Object: Boomerang

E/1976/14/4
Australia: Boomerang
Oceania: Australia
Materials: wood

This boomerang is made of dark brown wood. A zig-zag pattern with arrows has been carved onto the object. It is from the Nullarbor Plain, in Australia. Nullarbor Plain is the section of southern land between Norseman in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia. Nullarbor means “no trees” in Latin, which is exactly what you will see as you drive through sections of Nullarbor.

A boomerang is a curved piece of wood used as a weapon and for sport. Boomerangs come in many shapes and sizes depending on their geographic or tribal origins and intended function. The most recognizable type is the returning boomerang, which is a throwing stick that travels in an elliptical path and returns to its point of origin when thrown correctly. A returning boomerang has uneven arms or wings, so that the spinning is lopsided to curve the path. Boomerangs have various uses, such as hunting weapons, percussive musical instruments, battle clubs, fire-starters, decoys for hunting waterfowl, and as recreational play toys.

The oldest Australian Aborigine boomerangs are ten thousand years old, but older hunting sticks have been discovered in Europe, where they seem to have formed part of the Stone Age arsenal of weapons. King Tutankhamen, Pharaoh of ancient Egypt, who died over 3,000 years ago, owned a collection of boomerangs of both the straight flying and returning variety.

The origin of the returning boomerang is uncertain, but some speculate that it developed from the flattened throwing stick, still used by the Australian Aborigines and other tribal people around the world. Most people today associate the boomerang with the Australia. This may be due in part to the fact that the boomerang has continued to be an effective weapon against upright standing prey, such as kangaroos, for several millennia. The effectiveness of the weapon can be viewed as a possible reason the Australian Aborigines never developed the bow and arrow for use in hunting.

[Debra Taylor]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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