Spear thrower

Registration number
Item name
Spear thrower 
Indigenous name
Associated cultural group
Australia > Australia > Northern Territory > East Arnhem region > Milingimbi
Milingimbi Crafts 
Acquisition date
January 01, 1981 
Acquisition method
Purchased from Milingimbi Exhibition 
H: W: L: D: Circum:


Gooseneck spearthrower 24580 is a slender, flat, tapered implement 975mm long; consisting of a shaft with a spear hook / peg at the distal end. There is also fibre binding to the grip area and hook, and gum adhesive supporting the hook. It has a narrow 'goose-neck' finger-grip towards the proximal end. The spearthrower is widest, 56mm, at either side of this 'neck' which is 27mm wide, and tapers to each end. Its thickness varies from 11mm to a maximum of 19mm. The proximal end is 163mm from the neck and finishes in a blunt, diamond shaped point.
The distal end is 810 from the neck and narrows abruptly from a width of 31mm to finish with a roughly square section of about 26mm a side. Attached to the upper face of this square section is a conical (or pointed cylinder) 'hook' at an angle of 30 degrees tot he shaft, and which engages the hollowed end of the spear to be thrown. The exact method of attachment of the hook is not clear, as the connection point is obscured by paint and the gum binding that reinforces, or perhaps constitutes, the connection. The hook binding is of kangaroo sinew.
The body of the spearthrower is grey-black, with the distal end painted red for 105mm, and the proximal end red to 62mm beyond the neck. Each end has cross-banded stripes of red, yellow, black and white. The hook is black and the binding in the neck area is yellow. The colouring is likely to be from ochres, fixed with aquadhere glue.
Although such items are normally made from ironwood (Choricarpia subargentea) museum records state this item has been made from either the Gadayka (Eucalyptus tetradonta) or Gaypal (Acacia auriculi formis) tree. (John Mildwaters, 2000).

Research notes

Part of a series of items bought from display 17 (1/1981 - Milingimbi). Notes by Milingimbi Art & Craft: Shaped from wood of the Gadayka (Eucalyptus tetradonta) or Gaypal (Acacia auriculi formis) trees. It used to increase the power and/or distance of each spear throw on both land and sea. Used in demonstration: see videotape held in University of Queensland TV Unit tape library - Spear Throwing in Arnhem Land. Also photographs of spearthrowing found in Display 17 file held from August 1995 in object history file.

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