Woomera (spear-thrower)

A woomera is an Australian Aboriginal spear-throwing device usually used for larger prey or when there is a greater distance to be overcome. It has been described as "the most efficient spear-throwing device ever" [ [http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s11117.htm Graham Pearcey on ABC Radio National, 7 June 1988] ] . Similar to an atlatl, it enables a spear to travel much further than arm strength alone. It is very much like an extension of the arm, enabling the spear to travel at a greater speed and force than what would normaly be attainable unaided. It is still used today in some remote areas of Australia. The name "woomera" comes from the Eora people who were the original inhabitants of the Sydney area. It has a similar function to the atlatl but uses different construction methods and materials.

As with spears and boomerangs, woomera were traditionally only used by men. Some woomeras, especially those used in the Central and Western Australian deserts, were multi-purpose tools. They were often shaped like long narrow bowls and could be used for carrying water-soaked vegetable matter (which could later be sucked for its moisture, but wouldn't spill) as well as small food items such as little lizards or seeds. Many woomeras had a sharp stone cutting edge attached to the end of the handle with black gum from the spinifex plant. This sharp tool had many uses – and was commonly used for cutting up game or other food, cutting wood, and so on. The woomera could be used as a shield for protection against spears and boomerangs. Some boomerangs were deliberately made with a hook at one end designed to catch onto the edge of a woomera or shield, which then caused the boomerang to swivel around and hit the enemy.

The woomera was traditionally decorated with incised or painted designs which gave a good indication of the owner's tribal or clan group, giving one their sense of identity or 'being'.

In the Arrernte language the device is called a "Amirre".


External links

* [http://www.questacon.edu.au/html/aboriginal_technology.html Aboriginal technology]
* [http://www.pinetreeweb.com/bp-beyond-anz-203-woomera.jpgA drawing of a woomera] , from the book "Boy Scouts Beyond the Seas: "My World Tour" by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, 1913

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