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The boomerang that we are commonly aware of today is a boomerang that returns
back to the thrower. To those most familiar with boomerangs, it is actually
called the returning boomerang. However, there is a second group of non-returning
boomerangs that were used for hand to hand fighting, hunting, music and entertainment
by the Aborigines. A great deal of confusion exists about boomerangs because
these groups get mixed. For example, there is a commonly held impression that
a boomerang can be thrown to conk an enemy on the head and then return to
the thrower to be caught. This is patently false.
An understanding of the
derivation of the word "boomerang"
(which has been subject to revisionist
history) helps to clear up this confusion.
Boomerangs are both rich in tradition and useful as modern day sport. An extended
describe both their physical characteristics and use. For the
Aborigines, boomerangs are both an item of sport and an important part of
The Non Returning Boomerang
The boomerang was invented between 25,000 to 50,000 years ago. The oldest boomerang,
discovered in Poland, is 20,000 years old. It was the first man made object heavier
than air to fly. The first boomerangs were used for hunting and killing. The hunting
type could be hurled at distances of 150 to 200 yards. They hovered just above
the ground at high speed killing small animals or stunning larger ones like kangaroos.
These boomerangs were up to three feet across weighing 5 to 10 pounds. They were
made from the roots of the mulga
or wattle tree. This is because boomerangs would chip or break off if the
grain of the wood didn't have the same pattern as the shape of the boomerang.
The roots of these trees already had the right shape. This killing boomerang did
The Aborigines are credited with inventing the returning boomerang. The returning
boomerang probably developed over time by the Aborigines through trial and error.
Prehistoric man at first would throw stones or sticks. At some point he realized
that a curved stick actually created more accuracy and velocity. He then further
refined and shaped these sticks to produce what became known as the hunting or
fighting boomerang. At some point, certain of these boomerangs would return back
to the direction of the thrower. Again, through further refinement, these lightweight
boomerangs were actually caught by the first
inventor of the returning boomerang. The returning boomerang, however, was
always used for sport by the Aborigines.
Believe it or not, the
returning boomerang is actually less accurate then the hunting and killing
boomerang. All boomerangs fall into four categories:
- Hunting ---
These are heavy. Traveling just above the ground, they can kill a small animal
or stun a larger one.
--- These are held. They were used in hand to hand combat. Think of them as a
- Music ---
Two are clapped together to produce a rhythm or sound effect.
--- Originally made of wood, most of these boomerangs are now made of plastic
or resin using computer technology.
CULTURE, ART AND TRADITION
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Boomerangs are richly decorated by the Aborigines. Boomerangs are also used in
ceremonies, story telling and for music. During festivities two boomerangs are
clapped together to produce a rhythm to dance by. During story telling the didgeridoo
player uses boomerangs for sound effects and ambience just like we use music to
enhance the experience of our feature films.
The unique path of the boomerang comes about because the boomerang is basically
two wings held together as one. When it is thrown, it both spins and revolves.
One might think of the motion of the boomerang as being quite similar to the motion
of the earth as it spins and revolves around the sun. There are more
detailed explanations are available.
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