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Indigenous Australian Slingers? (Read 341 times)
Hirtius
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Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Apr 7th, 2021 at 1:33pm
 
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/002733

https://agrabbagofgames.wordpress.com/2018/01/21/australian-frontier-wars-aborig
inal-traditional-warfare-part-ii/

An old thread (http://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1367893827) discusses what is already well known about Australia, there were no bows and slings present. Or so we thought. In that thread, some people speculate whether there could have been contact with the idea through the Torres Strait islanders, but weíll never know for sure. Again, so we thought.

Itís so dumb, but it actually just took a couple of google searches to prove that wrong. We have photos, though extremely limited, but seems to prove the speculation of the Torres islanders/Northern Australians right. Both Torres Islanders and indigenous Australians on the Cape York peninsula seem to have used the bow and sling. Unfortunately I can find little information on this besides that indicating it existed. Even the picture of the slinger is of such poor quality that itís impossible to see the sling itself. We do know from the label that itís from 1940, so it persisted into fairly recent times. However, one piece of information the picture contradicts the blog on is the location. It says the picture was made in Darwin, not anywhere in Queensland like the Cape York peninsula. Could it be possible that the sling is even more prevalent in Australia than we know? It might have been used across the Northern coast.
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Mersa
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #1 - Apr 7th, 2021 at 7:53pm
 
As far as Iím aware the sling wasnít used in Australia, this is the first information Iíve ever seen that shows different.
As for bows they were used. But only by certain groups.

As far as I know the knowledge of braiding and weaving was not used extensively and definitely not used by all indigenous Australians.

Gotta remember Australia is a large place.

By the 1940s itís wuite possible that the sling had been shown to them by an early settler. Thereís no real way to tell. Darwin had many indigenous Australians from all over Australia. This is sad but many of the early settlers enslaved indigenous Australians and moved them all around the country. So itís possible that if the sling was used in north eastern communities  and some of these people were moved to Darwin.

Honestly though in my opinion the sling and bow were used in the islands north of Australia and could be that thereís some combination of technologies. But itís also possible the sling was brought in by settlers.

The woomera(Australians version of an atlatl.) and the boomerang are very sufficient tools for hunting Australian native animals. Majority of larger game would be kangaroos and thereís plenty of evidence that these weapons are very effective against these animals.

An interesting find nonetheless.

I think unless they find true historical cave paintings or artefacts itís all speculation.
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Hirtius
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #2 - Apr 7th, 2021 at 9:28pm
 
I think since we even have a (very bad quality) photo that also discusses context, I think itís fair to say itís beyond speculation. The question is how prevalent and where it was used. Iím definitely not saying it was used everywhere, but I did bring up the question whether it was used along the Northern Australian coast, not just Cape York. Perhaps it was just a Cape York group moved, but maybe not.

Iíd doubt  the sling was brought in by European settlers, but if youíre discussing from the Torres Strait islands, then maybe. The blog is claiming that it was used on the Cape York peninsula, right next to the Torres Strait islands. It could have been introduced long ago, but probably relatively recently in the big picture.
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Mersa
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #3 - Apr 7th, 2021 at 9:44pm
 
Iím wondering why you doubt it being a technique brought in by settlers?

I say seeing as the only evidence is post colonisation itís more likely than less.

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Hirtius
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #4 - Apr 8th, 2021 at 12:24am
 
Maybe Iím out of the loop, but were the British still using slings at this point? Probably not. When the British were going to all these islands, the sling was probably something relatively foreign. When they remarked about slingers, it was usually how effective they were. They knew the concept of the sling from the Bible, but had probably not ever seen its use, especially by anyone that good, in action. It doesnít add up. If youíre arguing that they facilitated the adoption via contact to other islanders, I donít think anyone could know. Thereís barely a record as is.

However, we can look at the context. This was done for visiting American journalists. It was staged, done for show. The native customs were probably being treated as something of a show for tourists.

Youíre arguing that within the last couple generations (the European presence probably hadnít been too great for too long), a British guy introduced slinging, and that got absorbed into the culture enough to be involved in tourist shows?

The simpler answer is that it was probably present precolonial. Northern Australians had contacts outside of Australia. Northern Australia had degrees of outside interaction or cultural exchange for thousands of years. Dingos have only been present there for 4,000 to 8,000 years. Itís impossible to know when a concept like the sling could have been transmitted, but there was lots of time before colonization to do it.
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Mersa
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #5 - Apr 8th, 2021 at 2:00am
 
The British came on boats with limited resources.
They were making do with what they had .
I donít think itís unreasonable that one or some of the settlers were proficient in use of the sling .
1940s is pretty late and for sure the photo is a staged photo.
As it states. That the show is an accurate representation of aboriginal culture is definitely not true. The indigenous Australians were mistreated and used as an attraction. It was genocide, most of the cultural significance had been lost or combined with other parts of Australia.  I donít think you can rule out either hypothesis. Itís possible in my eyes that it could be from contact with other sling users wherever theyíre from Britain or PNG.  By the 1940s a lot of tradition was already lost as was language and culture. Australia was changed forever after European colonisation, especially for indigenous communities.

Iím not sure thereís ever going to be enough information on the use of slings in Australia pre colonisation. Itís possible that they were but the majority of evidence points to them not being used. And especially not on a large scale.

Most of the knowledge was passed down generation to generation in songs and stories, practical teaching and hands on. I know at least in my region of Australia the indigenous communities definitely did not sling , braiding was first taught to them by early settlers. And the weapon of choice is a woomera and darts.

Iím not sure either way but drawing conclusions from a single photo from the 40s when aboriginal culture had already been destroyed and they were treated like slaves or pets is kinda wrong. I think the best place to really ask is going the elders from the region you think has the most potential to be using slings.

I could show you a whole load of different photos post colonisation of technology that was adapted or adopted by native people after the British arrived.

A cool find anyway but not a solid enough bit of evidence for me personally and probably not for any scientific journal.

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Morphy
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #6 - Apr 8th, 2021 at 9:46am
 
Its interesting for sure and historical is not my forte but it would be really hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this is a verified pre-colonization skill. Just in my opinion and granted I dont know shit, but in the academic world other anthropologist would be jumping all over this to disprove it. Of course they also do that with things that end up being right so even they are operating under, at best, educated guesses.

If we can find one picture of an aborigine using a rifle from that time period we might make the same argument as absurd as it would be.

Now if you find one sling that carbon dates to pre-colonization you are golden. Much of Australia is dry enough to make that a remote possibility. But obviously thats a big if.
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Hirtius
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #7 - Apr 8th, 2021 at 11:38am
 
I think you guys need to use Occam's razor.

I also think you guys have absurd standards for proof that can't be met. If you guys were looking at North America, you would probably conclude that slings were barely used, when in reality they were spread across the continent. The evidence for Iroquois slinging, for example, seems to all come from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The archeological record often does not do slings any favors.
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Morphy
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #8 - Apr 8th, 2021 at 12:49pm
 
Not really absurd Hirtius. Seeing as this is the current generally accepted scientific consensus on the subject I would say we are actually in the majority.

All I need is one sling proven pre-colonial. I wouldnt call that extreme at all. Quite the opposite actually.

By the way, the Lovelock Cave sling has been dated to 1200 b.c.  So you are both incorrect and have kind of proven my point for me. I just need one example. That will suffice.
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Hirtius
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #9 - Apr 8th, 2021 at 4:55pm
 
Morphy, just... what? The scientific consensus is that slings were introduced by the British? Are you sure about that? I thought the consensus was that slings were never present, hence why I thought the picture and the blog briefly mentioning it were significant.

And yes, I know about the Lovelock Cave sling, it's one of two ancient slings that I know of that have survived to the modern times. Not the point I was making. Lovelock Cave is in Nevada and is rather old, which is a little bit far removed from the Iroquois that I was making the point with. You could swap out Iroquois with any other Native American group, most of which we have no precolonial evidence of use of the sling. Does that mean they didn't use them? Of course not, as we have evidence around it that has survived to today.

You're asking for something that is probably impossible. You're asking for evidence of a weapon that as far as we know would have only been used in the far North, in environments that probably wouldn't preserve slings too well. Any slings that ever survive are pretty much a miracle.

Speaking of miracles, the fact that we have a picture with a good amount of context should also be considered one. How often does that happen with slinging? Coupled with the fact that this (along with use of bows) wasn't thought to have existed in Australia, then there probably hasn't been anyone looking into this subject. There is the book which has pictures taken from it in the blog, but there is no way to find out the title of that book and who wrote it. We don't even know if the culture depicted still slings or if the practice died out like with other cultures. Unfortunately, this is the best information we have on this topic, so we have to draw the best conclusion we can. When guessing whether this was a pre-colonial or colonial introduction, you would be making a lot of assumptions to assume that it was introduced during the colonial period.
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #10 - Apr 8th, 2021 at 5:58pm
 
Youve misunderstood me. I agree with Mersa. There is no evidence of pre colonization slings. I think if Mersa mentioned that he was trying to find common ground.

As for making the best assumption we can for the evidence offered and of course Occams razor I will have have to agree with the hundreds of other researchers that have come to the same conclusion. There is not enough evidence to make that supposition. A picture from the 40s is simply not enough. Im sorry but that is just how it is.

Of course, I dont mind you disagreeing. It doesnt affect me one way or another. Hopefully you dont take offense but thats my belief on the subject. A lack of sufficient evidence is not a detour to theory. I would rather simply respond with "We dont know for sure but as for now there is no evidence sufficient to conclusively prove it existed". That is the most scientifically impartial way of viewing such a situation. Again, you are welcome to disagree.
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Hirtius
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #11 - Apr 9th, 2021 at 1:45am
 
Sorry if I was being a bit harsh. I think we'll have to agree to disagree. I don't think the research you're discussing is as thorough as you think it is. There are even artifacts like these in Australian museums:

https://australian.museum/learn/cultures/atsi-collection/aboriginal-toys/toy-boo
merangs/

Regardless of pre or post colonization, these weapons haven't even been acknowledged. Clearly there is a gap in our understanding. From what I've seen, these cases haven't been explored yet. I think that the idea that bows or slings weren't present among indigenous Australians is because that's the case in almost all of the continent, but they probably missed a spot or two.
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« Last Edit: Apr 10th, 2021 at 12:30am by Hirtius »  
 
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Mersa
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #12 - Apr 9th, 2021 at 3:17am
 
No ones arguing about bows.
That photo doesnít even really show a sling . If it had no caption I wouldnít say itís a sling .

Like I said good find but keep researching.
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Morphy
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #13 - Apr 9th, 2021 at 4:00am
 
While I agree there are certainly gaps in knowledge and the possibility that you could be right I must reiterate that lack of evidence is not sufficient to prove the existence or even potential existence of something. On a hypothetical basis Im not opposed to the idea that the sling may have made it to Australia at some point in time even if but briefly but that same hypothetical streak of mine gives credence to the remote possibility that Bigfoot is real. So take all of it with a hefty grain of salt.

I would like to check the link out but its not working for me. Says page not found.
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Re: Indigenous Australian Slingers?
Reply #14 - Apr 9th, 2021 at 7:30am
 
Hirtius,
Your research is interesting. But a clue isn't evidence.
Keep working your question, and if there's something to find, you'll find it.
Get closer to archeologists, museums, aboriginal associations, books. It can take time but it's exciting.
If the sling was used, then there's a word in aboriginal language.
Undecided
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