Most of us have probably tried to throw a boomerang at one time or another – and more than likely we did a pretty poor job of it.
Boomerangs are a standard tool of the indigenous people of Australia. Indeed, depictions of boomerangs being thrown at animals such as kangaroos appear in some of the oldest rock art in the world found in the northwestern Kimberly region, and are possibly some 50,000 years old. The oldest surviving wooden boomerang came from the Wyrie Swamp of South Australia and is 9,000 to 10,000 years old.
Images of boomerangs also appear in the rock art of West Papua, which reach back to the Last Glacial Maximum when lower sea levels allowed contact between Papua and Arnhem Land in Northern Australia.
Surprisingly, boomerangs have been found in ancient Europe, Egypt and even North America. Also known as hunting sticks, they were used in Europe as weapons as far back as the Stone Age. A boomerang discovered in the Carpathian Mountains of Poland was made of a mammoth’s tusk and is believed, based on AMS dating of objects found with it, to be about 30,000 years old.
In the Netherlands, boomerangs have been found in Vlaardingen and Velsen from the first century BCE. The famed Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamen owned a collection of boomerangs more than 3,300 years ago. Native Americans of California and Arizona, and inhabitants of southern India used boomerangs to kill birds and small mammals such as rabbits.
Boomerangs can be used as hunting weapons, percussive musical instruments, in hand-to-hand combat as battle clubs, fire-starters, decoys for hunting waterfowl and as recreational toys. The hunting boomerang is delicately balanced and harder to create than the returning type. The returning boomerang may have evolved as a result of early hunters working to make the throwing sticks fly straight.
You can learn about the traditional life of one of Australia’s traditional indigenous communities at Cooya Beach (Kuku Kuku), the traditional fishing ground of the Kuku Yalanji people. This unique area encompasses three diverse ecosystems – beach, mangroves and coastal reef. It is home to the Kubirri Warra brothers, who will teach you the right way to throw a boomerang and a spear and about other hunting techniques. Walk with the brothers on their traditional land as you learn how to track and hunt for fish, mud crabs and mussels through the mangroves.
Discover this and so much more on our President’s Pick: Australia Unbound.