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Mourning armlets, rings, and discs of the Melville and Bathurst Islanders.--Bags and baskets.--Grave posts of the Melville and Bathurst Islanders.--Clubs and spears.--Sacred ceremonial objects.--Decorations drawn on the bodies of men. -Bark and rock drawings.

THERE is, of course, much that is common, in regard to their Decorative Art, to all the tribes of Central and Northern Australia, especially in respect of the ornamentation of their commoner weapons and implements, so that much of what we have already written on this subject[1] holds true of the tribes now dealt with. On the other hand, there are certain forms of design restricted to special parts of the country and characteristic of different tribes or group of tribes. In the west of the continent we have the incised and painted zig-zag pattern; in the centre there is the strong development of spiral and concentric circles drawn on the ground, rocks, and sacred objects. So again, in the far north, we meet with quite a different scheme of design, the most characteristic being that of the Melville and Bathurst Islanders, whose drawings and decorations are entirely distinct from any on the mainland and suggest contact, in past time, with a people whose art

[1. Northern Tribes, Chap. xxv. p. 696.]

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was more akin to that of the islands to the north-east than it is to anything in Australia. Then again, amongst the Kakadu nation, we meet with rock and bark drawings superior to any amongst the central tribes.

So far as the methods of ornamentation are concerned, we can distinguish the following:--

(1) Incision by means of a stone, shell, or tooth. This is best seen on some of the Muraian objects.

(2) Painting the surface with pigments, those used being pipe clay, red ochre of at least two kinds, yellow ochre, and charcoal. This painting may take place on human bodies, on implements and weapons of various kinds, on sacred objects, and on rocks and bark. I did not amongst these northern tribes see any instance of painting designs on the ground.

(3) Decorations with down derived from birds or plants.

We can again, so far as the nature of the decorations and designs is concerned, divide them into three main groups: zoomorphs, phytomorphs, and geometrical designs. It is quite possible, that, amongst the latter, not a few may be the derivatives of one or other of the first two, and it is interesting to note, amongst the sacred Muraian objects of the Kakadu tribe, some which have been distinctly designed in imitation of the form of an animal, others which faintly suggest an animal or plant, and others which are purely symbolic.

In describing them I will, as before, deal with them under the headings of the various implements, weapons, ceremonial objects, etc., with which they are concerned. From this point of view they can conveniently be divided into the following groups: (1) Mourning armlets, rings, and discs of the Melville Islanders; (2) Bags and baskets; (3) Grave-posts of the Melville and Bathurst

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islanders; (4) Clubs and spears; (5) Sacred ceremonial objects; (6) Decorations drawn on the bodies of men; (7) Bark and rock drawings.


The first time that I saw these was in connection with the mourning ceremonies on Melville Island, in July, 1911. In March, 1912, and again in December of the same year, I saw them both on Melville and Bathurst Islands.[1] They are quite unlike anything known on the mainland and, so far as my experience goes, are only used together with curious, flat, almost quoit-like rings, during the dances that take place in connection with the burial and mourning ceremonies. They are most distinctive structures and it is very rare to find two that are alike in form and decoration. Those figured on Plates VIII., XXIX., and XXX. have been selected out of a considerable number and from a fairly representative series.

Each one consists essentially of a sheet of bark, derived from the stringy-bark gum tree. This is cut into various shapes, according to the design decided upon, and is then folded on itself in one of two ways, giving rise to two main types of armlets. Of these, one may be described as the single-, and the other as the double-fold armlet.

Of the single-fold we may take as an example Fig. 2 on Plate XXX. The original sheet of bark was shaped as in the accompanying sketch (Diagram I, p. 410), and has approximately the following dimensions:--

[1. A short description of them was given in Bulletin of Northern Territory of Australia, No. 2, April 1912, Plates x. xi. xii.]

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Bark Armlet Pattern

Diagrams 1, 2, and 3 represent the original form of the sheets of bark out of which three armlets have been made.

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The total length was twenty-eight inches. The width at each end was four inches and, at a distance of five inches from each end, it gradually swelled out, reaching a maximum of eight inches in the middle, along the line c--d. A piece, approximately two inches square, was cut out of each end and then the whole sheet was bent over so that the two ends came together, meeting along the lines e--f and enclosing an open space for the arm to pass through, eight inches in length and three in greatest width. Where the edges of the two square ends came together they were sewn round with split cane which was continued all round the free margin on both sides. A light-coloured stick with knobs of beeswax, ornamented with red abrus seeds, was passed through the upper angle of the armlet space and kept in place by human-hair string, strands of which were bound round the open square, some of them passing, on either side, below the cross stick.

Split feathers of white cockatoo and brown owl were fastened between the square ends, the only other decoration consisting of a circle of wax on each side covered with abrus seed. This was one of the very few examples in which the surface of the bark was left in its natural state, no colour design of any kind being drawn on it.

Of the double-fold type we can take two examples, one a simple and the other a more complicated one. The first is the one represented on Plate XXIX., Fig. 3. The central oblong measured seven inches in length and eight in width (Diagram 2). At each end there was a projecting slip eight inches long and two broad. The first fold was along the central line a--b, the second along the line c--d, so that when the armlet was formed it had a single projection at one side. The bark was sewn together with split cane

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along the top line and round the two free edges on the left-hand side in the figure. The two projecting piece were bound round with fur string and, while the bark was pliant, were shaped so that they formed a kind of spout, which was smeared over with beeswax and white pipe clay. At the free end there was a lump of wax with abrus seeds, and the same were also fixed into wax round the proximal end and along the upper line of the armlet. The whole surface was decorated with a central band consisting of red spaces outlined with yellow. On either side of this was a broader band of white crossed by slanting lines of red. As a second example of the double-fold type we may take the more complicated one represented in Plate XXX., Fig. 4. The shape of the original piece of bark was as indicated in Diagram 3. The total length was approximately twenty-four inches. At each end was a projecting piece four inches broad and five inches long. The central piece measured fourteen inches in length by eight in width. In each projecting end piece a square was cut out, and in the main central part four oblongs were cut out, each measuring four inches in length by one and a half in width, in such a position that when the bark was folded over along the line a--b the two upper and the two lower ones, respectively, coincided in position, and when, again, the sheet was folded along the line c--d there were two window-like openings formed, one on each side of the armlet. The free edges of the upper part of the main body of the armlet, and of the openings, were sewn round with split cane. Where the two halves of the bark came together, on the upper side of the armlet, there was a thick coating of beeswax daubed over with pipe clay, and below this many strands of vegetable fibre string were wound round and round. The projecting upper part was bound round partly with split cane, partly with string, and a stick,

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fastened between the two original halves, ran across from side to side, its ends decorated with tufts of split cockatoo feathers. A characteristic feature of this particular armlet was the presence of two rings-a flat one, four inches in diameter, fixed at the very end, and a round one, five inches in diameter, at the base of the projecting piece. From the upper of these a strand of human-hair string, carrying a bunch of feathers, hung down on each side. The colour decorations were very characteristic. Above the window was a red circle with yellow dots, below it a black band outlined with white and bearing white dots. On each side of the circle was a white space, one covered with red, the other with yellow cross lines. Then came a cross band, yellow on the left of the window, black on the right. The spaces by the side of the window were white, with red cross lines on the right and yellow on the left. Then came a yellow band on the right and a black on the left, and below this again white spaces with red cross lines on the left and yellow on the right. Each of the spaces and bands was outlined either with yellow or white, and throughout the whole scheme the colours alternated on the two sides.

Figs. 1, 2, and 4, on Plate XXIX., are representatives of single-fold armlets. In two of them there is only one projecting piece, the end of which in each case is tipped with beeswax and ornamented with birds' feathers and abrus seeds. In the third specimen (Fig. 4), there are four projections, each approximately three inches in height. The main body of the armlet is ten inches in width and the same in depth. The free edges of the bark are everywhere sewn round with split cane, and two bands of vegetable-fibre string assist in binding together and strengthening the projecting pieces, two of which carry tufts of feathers. There are six series of bands running in a slanting direction

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from above downwards, three in one direction and three in the other. The two sets cross one another and produce a series of lozenge-shaped spaces. The general ground colour is dull yellow ochre; the bands are all outlined in white; some of the spaces are filled with white lines, crossed by yellow, and others with spots of yellow and white. The projections and sewn upper edge are daubed over with white.

Fig. 1 on Plate XXX. shows a somewhat different type. It is an example of the double-fold type. Apparently there were four small projecting pieces left in the bark, two at each end. These are brought together by the folding and bound round with string. Bent pieces of split cane are inserted in the projections so as to form a structure shaped like a basket handle, eight inches high. A strong strand of string crosses over from one side to the other in a slanting direction, and a considerable amount of beeswax covers the lower part of the handle. The main armlet is seven inches wide and seven deep and the greatest width of the opening is four inches. The upper line of the armlet, where the two edges are sewn together, is encased in beeswax, which is coloured black, and affords a strong contrast to a whitened band of banyan string that runs round immediately below it. The colour decoration consists of red, white, and yellow bands. The white bands are crossed by dark lines due to the white having been scratched off with a stick while it was wet so that the dark bark shows through. Fig. 3 is an example of a small double-fold specimen. The total height to the top of the knob is ten inches, the internal space of the armlet measuring only four inches by two. The projecting portion was similar in form to that in Fig. 2, but the bark has been completely hidden from view,

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partly by string and partly by beeswax. The string has smeared over with wax and then whitened. From the upper cross-bar a knob projects, and this, together with the cross-bar, is a mass of bright red abrus seeds. The general surface of the bark has been coloured a dull red; white lines have been drawn across this and then red ones again, crossing the white.

Other forms are represented on Plate VIII., from which a good general idea of the colour scheme and decoration of these armlets can be gained. The two lower ones (Figs. 1 and 2) are amongst the most ornate, and it is possible that the string ornaments have been suggested by the rigging of a ship. The brown feathers are those of the Nankeen night heron. Fig. 3 is a curious type with a handle-shaped structure from which sharp-pointed sticks and red-ochred hair pendants hang down. In all cases the lines of red and yellow pigment cross the white ones. In Fig. 3 it will be noticed that there is a curious asymmetry in the structure of the ornamentation formed by the two whitened sticks. It is impossible to say what they represent.

In addition to the armlets, the women carry, during the burial and mourning ceremonies, on Melville and Bathurst Islands, curious but very decorative objects, some of which are flat discs, others like these with the centre cut out. In essential form the latter are similar to the armlets, in fact, as can be seen in the various objects figured on Plates IX., XXXI., XXXII. and XXXIII., there is a complete gradation in size between the large ceremonial disc, called Bamagun, measuring fifteen inches in diameter, shown on Plate XXXI., and the child's armlet (Plate XXXIII., Fig. 5) in which the central opening measures only an inch and a half.

The large disc represented on Plate XXXI. was carried

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by a woman during the last series of mourning ceremonies that I saw on Bathurst Island in December, 1912. The disc itself is made of six circles of bent cane, each wrapped round with split cane. The inner and outer margins of the disc are set round with interlaced pieces of split cane, as is well shown in Plate IX, Fig. 3. A certain amount of human hair, or sometimes banyan-fibre string, is used to bind together the various circles and then the whole surface is covered with a layer of beeswax. In this particular instance the disc has a total diameter of fifteen inches, the central space measuring nine inches. The colour decoration is very distinctive. On the upper part of the circle, on the inner side, there is a white area edged with yellow above, and to the outside of this there is first a black and the area on the margin, the two being separated by a white line which has been a good deal rubbed out. Following down each side, there is a red area separated by a white line from a yellow space on the margin of the outer side, Then there follows a black band running across from the outer to the inner margin; then a broad white band edged With a narrow yellow line on the upper and a red on the lower side, and, lastly, in the middle, lower part a broad yellow band. To the margin of this lower part there is attached a stout, median strand of banyan-fibre string and, on either side of this, a loop of the same, from each of which two strands hang down. The parts of the string strands close to the disc are coated with beeswax, thickly studded with bright abrus seeds. Each of the five pendent strands ends in a rounded mass of wax covered with seeds, the central one, in addition, being ornamented with a tuft of owl's feathers. The total length of the object was just thirty inches and, when in use, was carried by a woman who

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held it up in her right hand so that the strands of string hung pendent.

The specimens illustrated on Plate XXXII. were also used during the same burial ceremony as the one last described. The one represented in Fig. 1 is called Pellapella and is made of a series of rings of split cane, joined together and coated over with beeswax. The disc measures eight inches in diameter, the central area of three inches being occupied by abrus seeds. Around these is a white ring crossed by yellow lines and, on the outer margin, are four areas with the same colours, the remainder of the surface of the disc being red-ochred. At the lower end, when it is held upright in the hand during the mourning ceremony, is a mass of beeswax with abrus seeds, and hanging down from this a strand of banyan-bark string. The first five inches is whitened, then comes a small mass of wax and abrus seeds; this is followed by eleven inches of red-ochred string and more wax and seeds, and this again by five inches of whitened string and a terminal lump of wax and seeds.

Fig. 2 is simply another Bamagun, made of seven concentric rings with a total diameter of thirteen inches and a half. The design on the disc itself is exactly the same as that on the larger one already described, but in this case there is only one single pendant which takes the form of a strand of banyan-bark string, just twelve inches long. At its upper and lower end, it passes through a small disc, each made of split cane, bound round with human-hair string and coloured with black, yellow and red bands. Immediately beneath the lower disc it ends in a knob of wax covered with abrus seeds.

Fig. 3 is a small Bamagun, made of five circles of split

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cane. The innermost is bound with split cane; the next one the same; the third has human hair, the fourth has shredded bark and the fifth and outermost one is bound with fine split cane arranged in criss-cross fashion. A certain amount of wax has been added, but not nearly enough to cover the surface, which is ornamented with two patches of white pipe clay, the rest is red-ochred and there are a few clumps of abrus seed set in the wax.

The objects represented on Plate XXXIII. are, some of them, used during mourning ceremonies, others are ordinary armlets. They show, taken in conjunction with those figured on Plates IX., XXXI., and XXXII., the transition from the ordinary armlet (Plate XXXIII,, Figs. 7, 8, 9,) to the highly elaborate and ornate disc, which is far too large to be worn on the arm and which, as a matter of fact, is always carried in the hand. Each of them consists of the usual circles of split cane bound round with cane and hair string, with ornamental pendants of different kinds. The most elaborate ones are those represented in Figs. 4 and 5, Plate XXXIII. In the first of these the disc measures five inches across and has a human-hair pendant more than a foot in length, The upper part has the form of a loop, the two halves of which are largely covered with beeswax and there is also a short cross-piece, between the loop and the main disc, that serves to carry bunches of feathers. The two halves of the loop unite to form the main pendant, which is surrounded, at its free end, with a ring of wax and terminates in a bunch of feathers. Fig. 5 is a child's armlet, called Belliu Belliu; it is covered all over with thick fur-string and ornamented with abrus seeds and three pendent strands of fur-string, each terminating in a knob of beeswax. Figs. 7 and 9 represent the ordinary armlets that are in everyday use.

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The whole colour-scheme and design of these armlets, discs, and rings, as shown in Plates VIII. and IX., is quite distinct from anything met with on the continent.


Amongst the objects which lend themselves most to the display of decorative art are various forms of baskets. There are three main types, woven, leaf, and bark baskets.

Amongst the woven baskets there is practically an endless series of designs, some idea of which may be obtained from the illustrations on Plates XXII., XXIII., and XXIV. In the case of the more open-netted forms the design is limited to lines and bands. One of the simplest of these is seen in Plate XXII., Fig. 1, in which the network is very open. Down the back is a broad band of red outlined with white, on the outer side of which is a band of yellow. The central line in front has a series of red squares outlined with white. On Plate XXIII., Figs. 3, 4, and 5, we have very simple designs. Around the centre of one bag (Fig. 3) run four bands, two of light and two of dark red, outlined with white; other bands of the same colours run from these either lengthwise or crosswise, leaving between them uncoloured triangular spaces.

The decoration in the more closely woven baskets varies to a large extent. The spacing of the design is largely governed by the presence of distinct transversely-running ridges. In its simplest form it is seen in the basket in Plate XXII., Fig. 2, in which there are a series of light and dark-red circles, the light-red ones always including the ridges. A little way below the margin there is a circle of Blue Mountain parakeet feathers. A slightly more elaborate design is shown in Plate XXIII., Fig. 6, in which

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the circles are broken up into oblongs by longitudinal lines, some of the spaces being coloured red while others are crossed with white lines. All of them are outlined with parakeet feathers. In the specimen on Plate XXIV., Fig. 3, there is a further variation. Around the margin there is a circle with a special design of V-shaped lines, the apexes of which are cut through by a white circle. Below this we have a band of dark red and then four other bands, two of red and two covered with cross-hatched white lines. The very apex of the basket is dark-red with which also all the bands are outlined. Along the length of the basket run lines decorated with odd shreds of red material that the maker had picked up somewhere and which, being white-man's material, he used instead of his own native feathers, probably thinking that he had, thereby, enhanced considerably the value of his work. In Plate XXII., Fig. 5, the ridges are used, in the same way, to accentuate the design. The two upper spaces in front are dark-red, then follow two with white cross-lines, then two black; then two dark red; two with white cross-lines; then red spaces with slanting lines of white as in the circle round the margin, the apex being dark red. The four dark red squares in the front have white circles and all the transverse and longitudinal lines are light red, the whole design being very effective, as is also the one on the basket shown in Plate XXIV., Fig. 4.

On some of these baskets the human figure is introduced into the design. It is always conventionalised, but in all cases the drawing is remarkable because it shows how clearly they have recognised the equivalence, anatomically, of the fore- and hind-limbs and the fact that, just as in other mammals, the elbow normally points backwards and the knee forwards. As a general rule the sexes are clearly indicated by the fact that on those intended for women

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the breasts are indicated by lines. For example, the basket shown in Fig. 2 on Plate XXIV. has a dark-red oblong in the centre with the figure of a man. This oblong, outlined with white, lies in the middle of a light red band running along the length of the basket, on which, one above and one below, two women are clearly indicated. In Fig. 6 the man and woman are placed side by side.

The palm-leaf baskets are not often decorated, which may perhaps be due to the fact that they are of a less permanent nature than the others. In Fig. 2 on Plate XXI. one of the few decorated ones that I met with is represented. The design is very simple, consisting only of circular patches of red outlined with white. The rest of the palm-leaf surface is uncoloured. Again, in Fig. 6, the surface of the leaf has been daubed over very roughly with red, yellow, and white and, by way of extra decoration, a dog-tail ornament has been attached by hair-string to one side of the basket.

It is amongst the bark baskets of the Melville and Bathurst Islanders, however, that we meet with the most striking and original decorative schemes. Some of these are represented in Plates XXV., XXXIV., and XXXV. There is a most extraordinary variety amongst them and, not only this, but the two sides, in very many cases, are quite distinct from one another. In most cases the design is purely conventional, zoomorphs or phytomorphs being very rarely met with. In some, as in the one figured in Plate XXXIV., Fig. 1, the design is simple and bold. The total height is twenty-nine inches. The longitudinal white bands run into a circular one round the margin, so that the red bands, edged with yellow, do not reach the margin. The split-cane sewing is very strong on either side, and is emphasised by being painted white. Fig. 2 shows an entirely different design. The whole surface has, originally,

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been covered with red ochre. On this, sinuous bands of yellow have been drawn. In the lower half these run roughly parallel to, but distinct from, one another.

From the lowest row bands pass off, as seen in the figure, and run round the bottom of the basket to communicate in just the same way with the lowest band on the opposite side. In the upper half, the sinuous bands are arranged so that the upward curve of one corresponds in position with the downward part of the one immediately above it. The apexes of the curves are made to run into one another. A very distinctive effect is produced by outlining the bands with white spots. Fig. 3 is more ornate. The design is quite symmetrical and is repeated, with very slight variations, on the opposite side. A very effective feature is the series of black circular patches, surrounded with white dots on a red band. It also shows one point which is often noticeable in these decorations. On both the white and yellow bands a succession of fine lines, running in a slanting direction, have been scratched out. The natives are very fond of this, the idea evidently being to make the band look less solid and heavy. The effect that it has can be well seen by comparing Fig. 1 and Fig. 3 on both Plate XXXIV. and XXXV. In Fig. 4, Plate XXXIV., the decoration is as simple as possible. The whole surface has been covered with a dull red and, then, on each side a simple white rectangle has been drawn.

In Fig. 1, on Plate XXXV., a particularly bold design is seen. The designs of the two sides are quite distinct. The design is formed of circles and bands of red, white, and yellow, with intervening spaces crossed by white lines. The yellow bands are outlined with red, the red with yellow. The design on each side is framed, as it were, with a broad band of white all round. Fig. 2 shows one of the most roughly drawn designs. On the plain,

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uncoloured. bark, bands of white cross one another and are margined with yellow on one side and red on the other. In some, but by no means all, of the interspaces, roughly circular patches of red are drawn, surrounded by white. The design of Fig. 3 is very symmetrical, but differs on the two sides. The whole surface has been red-ochred. On the side shown in the illustration there are six bands; two white ones running parallel to one another in the centre and, on each side of these, a white and a yellow, that cross one another. The two central bands are bordered with yellow on their inner and red on their outer sides. The slanting white band is bordered with red on its inner and yellow on its outer side; the yellow band has white on its inner and red on its outer side. Right in the centre there is a red space crossed by two white lines. The interspaces have all a red ground. Some of them have a simple series of horizontal white bars across them. Others have slanting lines of red, drawn over lines of white. The long bands have all been scratched over.

The one figured in Plate XXV., Fig. 1, shows a slight asymmetry in the design. There is a central band of yellow with white lines running down it in a zig-zag way. On either side of this is a red band, then a white one, followed by a broader red one, crossed by festoons of white dots; then comes another white band, but outside this the design varies on the two sides. On the right is a red band with two lines of white dots, on the left is a simple white band succeeded by a red. The margin has a white band with two rows of black spots.

Fig. 2 represents one of the rare ones, in which zoomorphs are introduced, In this case they take the form of three crude, conventional representations of human beings. The design is in the form of yellow, curved bands, outlined with white dots, looking rather like ribs

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projecting from a central line of vertebræ. The general surface is dull red, and the design on each side is enclosed in a white margin.

Fig. 3 is a remarkable, quite asymmetrical and apparently quite meaningless, crude design. The general surface is a dull red. The lower part is coated with pipe clay, with lines roughly and irregularly scored across it. A white band passes part of the way round the margin and is connected, at one end, to another running down to the lower white patch. It is also marked with two lines of slanting incisions. The last one shows a very symmetrical design (Fig. 4), with bands of white and yellow. The white surface was originally red-ochred. In the central band white spots are painted on a black background. Then follows a white band with incised lines; then the red ground with slanting yellow lines crossing white ones; then a yellow band with incised lines; then a black band with white spots; then a white band with incised lines; then another band of slanting yellow lines crossing white ones; then a yellow band with incised lines and, finally, the split cane that sews the edges of the bark together is coloured yellow. In addition to this each band is outlined with a line of colour, the succession of colours starting from one side of the central area with black spots, being as follows; yellow, yellow, white, white, yellow, white, white, white, with the sewn margin yellow.


I have already referred to these in connection with the subject of burial and mourning ceremonies. Their arrangement round the grave is seen in Fig. 51, where there are two old graves side by side. The decorations of the posts could be distinguished in the case of the more

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recent of the two, and three of these are drawn in Plate X. (facing page 232) just as they were renewed by the natives. The fourth (Fig. 2) is from the older grave, and only faint impressions of a design can be detected. A bush fire, also, has evidently swept over it. The nature of the designs can be seen in the figures, that in Fig. 1 being very simple. These four examples serve also to give a very good idea of the characteristic forms of the posts. Almost every grave has at least one shaped like that in Fig. 2 and another like that in Fig. 3. In Fig. 2 the projecting pieces are rod-like in form. In Fig. 3 the pieces supporting the top are slab-shaped. The total height of the post represented in Fig. 2 is nine feet seven inches; but the tallest one seen in Fig. 50 measures nearly fourteen feet. The designs, so far as can be told, have no significance whatever, and may be drawn by any man, or even boy, each individual appearing to follow his own fancy.


Plate XXXVI. [Decorated Spears, Melville and Bathurst Islands.] serves to give some idea of the really extraordinary and varied decorations on the Melville Island clubs and spears. Much as they vary in detail, they may really be divided so far as decoration is concerned into three main groups, first, those in which the surface is blackened (Plate XXXVI., Figs. 5 and 7), and a design of lines, circles, and dots drawn on this; second, those in which the surface is not blackened, and the design takes the form of a successive series of colour bands; third, those in which the colours alternate from side to side.

The first is really a very well marked series, of which an excellent example is shown in Plate XXXVI., Fig. 5. Along the middle of the shaft runs a series of narrow, elongated, oval-shaped patches coloured alternately white and yellow.

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Each barb is a work of art in itself. In the first place they are cut with perfect symmetry, the space between the barb and the shaft being so narrow as to make it a matter of wonder how it is incised with the shell (Cyrena, sp.) that they use for the purpose., To take one barb as an example-the third from the end. The tip is yellow; then a red section crossed by white lines; then yellow spots on black then white circles on black; then a white spot on black then yellow lines on black; then white lines on black then yellow spots on black; then red lines on black then white spots on black; then white lines on black then a red patch and, lastly, yellow spots on black. All these different sections are painted on the one barb, and the decorations pass all round, on the side of the barb facing the shaft. In this particular spear, the shaft expands just beyond the barbs to form a somewhat flattened projecting piece, which is clearly reminiscent of the swollen hafting of many spears in which the barbed part is made out of a separate piece, and must be hafted on to the main shaft. This is ornamented with beeswax and abrus seeds. This type of ornamentation is quite distinct from any other either in the Island or Mainland tribes, and is much less commonly met with than the second or third types, mainly, doubtless, because it takes an immense amount of time to execute.

The second type is simple. It is seen in its simplest form in the specimen clubs on Plate XVII. Fig. 10, where there is one band, is the very simplest. In Fig. 5 the lines in the second band are drawn so as to aid in suggesting the presence of deeply cut barbs, faint traces of which are seen on the margin of the club. The scheme is well shown in Fig. 1 on Plate XIX. and again in the spear represented in Plate XXXVI., Fig. 6. The colours used are generally red and white, with sometimes, but more

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rarely, yellow. In this spear, which is ten feet ten inches long, the tip is red, then follows a white circle, a yellow and a red band; then follows, in succession, eight inches of white, four of red, seven of white, five of yellow, eight and a half of white, three of yellow and one of red. In this spear, also, the part corresponding to the hafting is much emphasised. It is swollen and flattened out with two holes pierced through it, each ringed in red. Behind them is a mass of beeswax wound round with whitened banyan-bark string. The whole of the shaft is grooved by a cutting stone. In some cases a chipped flake has been used to trim the spear, in which instance the whole surface is grooved; in others, and they form the majority, the shell is used and then the surface is often as smooth as if it had been cut with a. knife. The same design is well seen in the spears with a single line of barbs in Plate XIV.

The third scheme of decoration is the most characteristic and is, so far as I am aware, peculiar to these Island tribes. It is certainly not met with amongst the northern Mainland tribes. Its striking feature is an alternation of colours on the two sides. It is well shown in its simplest form in the spears seen in Plate XXXVI., Figs. 2, 3, 4 and 8. In each of these there is a central line of red all the way along between the barbs, alternate sections of which are coloured white on one side and yellow on the other side of the shaft, the colours alternating on the two sides also. In Figs. 2 and 8 narrow, and in Fig. 3 broad, bands of red separate the white and yellow sections. As all the colours go straight across it follows that one particular barb may be red, white, and yellow in different parts--as, for example, in the fifth barb from the lower end in Fig. 2. A curious example of this asymmetrical colour design is seen in Plate XIII., Fig. 4, in which one prong is white

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with red bands and the other red with white bands, both prongs ending in a red point.

The best examples of this alternating scheme of decoration are, however, to be found on some of the remarkable, almost grotesque, clubs represented on Plate XIX. As a typical example I have chosen a part of the club represented in Fig. 8. This is seen in colours in Plate XXXVI., Fig. 1. The colour scheme is very characteristic with cross lines of yellow, red, and white In addition to the colour there are a series of lozenge-shaped areas along the margin, marked with incised lines that are clearly meant to suggest barbs.


Amongst the most decorative objects in these northern tribes are those associated with the Muraian ceremony in the Kakadu tribe. Those represented on Plate III. will serve to give a good idea of the form of decoration employed. It must be remembered that each one of them is associated with a totemic animal or plant just as in the Arunta the Churinga and other objects such as Waningas and Nurtunjas are. In the case of the latter there is no attempt to represent the animal or plant, but amongst these Muraian objects there is occasionally an attempt made to depict the object. Possibly in times past the resemblance was greater, and more general, than it is now. In Plate III., Fig. 1 represents a fish; it is just, perhaps, sufficiently reminiscent of the general form of one to suggest the animal. Fig. 2 is a "native companion," the Australian crane. The two projecting points are evidently intended to represent the beak. In both of these the general body ground is yellow, bands of which are left crossing from side to side. The spaces between these are

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filled with fine, cross-hatched, white lines. The Melville and Bathurst Islanders use cross-lines for decorative purposes, but they are very crude and coarse as compared with those drawn by the Kakadu. Also, in the former, the crossing lines are always of different colours. The lines are so close that only a very little bit of the background shows through, producing a very pleasing and characteristic effect. The great majority of these objects are red-ochred to begin with, and the nature of the design can be seen in the plate. Fig. 3 represents a turtle, the flat, expanded and slightly concavo-convex slab which forms the body being ornamented in the same way on both sides. The head and tail are quite distinct, but the limbs, which are represented in some of the specimens (Figs. 1, 2, and 3, Plate IV.), have disappeared in this. The remaining specimens represent yams. Fig. 5 is just slightly suggestive of one attached to a root, but the others have no resemblance whatever to them. In Fig. 7 the cross-hatched design is varied by leaving bands where there is only one set of lines.

These objects are re-painted each time they are used, and, apparently, the design is handed down; though, with a successive series of artists, it must vary to a certain extent. In three or four of them, such as the one represented in Fig. 4, the feathers of the Blue Mountain parakeet, woven into string, are used to decorate them. Somewhat the same scheme of decoration, with crosshatched lines, is seen on the clubs used by the Kakadu and allied tribes (Plate XV.).

During the special ceremony, when the Muraian objects were being shown, some of the men painted, very roughly, designs on their bodies which were associated with one or other of the totems. Some of these are shown in Fig. 76; a represents a Kudjalinga, or turtle, and bears some resemblance

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to the animal, which has, however, lost its hind legs; b represents, better still, the same animal; c is the egg of a crocodile; d is a Jimidauapa, a small fish, to which it bears no resemblance, but it is somewhat like one of the sacred Muraian sticks associated with this animal. The two side-pieces evidently represent strings with feather ornaments at their free ends; e is a special yam called Tjunara, and was painted right down the middle of a man's back, the sinuous band terminating on the left shoulder; f is a turkey (Eupodotis) and g an emu egg.


The decorations on the bodies of the men during ceremonies are nothing like so elaborate as amongst, for example, the Arunta, Kaitish, and Warramunga tribes, Birds' down is used to a certain extent, but it is quite common to find the design drawn in pigment; indeed, on Melville and Bathurst Islands down is very rarely used. Simple designs in connection with sacred ceremonies are seen in Figs. 42 and 46 in which the painted men belong to a fish totem, the design being supposed to represent fish bones. Those with bunches of white cockatoo feathers are kangaroo men. In the more southern tribes blood, to use as gum with which to affix the down, is drawn from a vein either in the arm or in the penis. In the Kakadu they cut a vein in the back of the hand.

Amongst the Kakadu I met with curious designs drawn on the bodies of men performing an ordinary corrobboree. We were watching one of the sacred Muraian ceremonies of the Kulunglutji tribe, out in the scrub near Oenpelli on the East Alligator River, when some of the men of the Kakadu, Umoriu, and Geimbio tribe came up. They had just been performing an ordinary corrobboree in their

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camp and some of them had their bodies decorated with quaint irregular designs, drawn in white pipe clay, a few of which are represented in Fig. 77. They were quite irregularly arranged over the back, chest, and arms; a represents yams drawn on the body of a Kakadu man. The lines on the top left-hand one are leaves; those radiating from the others are roots; the long bifid line in the lower right drawing on the body is a flower stalk, and the dots on the arms are bees. In b, the oblong in the middle of the back is a honey-bag, called jailba, inside the tree; the line on top with a swollen end is the entrance and the passage down to the bag; the dots around are the bees outside the nest. Another sugar-bag is drawn on the arm with some bees inside and some outside. They were drawn on the body of a Umoriu man. In c the three upper drawings represent sugar bags drawn on the body of an Iwaidja man; of the three lower ones, the left is a yam; the central is a black-fellow; and the right is only a mark and means nothing.

The decorations of the Melville Island men, like those of their weapons, are very distinctive. Sometimes, but only very rarely, birds' down is used. The only occasion on which I saw it used was during the initiation yam ceremony (Fig. 29), when most of the men, at one special stage, had the upper part of their bodies thickly covered with down so that they looked very much as if they were wearing fur tippets. Each man had a thick, white line of pipe clay running down the middle of his abdomen to the pubic region.

In connection with other ceremonies they used only Pigments, sometimes with the most weird and grotesque results. Lines of white are often added round the eyes and over the bridge of the nose (Fig. 78, a). In the

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simplest forms of design the whole body was covered over with pipe clay, bright red ochre, yellow ochre, or charcoal, one colour only being used and the whole body covered from head to foot. In others the upper part of the body would be coloured with red or yellow, the lower half of the face yellow, if the body were red, the upper half red or vice versâ, according to the colour of the body. Sometimes the upper part of the body, sometimes the whole of it was decorated with alternate lines, longitudinal or transverse, of black and red or black and yellow. A very characteristic design in the yam ceremonies consisted of sinuous lines of white and yellow, alternating on the two sides of the body, the general surface of which was sometimes uncoloured, sometimes coloured all over with red (Fig. 78, b).

In the most elaborate decorations of the head, the hair is often included. This I have never seen on the mainland. In the simpler designs it may be coloured, wholly, white, red, or yellow, but when a man desires to be very prominent, he will decorate himself elaborately with a very definite design (Fig. 78, c and d).


In the Kakadu, Umoriu, Geimbio, Iwaidji and other tribes excellent rock and bark drawings are met with. There is a great deal of difference in the capacity of various men in this respect, some of them being much better than others.

Up on the hill sides, among the rocks, wherever there is an overhanging shelter where the native can screen himself from the sun and rain, these drawings are certain to be found in the country of the Kakadu.

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The accompanying illustrations (Figs. 79--92) will serve to give some idea of their nature. The colours used are red, white, black, and yellow. They represent the animals with which the natives come in contact, and also their ideas in regard to the nature of certain mythical and mischievous spirits. So far as the animals are concerned, it is interesting to notice that the drawings are always more or less anatomical, that is, they represent not only the external form, but, to a certain extent, the internal structure. The backbone is almost always represented, as are also the heart and main features of the alimentary canal. Even in side view, as a general rule, both eyes are drawn; the animal has two eyes and so they must be shown.

In the case of mythical beings, or Mormo, no such delineation of internal, anatomical details is attempted, because, perhaps, the native does not associate with them such mere animal traits, but it will be noticed that in all cases the sex is unmistakable. They are evidently drawn to represent the external features which are associated with them in the native mind.

The drawings represented in Figs. 79--92 will serve to give a very fair idea of these bark drawings which are amongst the most highly developed and interesting of any made by Australian aboriginals. Fig. 79, [Bark Drawing: a Mormo, Called Ingwalin (Kakadu Tribe)] which is four feet six inches in height, represents a special Mormo called Ingwalin. There are supposed to be plenty of them living in the delborji, or caves, amongst the Ranges. They are tall and thin, with plenty of hair on their heads. Each one carries in his right hand a kadumango or club and in his left a bunch of feathers called niaru.

These Ingwalin are supposed to visit the tree grave, or wurkara, in which a dead native is buried. They put their hands on the dead man, talk to him, and try to make

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him get up, but cannot do so. Then they make corrobborees and when they go away, other spirits called Norminada come to see the body and they also make corrobborees.

The explanation of the kadumango is that, sometimes, a mischievous spirit from another locality may come to visit the body, in which case the friendly Ingwalin drives him away with his club.

These Ingwalin only move about at night time, when they can be heard making a noise that sounds like Brr! Brr! The medicine men can see them but no one else.

In Fig. 80 [Bark Drawing: Two Mormos, Nangintain (L.), Auunau (R.)] two very interesting drawings are seen, The one on the left hand is called Nangintain, and is a spirit associated especially with the Geimbio tribe. This is one of those mischievous individuals who, every now and then, leaves his own country and visits the Kakadu and other neighbouring tribes. He looks out for boys and young men and, if he finds one alone in the bush, tries to lure him away and take his Iwaiyu, or spirit part, from him. The only way in which the Iwaiyu can be recovered is by the aid of a medicine man, who, carrying a Numereji snake under his arm, follows up the Nangintain. When he finds the latter, he shows him the Numereji, which so frightens the mischievous spirit that he hands over the Iwaiyu to the medicine man, who then hurries back to camp, carrying it in his hands, of course unseen by ordinary men, and replaces it in the body of the boy.

In the figure, the double projection from the back of the Nangintain's head represents two very long ears, or kadi. When he shakes these he makes a strong, rushing wind. Both eyes are drawn and two sharply projecting jaws. Then follows the neck which is succeeded by two spaces, supposed to represent the moairu, or shoulder region. From

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the front of this the two arms project and, from the back, two outgrowths that are supposed to represent especially long spines of vertebral bodies--much longer than in ordinary men. On the right hand side of the body the backbone is shown with the ribs attached and, on the left, the two longitudinal spaces indicate the skin.

This spirit is really a kind of bogey, the supposed existence of which is used by the older people to frighten children and youths and prevent them from wandering away from the camp fires at night time.

The figure on the right hand is a drawing of a spirit called Auuenau, plenty of whom live in the rocky ranges in the country of the Geimbio tribe. It is extremely thin and attenuated and covered all over with hair, called ipimp. There is a great bunch of hair projecting from the back of the head, and from the neck a long, stiff, curved spine hangs down which can be erected and waggled about, so that the natives can hear it making a noise like a rattle. From the wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles lines project ending in knobs, and these represent bones that the spirit has taken from dead men and fastened on itself. From the pelvis there is a downward projection, supposed to represent the mulowa, or lightning which the natives always see on the hill tops at night time when the Auuenau is prowling about. The straight lines above and below the hands and behind and under the feet indicate maggots. The spirits are supposed to wander about in search of dead men whose flesh they eat and can only be frightened away by medicine men.

Fig. 81 [Bark Drawing: a Mormo, (Geimbio Tribe)] represents a different type of spirit. This one belongs to the Geimbio tribe and is supposed to fly about in the daylight or moonlight but not on dark nights. It lives amongst the bamboo trees, hanging on to special ropes made out of banyan-bark string, called

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Mokinoborbu. It has flaps projecting from its body, which covered all over with hair, called ngoinbu, and has also two masses called krabir, one on either side of its head.

This particular spirit is friendly to the natives and about watching them. If it sees a native ill, out in the bush, it goes to a medicine man and tells him. It is, also, supposed to be margi, or medicine man itself.

In Fig. 82 [Bark Drawing: a Mormo, Called Yerobeiri, (Kakadu Tribe)] two spirits belonging to the Geimbio country, but called Yerobeni by the Kakadu people, are drawn. Some of these are women, others are men. They are supposed to live in caves and holes in the ground, or in banyan trees in the jungle, where they sleep at night time, only coming out during the daytime, when they dance about under the tree graves but do not interfere with the bodies. The woman on the left side is drawn with her head in profile showing the long-drawn-out mouth and nose above it. Towards daylight they can often be heard singing out, yirkudda, quick, Koapungi, daylight, nungoitji, cold. They can be seen by the margi, or medicine man, wandering about in the bush, the man carrying a basket (drawn hanging from his left shoulder) in which he collects sugar bag, and the woman, who carries a digging stick, searching for turtles and yams.

Fig. 83 [Bark Drawing: a Mormo, Called Warraguk, (Kakadu Tribe)] represents a very special spirit which was first seen by a medicine man named Mitjuombo. It is called Warraguk and is supposed to walk about in the day time, searching for mormo, or sugar bag. When at rest it lives in the bamboos and paper bark trees, on to which it hangs like a bat. Also it has flaps of skin running on each side of its body from the arms to the legs, by means of which it flies. Its general form has certainly been suggested by that of the "flying-fox," a large bat that is very commonly met with in the jungle along the river flats in the Kakadu country.

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Fig. 84 [Bark Drawing: Three Snakes, (Kakadu Tribe)] represents three snakes, the two left hand ones being Narenma and the right hand, Ngabadaua, a snake that figures largely in the traditions of the Kakadu.

Fig. 85 [Bark Drawing: Crocodile, (Kakadu Tribe)] is a drawing of an Eribinjori, or large crocodile. Behind the two jaws are the eyes, and behind them is the tongue, or nainjil; then follows the neck, or munganumo, which is succeeded by the shoulder, or mundambir, from which the front limbs project. The trunk and tail are remarkable because they are drawn, as it were, in profile so as to show the backbone running along the right side, the scales on the under surface being also indicated. The pelvic region, called parda, is marked by cross lines and has the hind limbs arising from it, and along the right side of the tail the dorsal row of spines is drawn, with the backbone below them.

Fig. 86 [Bark Drawing: Native Spearing Kangaroo, (Kakadu Tribe)] represents a special, very rare, form of black kangaroo, called Madjiborla, that lives amongst the ranges. The native is supposed to have been out searching for Mormo, or sugar bag, with which he has filled the numalka dilly bag that hangs from his neck. On the way back to is camp he is supposed to have met the kangaroo, and is represented running along with his spear-thrower, called paliati, from which he has just hurled his spear. In this, as in many of the drawings, there is no attempt made to indicate the proportionate size of the human being and the animal.

Fig. 87 [Bark Drawing: a Kangaroo Hunt, (Kakadu Tribe)] is really a composite drawing. On the right hand side there is a kangaroo, the main figure in the drawing. Behind it there are two male figures, upside down, who have nothing to do with the main scene. Behind them is a man with a spear-thrower in his hand, from which he has just thrown the spear that is entering the kangaroo. Behind him, again, follows a woman, whose sex is indicated by her breasts. She carries a

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digging stick in her hand and a dilly bag hanging from her head. Behind her is a man, evidently following the chase with a spear in his left hand and a spear-thrower in his right. In front of the kangaroo is the figure of a man who is supposed to be killing the wounded animal with a club.

Fig. 88 [Bark Drawing: Pigmy Goose, Barramunda Fish, Stecilled Hands, (Kakadu Tribe)] represents three quite distinct things. The uppermost is a pigmy goose or peevi, the middle one is a fish, called Baralil, and the lower is the stencilled drawing of a hand. The latter is very often met with, and is made by placing the hand, with the fingers extended flat on a rock, or bark, surface and then blowing either red ochre or white pipe clay over it from the mouth, with the result that an outline drawing of the hand is left on the rock or bark. Much has been written about the so-called "red-hand" but in reality it has no special significance of any kind whatever.

Fig. 89 [Bark Drawing: Barramunda Fish, (Kakadu Tribe)] represents a Kimberikara or Barramunda fish (Osteoglossum leichardti). Along the back a line of tjali, or flesh, is indicated; below this there is the backbone, and below this again the internal organs.

Fig. 90 [Bark Drawing: Native Spearing 'Native Companion', (Kakadu Tribe)] is a drawing of a Jimeribunna, or native companion (Grus australasianus) which has been speared by a native. The relative proportions of the bird are well shown and its internal anatomy indicated.

Fig. 91 [Bark Drawing: Palmated Goose, (Kakadu Tribe)] is a most excellent drawing of an old, male, palmated goose, or Kurnembo. The hard, horny crest on the head, called kundeiya, is very characteristically drawn, as is also the beak. The backbone is shown and, though the wings had to be omitted, in order to indicate the internal anatomy, the shoulder girdle is represented by the cross lines, immediately at the base of the neck, along which the œsophagus runs. The breast muscles, gizzard, alimentary canal, and pelvic region are clearly outlined.

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Fig. 92 [Bark Drawing: Echidna, (Kakadu Tribe)] Is one of the best of the animal drawings. It represents an Echidna, or erleringerlura. The strong, compact body, with short legs, is very well expressed, and there is no mistaking its identity.

Taking them altogether, the bark and rock drawings of the Kakadu, Geimbio, and Umoriu tribes represent, I think, the highest artistic level amongst Australian aboriginals, with the possible exception of the Melville and Bathurst Islanders, whose art, however, shows indications of the influence of some culture outside that of the Australian Continent.