently a local variety. Both of them are cut out of the solid. The shape of the ordinary one can be seen in the illustration (Fig. 75), and, as said before, it seems most probable that they have been derived originally from the Malays. First of all, when one is to be made, a tall, solid tree is selected. I saw the one that they use on Melville Island, but have been unable to identify it. It is cut down, now-a-days, always with an iron tomahawk, and carried to the shore or bank of a creek. Here it is trimmed into shape and hollowed out. In one which a native made for me the whole work was done by him, single-handed, with one axe. The boat is fifteen feet long and two feet six inches high at both ends. Its greatest width is two feet, and it narrows in to each end, there being no difference in this respect between the bow and the stern, so that when being propelled with paddles it does not matter which end goes foremost. There is no keel of any kind, the bottom being perfectly round. In hollowing out the log, a slab, six inches in width and two in thickness, was left, running across from side to side, about a third of the way from one end. This slab has a hole in the centre through which a mast can pass to be fixed into a hole in the floor of the boat. The natives are very fond of sailing, if they can secure anything that will serve as a sail, and, in this boat, the native brought himself and his lubra across from Melville Island to the mainland--a distance of sixty miles across open water during the monsoonal period. These boats are quite right in smooth water and so long as everything goes well. Mr. Cooper and myself went many miles round the southern coast and up some of the rivers in one of these dug-outs (Fig. 75). You squat down on the floor so that all the weight is as low as possible

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and the gunwale is within an inch or two of the Water If they upset, the men simply rock the boat about until the greater part of the water is shaken out and then they climb in, a very difficult business in the case of a boat without the vestige of a keel. They are, however, quite accustomed to this experience and think nothing of a capsize. There is never any attempt made to decorate the boat with carvings or design of any kind. The second form I saw only on the Daly River, but every boat there was of the same kind. In the ordinary one the two ends are precisely similar, but in this one, one end is pointed and the other is abruptly truncated, so that bow and stern ends are clearly marked. It was just as if the tree had been sawn straight across, leaving a semicircular end. There are special landing places in the mangrove scrub where these boats are drawn up and from which little tracks lead away into the scrub above water level. Along the Daly we saw two or three that are used as ferry boats and are kept at special spots where it is customary to cross the river.

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Next: Chapter XIII: Clothing and Ornament