Volume 43 1934 > Volume 43, No. 171 > Australian spear-traits and their derivations, by D. S. Davidson, p 143-162
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AUSTRALIAN SPEAR-TRAITS AND THEIR DERIVATIONS.
(Continued from Vol. 43, page 72.)

There are three varieties of detachable barbs, —those made of bone (fig. 25); those made of wood, round in

FIG. 25., Detachable Bone Barb.
Barb is a continuation of tip of spear—Queensland.

cross-section; and those made of wood, flat in cross-section (fig. 26). The barb is bound to the spear at or near its point by sinew or string. In some cases gum is smeared over the binding.

FIG. 26., Spears with Detachable Wooden Barbs.
1. Flat wooden barb, acicular spear—Western Australia; 2. Round wooden barb, flattened spears—Central Australia; 3. Round wooden barb, spatulate shaped head—Central Australia.

Bone-barbs—Because of the nature of bone, the bone-barbs appear to be the most serviceable of the three varieties in that they are more durable and stronger than wooden barbs of a similar size. The Australian use of - 144 bone-barbs is concentrated in Queensland and the Cape York peninsula, and probably extends as far south as northern Victoria. There is a lack of information for southern Queensland and northern New South Wales but Brough Smyth reports their presence at Swan Hill, Victoria, and in the National Museum of Victoria there is a spear with a detachable bone-barb said to be from New South Wales. Since these specimens are very definitely similar to the examples from Queensland there would seem to be no doubt but that there is historical relationship.

Bone-barbs seem to be quite definitely associated with reed-spears in Australia, Torres Strait and parts of New Guinea and also with reed-arrows in Torres Strait and in New Guinea. Since there is a contiguity throughout this distribution a historical relationship seems apparent. All of the reed-spears with bone-barbs seem to be thrown with the aid of a spearthrower.

Round Wooden Barbs—The eastern boundary of round wooden barbs apparently begins at the western limit of bone-barbs, approximately the Queensland-North Australian border. Although we do not have data from all regions there seems to be a contiguous distribution from this border to the western coast of the continent with the exception of northern North Australia and northern Western Australia. Throughout this extensive distribution round wooden barbs are closely associated with the plain ordinary spear with a spatulate or flattened head.

In Central Australia and extending southward into South Australia the spears equipped with these barbs are often of the composite type with a hardwood head and a long shaft of the same material or of lighter and softer wood. Most spears equipped with the round wooden barb are used with a spearthrower, although there are some examples of heavy hand spears with this type of barb. We have already mentioned the fact that reed-spears in this area, as well as in other peripheral regions of reed-spear distribution, are not associated with these barbs, and we assumed on this basis that reed-spears diffused into Australia at a time before detachable barbs were known.

Flat Wooden Barbs—Spears with flat wooden barbs appear to be restricted to the extreme western and south-western parts of the continent. In all specimens observed - 145 the spear itself was of one piece with an acicular head. All were equipped with an indentation at the butt for use with a spearthrower.

In view of the contiguous distribution of detachable barbs from Western Australia to New Guinea there would seem to be no question of their derivation from the latter region where they are found attached to both arrows and spears. Whether they originated with a reed-spear in New Guinea is another question, but it seems likely that it was a diffusion within the distribution of reed-spears by which they first reached Australia. In all probability reed-spears were already common in eastern Australia at that time, with the result that the acquiring of the detachable barb by the Australians involved no change in spear-construction. Presumably plain reed-spears continued to diffuse southward and westward and were followed by the diffusion of detachable barbs at a later time until the Queensland-North Australian border was reached. At that point the round wooden barb replaces the bone-barb and detachable barbs become associated with either simple or composite wooden spears instead of with reed-spears.

It is impossible to determine with assurance what factors were responsible for these changes although some light is possibly thrown on the problem by our knowledge of various spear-trait distributions. At the present time, for instance, reed-spears with detachable barbs are important as fighting and hunting weapons throughout most of Queensland. In Central Australia, however, plain reed-spears seem to be used only for fishing. The idea of the detachable barb may have been so closely associated with hunting and fighting spears that in adopting it from their Queensland neighbours the natives of Central Australia applied it to spears which served the same purposes rather than to spears which were physically similar. It is also possible that suitable reed is difficult to obtain in this region and such a condition may have caused a substitution which has persisted in areas further to the west.

We have no way of telling at present whether spears with barbs cut in the solid were in use in Central Australia at the time detachable barbs arrived there. However, if such were the case the introduction of this new barb, easy to make and easy to replace, may have caused the eventual - 146 disuse of barbs cut in the solid. Furthermore, it may be that in this region a traditional use of wooden barbs was so strong that it may have been instrumental in causing the substitution of wood for bone in the new detachable barbs. A similar conservativeness may also have been responsible for the application of the new detachable barb to the old wooden spears with which barbs had been associated rather than to the more recent reed-spears which were plainer and of specialized use.

These possibilities are purely conjectural but, regardless of what the true happenings may have been, we do notice a consistent use of wooden barbs with wooden spears once the Queensland border has been crossed. It is important to notice that throughout the distribution of the round wooden barb the spears usually have an oval, flattened or spatulate head.

In the extreme western part of the continent round wooden barbs and flat wooden barbs are co-extensive in distribution except in the south-western region where the latter are found alone. Since the flat wooden barbs are always associated with the crude type of plain acicular spear it seems likely that the change from round barbs represents the practical solution to what had been the problem of mounting a round barb to a small round head. As the map shows both varieties of barbs are found together in some regions but each is associated with only one form of spear-head.

The diffusion of the detachable barb from New Guinea to Western Australia seems to be an interesting example of a trait which appears to progressively change as it extends its periphery. It is important to note, however, that there is no change in purpose or function. The changes, primarily in material but also partly in shape, are the results, seemingly, of the real or fancied needs for combining the new trait with different types of spear-heads. These changes, it is important to note, do not take place except when a different combination is made.

Whatever may have been the distribution of barbs cut in the solid before the introduction of the detachable barb we notice at the present time that the latter tends to separate the positive appearances of the former in all parts of Australia. (Compare the distributions in figs. 10 and - 147 24.) Such a condition may be regarded as further evidence that barbs cut in the solid once occupied a contiguous distribution and have gone into disuse as the result of the introduction of a different type of barb which apparently impressed the natives as a much more satisfactory one. It does not necessarily follow that all Australian tribes would have eventually given up barbs cut in the solid for the newer detachable barbs. Apparently there will always be groups of people satisfied with the old, and indifferent toward the new.

One of the characteristics of the bone-barb in Queensland is that it serves the dual purpose of barb and spear-point (fig. 25). This condition is not found in spears with wooden barbs, apparently because the other end of a wooden barb would be no better a point than the point of the spear-head. This difference would not be important were it not for the appearance of bone tips on the multi-pronged spears of the Kakadu in northern North Australia. At the present time the significance of this appearance cannot be indicated. There seems to be no probable relationship although this cannot be regarded as certain until we have more information from the intervening regions. Until more data are forthcoming the Kakadu appearance should be regarded as possibly an independent development.

THE DEATH-SPEAR.

The so-called “death-spear” or “dread-spear” is one of the most interesting Australian weapons. It is made by embedding a series of small jagged stone chips in a gum layer which has been smeared over the head of the spear (fig. 27). In some cases grooves were cut in the wood to hold the chips but this was not a universal practice. With the coming of European glass the natives were quick

FIG. 27.
Death Spears., Western Australia, upper; Cape York Peninsula, lower (after Roth).
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to appreciate its advantages over stone, with the result that many of the spears of post-European age are equipped with splinters of this commodity. This style of spear undoubtedly received its name from the terrible wound it inflicted as well as from the reputation it had among Europeans. Knives were also made in this fashion, at least in south-western Australia.

In aboriginal times the death-spear seems to have been commonly distributed along the entire southern coast of Australia from at least the region of Sydney on the east to the Gascoyne region of Western Australia (see map, fig. 28). Specimens of a similar nature have also been

FIG. 28.
Distribution of Death Spears., DEATH-SPEARS., New South Wales. Collins, pp. 543 et seq., The Saturday Magazine, no. 252. Peron, plate “Novelle-Hollande, Gallus du Sud, Armes, Ustencils et Ornements, ” fig. 9., Victoria. Dawson, p. 87 (two rows). Brough Smyth, 1, p. 304., South Australia. S.A.M.—Narrinyerri, Lake Alexandrina, Lower Murray (all with short tail-piece), Eucla (one-piece shaft), Meyer, p. 194, Encounter Bay Woods, p. xviii, p. 40, Narrinyerri (heavy spear from Upper Murray, spicules of flint added locally). Taplin, p. 40, Narrinyerri., Western Australia. W.A.M.—Eucla, Bunbury, York, Northampton, Gascoyne (all one-piece shaft). S.A.M.—Southwest (two rows of stones). A.M.—Kimberley (some with two rows of stones, some with glass)., Queensland. A.M.—Bloomfield River-Maytown District. Roth, 1897, p. 148, Northern Mitakoodi (most commonly made at Sevannah, bartered to Kalkadoon around Grenada—attached to reed spear); Bulletin 13, plate 58, and 1897, p. 365, plate 20, Cape Bedford, Princess Charlotte Bay, Bloomfield River and Middle Palmer River (two rows of stones). Shark teeth, placed in grooves in gum, are found in knives from the Gulf of Carpentaria (S.A.M.).
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collected in the northern parts of the continent from at least three localities, the Princess Charlotte Bay region of the Cape York peninsula, the Mitakoodi area of north-west central Queensland, and the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

In view of the peculiarity of this weapon, a historical relationship of all the appearances now observable is suggested. Such an inference is supported by the peripheral location of these appearances to other types of barbs as well as by the unusual features of this spear which would seem to indicate the improbability that independent origin could be held accountable in so many instances. If these appearances are the result of a diffusion from a common centre proof should be forthcoming in the archæological remains in the intervening regions. The importance of careful excavation in these regions must be stressed, for, since these stone flakes are not prepared to conform to any particular shape or size, and demonstrate by no external proof, such as secondary chipping that they were intended for use, some investigators might be inclined to regard them as unimportant work site rejects, the by-products of other stone-working processes.

The death-spear is apparently quite an ancient weapon. This conclusion is indicated not only by its isolated appearances in several peripheral areas of the continent, but also by its close association with the simple type of acicular spear which, as we have already seen, was apparently ubiquitous in Australia, and certainly the most simple of Australian spear-types. The place of the death-spear in a chronological table, while it cannot be indicated with certainty, can be tentatively suggested. It seems likely that it followed the plain spear, its foundation and that it preceded barbs cut in the solid which it outflanks in distribution in several regions.

On the basis of present knowledge the place of origin of the death-spear cannot be indicated. Possibly it is an Australian development, although the idea of using stone chips appears to be so similar to that of attaching shark-teeth to weapons, found in the Gulf of Carpentaria area of Australia in fighting knives and in various weapons in other parts of the Pacific, that the possibility of its origin outside of Australia must be admitted.

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FIG. 29.
Kimberley Type Spearhead (top), Quartzite Spearhead (bottom).
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The use of gum on spear-heads in bands or rings is also found associated with plain acicular spears particularly in the coastal areas of western and south-western Australia but also in the Normanton region of Queensland. There is possibly a historical relationship between this practice and that of making death-spears.

STONE-HEADED SPEARS.

Stone-headed spears in Australia are found in the northern part of the continent from the Gulf of Carpentaria on the east to Broome on the west, and from the northern coast to Central Australia on the south. Although a contiguous distribution is to be noticed, there are two varieties of spear-heads, one prevailing in the east, the other in the west, with an overlapping in western North Australia. At the present time a genetic relationship between the two has not been established.

The first, the quartzite type, is a flaked blade with a cross-section generally triangular (fig. 29). Its area of use includes most of North Australia and the adjacent portion of Central Australia, but the area of its manufacture is much more restricted (fig. 30).

FIG. 30
Distribution of Stone-headed Spears., Broken line—Limit of use of Quartzite spears., Horizontal hatching—Area of manufacture of Quartzite spears., Solid arrow—Direction of diffusion of Quartzite spearheads., Dotted area—Place of manufacture of Kimberley spearheads., Dotted arrows—Direction of diffusion of Kimberley spearheads.
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The second, the Kimberley type, is concentrated in the Kimberley area, the region of its manufacture, but it has diffused eastward into North Australia and south-eastward into Central Australia. It is characterized by pressure-chipping and has an eliptical cross-section.

Judging from their distributions, which are small in comparison to those of other spear-types, and our knowledge of their recent diffusions into the peripheral areas of their distributions, respectively, stone-headed spears seem to be rather recent indigenous developments in Australia. 1 The quartzite type, for instance, is still diffusing into the coastal regions of North Australia and the Gulf of Carpentaria, where it appears to be assuming greater importance. Throughout this region the stone-heads themselves are imported, for the art of their manufacture seems to be unknown in spite of the fact that suitable stone is present. This diffusion has been going on for at least a century, for stone spear-heads were seen in the Port Essington area by King about 1819. Diffusion has also carried these blades far to the south; for the southern boundary of the use of this type of spear-head, the Macdonnell Range, in Central Australia, is about one hundred miles south of the nearest area of manufacture. Throughout the northern regions, the quartzite spear is invading an area where spears with barbs cut in the solid predominate. Most of the latter are composite spears, in that the barbed head of hard wood is attached to a shaft of bamboo or soft wood. The acceptance of stone-heads, therefore, involves, for the most part, only a substitution of a stone head for a wooden one.

The Kimberley type of stone spear-head, as we have said, is also spreading at the present time, particularly in an eastward direction to invade the area where quartzite spear-heads, wooden spear-heads with barbs cut in the solid, and reed-spears are found. This movement is a contemporary one, as has been demonstrated by ethnological observation as well as by archæological investigation. Similar to the quartzite spear-head diffusion, the Kimberley type involves an actual movement of specimens rather than - 153 a diffusion of the technique of manufacture, although the latter is following at a slower pace. The adoption of the Kimberley spear-heads involves the combination of the ideas of the method of mounting quartzite spear-heads and the reed-spears, for the Kimberley type of head appears to be always associated with a long hardwood fore-shaft and a reed or bamboo main-shaft.

Now throughout the distribution of quartzite spear-heads, wooden spear-heads with barbs cut in the solid are still found. The latter predominate on Melville and Bathurst Islands where stone-heads are entirely lacking, and in the northern and eastern coastal districts of North Australia where, as has been stated, quartzite spear-heads are imported but not made. As the Western Australian border is approached, however, wooden heads with carved barbs gradually become less noticeable until finally, in the Kimberley area, they seem to be represented by only a few specimens. Once this area of Kimberley stone-heads has been passed, however, the use of barbs cut in the solid begins again and extends throughout a large part of Western Australia. In North Australia, therefore, we find an actual stratification of (1) Spears with barbs cut in the solid, (2) Spears with quartzite spear-heads and (3) Spears with the Kimberley type of stone spear-head.

In view of the apparently relatively recent development and diffusion of stone spear-heads in an area which separates two regions in which the use of barbs cut in the solid is concentrated, it seems probable that these two regions represent the flanks of what was once a contiguous distribution of barbs cut in the solid. Such a conclusion, as we have stated before, is not only supported by the sporadic appearances of this type of barb in the intervening Kimberley district, but also by the great similarity in the varieties of barbs, the numbers of rows of barbs, reversed barbs, and other traits found in the two apparently separated distributions.

CHRONOLOGY.

The chronological aspects of the various Australian spear-traits have been indicated from time to time. These may now be summarized tentatively as follows:

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A. SPEAR-TRAITS DERIVED FROM NEW GUINEA.

1. The Plain One-piece Spear—The earliest spear in use on the continent and in Tasmania was most likely the simple one-piece spear with acicular or slightly flattened head. This type is the only spear found in Tasmania. Although it is not a characteristic of any region in Australia it nevertheless seems to be everywhere and is most frequent along the south-western periphery of the continent. Technologically it can be regarded as the foundation for all other spear-types. It seems safe to assume that it was brought in by the invading Tasmanians and possibly, if not probably, also by the earliest Australians.

2. Death-spear—We have seen reasons for believing that the death-spear was next in sequence. It is based directly upon the simple spear; and its distribution, although sporadic, is almost as widespread as that of the latter. It appears to be older than barbs cut in the solid, if we may judge from its peripheral location to the latter along the southern edge of the continent. The distribution suggests that death-spears tend to become discarded in those regions where barbs cut in the solid are introduced, although the two are found together in Victoria and adjacent South Australia.

The place of origin of the death-spear cannot be determined at present. We have no evidence that it was ever known outside of Australia, although it would not be surprizing to learn that it had diffused to the continent from New Guinea or had been brought in by invading peoples. There may be some relationship between it and the use of shark-teeth in weapons in Australia and other regions. It is impossible, however, to indicate which may have been the earlier.

In view of the widespread distribution of death-spears it is possible that they may have been in the possession of the invading Australians who probably were equipped with simple spears like those of the Tasmanians. As a result of the relatively restricted distribution of barbs cut in the solid it is presumptive that the Australians, or at least the earlier vanguards of them if there were a number of infiltrating groups, did not possess spears with these barbs. It would appear, therefore, that if the spear equipment of the Australians were any different from that of - 155 the Tasmanians it probably included death-spears. On the basis of present information the most that we can say is that the death-spear appears either to have been invented at a very early time in Australia or to have been derived at a very early time from New Guinea. There can be no doubt that it has a considerable antiquity in Australia whatever may have been its history. It is important to note that the adoption of the death-spear involved only the application of a new trait, the placing of stone chips in gum at the head of the weapon, to the simple spear already in the possession of the aboriginal population. It did not require the diffusion of any new type of head or shaft.

3. Barbs Cut in the Solid—The cutting of barbs in the solid also appears to be an old trait in Australia, but one which cannot compare in antiquity with simple spears or apparently with death-spears. In view of the relatively restricted distribution of this trait it seems likely that it was not brought in by the earliest invaders. Unless it was carried by a later migration it would seem that its appearances in Australia are the results of diffusion from New Guinea, for the evidences from distribution and physical features would appear to indicate a historical relationship with similar appearances in New Guinea and Melanesia.

We have no information to indicate how this trait originated. It may have been developed directly from the plain spear. On the other hand, the stone chips in the death-spear, which seems to have preceded it, may have suggested the cutting of barbs in the wooden head itself. As in the diffusion of death-spears the spread of this trait involved the application to an old type of spear already in use of a new idea which the Australians modified in various regions to produce a large number of varieties.

4. The Spearthrower—The spears so far considered, in their original Australian uses, seem to have been made from single pieces of wood and probably were not thrown with the aid of a spearthrower. At least we have reviewed evidence which seemed to indicate that they developed in a pre-spearthrower age. We have not only seen that in certain peripheral localities both plain spears and spears barbed in the solid are not employed with spearthrowers - 156 but also that the heavy shafts usually found with both are such that they do not require spearthrowers for serviceability. It would seem reasonable to assume, therefore, that the spearthrower made its appearance in Australia sometime subsequent to the introduction of barbs cut in the solid but prior to the introduction of the reed-spear. It is impossible to indicate whether a short or a long period of time between these limits is involved.

5. The Reed-spear—The reed-spear seems to be the only spear-type in Australia which would presuppose the presence of the spearthrower. This spear appears to be of little value for ordinary spear uses without propulsion by means of a spearthrower. We have already suggested that the light weight of reed and bamboo and the natural cavity in them suited to the point of the spearthrower, may have been the reasons for selecting these materials as more suited to use with the spearthrower than heavy one-piece spears. Reed-spears are found in a contiguous distribution from Australia to New Guinea and there can be little doubt but that the Australian appearances are the results of a diffusion from New Guinea where, incidentally, arrows of similar construction are also found.

The introduction of reed-spears into Australia, unlike their predecessors, required the acceptance of new principles in spear-construction, for the head and shaft must be made separately. The combination of these new ideas with old ones seems to have stimulated experimentation in different parts of Australia with the result that we find reed or bamboo shafts combined with death-spears in South Australia, with quartzite spears and spears with barbs cut in the solid in North Australia, and with Kimberley type stone-heads in northern Western Australia. We have discussed the possibility that the composite wooden spear in Australia may have been suggested by the two-piece reed-spear.

6. Detachable Barbs—Detachable barbs seem to have been the last important spear-trait to have diffused from New Guinea. Detachable barbs apparently developed in association with reed-spears, at least the latter are the spear-type with which they appear to be found exclusively in Queensland and New Guinea. In Central and Western Australia round and flat wooden barbs were found to - 157 replace bone-barbs, and to be associated with plain or composite wooden spears with flattened or acicular heads respectively. The distribution of detachable barbs is continuous from the coasts of Western Australia to New Guinea.

7. Miscellaneous Spear-traits—Other spear-traits which may be of New Guinean derivation include the multi-pronged head and possibly the stingray-spines head. It is impossible to indicate their places in a chronological scale because of the peculiarities of each. The former has an extensive distribution but, since it seems to be associated primarily with fishing, its diffusion may have been affected by this use. The use of stingray-spines, on the other hand, must be confined to the coastal areas off which the stingray is found, and this condition undoubtedly has been an important factor in restricting its diffusion. Since both these spear-types are highly specialized it seems likely that their origins have been relatively recent, that is in comparison to the antiquity of the more fundamental spear-traits.

B. SPEAR-TRAITS INDIGENOUS TO AUSTRALIA.

Spear-traits which appear to be indigenous to Australia include the following:

1. The composite wooden spear, either as an independent development, or as the result of the influence of the reed-spear. The chronological relationship with other traits cannot be indicated. In view of a relatively restricted distribution this spear would seem to not have a great antiquity.

2. The three-piece spear, or composite wooden spear with a tail-piece. This is a localized development in Central Australia and may have been the result of additional influences from reed-spears.

3. Varieties of barbs cut in the Solid. A number of variations of barbs cut in the solid, including “closed” barbs are found in several localities in Australia. There probably is considerable variation in their respective antiquities.

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4. Round Wooden Detachable Barbs—Since these wooden barbs appear to have been developed from bone-barbs their origin would seem to have been relatively recent.

5. Flat Wooden Detachable Barbs—This variety of detachable barbs seems to have been derived from the round wooden barbs and, therefore, must also be relatively recent in origin.

6. Quartzite Spear-heads—Available evidence points to an Australian origin of these spear-heads but confirmation must be secured by further archæological investigation. We do have definite information from a large part of North Australia to show that they are more recent than spears with barbs cut in the solid.

7. Kimberley Spear-heads—These blades also appear to be an Australian contribution, although we must have archæological data from the Kimberley coastal regions before we commit ourselves definitely to any conclusion. In North Australia there is definite information, both ethnological and archæological, to demonstrate that Kimberley spear-heads are more recent in that region than quartzite spear-heads. Kimberley blades seem to have replaced spears with barbs cut in the solid in the Kimberley region.

Both types of stone spear-heads seem to be invading the distribution of detachable barbs in northern Central Australia. It must not be overlooked, however, that if the latter should diffuse northward into North Australia where stone spear-heads are found the chronology in that region would be reversed.

It is a difficult matter to fit the two types of stone spear-heads into any chronological arrangement of other spear-traits. Regardless of whether they are indigenous to Australia or derived from some foreign area, it seems quite certain that they did not come to Australia by way of Torres Strait and for that reason their antiquity cannot be indicated solely on the grounds of geographical distributions.

The chronological aspects of the more important spear-traits as they appear on the basis of present knowledge and the interpretation we have given the facts of distribution are indicated in the following diagrams (fig. 31), - 159 which represent cross-sections of three different regions of the continent.

FIG. 31.
Cross-sections of Spear-trait Distributions.
CONCLUSIONS.

Our study of spear-traits in Australia suggests certain broad conclusions which apparently can be applied to cultural processes in other cultures in various parts of the world.

We have seen that in so far as Australian spears are concerned there are fundamentally only a few basic traits and that the large number of varieties of spears represent, for the most part, only the different combinations and the varying proportions of these fundamentals. The spear-contributions of the Australians, with a few important exceptions, are no more than modifications and recombinations of spear-traits which came to them from other peoples. What factors may have been responsible for the - 160 developments of these foreign traits in their places of origin, respectively, cannot be indicated at present for they involve other areas and, in some cases, great antiquity.

It has often been stated or tacitly assumed that man is ingenious and the implication has been that those traits which appear to satisfy certain supposed needs were invented or discovered in answer to those needs. Although this conclusion may be warranted for some traits, for others it appears to be just as reasonable to believe that the so-called needs are the results of the inventions. This answer appears to be particularly likely in respect to the different functions of the same or similar varieties of spears in various parts of Australia. There is nothing to show that even the variations are the results of attempts to meet certain needs, real or fancied. Rather, they seem to be the results of accidental combination or of experimentation which, to the mind of, or in the experience of the native, demonstrated certain superiorities for the various purposes to which he applied them and which we now designate as needs. But since native opinion seems to vary considerably as to the respective merits of the different spear-traits, functionally considered, it seems apparent that native testimony must be regarded as reliable not in fact but only in opinion.

For historical problems it would appear, therefore, that function may be of secondary importance and that the local function of any trait may be the result of historical factors, such as the cultural background of the tribe which acquires the new trait, the cultural background of the tribe from which it was obtained, and the forces responsible for its diffusion at any particular time. With a broad historical background it should be possible to understand better the peculiarities of a trait in any localized appearance.

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Tindale, N. B. 1925—“Natives of Groote Eylandt and of the West Coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, ” Records of the South Australian Museum, vol. 3, no. 1.

White, S. A. 1915—“Scientific Notes on an Expedition into the North-western Regions of South Australia, ” Trans. R.S. of S.A., vol. 39. Adelaide.

Wood, J. D. 1879—The Native Tribes of South Australia. Adelaide.

1   This question is discussed in my paper “Archæological Problems of Northern Australia,”