Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Songlines and Stone Axes: Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia

Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Songlines and Stone Axes: Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia

Article excerpt

Songlines and Stone Axes: Transport, trade and travel in Australia

John Nicholson 2007

Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, 32pp, ISBN 978 117 41175 002 7

Songlines and Stone Axes is the first book of a new series on Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia published by Allen & Unwin that is designed for children and teenagers. It is an attractive and profusely illustrated 32-page book.

John Nicholson is an award-winning author. He worked as an architect, graphic designer and illustrator before starting his career as a children's book author and illustrator in 1990.

Nicholson describes the amazing networks of trade and exchange of Indigenous Australians prior to 1788. His source material is based on the work of prehistorians and anthropologists. Some of his authoritative sources include Kim Ackerman, Robert Edwards, JM Flood, Ian Keen, CC MacKnight, John Mulvaney, WEH Stanner, Donald Thomson, and NB Tindale.

Nicholson describes in considerable detail the traditional trade routes. He focuses on pearl shell from the Pilbara and Kimberley coasts and how the pearl shell journeyed to the inland along three major routes, and how it was exchanged for spears, boomerangs, pituri and pigment. He shows how pearl shell was part of a complex trading system in which items of trade could travel hundreds and thousands of kilometres across the continent. He discusses trade items like greenstone axe-heads, belts made of human hair, songs and dances, ochre and pituri.

While running with the theme of trade networks and exchange, Nicholson manages to give insights in other aspects of traditional culture and history. Waterways in different parts of Australia carried different types of watercraft ranging from the dugout canoes of northern Australia, to dugout canoes with outriggers in northern Queensland, to the bark canoe of the Murray River, and the bundled reed boat of Tasmania. He discusses the Torres Strait Islanders and refers to some of their goods and services. He talks about eel farming in western Victoria and describes some of the cultural materials. There is an account of the great moth-gathering activities of southeastern Australia. …

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