Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/252

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
234
APPENDIX:

in scores of tons. It, was on that occasion that a few natives, the remnant of their tribe, stood beside the outlet bewailing the sad fact that there were no more blackfellows to eat the eels.

There are also some large shell-mounds on the coast, especially near Cape Otway, where the largest is about three hundred feet long, forty or fifty feet wide, and sixteen feet high. It must have taken ages for the fish-eating natives of the coast to build up such heaps.

In many parts of the country the mirnyongs have been destroyed by the agricultural settlers, who use them for manure. In future years the ethnologist will doubtless search many of them for relics of a lost race whose condition and habits they will indicate.

As they are the oldest, so they will be the most durable records of perhaps the most primitive people on the face of the earth. They resemble, as I have said, the Kjökenmoddings, or kitchen refuse heaps, of Denmark, in which pieces of stone have been found, and fragments of the bones of animals on which the savages of that country and remote period fed. From the texture of the bones, Professor Owen has been able to determine the kinds of animals to which they belonged.

I would suggest that some of the largest of these mounds be scientifically examined, with a view of ascertaining whether they contain any relics or implements differing from those in use at the present time.

At a meeting of the Ethnological Society in London, in 1804, Sir Charles Nicholson alluded to the discovery of great numbers of flint implements by Mr. Gregory, in immense tumuli near the sea, during his explorations in Australia.

Major Mitchell mentions circular mounds with trenches round them, being the tombs of a tribe on the Darling Downs. I am not, however, aware of any tumuli in Western, Southern, or South-Eastern Australia, although the natives have sometimes buried their dead in the mirnyongs which I have just described. I have taken out portions of the skeleton of an Aboriginal man from one of these mounds near Lake Purrumbete, not far from Camperdown; and as many as five or six skeletons have been found in one mound. But I think they have only latterly been used as places of interment, when the natives had so diminished in numbers as no longer to require them for camping purposes. It is very likely, too, that they were induced to use the forsaken mounds as burial-places by the consideration that the deceased would like to repose in so comfortable a place, which he had so often tenanted during life, and also because of the greater facility with which they could burrow the grave in the ash-mound than in the hard ground.

There are, however, still other memorials of the late numerous but now almost extinct inhabitants of the extensive basaltic plains of the Western district of Victoria. Some stone mia-mys, or shelters, may still occasionally be found; there are a few on the western margin of the Stony Rises, south of Lake Purrumbete.

In one of Chambers's Tracts on The Monuments of Unrecorded Ages it is stated that "stone-circles" are numerous in Victoria—that they are from ten to one hundred feet in diameter, and that sometimes there is an inner circle;