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Spearing a Kangaroo, Bark painting in X-Ray Style

Native Tribes of the Northern Territory of Australia

by Baldwin Spencer

Macmillan And Co., London

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This is a comprehensive ethnography of the Australian Aborigines of Northern Australia, particularly the group known as the Kakadu, and the tribes of Melville Island. This is one of about half a dozen ethnographies written before the destruction of the Australian traditional cultures. This book is well written and, for the most part, presented from a non-ethnocentric (non-judgemental) point of view, which sets it apart from most of the other available public domain materal on this topic. As far as material on the traditions of these tribes, this is the only source text which we will ever have. Shortly after this was written, the traditional life of these tribes was devastated by the impact of European culture. This is a priceless record of a vanished stone-age civilization.

Due to space considerations, I have only been able to include a few of the illustrations; the complete list can be viewed at the link at the top of each page labeled Images. In addition, I have refrained from posting images of people, ceremonies or sacred objects from the original book, in deference to modern Aboriginal protocol. I have included a set of bark drawings in the 'X-Ray' style. This unique Aboriginal style is generally considered one of the most sophisticated genres of representational art ever devised.


This classic work of anthropology has been posted on the Internet for research purposes. We believe that this work is substantially accurate in its details. However some errata have been found which were present in the original book and will be published here shortly. Please be aware that some of the material presented here may disclose information about Aboriginal beliefs and practises which would normally only be available to initiated persons.

Title Page
Chapter I: Introduction
Chapter II: Social Organisation and Marriage Regulations
Chapter III: Initiation Ceremonies
Chapter IV: Totemic Systems and Totem Groups
Chapter V: Sacred Sticks, Bull-Roarers, and Ceremonial Objects
Chapter VI: Burial and Mourning Ceremonies
Chapter VII: Magic and Medicine
Chapter VIII: Beliefs in Regard to the Origin of Children
Chapter IX: Traditions Concerning Imberombera, The Great Ancestor, And Also Other Ancestors Of The Kakadu Nation
Chapter X: Various Traditions, Customs and Beliefs
Chapter XI: Food Restrictions
Chapter XII: Weapons and Implements
Chapter XIII: Clothing and Ornament
Chapter XIV: Decorative Art