Boomerang, 19th–early 20th century
Probably Boulia region, western Queensland, Australia
Wood; L. 26 3/8 in. (67 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.1552)
Artists in western Queensland created delicately engraved boomerangs adorned with geometric designs. Probably from the Boulia region, this boomerang is adorned along the inner and outer edges with shallow, semicircular motifs infilled with fine diagonal lines. According to one nineteenth-century account, among the Pitta-Pitta people these motifs are said to resemble the fine surface ripples on a body of water striking the bank and are called nar-pi ming-ka-ra, "riverbank marks." The narrow lozenge-shaped motifs that comprise the central lines are known as ma-li ming-ka-ra, "fishnet marks," and reportedly evoke the form of large fishnets folded up for travel. The markedly pointed ends on this work are commonly seen on boomerangs from this area and were purely decorative, created to enhance the beauty rather than the aerodynamics of the implement. Boomerangs in western Queensland were used for both hunting and fighting and were reportedly carried in pairs, while spears, shields, and other weapons were carried singly, although the reasons for this practice remain uncertain.