Glass spear head E033060 Click to enlarge image
This bifacial point, also known as a Kimberley point, is made from blue bottle glass. It comes from the Forrest River region of the Kimberleys, Western Australia, and was acquired by the museum in 1930. Image: Rebecca Fisher
© Australian Museum

The European settlement of Australia introduced new materials such as glass, ceramic, and metal to Aboriginal people, which opened new avenues for creativity and innovation in the making of 'traditional' tools and artefacts. One example of this can be seen in the production of 'Kimberley points'.

Kimberley points were largely produced in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Evidence suggests that they were primarily used as spear-points and as prestige exchange items. They may also have been used in a variety of ceremonial contexts.

Traditionally, Kimberley points were made from a variety of fine-grained stone and ranged from approximately one to eight centimetres in length. They have a very distinctive appearance as a result of a careful finishing technique called 'pressure flaking', in which very fine, uniform flakes were removed from the surface and margins of the point using a bone tool.

Aboriginal toolmakers found that glass and ceramic, including ceramic telegraph line insulators, were very well suited to the production of Kimberley points. In fact, the suitability of the new materials coupled with increased demand - from both Aboriginal exchange networks and an emergent 'tourist' trade with non-Aboriginal people - may have influenced the refinement of the techniques used and their size. Finely finished glass points up to 20 centimetres long have been documented.