Summary

Narrow parrying shields from southeastern Australia are known by Aboriginal names such as Mulga, Murgon, Marr-aga and Kullak. They were used to deflect spears and also to parry blows from wooden clubs in close combat. They are most often made with wood from the ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) and box (Eucalyptus leucoxylon), however this one is said to be from wattle. Tools made from stone and animal incisors (such as from marsupials) were used to engrave the surface with intricate designs. The history of the 'ownership' of such objects between leaving the possession of Aboriginal people and becoming into the museum's collections is diverse and often obscure. Early collectors acquired objects such as these because it was believed that Aboriginal people were 'a dying race', and this belief and the growing interest in ethnography created a very robust trade in Aboriginal objects in the earliest decades of settlement in New South Wales and Victoria.

Physical Description

An elongated shield made from a single piece of hardwood with both ends tapering to a point. The outer surface is incised with chevron designs infilled with white pipe clay and three horizontal bands are painted with red ochre. The handle is carved out of the reverse side.

Significance

This flat shield is decorated with elaborate and distinctive designs typical of the art of southeastern Australia. The major motif is the incised herringbone patterning infilled with white pipe clay, that is distinctively interrupted with the four wavy bands painted with red This shield is from Mount Langi Ghiran, which lies in Djab Wurrung territory and specifically the Ngutuwul Balug clan (mountain people). Langi Ghiran is a Djab Wurrung word meaning 'home of the black cockatoo', and the name recorded for this shield is malka.

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