Links to the past: Woomera from central Cape York Peninsula

Author: Mark Dearden

Dearden, Mark, 2021 Links to the past: Woomera from central Cape York Peninsula, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis seeks to develop an improved understanding of an Australian projectile technology through the analysis of a collection of woomera selected from the Queensland Museum’s Indigenous cultural collection. It investigates the historical and cultural context of the collection and elements of the manufacturing processes involved. The provenance of the woomera is potentially within the homelands of the Kuuku I’yu people of central northern Cape York Peninsula. The analysis was informed by published ethnohistorical, anthropological and ethnographic research, with a focus on the Cape York Peninsula region.

A chaîne opératoire approach was used to gain new insights into woomera manufacturing processes and their transformation into museum collection items. This revealed the complex interconnectedness of these woomera with traditional narratives, the ecology of the Cape York Peninsula region, shared manufacturing techniques, and their use in both everyday life and traditional ceremonies. An improved understanding of the woomera was sought by uncovering new details about how, why and from where these woomera were collected. The individual collectors of the woomera: a missionary, a policeman formerly with the Native Mounted Police, the first government meteorologist and a member of parliament and later government official, represent a snapshot of Queensland colonial society at the turn of the twentieth century.

Very little detail of the provenance of the woomera was recorded but they do reflect a significant cultural continuity with traditional central Cape York Peninsula First Nations lifeways and are a representation of the strong shared culture of this region. Although collected as representing a material culture type and transformed into a museum research object, there is now the potential for Kuuku I’yu and other First Nations people to reconnect with this aspect of their cultural patrimony.

Keywords: woomera, Kuuku I'yu material culture, Queensland Museum Indigenous Collection, Cape York Peninsula woomera

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr. Daryl Wesley