Page:Australian race - vol 1.djvu/212

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151
WEAPONS AND IMPLEMENTS.

notched at the edges, and colored with red ochre. Any Black could fashion sticks of this sort in an hour or two. Some of my correspondents have spoken of them as a sort of writing; but, when pressed on the subject, have admitted that their surmise, all the circumstances weighed, was not tenable. Than the carving in question, nothing could less resemble writing or hieroglyphics. The flat sticks especially have that sort of regularity and repetition of pattern which wall-papers exhibit. That they do not serve the purpose of writing or hieroglyphics I have no hesitation in asserting; and I may remark that, in all cases which have come under my notice, the messenger delivered his message before he presented the carved stick. That done, the recipient would attempt to explain to those about him how the stick pourtrayed the message. Still this eminently childish proceeding leads one to consider whether the most savage mind does not contain the germ of writing. Bernel Diaz del Castillo, in his Discovery and Conquest of New Spain, relates that, when his countrymen sent verbal messages by Mexican bearers to distant tribes, the messengers who had seen the Spaniards write always asked to be supplied with a letter, which of course neither they nor the people to whom they were sent could read.

If to these weapons and instruments I add nets for the capture of fish and game, netted bags; baskets of a hundred different sizes and patterns, made of reeds, rushes, bark, or grass; calabashes of wood and in some cases of the human skull; awls or needles made of the fibula of the kangaroo or emu; the jaw-bone of the opossum and shells of various sorts, with which carving is done; skins of animals, in which water is sometimes carried; rugs of opossum and kangaroo skins, I shall have brought under notice the principal belongings of my sable friends, with the details concerning which it would be easy to fill a volume.