Image: E078215 Spear

E078215 Spear

E078215 spear, wood / resin, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia.

This spear and an additional spear head are from the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, Australia. The spear consists of a cylindrical wooden shaft with barbed head inserted into the top. Eight large barbs followed by 6 smaller barbs have been carved into the spear head.

The spear was collected by Alexander Morrison in the late 19th or early 20th Century. It was acquired by the Australian Museum in 1982.

Emma Furno
© Australian Museum


Length 205.0cm

Width 2.5cm

This spear is thought to have been produced in the Hunter Region of New South Wales. It forms part of a collection amassed by Alexander Morrison in the late 19th and early 20th century in Singleton, New South Wales. While Morrison's collection was essentially a private one, there is one recorded incident of this collection being put on public display. For the visit of the State Governor Sir Harry Rawson on 27 April 1904 an arch titled "The Budget Aboriginal Native Arch" was created in the main street of Singleton. "The Budget" was a reference to the bi weekly newspaper published by Alexander Morrison and circulated throughout the Hunter Valley. The arch decoratively displayed artefacts from Morrison's collection and was the focal point for the processional route of the Governor. Using a photograph of the arch, in his thesis, "From Curio to Curation", Richard Mulvaney has identified this spear as possibly being part of the 1904 Budget arch display.

The spear is originally described as having an unbarbed head, however subsequently a barbed head has been inserted into the spear shaft and fixed into place using sticky-tape. The original unbarbed hard wood head, while no longer attached to the spear, accompanies the spear.

Spears were used in hunting and fishing as well as in ceremonial events and as fighting implements. The spears from the Hunter region are composite and made in two sections, the shaft and the head. The shaft of the spear is long and thin. The head of the spear is inserted into the shaft fixed with resin and bound with string. Spear heads are generally sharply pointed single lengths of worked hardwood. Spears were often used in conjunction with spear throwers which acted as an extension of the throwers arm allowing the thrower to get more power behind a single throw and achieve a throw of greater distance. Morrison predominantly collected wooden objects, many of which came from the St Clair Mission located in Carrowbrook, between Muswellbrook and Singleton. The Wonnarua people whose traditional land encompassed the Hunter Valley region formed a significant proportion of the St Clair population and many of the objects in Morrison's collection could have been made by the Wonnarua. Alex Morrison was supportive of the Mission which was established in the 1890s and at times employed people from the Mission at his Singleton printing works. Mulvaney theorises that it is possible many of the artefacts collected by Morrison were specifically made for him by people at St Clair Mission.

An additional unbarbed spear head accompanies the spear. This spear head consists of a single shaft of hard wood that tapers to a point. The remnants of black resin can be seen on the body of the spear head.


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