Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/241

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223
NOTES AND ANECDOTES.

Mr. Cunniugliam, in King's Voyages, saw paintings in Clack's Island, off the north-east coast.

Messrs. Grey and Lushington, in 1838, found caves with well-executed figures done in different colors, on the north-west coast; but Capt. (now Sir George) Grey thought they had no connection with the red hands in the cavern near York.

It is stated by a recent writer in the Colonies[1] that ancient carvings exist in considerable numbers upon the flat rocks and headlands surrounding the harbour of Port Jackson, and at other places along the coast, primitive enough in design, yet highly interesting to the archaeologist and ethnologist. At the North Head the carvings exist in great numbers, as well as impressions of human hands on the sides of perpendicular rocks; the whole of the subjects represent indigenous objects—kangaroos, opossums, sharks, shields, boomerangs, and human figures in the attitudes of the corobboree dance.[2]

How far these relics, or any of them, found in different and remote parts of Australia, may lead to the inference of a race having existed in the country prior to the advent of the people whom we now call Aborigines, is, I think, a question worthy of consideration.

Stephens, in his work on Central America, refers to vermilion impressions of human hands on the old Toltic buildings of Yucatan.

The stamp of the hand on a document is the sign-manual in Borneo of a native prince.[3] The red color is esteemed sacred, in many instances, by the inhabitants of a great portion of Asia.

Barbarous Condition of the Natives.

Some of the earliest discoverers of Australia saw natives of the present race when they landed. These barbarians were in a state of mere savage nature, never having heard of any other people than their own, nor having the least idea that other tribes existed beyond a very limited range of country around their own hunting-grounds. They knew nothing whatever of the conventional forms of gesture and expression which are generally understood and received as indications of amity among strange races. Whenever, therefore, they could be brought to parley, the situation was both critical and embarrassing.

The Australian Aborigines in their wild state are not only suspicious of treachery in their neighbours, but often have a superstitious terror of distant tribes, with whose existence they are only acquainted by report. It was not, therefore, suprising that they viewed with alarm the arrival of persons differing in color and appearance from any they had before seen or heard of, and of whose nature, power, and intentions they were wholly ignorant.

  1. The signature is G. F. A.—probably George Fife Angus; date 21st April 1877.
  2. Some of the figures of sharks and other fishes measure twenty-five feet in length, while those of men in dancing attitudes are life size. The natives say that the tribes did not reside in the places where the carvings occur, as they are sacred to the koradjee or sorcerers or priests.
  3. See Rajah Brook's work.