The Spear



    Aboriginal people have been living in Australia for more than 40,000 years, perhaps 60,000 or more. Over such a long period of time, Australia went through various changes in climate and habitat.  Temperatures began to rise 14,000 years ago and by 10,000 years ago the vegetation patterns reached approximately their present condition.

    Over such a long period, and with such major changes, it is impossible to imagine any group of people remaining culturally and technologically static. Archaeological research has made significant efforts to discover the kinds of responses which Aboriginal people made to these changes. Stone tools show little change through the period of first human arrival to about 10,000 years ago. However, these tools were mainly simple ones used to create other tools out of wood and therefore it might be expected they would not change much in form. These wooden tools rarely survive in the earth, but we know from one unique archaeological find that boomerangs and barbed spears were invented more than 10,000 years ago. Rock art also shows changes in wooden tools and such other perishable items as headdresses.

    Around 5,000 years ago there was a radical change in the stone tools themselves, with small, delicately worked points and blades beginning to be produced. This change may have been associated with the use of spears with stone points in place of spears with sharpened wooden ends.

Reported by the Australian Gerald 2002 (scroll down page)
    When James Cook and Joseph Banks returned to England in 1770 after their first South Pacific sea voyage, they took with them an array of flora, fauna and cultural artifacts from this newest of worlds. The booty included a collection of about 50 Australian Aboriginal spears that had belonged to the Gweagal people of Botany Bay.   
Four of those spears - the only material reminders of the first meeting between Aborigines and Britons on the east coast - still exist. Few Australians have seen them.

    The spears are held in England at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University, England. On permanent loan from the university's Trinity College, they are subject to one of the many requests for the return of indigenous people's artifacts that beset museums around the world.


 Hunting                                             Combat

Trade and Commerce

Aborigines used spears, among other items, in exchange for natural resources and manufactured goods between them and distant lands (New Guinea).


Various types of games were practiced by Aborigine youngsters.  Most of the games were designed to sharpen the skills these youngsters would need as adults in their community.
  1. Yiri was a game that developed skills needed for fishing using a spear.
  2. Kalq developed skills useful in both combat and hunting.                     
  3. Taktyerrain's emphasis was combat.                                                     

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