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[Front Matter]

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IN the following pages we have endeavoured to set forth an account of the customs and social organisation of certain of the tribes inhabiting Central Australia.

It has been the lot of one of us to spend the greater part of the past twenty years in the centre of the continent, and as sub-protector of the Aborigines he has had exceptional opportunities of coming into contact with, and of gaining the confidence of, the members of the large and important Arunta tribe, amongst whom he has lived, and of which tribe both of us, it may be added, are regarded as fully initiated members.

In the month of July, 1894, we met at Alice Springs, when the scientific expedition organised by Mr. W. A. Horn, of Adelaide, visited that part of the continent, and it was then that one of us gave to Dr. E. C. Stirling, the anthropologist of the expedition, notes which have since been published in the anthropological section of the report on the work of the expedition. This report included the results of the information gained up to that time with regard to the Central tribes, and in respect to certain points, we have, to some extent, had to traverse the same ground in order to make our account as complete as possible; but it was very evident that in regard to the customs and organisation of the tribe we were then only on the threshold of the inquiry, and at a subsequent time we determined to carry on the work.

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During the summer of 1896–7, the natives gathered together at Alice Springs to perform an important series of ceremonies, constituting what is called the Engwura, and this, which occupied more than three months, we witnessed together. The series of ceremonies then enacted enabled us not only to gain a knowledge of, and an insight into the meaning of certain of them, which until then had not been seen by Europeans, but also served to indicate lines of inquiry along which further investigation would prove to be of value.

In addition to the investigation of various customs, such as those connected with initiation and magic, we have paid special attention to the totemic system and to matters concerned with the social organisation of the tribes. In connection especially with the totemic system, we desire to emphasize the fact that, whilst there is some degree of uniformity in regard to customs amongst the series of tribes inhabiting the continent, there is also, as might be expected, very considerable diversity. The physical conditions of the continent are such that groups of tribes inhabiting various regions have been, to a large extent, isolated from one another for a long period of time and have undoubtedly developed along different lines. The result is that, in respect to the totemic system, for example, groups of tribes differ from one another to a large extent, and the customs of no one tribe or group can be taken as typical of Australia generally in, at most, anything but broad outline.

The question of the social organisation of the Australian tribes and the significance of the “terms of relationship” have given rise to a considerable amount of difference of opinion, and into these we have inquired as carefully as possible. The result of our work is undoubtedly to corroborate that of Messrs. Howitt and Fison in regard to these matters.

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We have endeavoured to set forth the results of our investigations so that the reader may see, on the one hand, the actual facts, and on the other, the conclusions at which, in certain cases, we have arrived after a consideration of these.

As it has been our main object to write simply an account of the Central tribes, we have not referred to the work of other authors, except so far as it was directly concerned with the tribes investigated. The work by Mr. W. E. Roth on the Aborigines of North-West Central Queensland reached us when our manuscript was written, and we have added references to it chiefly in the form of footnotes. Mr. Roth's work bears more closely upon certain parts of ours than that of any other author does, and is in some respects, especially in connection with the system of organisation, the most detailed account yet published of any Australian tribe, and we gladly take this opportunity, as fellow-workers in the same field, of expressing our high appreciation of his work.

The time in which it will be possible to investigate the Australian native tribes is rapidly drawing to a close, and though we know more of them than we do of the lost Tasmanians, yet our knowledge is very incomplete, and unless some special effort be made, many tribes will practically die out without our gaining any knowledge of the details of their organisation, or of their sacred customs and beliefs.

We have, in conclusion, the pleasant duty of acknowledging the assistance received from various friends. To Mr. C. E. Cowle and Mr. P. M. Byrne, both of whom, from long residence amongst them, are well acquainted with the natives, we are indebted in various ways for the most cordial assistance, and to Mr. Cowle one of us owes the opportunity of traversing certain parts of the interior which would otherwise have been inaccessible to him.

To Mr. C. Winnecke we are especially indebted. There is no one who has a fuller knowledge of the topography of

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Central Australia, and this knowledge he most generously and freely placed at our disposal, drawing up for us the two maps on which are indicated the localities of the principal spots associated with the traditions of the Arunta natives. It will be understood that these maps are not intended to indicate our present knowledge of the geographical features of Central Australia, all except the more important ones being purposely omitted.

We have to thank Mr. W. A. Horn and Dr. E. C. Stirling for permission to utilize certain drawings illustrative of native rock paintings which were originally made to illustrate Dr. Stirling's anthropological report dealing with the Arunta tribe.

Finally, we have to express our deep sense of the obligation under which we lie to Dr. E. B. Tylor and Mr. J. G. Frazer. It need hardly be pointed out how much we are indebted to their work as indicating to us lines of inquiry, but in addition to this we have received from them the most cordial personal encouragement and help. They have most kindly read through the proofs—indeed to Mr. Frazer we are deeply indebted for the final revision of these, and in offering them our warmest thanks, we venture to express the hope that the work may prove to be worthy of the interest which they have taken in it.

MELBOURNE, March, 1898.

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List of Illustrations


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1. Outline Map of the Central Area, showing the Distribution of the Tribes referred to 
2. Group of Old Men at a Wurley  13 
3. Members of a Family of Arunta Natives, showing the Wurley, Weapons and Implements used in daily life  17 
4. Spear Throwing  18 
5. Spear Throwing  19 
6. Boomerang Throwing  21 
7. Arunta Native, side face  29 
8. Arunta Native, full face  31 
9. Arunta Native, old man  33 
10. Arunta Native, to show the frizzly nature of the beard  35 
11. Arunta Native, to show the wavy nature of the hair  39 
12. Group of Warramunga Men, four of the older ones have the upper lip bare  41 
13. Young Women, Arunta Tribe, side face  43 
14. Young Women, Arunta Tribe, full face  45 
15. Young Woman, Arunta, showing body scars and tooth knocked out  47 
16. Old Woman, Arunta Tribe  49 
17. Young Woman, Warramunga Tribe  51 
18. Woman carrying Child, Arunta Tribe  53 
19. Diagram of Marriage System in the Dieri Tribe  109 
20. Wooden Churinga or Sacred Sticks of the Urabunna, Luritcha and Arunta Tribes  129 
21. Stone Churinga of the Arunta, Kaitish and Warramunga Tribes  131 
22. Sacred Objects of the Waaga Tribe  158 
23. Churinga which have just been returned after having been borrowed. During the performance of ceremonies they are placed on the small platform built in the tree  163 
24. Sacred Drawings of the Witchetty Grub Totem on the rocks at the Emily Gap  171 
25. The Great Ilthura where Intichiuma was performed at the Emily Gap  173 
26. Rubbing the Stomach with the Churinga Uchaqua during the Intichiuma Ceremony of the Witchetty Grub Totem. The men are sitting in one of the Ilthura  174 
27. Rubbing the Stomach with the Churinga Unchima during the Intichiuma Ceremony of the Witchetty Grub Totem. The men are sitting in one of the Ilthura  175 
28. The Alatunja returning to Camp after the Intichiuma ceremony of the Witchetty Grub Totem at the Emily Gap  177 
29. Group of Men of the Emu Totem sitting round the Churinga Ilpintira, which is drawn on the ground  181 
30. Preparing Decorations for the performance of the Intichiuma Ceremony of the Emu Totem  182 
31. Performance of the Intichiuma Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem. Pouring blood on to the stone  184 
32. Intichiuma Ceremony of Water Totem  190 
33. Undiara, where the Intichiuma Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem is performed  195 
34. First Ceremony of Initiation, painting and throwing the boys up in the air  216 
35. First Ceremony of Initiation, painting and throwing the boys up in the air  217 
36. Diagram of the Apulla Ground  219 
37. Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem, men lying down on the top of the Wurtja  224 
38. Ceremony of Kangaroo Totem, the two men standing up wear small Waningas; the man lying down is supposed to be a dog  225 
39. The Wurtja embracing the Waninga, which has been used during a Ceremony of the Rat Totem  233 
40. The Wurtja crouching behind his brake; on his back is a design of the Snake Totem; the Apulla lines are seen with the Group of Men in front of their brake; the man who will perform the operation of circumcision is on the left and his assistant on the right side  235 
41. Women stripping the poles, just before the Ceremony of Lartna in the Northern Arunta Tribe  245 
42. The operator and his assistant standing in position during the performance of Lartna. The operator holds the small stone knife in his right hand  247 
43. Immediately before the Ceremony of Ariltha; the two Arakurta embracing the Nurtunja, which has been used during a ceremony of the Bandicoot Totem  254 
44. Immediately after the Ceremony of Ariltha; the two Ertwakurka sitting on the Shields  255 
45. Old Men in charge of the Store of Churinga belonging to the Purula and Kumara, during the Engwura Ceremony. The Churinga are stored on a platform called Thanunda  273 
46. Plan of the Engwura Ground  276 
47. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem: the long cord represents the path of the Wild Cat men as they travelled along in the Alcheringa  287 
48. Ceremony of the Wild Cat Totem, showing the laying on of hands to cause the performers to stop  289 
49. Group of Men examining the Churinga  291 
50. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of Quiurnpa  292 
51. Ceremony of the Plum Tree Totem: the performer is supposed to be eating plums  293 
52. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Eagle-Hawk Totem  295 
53. Ceremony of Unjiamba Totem of Ooraminna  297 
54. Ceremony of the Wild Cat Totem of Arapera, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja  299 
55. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of the Plum Tree Totem of Quiurnpa, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja  301 
56. Ceremony of the large Lizard Totem: the two undecorated men represent Thippa - thippa Men who changed into Birds  305 
57. Ceremony of the Water Totem, showing how the Waninga is carried  307 
58. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of the Grass Seed Totem, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja  311 
59. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of the Plum Tree Totem of Quiurnpa. The man sitting down wears a special form of Nurtunja on his head  314 
60. Ceremony of the Fish Totem of Uratinga on the Finke River  317 
61. Ceremony of the Irriakura Totem of Umbanjun, the decorated feathers on the head represent the flowering Irriakura  319 
62. Ceremony of the Irriakura Totem of Oknirchumpatana. The performer sits in front of a series of tufts of feathers fixed in the ground  321 
63. Ceremony of an Ant Totem of Alkniwukulla, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja; the lines of down represent roots of wattle trees, amongst which the women dig for ants; the performers represent women  325 
64. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja; the small cross pieces represent pointing sticks  327 
65. Ceremony representing two Oruncha of Kulparra  330 
66. Ceremony of the Oruncha of Chauritchi  332 
67. An Oruncha Ceremony: the performers coming on to the ground  333 
68. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem of Apera-na-Unkumna, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja  335 
69. The Erathipa Stone, showing the hole through which the Spirit Children emerge, and the charcoal line painted above it  337 
70. Ceremony of the Opossum Totem of Arimurla, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja  339 
71. Ceremony of the Opossum Totem of Arimurla, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja  340 
72. Preparing for a Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda  342 
73. Ceremony of the Emu Totem; the head-dress represents the neck and head of an Emu  343 
74. Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda  345 
75. Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda  346 
76. The Women throwing fire over the Illpongwurra  349 
77. The Illpongwurra lying down with their heads on the Parra, behind which are stacked the bushes which they carry when returning to camp  353 
78. Dance of the Illpongwurra round the performers of a ceremony; this running round is called Wahkutnima  355 
79. Preparing the fire for the Illpongwurra  357 
80. Ingwurninga Inkinja Ceremony of the Emu Totem of Imanda  359 
81. Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem of Undiara, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja  361 
82. Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem of Undiara, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja  363 
83. Ambilyerikirra Ceremony  367 
84. The erection of the Sacred Pole, or Kauaua; the man who has climbed up is arranging the Churinga  371 
85. The Illpongwurra on the fire  373 
86. Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda  375 
87. Totemic Designs painted on the backs of the Illpongwurra  377 
88. The Illpongwurra gathered round the Kauaua  379 
89. Ceremony of releasing from the Ban of Silence; touching the mouths of the younger men with a sacred object  383 
90. Ceremony of releasing from the Ban of Silence; touching the mouth of the younger man with a fragment of the food presented by him to the older man  385 
91. Rocks at Quiurnpa which arose to mark the spot where the Illpongwurra were burnt during the Engwura  391 
92. The Nanja rock of Kukaitcha, the leader of the Ulpmerka men of the Plum Tree Totem at Quiurnpa  393 
93. Emily Gap from the South side  426 
94. Emily Gap from the North side  427 
95. Ceremony of the White Bat Totem concerned with Cannibalism  474 
96. Emu Feather Shoes worn by the Kurdaitcha  479 
97. Kurdaitcha creeping up to his enemy  482 
98. Illapurinja Woman  487 
99. Tree Burial in the Warramunga Tribe  499 
100. Widow smeared with Kaolin and wearing the Chimurilia  501 
101. Chimurilia, fur string bands and feathers worn by the Widow during the Urpmilchima Ceremony at the Grave  505 
102. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba (Hakea Tree) Totem of Urthipita, showing the Umbalinyara Cross  518 
103. Iruntarinia Ceremony concerned with two Oruncha of Atnurtinya Kinya  520 
104. Medicine Man showing the hole made in his tongue  524 
105. Medicine Man made by the Oruncha, with the Oruncha Marilla, or design of the Oruncha  527 
106. Various forms of Implements of Magic used amongst the Central Tribes  535 
107. Drawing intended to represent a Woman lying on her back  549 
108. Ceremony of the Sun Totem of Ilparlinja  563 
109. Clothing and Personal Ornaments  569 
110. Personal Ornaments  571 
110A. Various forms of Spear-heads  576 
111. Spear-throwers  579 
112. Construction of the Tassel or Fringe of the Nulliga  580 
113. Attachment of the Tassel to the Nulliga  580 
114. Fire making, by means of rubbing the edge of a Spear-thrower on a Shield  584 
115. Shields  585 
116. Shields  585 
117. Stone Axes and Knives  589 
118. Boomerangs  597 
118A. Ornamentation of large Boomerangs  598 
118B. Fighting Clubs  603 
119. Various Implements  605 
120. Pitchis  609 
121. Pitchis  609 
122. Structure of the String Bag  612 
123. Arunta Native using Spindle for making Fur-string  613 
124. Native Rock Paintings  To face page 615 
125. Arunta Natives, Corrobboree Decorations  619 
126. Arunta Natives, Corrobboree Decorations  619 
127. Arunta Natives, decorated for the Erkita Corrobboree  620 
128. Decorations used during a Rain Dance or Corrobboree, Arunta Tribe  621 
129. Old Man instructing Boys how to perform a Corrobboree  622 
130. Preparing for the Erkita Corrobboree, Arunta Tribe  623 
131. Churingia Ilkinia or Sacred Rock Drawing of a Group of the Honey Ant Totem in the Warramunga Tribe  To face page 631 
132. Churinga Ilkinia of the Udnirringita Totem drawn on the Rocks at the Emily Gorge  To face page 632 
133. Churinga Ilkinia of the Ulpmerka of the Plum Tree Totem, drawn on the Rocks at Quiurnpa  To face page 633 
1. Outline Map of the Central Area of Australia showing the tracks followed by the four groups of Achilpa and the spots at which they camped  Inside back cover 
2. Outline Map of the Central Area of Australia in the region of the MacDonnell Range, showing the tracks followed by the various groups of Udnirringita and of Emu men, together with the spots at which they camped, and other localities concerned with traditions  Inside back cover 

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