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Spear thrower

Date: c 1988
Overall: 15 x 773 x 26 mm, 0.1 kg
Medium: Wood, pigment
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Spear thrower
Object No: 00006784
Related Place:Borroloola,

User Terms

    A spear thrower featuring a bound wooden peg at one end.
    This spear thrower is associated with the bark canoe made in Borroloola.
    SignificanceThe Borroloola bark canoe is, apart from the paperbark raft (na-wukungka), the tradtional indigenous watercraft of the Yanyuwa people .
    HistoryOne of the biggest disadvantages that the Yanyuwa saw with the bark canoes was the fact that once full of water they sink, whereas a dugout canoe will stay afloat and once righted only needs to be bailed out.There were few, if no second chances with a bark canoe.
    The hunting of dugong and sea-turtle would appear to have been quite a perilous occupation from such frail craft as a bark canoe.

    Dugongs were only brought near to the canoe after they were dead, as the thrashing of a harpooned dugong could easily destroy the craft. When harpooned the dugong was allowed to tow the craft until it tired. The hunter then dived over board, following the rope until he reached the dugong, he waited for it to surface and as it took a breath he thrust his fingers into the nostrils of the dugong. He then stayed with the dugong until it died. Only then was it brought anywhere near the canoe, ready to be towed back to land. If there were any reefs or sandbars in the vitcinity of the kill, the dugong was taken and butchered in the shallow water. The meat was then loaded into the canoe and taken back to the camp.
    Sea turtles when harpooned were brought close to the canoe, and then with some effort the canoe was paddled to a location where the sea was shallow enough for someone to stand, and the turtle was lifted into the canoe.

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