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The Native Tribes of North Central Australia, by Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen [1899], at

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Chapter XIX Clothing, Weapons, Implements, Decorative Art

General remarks on implements—Absence of carving—Use of red ochre—Materials with which the work is done—Clothing and personal adornments—Weapons and implements—Spears, spear-throwers, shields, boomerangs, stone knives, stone. hatchets, adze, fighting club—Musical instruments—Pitchis—Wallets and bags—Spindle for spinning fur or hair-string—Rock paintings, ordinary rock drawings and sacred drawings—Decorations during corrobborees—Decorations concerned with sacred ceremonies—The Nurtunja and Waninga—The Kauaua—Churinga—Pointing or poison sticks.

THE Central Australian native, while he has not reached the stage of decorative art of the inhabitants, for example, of New Guinea, still shows more artistic capacity than has generally been granted, or indeed shown to exist, amongst the various Australian tribes.

His rock paintings are closely similar to those described as occurring in different parts of the continent, but, in addition to them, the designs and decorations concerned with his ceremonies are of a very definite and often elaborate description, revealing considerable appreciation not only of form but also of colour.

His weapons and implements are of a very simple nature, and as a general rule while their form is good and their workmanship, so far as it goes, is often excellent, but little trouble is taken in the way of ornamenting them either with painted or incised patterns, or with raised carvings. We have never met in Central Australia with any attempt to take advantage of natural peculiarities in the material out of which the object is fashioned. A peculiarly shaped knot or the root end of a stick out of which he is making some implement, does not serve to him as a means of embellishing his weapon with some design or rudely outlined carving to represent some natural object which p. 568 is familiar to him. The graceful curves and the symmetry of outline of many of his common implements, such as the pitchis, shields and spear-throwers, often strike the eye at once, but without exception any excrescence is carefully smoothed down and the only ornamentation takes the form of a coating of red ochre, with perhaps a rude design in black lines and spots of white, black and yellow. The most striking feature with regard to decoration amongst the Central natives is the constant and plentiful use of red ochre and grease. It may perhaps be that this is due to the fact that for ages past the native has been accustomed to regularly rub this material over his most sacred objects, the Churinga, which are stored in hiding places amongst the rocks, and this again may be associated with the fact that they are thereby protected to a certain extent from the ravages of insects such as the white ant. From the sacred objects the practice may have been passed on to the everyday implements, and so to some extent, as any raised carving would prevent easy rubbing, this may have acted as a deterrent to the development of ornament of this nature. At any rate whatever be the reason, no implement or weapon is ever really carved, or has painted upon it anything but the simplest form of design. This is all the more strange because the native is capable of such work as may be seen by an examination of work of this kind which he does in imitation of what he sees the white man doing; but it must be remembered that in their natural condition the members of the Central tribes do not make anything in the way of carved ornamentation. This should be borne in mind as various objects, such as sticks with knobs, carved so as to resemble natural objects, are occasionally manufactured by members of some of the very tribes with which we are here dealing, who have been in contact with white men, and are even finding their way into museum collections.

Very rarely even are their rock paintings much more than rude and conventional outlines of the animals amongst which they live. Cut off from contact with outside peoples there has been no stimulus leading to the development of decorative art beyond a certain point, and most probably their most elaborate decorations are the much modified representatives

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of designs which once had a very definite meaning. But to this we shall return at a later time.

So far as the material with which they have to work is concerned their means are very limited. All cutting must be done with chipped bits of flint or quartzite, 1 which are firmly fixed into the end of a curved or straight piece of wood or into the handle of a spear-thrower, the cement used in this part being the resin which is obtained from the leaf stalks of a species of Triodia commonly known as porcupine-grass. Their colouring material consists of charcoal, kaolin or calcined gypsum when white is required, red and yellow ochre, and wad, an oxide of manganese, which, when finely divided up, yields a grey powder. For decorating the body and ceremonial objects the down obtained from the involucral hairs of species of Portulaca, and more especially the down of eagle hawks, is largely used.

In the following account we include a description of the native implements, as it is in the form of these that the Central Australian native principally shows his artistic capacity. We will deal with the subject under the following divisions— (1) Clothing and personal ornaments, (2) Weapons and implements, (3) Rock paintings, (4) Decorations concerned with ceremonial objects and performances.



There is very little scope for the display of artistic capacity in the matter of clothing or personal ornaments. Except for waist-bands, forehead-bands, necklets and armlets and a conventional pubic tassel, shell, or in the case of the women, a small apron, the Central Australian native is naked. The waist-band of the men, and armlets and necklets of men and women, have already been described, 2 and the only real

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attempt at decorative work is in connection with the Chilara or forehead-band of the men, for in this part almost all the decorating is done by the men and practically little by the women. The Chilara consists of a good sized skein of opossum fur-string flattened out so as to form a band perhaps two or three inches in greatest width and tapering at each end. The whole surface is plastered over with kaolin or gypsum, so that the strands of string adhere to one another, and a flat surface is produced on which a design can be drawn in red or yellow ochre. These designs take the form of series of concentric circles, curved lines, straight lines or spots. The four of them which are figured were in use by natives in the north part of the Arunta tribe. The patterns do not appear to have any definite meaning, but are evidently suggested by those commonly drawn on various sacred objects, indeed the resemblance between the decorated Chilara when laid flat down and the Churinga is most striking, though there is no real relationship between the two objects, one of which is the most ordinary and everyday article of clothing, and the other the most sacred object.

Sometimes instead of having a pattern drawn in ochre the Chilara will have a coat of white bird's down. Amongst women ordinary fur-string bands are worn round the head, or sometimes a flat band which is really identical in form with the Chilara.

The pubic tassel is a diminutive structure about the size of a five shilling piece made of a few short strands of fur-string flattened out into a fan shape and attached to the pubic hairs. As the string, especially at corrobboree times, is covered with white kaolin or gypsum, it serves as a decoration rather than a covering. 1

Amongst the Arunta and Luritcha the women normally wear nothing, but amongst tribes further north, especially the Kaitish and Warramunga, a small apron is made and worn, and this sometimes finds its way south into the Arunta. Close set strands of fur-string hang vertically from a string

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waist-girdle. Each strand is about eight or ten inches in length, and the breadth of the apron may reach the same size, though it is often not more than six inches wide.

Sometimes, and especially during corrobborees, the men wear as ornaments suspended from the waist-girdle a bunch of the black and white tail-tips of Peragale lagotis. These tail-tips are called Alpita and are a very favourite form of ornament amongst men and women alike. Women usually wear them suspended over the ears. Another form of ornament amongst the men is the Lonka-lonka, to which reference has already been made in connection with magic. This is made out of the shell of Melo athiopica, or the pearl shell oyster Meleagrina margaritifera, and hangs pendent from the waist-girdle. It is traded down from the north and is widely used throughout the Centre. We have never seen any design incised on the Lonka-lonka found amongst these tribes, but on similar articles from West Australia the characteristic zig-zag line pattern is sometimes present.

In the Arunta and Luritcha tribes the men frequently wear a pad of emu feathers which varies in size, the largest being about ten inches in length, five in width, and two in thickness. The pad is made by stabbing the feathers together by means of bone pins and is called Imampa. It is worn on the back of the head and is fastened on, partly by fur-string which is wound round it and the hair beneath, and partly by means of bone pins. Into each of the upper corners is fixed a tuft of feathers of some bird such as the eagle-hawk, owl or cockatoo, attached to a pointed stick about six or eight inches in length. Sometimes long white down is used, or tail-tips of the rabbit-kangaroo. Very often the tufts of feathers, when no emu feather pad is used, are fixed into the matted locks.

Occasionally amongst certain groups curiously flaked sticks, called Inkulta, are used as head ornaments, though amongst other groups exactly the same objects, and worn in just the same way, are used as an indication that the wearer is bent on fighting. Each of these is about a foot or eighteen inches in length. By means of the flint fixed into the end of a spear-thrower, small curved flakes are chipped, one after the other, so that they follow a roughly spiral line, the first flake p. 574 being cut at the lowest end. These are worn by men only, fixed in the hair just like the feather tufts.

When an avenging party kills a man, those who spear the latter take the Inkulta, which they wear on such an occasion, break them up and throw the broken fragments on the dead body, leaving them there.

A man intent on fighting will chip some flakes, like those on the Inkulta, close to the end of the spear, which is an indication that he will not stop until blood has been shed.

Amongst the Kaitish and Warramunga tribes especially, the women wear as an ornament on the forehead a small mass of porcupine-grass resin, into which from six to twelve incisor teeth of a kangaroo are fastened in a radiating manner along the lower edge. A strand of human hair-string, fastened into the resin, serves to attach it to the hair of the wearer, over whose forehead it hangs down. Sometimes, instead of the teeth, a number of small bright red seeds are fixed into the mass of resin over its whole surface.

Nose bones, called Lalkira, are frequently worn, every native having his, or her, nasal septum pierced. The most common form is a bone, sometimes the fibula of a kangaroo pointed at one end and measuring as much as 40 cm. in length, or it may be the radius of a large bird such as an eagle-hawk. In this latter case one end of the hollow bone is filled with a small plug of resin and the other ornamented with a tuft of feathers or tail-tips. Occasionally a hollow bone is split longitudinally, and one-half of it with the ends and sides carefully smoothed down is used as a nose bone. In this case the concave surface is usually decorated with roughly cut lines, which run across from side to side, and there may be a few odd lines scratched on the convex side.


The most characteristic weapons of the native are spears, spear-throwers, shields and boomerangs, all of which he habitually carries about with him when on the march. In p. 575 addition to these, though they are much more rarely seen, he has stone knives, and still more rarely, stone hatchets. As we have before said the trading propensities of the Australian natives have led long ago to the dispersal far and wide over the continent of the iron tomahawk of the white man, and within the past few years there has been, so far as the Central tribes are concerned, a rapid diminution in the number of stone hatchets made. As in the case of most of their weapons and implements, one group of natives is especially skilled in making one article, and another in making something else, and the one group barters what it makes for the products of another, living, it may be, a hundred miles away. Recently Mr. Roth has called special attention to this in his work. 1

The spears are of various forms, and in different districts at least six distinct kinds will be met with, of which the first two are confined to the north, and never apparently reach as far south as the Macdonnell Ranges: they may be briefly enumerated as follows: (1) those with stone-flake heads; (2) wooden spears with one or more barbed prongs; (3) wooden spears with barbed heads, the main part being made of Tecoma or some other light wood; (4) spears similar to the latter but without the barb; (5) heavy, wooden unbarbed ones made out of one piece; (6) short, light, hand-spears for catching fish.

The spears with stone-flake heads are made amongst the Warramunga, Walpari, Bingongina and Chingalli tribes, and are met with from Powell Creek northwards. The flake is similar to that of the stone-knife, being trigonal in shape and measuring, in the case of the one figured, 14 cm. in length and 4 cm. in greatest width. It is attached to the spear by means of resin, round which, while it was soft, string made of vegetable fibre was wound. The mass of resin and string is completely covered with white kaolin, or, in other cases, it may be ornamented with dots of the same, and occasionally a band

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of red ochre, or of yellow ochre with red spots, is painted round the stone itself, at some little distance from the tip. So far as the shaft is concerned these stone-headed spears fall into two groups, in the first of which the shaft is all in one piece and in the second it is composed of two pieces. In either case the main part is composed of some light wood which is very liable to split. In the specimen figured the total length of the spear is 2 m. 89 cm. The handle end has the usual small depression into which fits the point of the spear-thrower, and in three places tendon is wound round to prevent splitting. The whole is covered with red ochre. The total weight of this spear is 538 gm., which will give some idea of the lightness of the wood, as it is nearly three metres in length and the stone and resin are included. In an example of the second form the total length is 3 m. 13 cm.; of this 93 cm. at the handle end is made out of a hollow reed, into one end of which the solid part of the shaft is inserted; a little resin is used to help in fixing, and then tendon is wound tightly round the junction. The hollow end of the reed is plugged with a little mass of dry fibrous material. Sometimes a little ring of hair-string with a small p. 577 amount of resin so as to attach it may be wound round the very end in order to prevent the reed from splitting. The solid part of the shaft is covered with red ochre, the reed being uncoloured. The total weight of the one described, everything included, is 397 gm. The first form of wooden spear, only met with in the north, has one or more wooden prongs which take the place of the stone head. In the variety with only one prong the latter is attached to the shaft just as the stone flake is; it is possible that a slit may be made in the end of the shaft, but at all events the main attachment consists of a mass of resin round which string is tightly wound, and then this is again covered with resin so that it may be completely hidden from view. The prong has a varying number of backward pointing, hook-like barbs cut out in a row along one side, the whole prong being slightly flattened in the plane in which the barbs lie. The number of the latter varies on the spears in our possession from five to fourteen. The total length of one is 3 m. 12 cm., the prong measuring 52 cm. The end has the usual slight depression and there is a little ring of resin surrounding it with tendon wound round. The shaft is all of one piece and the whole weapon is red-ochred, with lines of white and yellow added on the prong, the attaching mass of resin being painted white. The total weight is 340 gm. In the second variety there are two prongs attached, evidently one to each side of the shaft and so that the two planes along which they are flattened lie parallel to one another with the barbs on opposite sides. The total weight is 368 gm. The second form of wooden spear is the one most commonly met with throughout the Urabunna, Ilpirra, Luritcha, and Arunta tribes. The main part of the shaft may be made of one piece of a light wood such as the shoots of Tecoma Australis1 but it is more usual to have the terminal part made from a separate piece. In the specimen figured (110A) the total length is 2 m. 90 cm., and the short terminal part measures 40 cm.; this is spliced on to the main part and round the splicing resin is placed, and then tendon is wound firmly round this. The Tecoma shoot has to be

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carefully straightened by heating in the fire and then by pressure of the hands before it is suitable for the shaft, and there is great difference amongst various specimens in regard to the care with which this is done. When sufficiently straight all excrescences are smoothed down with a flint. The blade is always lanceolate in shape and made out of mulga: it is spliced on to the shaft, resin wound round with tendon being used to secure the two parts together. In the one figured the length of the blade is 21 cm. and at a distance of 5 cm. from the point a recurved barb is firmly attached by tendon. There is the usual concavity in the end which is in contact with the spear-thrower. The width at the splicing of the blade is 2 cm., and it tapers to 1 cm. at the other end. The total weight is 595 gm. The third form of wooden spear is identical with the one just described, with the exception that there is no barb. It is a characteristic feature of these two forms of spears that they are never red-ochred.

The fourth form of wooden spear is much rarer than the two latter, and is made out of a single piece of dark hard wood, which may be derived from some species of acacia, or, so the natives say, from the Desert oak (Casuarina Decaisneana). One in our possession has evidently been cut out of a long straight piece of wood, the surface being quite smooth and rubbed over with red ochre. It is very probable that spears of this form are traded from some distance and they are more frequently met with in the south than in the north. The total length is 2 m. 91 cm.; at a distance of about 70 cm. from the point the blade commences and is distinct from the rest, owing to its being flattened from side to side, its greatest width being 3 cm., while the greatest diameter of the handle part is 2.5 cm. The extremity is bluntly rounded and there is no concavity, as this form is not thrown with the aid of the spear-thrower.

There are three distinct types of spear-throwers in use amongst the various central tribes. The first is called Wanmyia, and is made by the Warramunga and other northern tribes. The particular specimen now described consists of a flattened piece of wood 105 cm. in length; at the end held in the hand it is 4.8 cm. in width, and, with the exception of p. 579 p. 580 a notch cut on either side so as to form a handle, it continues of this width for about 55 cm., after which it gradually tapers till, at the end to which the point is affixed, it is only 15 mm. Its greatest thickness is 15 mm.; at the handle end it is about 12 mm. and at the point only 8 mm. At a distance of 13.5 cm. from the broad end a notch about 3 cm. in length is cut on either side so that the width is here reduced to slightly less than 3 cm. By means of this notch a handle is formed. At the opposite end a bluntly pointed piece of wood is affixed by means of a lump of resin, in such a way that it slopes at a slight angle to the flattened surface, along which the spear lies when the point fits into the little hole made for this purpose at the extremity of the spear. Round the resin before it had set, human hair-string was wound, so that it is now fixed in the resin. The whole implement is redochred, and at corresponding positions on both of the flattened sides, white, roughly circular patches of kaolin have been added by way of ornament, and the end to which the blunt knob is attached has been completely coated with kaolin for a length of 16 cm.

The second type which is called Nulliga and is made by the p. 581 Wambia tribe which inhabits a district out to the east of the telegraph line, consists of a smooth, rounded stick about 87 cm. in length. It tapers slightly towards one end, at which the point is affixed, measuring here 4.5 cm. in circumference and at the opposite end 6.5 cm. The broader end, which is the one held in the hand, has wound round it, at a distance of 5 cm. from the end, what is really a fringe of human hair-string. In making this, a piece of fur-string is taken and then twisted strands of human hair-string are looped round it, as shown in Fig. 112, where however they are represented as pulled apart from one another so as to show the method of construction.

In reality the pendent strands are so close together as to completely hide from view the string, from which they hang vertically downwards. Each pendant is from 12—14 cm. in length, and there may be a hundred or more of them forming the fringe. When the fringe is in place it has the appearance of a tuft of human hair pendants and it is only on taking one to pieces that the existence of the fringe is evident. The construction of the fringe is exactly the same as that of the apron worn by the women of the Warramunga tribe, as described by Dr. Stirling, the only difference between the two lying in the fact that in the apron, opossum fur, and in the spear-thrower, human hair-string is used in the manufacture of the pendants. At each end of the pendent strands a short length of the main fur-string is left projecting, and the method of attachment to the stick is as follows. The fur-string projecting at one end is placed on the stick and then human hair-string is tightly wound round it, and this is encased in resin (Fig. 113, a), so that the end is firmly bound on to the stick; then the fringe is wound, in the specimen examined, three times round the stick in the small space marked (b), and then the other projecting piece of fur-string is firmly attached to the stick by another circle of resin, no human hair-string being used to tie round as in the first instance. The result is that when the spear-thrower is held upright the fringe forms a tassel completely enclosing the end, while the upper and larger of the two circles of resin affords a firm grasp to the hand, preventing the stick from slipping through. At the opposite p. 582 extremity is a bluntly rounded knob of wood fixed on with a mass of resin. The third type is one which is widely distributed over the central area of the continent, and is used at all events by the Urabunna, Arunta, Luritcha and Ilpirra tribes. In the Arunta tribe it is called Amera, but amongst white men the word Wommera, which was originally only used in a limited area on the east coast, has been generally applied to spear-throwers wherever found in Australia, though it must be remembered that the natives themselves, in the majority of tribes, use quite a different word.

The Amera is perhaps the most useful of the implements possessed by the native. It serves not only as a spear-thrower but as a receptacle in which blood and various objects such as red ochre, kaolin, &c., can be placed and carried about during the preparations for a ceremony, and more important still, the flint, which is usually attached to one end, serves as the chief cutting implement of the native by means of which he fashions all his wooden weapons and implements of various kinds. It is used also in the making of fire, and, at times, as a very primitive form of musical instrument, though we have not ourselves seen it employed for the latter purpose.

Each one has the shape of an ovate leaf, the sides of which are more or less turned up so as to produce often a considerable concavity. In the depth of the latter they vary to a considerable extent, some being almost flat but none completely so, as is the case in the Western Australian spear-thrower, which otherwise has much the same form. Unlike the latter, which is often, indeed typically, decorated with the zig-zag lines, the Amera has very rarely any trace of ornament; now and again some native will perhaps incise a few lines arranged irregularly, but we may safely say that on not more than one in a hundred is there any attempt to draw or incise any design. One end tapers gradually so as to form a handle, the other tapers suddenly and is produced into a blunt process to allow of the fixation of the point. The total length of a very typical and well-formed concave specimen is 76 cm., the greatest breadth 12 cm., and the least breadth, at the extremity of the handle just above the terminal lump of resin, is 2 cm. p. 583 The depth of the concavity is 4 cm., and in various specimens every variation between this and even less than 1 cm. may be found. As a general rule, but not always, they are made out of mulga, and in the better ones the two faces are smoothed down until the thickness of the wood is not more than 3 mm. In those which are less carefully finished off, the marks of the flint used in cutting them can be distinguished. Sometimes, but only comparatively seldom, they are covered with red ochre, but this, owing to their constant use, is rarely noticeable, and as a matter of fact the spear-thrower, like the ordinary spear, is one of the few things which are not habitually covered with red ochre.

At the distal end and on the concave side, a sharply pointed piece of hard wood is attached facing towards the opposite end. This is, in all, about 3 cm. in length, but only one centimetre projects beyond the small mass of resin which is used to attach it to the blunt process on the body of the weapon. The amount of resin used for this purpose is far less than in the case of the two types already described, which is to be associated with the fact that it is wound round with the strong tendon taken from the leg of some animal such as an emu or kangaroo, by which, as well as by the resin, the point is firmly attached to the body of the spear-thrower.

At the opposite, that is the handle end, is a mass of resin always more or less flattened in the plane of the breadth of the Amera, which serves both to give a firm grip to the hand and to hold a sharp-edged piece of quartzite which projects from the resin for a short distance, usually less than 1 cm. This flint, which is rarely absent, has always a definite form. On the side corresponding to the convex surface it has a single conchoidal face, the outline of which is almost always convex; the face corresponding to the concave side has always a number of small facets. It is by means of this definite shape of the flint that the characteristic groove-shaped markings on the surface of such implements as the pitchi are formed; in fact the flint of the spear-thrower may be regarded as the most important cutting weapon of the Central native, and is used both in fashioning his Churinga, spear, shield, spear-thrower, p. 584 pitchi and fighting club, and also in cutting open and, when cooked, in carving the bodies of the animals on which he feeds.

On one or two of the spear-throwers in our possession both edges in the part where the broad blade is narrowing to the handle, are marked by very definite crenations, and the crenated surfaces have been rubbed smooth. Though we have never seen it employed for this purpose, it appears that sometimes the implement is used as a rude form of musical instrument, the sound being produced by rubbing the crenate edge over a piece of hard wood such, for example, as another spear-thrower. 1

A very important use, lastly, of the spear-thrower is that of fire-making. When this is in process a shield made of soft wood is placed on the ground and then two men, one squatting on either side, take hold of the spear-thrower, and

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rapidly rub one of the edges of the blades backwards and forwards upon the shield; in a short time the light wood is charred, then it glows, and with judicious blowing the glow is fanned into a flame. Many shields such as one of those figured show rows of these charred grooves, for this is the principal method of obtaining fire amongst the Arunta, Ilpirra and Luritcha tribes.

All the shields used by the Arunta, Ilpirra, Luritcha, Warramunga, Waagai, and indeed all the Central tribes, are made of the light soft wood of Sturt's bean tree (Erythrina vespertilio). They vary much in size, the smallest one in our possession measuring 62 cm. in length and the longest one 85.5 cm They are all of an elongated oval shape with the outer surface convex and the inner concave the concavity varying much in different shields. The greatest width of the smaller of the two mentioned is 16 cm., and the hole hollowed out for the hand is 9 cm. in length and 10 cm. in width; the depth of the concavity, that is to the under surface of the longitudinal bar, which is left running across the hole, is only 1.8 cm. The greatest width of the large one is 30.5 cm.; the hole for the hand is 11 cm. in length and 10.5 cm. in width, and the depth of the same is 2 cm.

Together with the pitchis made out of the same wood, the shields afford evidence of very considerable manipulative skill, and no small appreciation of beauty of form and symmetry of line on the part of their makers. It may be mentioned here that these shields, or rather the best ones, are the work of men of the Warramunga tribe which inhabits the district in the neighbourhood of Tennant Creek. They are also made by the northern Arunta, the Ilpirra and Kaitish people. In regard to these Central natives it is a striking feature that men who live in particular districts are famous for making particular forms of implements and weapons, and that this is by no means wholly dependent upon the fact that suitable material for their construction is only to be found in the districts occupied by them. Thus the best pitchis, made of the bean tree, are the work of groups of natives who live out to the west of Alice Springs; the best shields, as we have p. 587 just said, are those made away to the north, the best spear-throwers are made in the south-west, the best boomerangs away to the east and north-east, and the best spears in the north part of the Arunta tribe, in the Alice Springs district. The western men, for example, though they have the bean tree and make pitchis out of it, get their shields by exchange from the north; the Alice Springs blacks in like manner exchange their spears for the boomerangs of the eastern natives, and so on. Even in the old traditions we find reference to the excellence of the pitchis made by the western natives; in fact, according to tradition, one of the wandering ancestral groups named what is now called Mount Sonder, Urachipma, or the place of pitchis, because here they found an old bandicoot man engaged in making them. The tradition may at any rate be regarded as indicative that this distribution of work is of very old standing. It seems generally speaking, to be independent of the existence in any particular locality of the material necessary for the manufacture of any particular article. It also shows that great care must be taken in dealing with the various implements which are commonly found amongst any particular tribe. Every Arunta man is sure to have one of these shields, and yet the majority of them have not been made in the tribe, nor, indeed, within a hundred miles of the district occupied by it, but by a tribe speaking a quite different language. Why certain things, such as shields and boomerangs, should be traded over wide areas and be common to a number of tribes, and why certain other things, such as the spear-throwers, for example, should be local in distribution, it is difficult to understand.

To return however to the form of the shields. The figures drawn will afford some idea of their nature; but in all of them, especially in the case of the larger ones, the symmetry is perfect, and with only a flint as a cutting agent, the workmanship is astonishing. In the largest one figured the edges on either side curve over in the middle of the length, and then fall away towards either end, so that, at the latter, the inner surface of the shield in transverse section is slightly but distinctly convex. The surface on both sides is p. 588 furrowed by shallow grooves, forty-eight on the outer and thirty-five on the inner, which run with perfect regularity from end to end. They are always present on these shields, and indicate the curved cutting edge of the flint with which they are made. As a general rule the shields are covered with a thick coating of red ochre, though this may occasionally be absent. Sometimes, and especially when used during performances, they may be decorated on the outer side. Two of these forms of decoration are figured. In the larger one (Fig. 115), there is a broad sinuous band of charcoal with three double black lines running across the breadth of the shield, while a very large number of white spots are painted along the course of all the grooves. In the smaller one (Fig. 116), the sinuous band and the little median one have simply been indicated by an additional coating of red ochre, and they are made to stand out by the painting of white spots all over the surface, except along their course, which is thus outlined by the spots. If, as often happens, the shield gets broken, then it is carefully mended by boring holes and through these lashing the broken parts together with tendon which is first of all damped so that it can be drawn tight. In some cases, apparently for no purpose unless it be with the idea of ornamentation, star-shaped, or sometimes irregular-shaped, patches of resin are let into the wood. There is never, either on shield or any implement with which we are acquainted, any mark, the object of which is to indicate the owner, though of course there are marks, such as particular cracks or damaged parts, by which, if necessary, a man can recognise his own property.

We find two types of stone axes or hatchets (Fig. 117), in use amongst the natives of the Centre, though even now they are comparatively rarely met with owing to the wide distribution, by means of barter, of the iron tomahawk. In fact in the Arunta tribe the manufacture of them has completely died out, and though stone knives are more often seen, the manufacture of the hatchet may even now be considered as a thing of the past.

The first type has the form of a flattened, usually oval, pebble of diorite, one edge of which is rounded and ground p. 589 p. 590 down, the pebble being then fixed into a wooden handle. This form is known by the name of Illupa, and is, or was, made by the Arunta, Kaitish, Warramunga, and other tribes living to the north. In the case of the Arunta tribe the stones were procured in special localities, which were the property of local groups of men without the permission of whom the stone could not be removed. 1 One favourite quarry lies out to the north-east of Alice Springs.

In the case of these ground axes the head is fixed in between the two halves of a piece of wood bent double. In the one figured (Fig. 117, 1), a mass of soft resin was evidently first of all attached to one end of the stone, and then the wood was bent round this, the outer surface of the wooden lath being almost completely free from resin, which still shows the pattern of the ridges in the skin of the fingers which were used to push the resin tightly down, so as to fill up completely the space between the stone and the wood. The two halves of the flexible haft are bound round by two circles of human hair-string, one placed close to the stone, while the other lies close to the free ends. In the case of this specimen the total length of the stone is 12 cm., the width 9 cm., and the greatest thickness 2.2 cm. Of two other unmounted and ground stones, the surfaces of which are not nearly so well ground as that of the one just described, one measures in greatest length 18 cm., in width 8.5 cm., and in thickness 4 cm.; the second measures in length 14 cm., in width 11.4 cm., and in thickness 3.5 cm.

The second type is a pick-shaped weapon, the blade of which is a lanceolate and, in section, trigonal flake of quartzite. The longest blade in our possession measures 22.5 cm. in greatest length, and 6 cm. in greatest width, tapering to a sharp point, and is a beautiful example of native work in chipped stone, the material employed being the quartzite of the Desert Sandstone formation, which is widely spread over the interior of the continent. It must be remembered that, though this

p. 591

form of stone implement would not usually be regarded as indicating so advanced a stage in the use and application of stone for the purpose of manufacturing axes as would the ground axe-heads already described, yet, on the other hand, it must be said that it is far more easy to grind down a stone than to produce a beautifully flaked axe-head such as the one now described. In the Central Australian tribes we find, existing side by side in the one tribe, stone weapons, the majority of which are more or less roughly chipped flints, while others again are ground stones or flakes of excellent workmanship. The very man who makes the ground axe-heads makes, and also uses as his principal cutting weapon, a small chipped flint, which he embeds in the lump of resin at the end of his spear-thrower or his adze. To a certain extent the matter is simply one concerned with the nature of the material, the quartzite being pre-eminently adapted for chipping and flaking, and the diorite for grinding down, and with both materials at hand the manufacture of both ground, chipped, and flaked implements has been carried on side by side.

The flaked quartzite head is hafted in one of two ways. In the first it is fixed in position between the two halves of a flexible piece of wood bent double, the head of the flake being embedded in a mass of resin which surrounds the wood enclosing the flake. The two halves of the handle are further bound together by means of two circles of human hair-string which are enclosed in resin. In the second method, a stick, which in the specimen figured (Fig. 117, 5), measured about 52 cm. in length (owing to the terminal mass the exact end of the stick cannot be seen), is split open at one end, the blunt end of the flake is inserted in the slit and then secured in position by a large knob of resin. The handle is roughly cut with grooved markings so that it can be firmly held in the hand. In order to preserve the fragile pointed tip of the flake a sheath is always made of bark, sometimes of a gum tree, at others of a Melaleuca, and the pieces of bark are held together by means of winding them round with fur-string. By way of embellishment a coating of white kaolin is added, and a tuft of emu feathers, coloured with red ochre and p. 592 attached to a short stick so that their stiff quill ends radiate outwards, is fixed into the end of the sheath.

This form of flaked axe which is used only in fighting at close quarters is called Kulungu, and is, or rather was, made by the Warramunga, Bingongina, and other northern tribes from whom it has been traded over various parts of the Centre.

The stone knife is of two forms, but the difference between them refers only to the nature of the haft, the flake being practically, except so far as size is concerned, the same in all of them. This weapon is evidently very widely distributed, as it has been described from many localities. Lumholtz figures one in his work 1 which is identical in form with those met with in the Centre, while again those figured by Roth are such as might have been collected amongst any of the tribes extending through the northern territory. One of the better class of these knives is also figured and described by Dr. Stirling in his work. 2

As a general rule the blade is trigonal in section for its whole length, but in the case of some of them there is a fourth surface close to the head end, and extending for a short distance down the blade, parallel to the plane of the single surface which forms what may be called the back of the blade. It is not possible, however, to draw any valid distinction between those with and those without this fourth surface, indeed it is probable that with the removal of the resin a fourth face would not unfrequently be discovered close to the head end, though when the knife is finished it is hidden by the resin haft. It is simply a matter of how, exactly, the quartzite flakes. What the native aims at is the making of a blade which, for the main part of its length, shall be trigonal, tapering to a sharp point. The longest free blade which we have measured is 13 cm., and in the case of the larger knives from 10 to 12 cm. may be regarded as the limits of size within which all of them fall. These larger ones may be divided into two sets according to the hafting. In the simpler form the head of the flake is embedded in a somewhat flattened rounded mass of resin. In the one

p. 593

figured, the length of the blade itself was 13 cm. and that of the haft 9 cm.; the resin is always rubbed over with red ochre and a sheath is made precisely similar to that used in the case of the flaked axe. In the second form, the handle is divided into two parts; just as before the flake is inserted into a mass of resin, but, in addition, a flat piece of wood as broad, and about as long, as the resin is fixed into the latter so as to add to the length of the handle. In the one figured, the free blade measures 12 cm., the resin 6.5 cm., and the wooden part 6.5 cm. also. The resin is, as usual, redochred, while the addition of the wooden handle gives the opportunity of a little bit of decoration in the form of lines and dots drawn in charcoal and kaolin on a ground-work of yellow ochre. In the case of this knife again there is made a sheath precisely similar to that of the first form.

In addition to these large knives, which are but very rarely indeed seen, there are smaller ones made for ordinary use which, so far as their form is concerned, are simply small and often roughly made specimens of the first kind described. The blade is trigonal, though amongst a large number doubtless a few would be met with which would show a trace of a fourth surface. Sometimes the blade is made of more opaline quartzite than is usual, but this appears to depend merely upon the local peculiarity of the stone, as these smaller and much rougher knives are evidently made in various parts, whereas the better class are, as usual, made in limited areas by the members of groups who are traditionally expert in this particular work. The one figured may be taken as a fair specimen; its length is altogether 15 cm., of which the blade takes up 7 cm. (Fig. 117, 9.)

The large knives with wooden hafts are made by the Kaitish and Warramunga tribes, while the Arunta tribe only make those without the wooden part. The smaller ones are made universally. As Dr. Stirling has said, there is not usually to be seen on the larger ones any stain or disfigurement consequent upon their having been used, but that they are used during fights is undoubted, and it may be added that the same remark applies to the smaller ones which are in constant use.

p. 594

In addition to these definite knives, the natives use for ordinary purposes chipped stones made of any material that can be chipped to an edge. Sometimes, by the side of a water-hole, or on the top of a hill where the suitable material exists, there will be found numbers of these rude chips which are made as occasion requires, and only the better ones amongst which are kept for use in the making of the cutting surface of the adze or spear-thrower.

A weapon which may be called an adze is found in very many parts of Australia. This consists of a straight or curved piece of hard, heavy wood, such as mulga, to one or both ends of which a sharp-edged piece of opaline quartzite is attached by means of porcupine-grass resin. The curved form is evidently more common than the straight one, though here again a sufficiently large series would doubtless show all variations between the most curved and the straight ones. We may really divide these adzes into two groups, first those with the cutting flint at only one end, and, secondly, those with the flint at both ends. Amongst the first group we find that, as a general rule, the wooden handle is more or less curved. An almost straight one in our collection which was obtained from a Luritcha woman who had, before this was found in her possession by one of the authors, never seen a white man, measures in total length 76 cm.; the handle is of dark-coloured heavy wood, the diameter (3.3 cm.) being almost the same throughout the whole length with but a slight tapering at either end. The greater part of the length is marked with fairly regular grooves, each about 4 cm. in width. At the free end, which has been bluntly rounded, there is a space free from the grooves and ornamented with circular scratched lines. At the opposite end there is a space of 6 cm. also free from grooves and marked with irregularly arranged spiral cuts. The whole surface of the handle, and especially this lower portion which is grasped by the hand during use, is smooth and polished by constant handling. The lump of resin is 7 cm. in length, 5 cm. in width (that is in the plane of the cutting face), and 2.8 cm. in depth. The embedded chip of opaline quartzite projects about 1 cm. beyond the resin (rather less on the cutting p. 595 side) and has a distinct cutting edge. One surface—that which is held away from the person during use—has a single flat facet, while the other is formed of a series of chips carefully made so as to produce a serrated edge. As Dr. Stirling has already remarked, this particular weapon differs from the great majority of the implements of this nature in having the handle straight, and also in the straight edge of the cutting surface.

In the second form the implement is a double one, having a flint inserted into a mass of resin at each end of the curved stick. This form is called Ankura or Chalunka, and is common amongst the Arunta, Ilpirra, Kaitish, and Warramunga. The total length of the one figured is 58 cm., and of this the free part of the wood measures 44 cm.; the greatest diameter is 3.5 cm., and there is a slight tapering especially towards one end. The wood is heavy, but light in colour, and has been ornamented in a somewhat unusual manner by charring with fire the surface of five rather irregular rings. Each lump of resin is 6–7 cm. in length and about 5 cm. in width, and the embedded chips have a characteristic shape. The cutting edge of each, and the surface formed by a single facet lying in the plane of the convexity of the implement, are both of them strongly convex. The other surface is made by a series of small chips so that a chisel-like edge is produced, and, during use, the concave side is held towards the person using the implement. Adzes such as this are found amongst the Arunta, Ilpirra, Kaitish and Warramunga tribes.

The common form of boomerang found amongst the Central tribes has a flattened and more or less curved form measuring from 60–90 cm. in length along the curve. The latter is always an open one and may be symmetrical, though, most often, it is not so, and one part of the weapon will be slightly curved or even straight, while the main curve is confined to the other part. In some cases one end will curve very distinctly in one direction while the other will have a slight but unmistakable curve in the opposite direction. The blade is always of approximately uniform width along its whole length. The twist, which is p. 596 characteristic of what are called the “return boomerangs,” is quite wanting in all the Central weapons, which are not made with the object of their returning to the thrower. The workmanship of the weapon varies to a large extent; the better ones are made in the north-east of the Arunta tribe and these are marked by regular grooves running, side by side, along the length of the curve on the more convex side; the other surface is marked by wider and more uneven grooves. In the poorer specimens the grooves are less even and the whole weapon is more clumsy in make and appearance. The Luritcha boomerangs are undoubtedly rougher than those of the Arunta and northern tribes, 1 there being but little attempt to smooth down the flatter side, while the grooves on the other face are roughly cut. In one of these the end held in the hand is narrower than the opposite one, and the grooves terminate abruptly at a distance of 12 cm. from the extremity. This part of the weapon has a roughly scratched series of lines to allow apparently, of a better grip being secured.

As a general rule the boomerangs are coated with red ochre and, in addition, they may be ornamented at the end which is not held with a few rings of white kaolin or yellow ochre. Some of them are certainly made of mulga, but others of a wood both lighter in colour and weight. It is apparently this form of boomerang which Roth refers to as the “fluted” form and which he says is introduced into the Queensland tribes, with whom he deals, from the west. In just the same way, whilst the ornate boomerang is the characteristic one of the Queensland natives, it is, amongst the Central tribes, but rarely met with, and then as a general rule only in the southern parts. It evidently travels from the interior of Queensland by way of a trade route which follows down the courses of the streams which flow from the interior of Queensland southwards to the Lake Eyre basin, just as in early times the natives themselves did, when they spread over the country.

This ornate boomerang is met with largely amongst the

p. 597 p. 598

Urabunna tribe, and now and again one is seen in the hands of a man belonging to the southern Arunta. The length of one of these is 88 cm. along the curve which is a very open one, and there is neither a sharp bend nor any twist in the blade, in both of which respects the weapon agrees with the first described. The width of the blade varies from 6 cm. in the middle, from which it tapers off at either end, to 3 cm. in its narrowest part. One surface is always more convex than the other, and it is in fact more distinctly rounded than the grooved form. There is no trace on the convex surface of any grooves, but, from end to end, run series of incised patterns shaped like the figure 8 laid on its side, the interior of each loop being filled in with slanting lines. From end to end of the boomerang there run three rows of these, each row containing nine figures. In addition short curved lines are incised along the margin of the blade corresponding in position to some, but not all of the lines of figures. At each end on the part free from the latter, irregular scratches have been made so as to afford a better grip, and along the convex margin nineteen crosses have been roughly cut, but these are apparently not part of the original design. The flat side is p. 599 somewhat roughly cut, and no red ochre, such as is never wanting in the case of the first form found in the Centre, has been used, the wood employed being mulga.

We now come to deal with a weapon which has sometimes been described as a two-handed sword or club, but which in reality is simply a large boomerang used for fighting at close quarters, and of such a size and weight, that it requires the use of both hands. Of the boomerangs of this description, the great majority which are found amongst the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes, undoubtedly, judging by their ornamentation, are importations from the internal parts of Queensland, just as in the case of the small ornate boomerang, and though they are fairly often seen in the south of the tribe they are rare in the northern districts of the Arunta. The largest one measured had a length of 125 cm. and a width of 8 cm. in the middle tapering gradually to 5 cm. at a distance of 10 cm. from the end. Its greatest thickness was 3 cm. In one specimen the design is very similar to that on the smaller ornate one, except that in the centre a series of parallel curved lines runs across from side to side, having the form of a W placed on its side with the angles rounded off. On either side of this are four bands of 8-shaped loops, those lying immediately to either side of the median line being longer than the others and measuring 18.5 cm. On one side the number of loops in each band, starting from the central line, is 5, 4, 4, 4, and on the other side 5, 6, 4, 4. The cross lines in the half of the loop of each figure slant in opposite directions, and in those on either side of the central line the direction of the slant is reversed. One end is evidently that which is always held by the hand, for here the design is partly obliterated by constant handling, and the space between the end of the design and the tip of the boomerang (6.5 cm.) is greater than at the other end (4 cm.). The opposite side of the weapon is very irregularly grooved, and there are traces of red ochre having been once rubbed over it, but the dark colour of the wood, which is mulga or some acacia, is not concealed by these traces.

It will be noticed that in all the forms of boomerangs there is a clearly marked difference between the two sides not p. 600 only in the degree of curvature but also in the ornamentation. In the one case we have regular grooves on the more convex side, and in the other we have the incised design confined to it. The grooved, or ornate side as the case may be, is always the upper one if the boomerang be held horizontally with the concavity towards the body.

In another of the same size the design is much more roughly and carelessly incised. In the centre are three of the 8-shaped loops lying one above the other, but one of them, that on the concave side of the weapon, has an extra loop. At either side the lines of the loops are continuous with two parallel lines which run along the length of the boomerang, and between which are somewhat roughly arranged series of cross lines slanting alternately in opposite directions. It appears as if the designer had purposely run all the loops into one another, the slanting cross-lines representing those within the original loops. The result is a complete loss of curved lines and the development of a pattern which, though very rough and badly executed, calls to mind the designs characteristic of many West Australian implements.

We have said that the majority of these large boomerangs found amongst the Central tribes are importations from the east, but this does not appear, again judging by the style of ornamentation, to be true of all of them. In what is evidently an old boomerang obtained from a native on the Finke River, the design is very different from that described already. It consists of two curved bands of parallel lines one on either side of the central line, and on either side of these, groups of parallel bands of straight lines, which vary in length, run along towards either end of the weapon. The opposite side has been roughly smoothed, and the nature of the pattern, from which the characteristic loop and the slanting cross-lines are absent—and still more the fact that it has evidently, time after time, been rubbed with red ochre, which the eastern boomerangs do not seem to be, or, at least, not to anything like the extent that is characteristic of those of the centre—appears to make it at all events possible that this one is actually made in either the southern Arunta or in the Luritcha tribe (Fig. 118A.)

p. 601

Another distinct type of boomerang which is met with all over the Centre from the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north, to at all events Charlotte Waters in the south, and probably two or three hundred miles to the south even of this, is of a somewhat remarkable shape. The blade has the flattened form of the Arunta weapon, but, in addition, it is provided at the distal end with a long beak or hook. The curvature of the blade varies considerably, and the beak, which is flattened like the body, comes off from the convex side, the whole being made out of one piece of wood which is derived from some such tree as a mulga, in which a branch or root was given off at a suitable angle from the main part out of which the blade has been made. In the blade there are the same variations in shape which have already been described in the case of the ordinary grooved boomerang. The beak varies a good deal in length and width. In one specimen of which the total length is 80 cm., the beak is 26 cm. long and fully 8 cm. wide where it passes off from the blade, tapering rapidly to 3 cm. In another specimen which is 76 cm. in length, the beak is 26 cm. long and only 4 cm. at its base. The convex side of the weapon is ornamented with the characteristic grooves which follow in their direction the outline of the concave edge of the beak. They are made with considerable regularity, and in the larger ones may be present on both sides, though they are never so well marked or regularly made on the flatter as on the more convex side. Sometimes they may be entirely wanting on the former which may be merely roughly smoothed down. The beak itself and the end from which it springs, may, in addition to the coating of red ochre which covers the whole, be ornamented with bands of white, black and yellow, and lines of spots. It is a curious and constant feature that, in each one, the concave line bounding the curved side of the beak is not directly continuous with that bounding the convex side of the blade. The curve ends abruptly at a small but clearly marked projection which is placed at a little distance down the blade; from this projection there is a little fall of, in some cases, 1 cm. to reach the edge of the blade itself. So far as the making of the weapon is concerned it would be just as easy to make the two curves perfectly p. 602 continuous and it has all the appearance of being done in order to emphasise the idea of there being a head something like that of the flake axes. The decoration also, when any is present, is always on this head end, and in some a single band of black is painted running round the part where the notch occurs, as if again to indicate the junction of the head and handle parts.

In his description of the weapon Roth 1 gives a very ingenious explanation of the way in which this curious modification of a boomerang is especially useful. The beak catches on the stick or boomerang with which the native at whom it is thrown defends himself, and by its means the weapon, instead of being simply warded off, as in the case of the common boomerang, swings round on the beak and strikes the man at whom it is thrown. We have never seen this occur in the Arunta tribe, but we have on one occasion seen it thrown in the ordinary way with the result that the beak inflicted a very nasty wound on the neck of the man whom it hit. As might be expected, the beak is liable to be broken off, and we have seen such broken ones trimmed so as to cut off the remains of the beak, after which they were used for throwing, just like the ordinary curved ones. We have also seen them used in hand to hand fights after the fashion of a pick.

Roth states that they are made amongst the tribes inhabiting the Upper Georgina district which lies on the western side of the interior of that part of Queensland with the natives of which his work especially deals; in the Centre they are made by the Kaitish tribe, amongst whom they are called Wialka, by the Warramunga who call them Wartilkirri, and they are also found amongst, and probably also made by, some of the following tribes—Walpari, Bingongina, Waagai, Chingali, and Wambia. The Arunta obtain theirs from the Warramunga and call them Ilya ilporkita.

Fighting clubs are met with amongst all the tribes, but are made by the Kaitish and Warramunga and traded down to the Macdonnell Ranges and right away to the south of the Arunta

p. 603

and Luritcha; how much further it is impossible to say. Each one has the form of a long, straight, heavy bar of wood which is sometimes mulga, at others of a lighter colour, but always heavy. Each end is bluntly rounded as a general rule, and the one which is held in the hand can always be distinguished, because it is either grooved or cut in some way so as to afford a firm grip for the hands. In the one represented in the upper figure the total length is 115 cm. and the diameter 4.5 cm. At one end is a series of shallow grooves running parallel to the length of the club and extending for a distance of 21 cm. from the bluntly rounded tip. This one has apparently been made out of some species of eucalypt and has been red-ochred. In the one immediately below it we have a slightly different form. The length is 125 cm. and the diameter 4.5 cm. The end grasped by the hands has a series of shallow grooves extending for a distance of 19 cm. from the end, and across them a number of scratches run in various directions. Close to the end is a circle, 2.5 cm. in width, of porcupine-grass resin to aid in grasping. The third represents again a somewhat different type. It is made of mulga or some heavy dark wood. The two p. 604 ends are decidedly less bluntly rounded than in most of the clubs, and the whole surface is covered, except about 12 cm. at one end, and 6 cm. at the other, with longitudinally arranged grooves. The end grasped by the hands has a few circularly disposed scratches upon it.

These clubs are used in close fighting, and though employed by both men and women are most frequently used by the latter. They are often met with and are always seen in the hands of women when a fight is going on, in which they either are, or may become at any moment, interested parties. They are grasped with two hands, and with them blows are given such as would at once disable any ordinary white man, especially as they are, according to etiquette, given, and received, mainly on the head, but, as this is the least vulnerable portion of the body of a native, the damage done is merely of a temporary nature. Occasionally bones are broken, and we have seen one old woman gallantly continue to fight with one arm hanging broken and useless by her side.


The musical instruments are of a very simple nature. The most elementary method of producing sound to accompany the chanting during the performance of ceremonies consists in striking the ground with a shield, spear-thrower, boomerang, or a simple piece of wood. Very often boomerangs are rattled together. In one particular ceremony two short and bluntly rounded pieces of wood are used which, as they fall on one another, each being held in one hand, produce a clunk, clunk, which closely imitates, as it is supposed to do, the sound of the croaking of a particular frog. This particular instrument is only used in one ceremony and is not allowed to be seen by the women, but there are instruments made of almost precisely the same form, but simply more carefully finished off, which are in common use. The latter are called Trora1 and are more frequently met with in the south than in the north

p. 605 p. 606

of the tribe. The simplest of them consists of two carefully rounded pieces of wood, the larger of which measures 23 cm. in length and 4.5 cm. in width in the middle. At one end it is ornamented with a circular groove with a shorter groove running close to it, and at the other end with a spiral groove. The shorter piece is 21 cm. in length and 3.2 cm. in diameter, and both have a coating of red ochre.

In a second form one piece of wood has two prong-like projections from one end. The total length is 26 cm. and of the prongs 7 cm.; the greatest width is 3.5 cm. The other piece measures 25 cm. in length. When in use the blunt end of the prong is held in the left hand, and the striker is allowed to fall on to the pronged end.

A third form is of a curious shape. One end of it has just the shape of the pronged piece of the last described, while from between the two limbs of the prong passes forwards a piece which is very similar in shape to the simple rounded portion. The whole is cut out of a single block of wood, but tendon is bound round the narrow part of the projection which passes between the prongs, evidently with the idea of strengthening this, which is undoubtedly the weak part of the instrument. The prongs in this particular position are simply meant as ornament, and do not serve to vary the nature of the sound produced by the instrument. The total length is 32 cm., and the width across the prongs 3 cm., the length of the simple striker being 28 cm.

The first described and roughly made form is simply one of this kind of instrument made for use in a particular ceremony; still the fact that it is so made and used is sufficient to make it representative of that one sound which it is supposed to imitate, and it therefore receives a special name, becomes associated with that ceremony and with nothing else, and is tabu to the women.

The wood employed in their manufacture is usually that of a species of eucalypt, in which case the instrument appears to be always red-ochred; in one specimen, however, the wood is dark mulga, and there is no red ochre, a somewhat remarkable feature in regard to a Central Australian instrument.

The only other musical instrument known to us is the p. 607 rudimentary trumpet called Ilpirra. The use of this in connection with obtaining wives by means of magic charm has already been described. Each is simply a hollowed out piece of the branch of a gum tree. The hollowing out has probably been done by some insect such as a white ant, but the external crust which the insect left is very hard. Of two in our possession the length of each is about 60 cm. and the diameter slightly more than 5 cm. The external surface has been first of all smoothed down with a flint leaving shallow longitudinal grooves. Then a coat of red ochre has been painted over the whole length, and at each end the rim has been covered with a circle of resin so as to make the margins smoother. In the one case the exterior is decorated with alternate circles of yellow ochre and white kaolin, between which narrow circles of the underlying red ochre can be seen; in the centre is a space measuring 7 cm. in length, and between the yellow circles at either end of this, yellow lines run across each in a slightly spiral direction.

In the other specimen two rings of white kaolin, about 11 cm. distant from each other, are painted at each end, and between these run five longitudinal lines of the same colour.

When used the trumpet is simply placed to the mouth, and by singing through it the sound is intensified. Trumpets such as these are, apart from the interesting use concerned with magic, generally used in corrobborees such as the Atnimokita which has been described by Dr. Stirling. 1


So far as the material out of which they are made is concerned we can distinguish two different kinds of pitchis, which is the name given by the whites to the receptacles in which the natives carry food and water, and at times even babies. So far as their shape is concerned we can distinguish at least five well marked varieties.

The two materials used are, first, the soft wood of the bean tree (Erythrina vespertilio), and secondly, some hard wood

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which is some species of eucalypt, often, at all events, the red gum (E. rostrata) which grows on the banks and in the beds of the creeks.

Of the hard wood pitchis there is, in reality, only one form so far as the shape is concerned, though they vary much in size. Each one is, however, only a more or less shallow trough the edges of which never bend over, though the concavity may be of considerable depth and so great as to render the pitchi useful for carrying water in. Very often the edge of the trough is sinuous in outline, and it is always cut out of a solid piece of wood entailing a great amount of labour. The surface, both internally and externally, is marked with grooves running along the length of the pitchi, those on the interior being in some cases much smaller, more numerous, and much more carefully made than those on the exterior. In the one figured (Fig. 121, 1) there are in the broadest part forty-eight grooves on the external and one hundred and forty-six on the internal surface, and the execution of the latter must especially have cost the maker a very great amount of trouble. A pitchi such as this has a certain value, as is shown by the way in which, when a slit has been accidentally made in the rim, the two edges are carefully lashed together with tendon so as to prevent further splitting.

There is every gradation in form to be met with between the well-shaped and carefully-finished pitchi of considerable size and the small roughly fashioned and shallow concave piece of wood less than a foot in length, which serves mainly as a shovel or scoop with which to throw out the earth dug up by the native women when hunting after vegetable food or small animals, and which is called an Apmara.

Of the soft-wood pitchis we can distinguish four different forms. The first of these has an unmistakable boat shape. The one figured (Figs. 121, 2, and 120, 2a) measures 91 cm. in length, 29 cm. in height, and 22 cm. in greatest width. The figure will serve to indicate the general shape. The internal surface is rough, showing the grooves made by the flint which have no regular arrangement, but, on the other hand, the external surface has been carefully ornamented with a number p. 609 p. 610 of small grooves measuring not more than 2 mm. in width which run parallel to one another from end to end.

The larger ones of the second form reach the length of the one just described, but they differ strikingly from it in the fact that their outline is rounded both in transverse and longitudinal section, and also in the fact that, whilst the internal surface is rough, the external one is marked by broad grooves measuring about 8 cm. in width which have been made with great care and regularity.

The third form may perhaps be considered as a variant of the one just described, as it differs from this only in the fact that in longitudinal section the two ends are not inturned. In addition to this also the external grooves seem to imply that the maker recognised the fact that he was dealing with a different shape, as, instead of the broad grooves running parallel to one another along the whole length, there are two series: (a) one which runs from end to end, and (b) another on each side which runs along the broad part of the pitchi and cuts the first series at an angle (Figs. 121, 4, and 120, 4a).

The fourth form is a very well-marked one, and has the shape of a long hollow trough without incurving sides. It is much like an elongated hardwood pitchi, but is, owing doubtless to the more easily worked nature of the material, of more regular shape than the majority of the latter. The largest one in our possession measures 97 cm. in length, 26 cm. in width, whilst its greatest concavity is only 8 cm. The sides are not incurved and, like the boat-shaped pitchi, the external surface is ornamented with a large number of very narrow grooves running from end to end. Just as in the hard wood pitchis of this form, so in this we meet with rudely fashioned specimens in which the external surface is devoid of the narrow groovings and is merely marked by the irregular ones made by the flint, and which have not been afterwards smoothed down before the addition of smaller ones.



It is only in the southern part of the Arunta and in the Urabunna tribe, that anything like a bag made of knitted p. 611 twine, the latter made of fur or vegetable fibre, is manufactured. These bags used to be traded through as far north as the Macdonnell Ranges, but, as a general rule, the native carries his valuables about in a wallet made sometimes out of the skin of some animal, sometimes out of pieces of bark tied round with fur-string. Another form of receptacle is a primitive skin pouch made by cutting a flap of skin with the fur attached from the back of such an animal as a marsupial, and then, after stretching it in the centre with pressure of the hand, it is filled out with sand to the desired shape and allowed to dry in the sun. A skin pouch such as this is called Ilarntwa, and is used both by Arunta and Luritcha men.

In an ordinary skin wallet, procured at Mount Olga out in the desert region to the south of Lake Amadeus, and consisting simply of a piece of skin of a marsupial of some kind, were found a bunch of emu feathers, a tassel of Peragale tail-tips, a spare flint with chipped edge such as is used for the spear-thrower, tendon with which to mend broken weapons or splice on to the main shaft the tip of a spear, a nose bone and lumps of red and yellow ochre. A more capacious wallet, belonging to a native in the northern Macdonnell Ranges, and manufactured simply out of small slabs of bark tied round with fur-string, contained a bunch of eagle-hawk feathers, an emu feather chignon, a stone knife in its sheaf, three knouts, a woman's ornament of resin with teeth fixed into the mass, a piece of pearl shell for a pubic ornament, a nose bone, several armlets and necklets, and two strands of human hair carefully enclosed in fur-string and evidently used as charms.

In the southern Arunta and the Urabunna bags which are as well formed and skilfully knitted as those in use amongst highly civilised peoples, are often met with. 1 In many cases the string used is made out of the fibres obtained from the reeds which grow around the margins of the mound springs which exist especially in the district occupied by the Urabunna tribe. The one figured (Fig. 119, 1) came from

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[paragraph continues] Charlotte Waters, and the art of making these bags does not appear to have been acquired by any of the northern tribes, such as those living north of the Macdonnell Range throughout the central area. Around the rim of the bag runs a strand on to which the loops are fixed; the first loop is a short one, the second a long one, measuring 10 cm., while all the others are at most 1 cm. in length. It is worth noting that the manner of attachment of the third to the second, varies in alternate loops; in one, the upper string of the third loop is twisted round the lower one of the second, and in the other the lower string of the second is twisted round the upper string of the third, and so on alternately. The loops are so close together that the arrangement is not noticed until the structure is carefully examined, and as there is no particular reason, structurally, why this method should be adopted, it shows that the maker of the bag probably derived a certain amount of pleasure from varying the design. The handle is made of a number of strands of string continuous with certain of the loops on either side; these strands are again enclosed by two layers of string wound round and round them. The upper edge of the bag for a depth of 7 cm. is coloured red with ochre, and below this four red rings, each about 2 cm. broad, run round. At first sight it looks as if the red had simply been rubbed on after the bag had been made, but closer examination shows that this is not the case, but that the maker used two kinds of p. 613 string, one uncoloured and one which had been well rubbed with red ochre. The series of long, and the first two of short, loops are made with red string, then follow eight made with white, then one made with red, which forms the first of the narrow red bands running round the bag, then follow ten series of white and again a single red series, then eight white and a single red, then ten white and a single red forming the lowest coloured band, below which there are eight white series. Owing to the diamond shape of the loops the darker bands have the appearance of shading off at their upper and lower edges.



For spinning fur or human hair into string a simple form of spindle is used. Two curved, thin sticks, each about 14 or 16 cm. in length, are taken, and a slit is made through the centre of each one. They are then placed at right angles, and through the slits a straight rounded stick about 35 cm. p. 614 in length is passed. The two curved pieces are much nearer to one end than the other, and their concavities are directed towards the nearer end. When in use, the native squats in the usual way with his legs bent under him; with one hand, usually the left, he holds the spindle against his thigh, causing it to rotate rapidly as he rubs his hand up and down the thigh; in the other hand he holds the raw material which with his fingers he continually serves out, as the string becomes spun into a strand which is wound round the spindle. The accompanying figure (Fig. 123) represents a man who was engaged in making opossum fur-string, of which large quantities were made during the Engwura, by men and women alike, for the purpose of making what are called Kulchia or armlets for the men to wear who were passing through the ceremony. As the spindle was moving rapidly there appears to be only one cross piece, and in some of the spindles, especially amongst the Luritcha, this is actually the case.


Fig. 124. Native Rock Paintings (to face page 615)
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Fig. 124. Native Rock Paintings (to face page 615)

Native Rock Paintings (detail 1)
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Native Rock Paintings (detail 2)
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Native Rock Paintings (detail 3)
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Native Rock Paintings (detail 4)
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Native Rock Paintings (detail 5)
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Native Rock Paintings (detail 6)
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Native Rock Paintings (detail 7)
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The rock paintings may be divided into two distinct series, (a) those which may be spoken of as ordinary rock drawings and (b) certain other drawings, in many cases not distinguishable from some of the first series, so far as their form is concerned, but which belong to a class of designs all of which are spoken of as Churinga Ilkinia, and are regarded as sacred because they are associated with the totems. Each local totemic group has certain of these especially belonging to the group, and in very many cases preserved on rock surfaces in spots which are strictly tabu to the women, children, and uninitiated men.

If we were dealing with the various drawings simply from the point of view of decorative art we could divide the whole series into two more or less distinct groups. The first of these would contain those which are zoomorphic or phytomorphic in form and origin, and the second would contain those which may be called geometric in form. In both of the series we find examples of the two groups just described, but in the case of p. 615 the second series, that is the sacred drawings, the geometrical ones greatly preponderate.

We will deal first with the ordinary drawings. Amongst these the zoomorphic and phytomorphic designs are similar to those which are found in many parts of the continent, and represent, often in very rude form, outlines of animals and plants; they are indeed sometimes so rudely executed that, whilst their zoomorphic or phytomorphic nature is evident, it is yet wholly impossible to tell the animal or plant from which the artist has drawn his inspiration. Those represented in Fig. 124 will serve to give a good idea of the nature of these drawings, and there is practically but little variation in them from place to place. The majority of those represented exist on the roof and walls of shallow caves lying around the base of Ayers Rock far out in the desert region away to the south of Lake Amadeus. 1 The materials used are red and yellow ochre, charcoal and some white material such as kaolin or calcined gypsum.

Number 1 represents most probably a dingo, and is drawn merely in outline in charcoal; Number 2 is evidently a somewhat conventionalised drawing of a bird with a long tail; the whole is outlined in red ochre and the body and head drawn solid with charcoal; the tail is of some length, and what are evidently the legs are joined together for some reason; the meaning of the red bands crossing the body is difficult to see. Numbers 3 and 4 represent conventional drawings of lizards. Number 5 is not infrequently met with in various parts of Australia, and represents a snake coming out of a hole in the rock, a natural hole being often utilised for the purpose. Number 6 is probably zoomorphic in origin, but so conventionalised that it is perfectly impossible to say what it represents. Number 7 is evidently a series of human heads drawn in outline with charcoal; they are placed in a group close to one another, and, were it not for the fact that the lower ones are included in the same group as the two upper ones, it would be difficult to suggest what they were

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intended for. Number 8 is a more complicated drawing, and shows considerable originality on the part of the artist. It is painted on an exposed rock surface at the base of the George Gill Range, and a native described it to us as an attempt to represent, as if seen from below, an emu sitting on its eggs. The neck is a stout black line edged with white, the legs are also black and end in the characteristic toes, the eggs are black oval patches each enclosed in a white line, and the feathers are indicated with white lines. Number 9 represents the frond of a Cycad which grows in fair abundance on certain of the Rocky Ranges, though there are none within eighty miles of Ayers Rock. So far as we have seen this is the only example of a phytomorphic drawing.

Number 10 is drawn in a different way from all the others, but in one which is practised by the natives all over the continent. The method consists in placing the hand flat up against the rock and then blowing over it from the mouth fine dust of red ochre or charcoal, which remains attached to the rock, and so the outline of the hand is stencilled in red or black as the case may be.

In addition to drawings such as those described there are others which are not geometrical and may in all probability be regarded as zoomorphic in origin, though the resemblance to the animal is but faintly if at all discernible, and the artist has further embellished his work with lines which make it still more difficult to trace the origin of the design. Such an one is represented in Number 11, which is copied from a drawing at Ayers Rock. The main outline is probably the modified form of the body of an animal such as is drawn in Number 3, the part which, if this be so, represents the head, almost merges into the blunt prominences which indicate the front limbs, while the two hind ones are only indicated by the swellings at the opposite end. The alternate lines of red and yellow ochre which radiate from the whole surface are evidently intended as an embellishment to the design, and may be regarded as a further development of the radiating lines which occur only at the head end of the body of the lizard represented in Number 3. It may be added that both drawings occur close together at Ayers Rock.

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Number 12 is of a different nature and represents apparently one of the stone knives with a resin haft such as is used by the natives, though the attachment of the blade to the haft is somewhat different from that of the real object. There can be, however, little doubt as to what the drawing is meant to represent.

One thing may be noticed with regard to these rock paintings, and that is, that we nowhere amongst these tribes, so far as we know, meet with any of the more complicated drawings depicting scenes such as a kangaroo chase, or men spearing emus, or a corrobboree dance, such as are found amongst other tribes in the south and east parts of the continent, though the Central Australian is by no means, in art matters, inferior to the coastal tribes; nor again, it may be stated here, do we meet with any attempt to sculpture the outlines of animals or plants on the rock surface.

Passing now to the geometrical designs it may be noted that, so far as their form, and indeed that of certain of the zoomorphic and phytomorphic drawings is concerned, there is no distinction between them and certain of the drawings associated with ceremonial objects. They are dealt with separately because, as we have said, the latter have definite associations in regard to the totems and have, what the ordinary geometrical rock-drawings do not appear to have, a definite significance. By this we mean that the artist who drew them had no definite purpose in doing so. The natives when asked the meaning of certain drawings such as these will constantly answer that they are only play-work and mean nothing; but what are exactly, so far as their form is concerned, similar drawings, only drawn on some ceremonial object or in a particular spot, have a very definite meaning. That is, the same native will tell you that a special drawing in one spot has no meaning, and yet he will tell you exactly what it is supposed to signify when drawn in a different spot. The latter, it may be remarked, is always on what we may call sacred ground, near to which the women may not come. It can scarcely be doubted that these ordinary and, in form, geometrical rock-paintings which are drawn in his spare time by a man who is frequently seeing and using p. 618 objects marked with the sacred symbols, are due to his remembrance of the latter. He is making a drawing the inspiration of which is, in reality, a totemic design, though, as it is not drawn upon a sacred spot or on a ceremonial object, it does not “mean” anything.

In speaking of these as geometrical designs we use the term only in reference to the present form of the design, and not at all as implying that they are merely geometrical figures. All the sacred drawings, the greater number of which are geometric in nature, are associated with the totems, and to the natives each one has a definite meaning, and in all probability, though very much modified, these drawings are to be regarded as derived from zoomorphs. This, however, is a subject of much difficulty, and will be further dealt with in connection with the sacred drawings.

A few of the ordinary rock-drawings of this form are represented (Numbers 13–17), which will serve to indicate their general nature. It will be noticed that in many of them the concentric circle pattern is conspicuous. In regard to this it will be shown later that there is good ground for the belief that the concentric circle pattern which figures so largely on the various ceremonial objects of the Central Australian native has been derived from an original spiral. A glance at the totemic designs will show clearly what we mean by saying that the idea of particular drawings, such as some of those represented in Fig. 124, was derived from the former, though, in regard to them, the natives assure us that they have no definite significance.


During the ordinary dancing festivals, or Altherta, which are usually spoken of as corrobborees, the principal feature of the decoration is usually a more or less elaborate headdress. This is always made by first of all bunching the hair on the top of the head and then surrounding it with small twigs, so as to form a helmet-like structure of the desired p. 620 shape. This often measures as much as 2 feet in height, and may run up to a point, or have the summit flattened or bluntly rounded off. Human hair-string is then tied tightly round so as to preserve the shape and to fix it firmly on to the head. p. 621 The top of the helmet is often further decorated with a bunch of eagle-hawk feathers, or, as in one corrobboree, a semicircular structure, made of grass stalks bound round with hair-string and with a tuft of tail-tips at each end, is fixed p. 622 through the helmet. On the latter there is always some design drawn in down, which is made from the involucral hairs of a species of Portulaca, and has been coloured red, white, or yellow. Almost always the design includes a band passing across the bridge of the nose and enclosing the eyes. This down is affixed, as usual, by means of human blood, and some of the most characteristic designs are represented in the Fig. 125–128.

On the body various designs are drawn, some of the more frequent of which are also shown in the figures. For each Altherta there is a regular series of helmets and body patterns of a particular design which are always made and drawn. The lines of decoration are almost always made of a series of spots placed closely side by side, and, very frequently, the p. 623 space between two parallel lines will be filled up with a band of down of a different colour from that of the lines. The most elaborate design is perhaps that used in the case of one of the rain dances (Fig. 128), in which a flat piece of wood, in shape resembling a large Churinga, is fixed into the top of the helmet and ornamented with lines and concentric circles of spots. In some of the corrobborees decorated objects, such as sticks carried in the hand, are used, or, as in the Atnimokita corrobboree, 1 a pole of special form is erected, after having been carefully painted with spiral lines of yellow and spots of white and yellow on a red ground. A very frequent decoration takes the form of twigs of green tree tied on to the leg just above the ankle (Fig. 127). 2

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It is impossible to assign any meaning to these designs; in the first place there is, as shown also by Mr. Roth in the case of the same festivals held amongst the Queensland natives, a constant circulation of these corrobborees from group to group and from tribe, with the result that even the meaning of the words chanted is quite unknown to the performers in whose possession the festival may be, at any given time, after it has been passed on by its original owners. All of the corrobborees performed at Alice Springs, for example, are derived from the north, and gradually filter through to the south. The only thing which seems evident with regard to the body designs is, that they are drawn so that, as a general rule, they serve to accentuate the outline of the curves of the body, and beyond this it is very possible that they have no special significance of any kind.



The characteristic feature of the decorations in all of the sacred ceremonies is that in them birds' down, which the natives call undattha, is employed; indeed, the importance of this feature may be gauged by the fact that these performances are commonly spoken of as quabara undattha, and such no woman or uninitiated youth is allowed to see, except on extremely rare occasions, and then only at a considerable distance and indistinctly.

In these ceremonies also only a limited number ever take part as actual performers, and, instead of occupying a long time in their performance, they usually last only a few minutes. Unlike those of the ordinary dances, also, the design always has a definite significance, and is supposed in many cases to have been handed down from the Alcheringa, while in others the decorations have been shown to the owner of the quabara by the Iruntarinia, or spirits. These ceremonies, again, are never passed on from tribe to tribe, but are in the possession of certain individuals who have received them by right of inheritance, that is, they may be regarded as private property, p. 625 and each one is, save those given by the Iruntarinia, associated with some special man or woman of the Alcheringa. All of them are connected with the totems.

The various forms of design may be seen by reference to the figures illustrating the Engwura. Almost always, as in the ordinary dances, special attention is paid to the head-dress. The hair is tied up, and a helmet is made out of twigs or grass stalks wound round with human hair-string. In the case of one of the emu performances (Fig. 73), it forms a slightly tapering column about five feet in height, the end being ornamented with a tuft of emu feathers. Owing to the flexibility of the column, the end droops somewhat, and moves about as the performer walks, imitating well the continuous up and down movement of an emu's head, while the bird walks aimlessly about. In these emu ceremonies the lines of down run along the length of the body, arms and legs, a design which may perhaps have been suggested in the beginning by the very distinct longitudinal markings on the body of the young bird.

In the ceremonies of the frog totem there are two very characteristic styles of decoration; one consists of alternate circles of white and red down running round the head-dress, which sometimes forms a wide disc-like structure. The circles may be continued round the body and limbs, broken by perhaps a few longitudinal lines. Another form frequently met with in this totem consists of small patches of red, each of which is surrounded by a circle of white down. The head-dress, with the Churinga which is fixed into it and is also decorated with alternate circles of red and white, represents a large tree; the longitudinal lines indicate roots, and the smaller circular patches represent frogs. This is indicative of the fact that, as is very characteristic of frog life in Central Australia, the animals spend the dry season, or, in some cases the day time, burrowing in the sandy ground amongst the roots of the red gums which grow in the beds and along the banks of the creeks, which latter, it must be remembered, only contain water at rare intervals of time.

Reference to the illustrations concerned with the account of the Engwura will serve to indicate the elaborate nature p. 626 of some of the decorations, and, as we have said before, while it takes, as in this particular instance, between five and six hours to decorate the performer, the ceremony itself lasts only a few minutes. The whole of the body, back and front, was in this case covered with representations of frogs of various sizes; from the head-dress tufts of eagle-hawk feathers, attached to short sticks, projected, and the whole was surmounted by a long Churinga completely swathed with circles of down and tipped with a bunch of brown owl feathers. The roots of the tree, represented by the Churinga and head-dress, were in this instance indicated by a large number of strings hanging down from the head-dress all round the body. Each string was completely covered with alternate red and white rings and tipped with a tuft of tail-tips, the whole decoration almost completely concealing the man from view (Figs. 72 and 74).

In the case of a ceremony connected with the sun totem, one of the two performers wore as a head-dress a large flat disc with alternate concentric circles of red and white down, the disc being supposed to represent the sun (Fig. 108).

Circles of white down enclosing a central bluish grey or black patch are made to represent the skulls of men who have been killed and eaten (Fig. 80).

A long cord, made of a number of human hair-girdles, is sometimes stretched across between the heads of two or three performers sitting at some distance from each other, and, when so used, is supposed to represent the path followed by certain of the ancestors of a totemic group, such as the wild cat, in the Alcheringa (Fig. 47). At other times a precisely similar cord may be used to unite a number of men standing in a line while the cord passes from the waist girdle of one man to that of the next man, and so on all along the line. In this instance it represents the roots of trees, which are indicated by certain of the men.

An entirely different form of decoration is seen in the little tufts of the red-barred tail feathers of the black cockatoo, which are fixed on to short sticks and have their tips decorated with masses of red or white down. These tufts of feathers, some of which are placed in the ground, where they are then p. 627 supposed to be growing, while others adorn the heads of the performer, represent the Irriakura plant in flower (Fig. 62).

In a large number of the ceremonies we meet with a very important ceremonial object which has already been referred to, and is called a Nurtunja. In certain others we meet with an equally important object, which is called a Waninga. The Nurtunja is typical of the northern, and the Waninga of the southern, part of the Arunta tribe. There are various forms of the Nurtunja, the principal ones of which are represented in the figures illustrating the Engwura ceremony. The most usual form is made of from one to twenty spears; round these, first of all, long grass stalks are bound by means of the hair-girdles of the men, and then rings of down are added, and perhaps, but not always, a few Churinga will be suspended at intervals. The top is almost always decorated with a large tuft of eagle-hawk feathers. More rarely the down, instead of being in rings, will be fixed on in long lines running parallel to the length of the Nurtunja, or, as in one case, there may be rings at intervals, and between these there will be longitudinal lines of down. Occasionally from the top end of a large Nurtunja a small second one will hang pendent; at other times the Nurtunja may be in the form of a cross or it may be T-shaped. At times, again, it may have the appearance of a torpedo resting on the head, or, finally, it may be in the form of a huge helmet firmly attached to the head, and of various shapes, according to what it is supposed to represent. This form (Fig. 61) differs from all the others in the fact that one end of the Nurtunja is actually continuous with the head-dress, instead of being, as in all other cases, a structure independent of the head-dress and affixed after the completion of this.

The Waninga, like the Nurtunja, varies much in shape and size; some are so small that they can easily be worn in the head-dress. The fundamental point in the structure of the Waninga is that it consists of a main vertical support, which may be merely a stick but little more than a foot in length, or, as is more usually the case, a long spear, across which is fixed a shorter arm or two arms. According to whether there be one or two of the shorter transverse arms we can distinguish p. 628 two main types. The first has the form of a cross, so far as the supporting structures are concerned, and fur string passes diagonally across the spaces between the central and cross bars, with the result that a lozenge-shaped plate of strands of fur string, placed closely side by side, is formed. In the second type the strands of string run from one cross bar to the other, parallel to the length of the spear, and as one of the cross bars is placed close to either end of the spear, there is formed a long oblong-shaped structure, at each end of which the strands of string pass diagonally across to the central spear at a very obtuse angle. At the upper end there may be a third, and in this case short, transverse bar, close to the tip of the spear, and strands of string, as in the one shown in Fig. 39, may pass to this from the upper of the two larger cross bars. When this is so the Waninga is really a double one, the small upper part representing a small one placed at the top of the main larger one in much the same way as, in certain of the Nurtunjas, we have seen a small one attached to the large one, only that, in the case of the Waninga, owing to its form, the connection between the two is of necessity more intimate.

The fur-string is apparently always of more than one description, part of it being made of opossum and part often of bandicoot fur, while in the larger ones, human hair-string is employed as well. By means of these different coloured strings a definite design can be produced; for example, in one of the smaller ones the central space is made with red-ochred opossum string, the outer part consisting of grey bandicoot string; in another the central part is red, then follows a band of grey, and then, on the outside, another band of red. In the larger ones bands of red, black and grey alternate in various ways, the exact pattern being always definitely determined by tradition. Especially in the case of the larger ones the surface formed by the string may be further ornamented with white down, which in some cases may be laid on so thickly as almost to hide the string from view.

So far as both Nurtunja and Waninga are concerned we are dealing with objects of a sacred nature, the origin of p. 629 which it is impossible to conjecture. The mere form apparently means nothing, that is we may find in two perfectly distinct ceremonies that two Nurtunjas or two Waningas are used which are, respectively, quite identical in form, and yet in the one case, one, say of the Nurtunjas, will represent a kangaroo, and in the other a wild cat. The part of one Waninga which represents in one ceremony a head of a kangaroo may, in another represent the tail of a lizard. All that can be said in regard to these two characteristic objects is that in whatever ceremony either of them be used, then, for the time being, it represents the animal or plant which gives its name to the totem with which the ceremony is concerned. In a kangaroo ceremony, a Waninga or Nurtunja means a kangaroo, in an emu ceremony it means an emu. The decoration is, so far as can be seen, perfectly arbitrary and has at the present day no significance in the sense of its being intended to have any special resemblance to the object which the Nurtunja or Waninga is supposed to represent.

We come now to the remarkable structure which is called a Kauaua. The nature of this has already been described. It is the most sacred ceremonial object of the tribe, and its origin is evidently of very early date indeed. The striking features in regard to it are, (1) that it must be cut down and brought into camp without being allowed to touch the ground; (2) that it is completely smeared all over with human blood, though it is not without interest to note that the natives say that occasionally red ochre may be used as a substitute for the blood; (3) that its decorations consist of the various ornaments which are worn on the head of a man when fully decorated, so that it is really a wooden pole the upper end of which represents a human head; and (4) that it is only crected towards the close of the Engwura when the men gather together round it and the painting of the backs of the younger men with designs of various totems is done by the old men.

Unlike the Nurtunja and Waninga, of both of which there are various forms, there is only one form of Kauaua, and this is common to all the totems.

The exact significance of this can only be a matter of conjecture, p. 630 for the natives have not, so far as we can find out, any idea with regard to its origin or meaning. The decoration evidently points to the fact that it has some relation to a human being, and possibly we may have in the Kauaua the expression of the idea of the association of a spirit individual with a tree. We find, it must be remembered, amongst the Arunta tribe that trees are intimately associated with particular celebrated individuals of the Alcheringa whose spirits especially frequent those which are their Nanja trees, and, whilst there is no such thing as any offering being made to the tree or to its spirit inhabitant, we may perhaps regard ceremonies in which trees are represented, such as the celebrated ones at Imanda which are associated with men of the frog totem, as an early form of tree worship.

The Kauaua is certainly suggestive of an early stage of development corresponding to the stakes or stone columns the upper parts of which are carved into the semblance of the human head, and which, in a stage of culture very considerably in advance of that reached by the Arunta people, are associated with rites paid to special individuals of whom each is regarded as the representative.

In some way which is not very clear to the mind of the native the Kauaua is regarded as a something common to the members of all the totems, and in connection with this it may be remembered that it was while sitting round the base of the Kauaua, that the young men were painted with the various totemic designs. Possibly it is to be regarded as emblematic of some great ancestor of the tribe who was associated with the origin of the various totems, so that it is an object, and most naturally the most sacred one which they possess, which is common to all the totems.

We can see at all events an interesting gradation in regard to the sacred objects of the Arunta tribe; there is first of all the Churinga which is representative of the individual; secondly, the Nurtunja or Waninga which is representative of a number of individuals who collectively form the totemic group; and thirdly, there is the Kauaua which represents, as it were, the totems collectively, or it may be the great ancestor from whom they all originated and around the representative p. 631 of whom they all group themselves on the only occasion on which the Kauaua is ever used.

The name Churinga Ilkinia is given to certain rock-drawings which are found in the neighbourhood of the Ertnatulunga or sacred storehouse of the different local groups. These drawings are regarded as peculiarly sacred and are not allowed to be seen by women and children, to whom their locality is known and who carefully avoid the spot.

For those which are represented in Fig. 131, Numbers 1—5, we are indebted to Dr. E. Eylmann, who, at our request and at considerable trouble to himself, most kindly paid a special visit to the spot which lies some distance away from Barrow Creek, and took careful copies and measurements of the designs. At the spot in question, which lies in the country occupied by the Warramunga tribe, there is a small cave at the end of the Crawford Range in the high, steep, sandstone bank of a small creek. Dr. Eylmann says, “It is 1m. 10cm. high, 3m. 59cm. wide, and 4m. 80cm. deep. The bottom is covered with sand and pieces of charcoal. The ceiling is blackened with smoke. Opposite to the cave in the bed of the creek is a small rock hole, which never gets dry because a spring is at the bottom of it. A little further up the creek are some more rock holes. Most of the drawings are outside of the cave, on the smooth sandstone close to the inlet, inside are only some little circles. All drawings are painted on a red ground (artificial) with a white or black pigment. Besides the drawings near and in the cave there are traces of older ones in the neighbourhood of the other rock holes. This place must be a favourite camping place in dry seasons, because I saw many old fireplaces, huts and a broad path leading to the rock holes.”

Whilst we have not been able to ascertain the meaning of these drawings beyond the fact that they are sacred and are associated with the honey-ant totem, they are here reproduced because they serve to show the wide distribution of this form of Churinga Ilkinia, though at the same time the broad band of white which intersects the series of circles in the two most important designs is a feature which we have not met with amongst those of the Arunta tribe.

p. 632

The other designs which are represented belong some to the Udnirringita, or witchetty grub, and others to the Ulpmerka of the plum tree totem of a celebrated spot called Quiurnpa, to which we have very often had to refer. The former are painted on the precipitous rocky sides of the Emily Gorge and the latter on what is called the Pirkintilia rock at Quiurnpa, a spot which is especially associated in tradition with the Ulpmerka men. In both cases we have drawings some of which, such as Fig. 132, Numbers 1—7 amongst the Udnirringita, and Numbers 2 and 14 amongst the Ulpmerka ones, are clearly zoomorphic or phytomorphic in origin. Of the two larger drawings of the Udnirringita the curved band of bars near to the centre is supposed to represent the shoulders of some of the Alcheringa ancestors, and in the other one the space between two of the white lines which slant off towards the right hand, is supposed to represent an Alcheringa woman, with her hand up to her head, peering upwards as she watches Intwailiuka, one of the great leaders of the men in the Alcheringa, performing the ceremony of Intichiuma.

Of the Ulpmerka designs several of them, such as Fig. 133, Numbers 3—8, &c., are those which are painted on boys at the ceremony of throwing them up, the first of the initiation ceremonies. Others, such as Numbers 18 and 20, represent the Nurtunja which Kukaitcha, the leader of the Ulpmerka, carried on his head; Number 14 represents a plum tree and Number 16 is supposed to be an unripe plum. The explanation of the figures is the one given by the natives at the present day. In the case of these, as in that of the sacred drawings of all other totems, it is not possible to find out anything with regard to their origin. They are supposed to have been handed down from the times of the Alcheringa ancestors, and a knowledge of what they indicate is handed on from generation to generation, but no one has any idea of how this particular meaning came to be attached to them.

We have already, when dealing with the Churinga, described in detail the meaning of the designs on certain particular ones, and have pointed out how, on one Churinga, a spiral or series of concentric circles will mean one thing and on another a similar design will mean quite another thing.

p. 633

It is important to notice that the spiral and concentric circles will appear in the design on one and the same Churinga, and not only this, but that, on the one Churinga, as, for example, in the case of the frog totem, a large gum tree will be represented in the one instance by a spiral, and in the other by a series of concentric circles. Sometimes the design will, in the case of the smaller ones, be very clearly a spiral, but in the larger ones, while at first glance they may appear to be a series of circles, on closer examination it will often be found that the very central part is a spiral, but that sooner or later two of the raised lines separating the grooves will run into one another, and then on the outside of this there will be drawn a series of concentric circles. It is much more easy to imagine a series of concentric circles originating out of a spiral than to imagine a spiral originating out of a series of circles. Amongst a very large number examined we have not found one in which the central part is a series of circles and the outer a spiral. The internal is the first part drawn, and, taking the facts stated into consideration, we are probably right in regarding the spiral as the more primitive and the series of concentric circles as derived from an original spiral in the case of the designs now used by the Arunta and other Central tribes.

In connection with the description of the Engwura ceremony an illustration is given (Fig. 87) showing the backs of a group of the younger men who had just passed through the concluding ceremony of the Engwura, and on whom were painted, without the slightest reference to the particular totem of the individual, various of the totem Ilkinia, that is, the designs characteristic of the totems. It will be seen that while concentric circles with radiating lines preponderate, yet in some the design is much simpler and consists, as in the case of two of those in the foreground, of straight lines running across the back. The materials used for drawing these designs are white kaolin, red and yellow ochre and charcoal, and the effect of the designs standing out on the chocolate-coloured skin of the natives was in many instances far from unpleasing.

It is perhaps hopeless to speculate as to the origin of the totemic designs; if they are derived from what were once p. 634 zoomorphs, then all that can be said is that in lapse of time they have been modified beyond recognition. At the same time with regard to the very strongly marked spiral and concentric circle design which may be said to be the one characteristic feature of the Central Australian scheme of design, it is perhaps worth noting that amongst the natives of the Papuan Gulf district of New Guinea, Haddon in dealing with the shields has described designs consisting of concentric circles and spirals, which are clearly derivatives of drawings of the human face. In his monograph 1 the drawing of a shield (Pl. 6, Fig. 92) is strikingly suggestive in this connection. Not only is this the case, but he describes the Papuan bull-roarers and ceremonial tablets which, just like the Australian Churinga, are shown to the young men for the first time when they are being initiated, as being decorated with designs representing the human face. We do not mean to imply that there is any direct connection between the present Australian and the Papuan bull-roarer, but that the meaning of the designs on the latter may perhaps afford a clue to the significance of the designs on the former. In the Papuan implement, in which the various stages of modification can be traced, it is seen that circles and spirals are derivatives of drawings of the human face, and it is possible that the circles and spirals which are so characteristic of the Central Australian implement may have had a similar origin.

The question is a most difficult one to deal with, and is rendered all the more so because we have in Australia at least two distinct types of these so-called bull-roarers. Mr. Howitt has described, amongst the natives of the south-east, a triangular-shaped form which is very distinct from the Churinga of the interior parts, as well as from that of the west, all of those from these localities agreeing fundamentally in shape. Apart also from the striking difference in form, that described by Mr. Howitt is quite devoid of the incised ornamentation which is such a characteristic feature of the Churinga of the interior and west. It is quite possible that we have in Australia at least two entirely different types of

p. 635

sacred implements of this particular nature. This is rendered all the more likely when it is taken into account that the bull-roarer of the eastern and south-eastern coastal tribes has, in certain respects, a quite different significance from that of the Central tribes, or, to put it more correctly, the latter has a certain meaning which is quite wanting in the case of the former.

Very different though, at first sight, the concentric circles of the Central Australian Churinga may appear to be from the zig-zag lines characteristic of the Western ones, yet it is not difficult to see how the one may have been derived from the other. In a Churinga of the bell-bird totem which was obtained amongst the western Arunta, and for which we have to thank Mr. Cowle, the concentric circles have become changed into squares with the angles slightly rounded off. In this way curves could be imagined to give way gradually to straight lines, and the patterns characteristic of Western Australian implements generally may be derived from a modification of the designs in which the leading feature was at first a spiral and then a series of concentric circles. At all events the Central and Western bull-roarers, both in form and design, are evidently allied to one another, and are very different from the Tundun or bull-roarer of the south-east.


569:1 Of course since the advent of the white man the iron axe and knife are rapidly supplanting the stone weapon. These are passed on from tribe to tribe, so that in the desert parts where the natives have never seen a white man, iron implements may be found.

569:2 Special forms of necklets are dealt with under the head of Magic.

572:1 Excellent descriptions and illustrations of this and various other objects used in the Arunta tribe have been given by Dr. Stirling in the Report on the work of the Horn Exped., vol. iv.

575:1 Op. cit., p. 132. Whilst this bartering has been described by previous writers, Mr. Roth's account is by far the most valuable and detailed one yet published. The custom appears to be better organised amongst Mr. Roth's tribes than amongst those in the Centre.

577:1 Amongst the Luritcha especially another wood is most commonly used, but we have been unable to identify the tree from which it is derived.

584:1 We are indebted for this information to Mr. C. E. Cowle.

590:1 Mr. Howitt has already described how a certain quarry whence suitable stone for the manufacture of axe heads were obtained was regarded as the property of a particular local group in Victoria, and also how other local groups claimed possession of swan eggs laid in their locality, and further how these rights were inherited. Kamilaroi and Kurnai, p. 232.

592:1 Among Cannibals, p. 48.

592:2 Op. cit., p. 96, Pl. 6.

596:1 This was pointed out to us by Mr. C. E. Cowle, who is well acquainted with this tribe.

602:1 Op. cit., p. 143.

604:1 The form of these is similar to that figured by Brough Smith, vol. i., p. 356. He states that it is called Koorn-goon.

607:1 Op. cit., p. 72.

611:1 These are often used for carrying pituri in, and are similar to the well-known dilly bags of other tribes. Pituri consists of the dried leaves of Duboisia Hopwoodii and is used as a narcotic by the natives.

615:1 The figures are copied from drawings made by Dr. Stirling and one of the authors during the Horn Expedition to Central Australia, and have been already described by Dr. Stirling. Report of the Horn Expedition, Pt. IV.

623:1 Dr. Stirling has described a part of this Atnimokita corrobboree, op. cit p. 72.

623:2 These are also shown in a photograph taken by one of the authors, and reproduced in the Report of the Horn Expedition, Pt. IV., pl. 14; they are also described and figured by Roth, op. cit., p. 118, pl. 16.

634:1 “The Decorative Art of British New Guinea,” Royal Irish Academy, Cunningham Memoirs, No. X., 1894.

Next: Appendix A. The Names of the Natives