The Boomerang: So Many Forms

The boomerang can be made into hundreds of different types.

Aboriginal cross boomerang, Queensland

Australian Museum Photography Unit © Australian Museum

The enormous assortment of boomerang types seems to impress observers almost as much as their ability to come back. This multitude of forms has both intrigued and confused the public and scholars alike for well over a century. ‘One can easily imagine the perplexity of an interested person who has a number of these presented to him, some left-handed, some right-handed and some apparently of the like form, but not made to return.

Boomerang types can be defined only to the degree where some distinct, but not unique, features are put together. Take the boomerang's curve. It may differ not only between distinct types but also within the same type. Conversely, different kinds of boomerangs may have the same curvature.

As well, these types grade into each other. They are not exclusive like animal species. Each type, at the fringes, overlaps with other forms. In practice, the boomerang can be made into hundreds of different types, - ‘the number of combinations is infinite.’ Just to name a few varieties: club boomerangs, hooked boomerangs, bossed boomerangs, sword boomerangs, pegged boomerangs, cross boomerangs, lill-lill boomerangs.

Not surprisingly, scientific classification of boomerangs into types and varieties proved difficult. ‘The effort is futile’ complained Daniel Davidson in 1936. Not that it stopped him trying. The task became easier once the boomerang's geography was looked at more closely. Interestingly, some forms of boomerang were relatively distinct and common in, although rarely exclusive to, particular regions of Australia. Finally, Davidson identified several types, named after the areas where they were most prevalent, such as the Kimberley, Western Australia, Central Australian, South Australia and Coopers Creek.

Reference:

Daniel Davidson, Australian throwing sticks, throwing clubs and boomerangs. American Anthropologist 38, 1936, 76-100

 


Dr Stan Florek , Database Manager
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