800-Year-Old Boomerang Discovered in Australian Creek
A family in Australia noticed a “glowing object” lying beside a remote river. They crossed the river and examined the v-shaped item which turned out to be a boomerang. But not just any old-boomerang: this one’s a really old boomerang, with archaeologists in Australia claiming its 800 years old.
The Boon Wurrung boomerang is one of a chain of recent boomerang discoveries under analysis at the Australian National University (ANU). “In a way, we've got a history of Australia in these objects that all of a sudden are coming out of the Eucalypt woods,” explains Dr. Wright from on the ANU website , who compares these boomerangs to the objects in the British Museum’s A History of the World in 100 Objects project.
Experts Duncan Wright (left) and Dave Johnson (right) at the ANU analyzing recent boomerang finds, including the Boon Wurrung boomerang. Source: Jamie Kidston / Australian National University
Did Boomerangs Originate in Australia?
Scotland: Bagpipes. Ireland: Shamrocks. Australia: Boomerangs. So far as national icons are concerned, the boomerang is one of Australia’s most recognizable, just after the kangaroo and the koala bear. However, according to boomerangs.com, “contrary to popular belief, the boomerang did not originate in Australia.” Considered by weapon specialists to be the earliest “heavier-than-air flying machines ever invented by human beings,” hunting boomerangs have been discovered across ancient Europe.
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Tutankhamen of Egypt had an extensive personal collection of war-boomerangs over 2,000 years ago, but to according to Darwin Boomerangs , “the oldest known throwing stick in history” was depicted on a mammoth tusk carving discovered in Poland “dated to 23,000 years ago.” Now, in Australia, a family has discovered a hunting boomerang in sand beside a creek. Professors of archaeology have dated it and say it was made 800 years ago.
Dave Johnston, Professor of Archaeology from the Australian National University analyzing one of six boomerangs discovered recently in Australia. (Jamie Kidston / Australian National University )
Ancient Boomerangs: Flying Multi-Tools
For Aboriginal people in Australia the boomerang represents the enduring strength of their culture. A National Museum's of Australia a (NMA) article explains that with more than 250 different language groups there were as many boomerang-making styles across the continent. The oldest Australian boomerangs ever discovered have been dated to about 20,000 years ago and at the most essential cultural levels, boomerangs feature in Aboriginal creation mythology in which mountains, rocks and rivers were formed after ancient ancestors threw boomerangs and spears.
Returning boomerang are thrown above flocks of ducks to simulate an attacking hawk and the fleeing ducks are trapped in nets. However, while we know the boomerang as a flying and returning weapon, like Thor’s hammer , the vast majority of boomerangs in Australia are of the non-returning variety. Skilled boomerang hunters can directly target animals or make the wooden tools ricochet off the ground and hit prey up to 100 meters (328 ft) away including birds and game, emu, kangaroo and other marsupials.
Boomerangs feature in Aboriginal dance and music as percussion instruments that are rattled together in ceremonial dances. Boomerangs can also be used to kill fish in rock pools, for digging when foraging and as deadly combat weapon. Boomerangs can also be used to make fire. If the sharp edge of a boomerang is rubbed along a softwood surface the friction generates sufficient heat to generate sparks which can ignite balls of dried grass.
Jason Brailey and his family found the Boon Wurrung boomerang while fishing in Victoria, Australia. ( NITV News )
Discovering the Glowing, Unidentified Flying Object
Now, an NITV News article reveals how Jason Brailey and his family were fishing at Tanti Creek near Mornington in Victoria in late 2019 when he noticed something glowing on the opposite bank. Brailey said he crossed the creek and “recognized what it was immediately and knew it was a significant find.” In the NITV News interview he went on to say that “it was like a cheesy movie, it was like it was glowing.”
Brailey took the device indigenous language specialist Carolyn Briggs, and then Dave Johnston, Professor of Archaeology from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Johnston radio-carbon dated the ancient boomerang and late in 2020 he informed Brailey that it was “about 800-years-old.” Brailey told NITV that he was “gobsmacked when I found out how old it was.” Archaeologists from ANU have been studying six boomerangs discovered recently and found to be of “great academic, community and cultural significance” by the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Center on Twitter.
Amazing work by ANU Indigenous alumnus and Director of the Australian Indigenous Archaeologists' Association, Dave Johnston and archaeologist Dr Duncan Wright following the discovery of 6 boomerangs of great academic, community and cultural significance https://t.co/SqecbHZDip pic.twitter.com/E1fBt9BG5z
— Tjabal Centre (@TjabalCentre) January 20, 2021
The archaeologist, Johnston, added that this particular discovery was “incredibly fortunate” because of the way in which the boomerang was sitting on the riverbank: “the next big rain it could have been washed away.” Now that ancient tool has been dated, it will be catalogued and plans are already underfoot to repatriate the artifact to Boon Wurrung, the Aboriginal Australians of the Kulin nation in Victoria. “An ancient boomerang will be able to offer all Victorians a tangible artefact from the past, representing the way of life for Boon Wurrung,” Caroline Briggs, senior elder of the Boon Wurrung , is quoted as saying on the ANU website .
Top image: An Aboriginal boomerang, Australia. Source: Rafael Ben-Ari / Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie