Skip to main content

ANCIENT AUSTRALIANS: Tools

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders [Pre-Contact]

A Coolamon, made from tree bark.

The Dilly bag, hand made from string.

Boomerang

Spears

 Spear thrower or Woomera

Resources:

Boomerang:

Boomerangs were used for warfare, hunting prey, rituals and ceremonies, musical instruments, digging sticks and also as a hammer.

Boomerangs made in the desert are non-returning and when thrown correctly can reach distances of 160 metres. They are usually made from Mulga wood and can be smoothed or carved with various designs of that maker or family group. In Aboriginal Art the boomerang is depicted as a 'V' shape or the 'killer boomerang' as a Number 7.

Hunting Spears:

Hunting spears are usually made from Tecoma vine.  These vines are not straight but in fact curly.  To straighten them the maker dries out the moisture by heating the branch over a small fire while it is still green.  While doing this he shapes it into the form that he wants.  A wooden barb is attached to the spearhead by using kangaroo (sometimes emu) sinew.  The opposite end is then tapered to fit onto a spear thrower.  On completion the spear is usually around 270 centimeters long. In Aboriginal Art the spear is usually depicted as a straight line with a triangle at one end.

Spear thrower or Woomera:

Spearthrowers are also known as Woomera or Miru.  The spearthrower is usually made from Mulga wood and it has many uses.  It is mainly designed to launch a spear.  The thrower grips the end covered with Spinifex resin and places the end of the spear into the small peg on the opposite end of the spearthrower.  The spear can then be launched with substantial power at an enemy or prey.  Inserted into the Spinifex resin of the handle of many spearthrowers is very sharp piece of quartz rock.  This is used for cutting, shaping or sharpening.   The spearthrower was also used as a fire making saw, as a receptacle of mixing ochre, in ceremonies and to deflect spears in battle.

Clubs:

Clubs are made from Mulga wood and can vary in shapes and sizes. Many are fire hardened and some have razor sharp quartz set into the handle with Spinifex resin. They are used in ceremonies, in battle, for digging, for grooving tools, for decorating weapons and for many other purposes. 

Food Implements

Carrying dishes and digging sticks were important tools used in food gathering. Most Aboriginal communities harvested seeds of native millet, which only grows in the summer months.  Some groups overcame the problem by gathering grass seeds while they were green, stacking them until they ripened.  Seed grinding stones were larger and flatter than stones used to grind other plants.

Aboriginal people could use the bark of the river red gums for making buckets or bark coolamons to caryy food and water.  Digging sticks are made from the hard wood of the sheoak trees.