Summary

Broad shields were generally used to deflect spears and their handles were either carved into the reverse side or fixed as a separate handle into holes drilled into the back. The Manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) was often used to make these shields, which are known by Aboriginal names such as Gee-am, Kerreem and Bam-er-ook. 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 a separate piece of wood secured vertically on the reverse side into two holes drilled through the shield.

Significance

This shield is decorated with elaborate and distinctive designs typical of the art of southeastern Australia. The central vertical line on the outer surface is intersected by three horizontal bands and painted with red ochre. This contrasts with intricate zig zag lines incised into the outer surface and infilled with white pipe clay. Further this patterning is offset vertically in one section and creating a contrast to the mainly horizontal patterning across the face of the shield. This one comes from the lower reaches of the Murray River, which is the country of the Ngarrindjeri people. The wood is referred to as binnat while the name for the shield itself is recorded as tanamo or karragarn.

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