Summary

Stone knives like this one were made from quartzite and the Warumungu and Tjingali people made knives for these for their own use and for exchange through the extensive trade networks across central Australia. Knives were used for butchering game such as kangaroos and emus, and used in ritualised fighting, initiation and other ceremonies. During mourning rituals, for example, some male relatives were required to use knives to cut their thighs and shoulders as a mark of respect for the deceased. Wood of the mulga tree ('Acacia aneura') was used at times, and the blades fixed with resin from the leaf stalks of a species of 'Triodia', commonly known as spinifex or porcupine grass. The resin, collected by burning short pieces of spinifex on a sheet of bark, is moulded around the wood while still warm and then set hard when it cooled. To protect the sharp edges of the blade, sheaths were used, and this one here is made of paperbark. The decorative designs painted on the handles may represent the totemic ancestors of either the maker or owner of a knife. Spencer recorded in 1914 that stone knives, axes and picks were still being used among those Aboriginal groups in central Australia who had thus far had limited contact with non-Indigenous people, however they were 'yearly decreasing in numbers' as the use of European metal implements increased.

Physical Description

A hafted stone blade attached with resin to a section of wood painted with natural pigments. The design is primarily dots. It has a sheath made from a folded piece of bark tied with fibre.

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