Rare Boomerang Collection Reveals a Diverse Past

Boomerangs found at kinipapa.

Analysis on the boomerangs discovered at Kinipapa revealed them to date from 1650–1830, prior to European exploration. (Image: via Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Traditional Land Owners Aboriginal Corporation)

New research at Flinders University has analyzed a rare non-returning boomerang collection from Kinipapa (Cooper Creek) near Innamincka in South Australia’s far northeast.

The four boomerangs and one wooden fragment were discovered in the creek bed during drought conditions in 2017 and 2018 by Jason Litherland from National Parks and Wildlife South Australia and Katheryn Litherland, a traditional owner. The project to analyze the artifacts was a collaborative venture initiated by the Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Traditional Landowners (Aboriginal Corporation).

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The boomerangs like the one above were uncovered from Kinipapa (Cooper Creek).
The boomerangs like the one above were uncovered from Kinipapa (Cooper Creek), near Innamincka in South Australia’s far northeast. (Image: via Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Traditional Land Owners Corporation)

They partnered with Australian Heritage Services, Flinders University, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation to carefully document the objects and to conduct radiocarbon dating to determine their ages. The results of radiocarbon dating revealed that the boomerangs range in age from circa A.D. 1650–1830, a time that spans the two centuries leading up to European incursions into the region by explorers such as Sturt, Burke, and Wills. Professor Amy Roberts said:

“The assemblage reveals a variety of form and function representative of the diverse cultural activities and daily lives of the Aboriginal people who lived near significant waterholes in the Cooper Creek region during this period.”

Boomerangs in the boomerang collection served many uses

The authors concluded that in addition to their likely use as projectiles, the boomerangs were probably used by Aborigines for fighting, hunting, digging, fire management, and possibly in ceremonies. Co-author Dr. Daryl Wesley said:

“This range of activities goes well beyond the stereotype of the returning boomerang known to most Australians.”

Boomerangs in the boomerang collection served many functions.
The authors concluded that in addition to their likely use as projectiles, the boomerangs were probably used for fighting, hunting, digging, fire management, and possibly in ceremonies. (Image: via Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Traditional Land Owners Aboriginal Corporation)

Joshua Haynes, a Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka traditional owner and co-author, said:

“For Yandruwandha and Yawarrawarrka people, the finds provide another example of how their Country continues to tell the stories of their ancestors, as well as affording a tangible connection to the knowledge passed down from their families.”

Joshua Haynes holding an ancient boomerang.
Joshua Haynes, a Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka traditional owner and co-author. (Image: via Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Traditional Land Owners Aboriginal Corporation)

Katheryn Litherland, a Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka traditional owner and co-author, added:

“We will continue to protect and preserve our artefacts on Country, that’s what our ancestors would want us to do. When you see them old people in whirly winds you know they are here watching and protecting our Country.”

Predictions for climate change in the region threaten to alter the conditions that allowed the preservation of boomerang collection, which may affect the potential survival of other wooden objects that remain in the environment.

Provided by: Flinders University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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