Page:Ethnological studies (Roth).djvu/115

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CHAPTER V.

THE SEARCH FOR FOOD. PITURI.

Contents.—Section 105. Seed-food in the Boulia District. 106. Eleusine aegyptiaea. 107. Sporobolus actinocladus. 108. Coolibar-seed. 109. Pig-weed. 110. Nardoo. 111. Seed-food in the Clonourry District. 112. Seed-food in the Leichhardt-Selwyn District. 113. Edible Roots in the Boulia District; 114. in the Cloncurry District; 115. in the Leichhardt-Selwyn District. 116. Fungi. 117. Fruits and Vegetables. 118. Flowers and Honey. 119. Insects and Crustaceans. 120. Molluscs. 121. Frogs. 122. Lizards, Iguanas, Crocodiles. 123. Snakes. 124. Fish: Catching with Nets; 125. with Dams; 126. by Poisoning the Water-holes; 127. by Spearing; 128. by Treading with the Feet; 129. Killing and Transporting Fish. 130. Methods of Hunting Emus; 131. with Net Alone; 132. with Net and Palisading; 133. by means of Pit-falls; 134. by Muster; 135. by Tracking and Spearing, &c. 136. Turkey Bustards. 137. "Flock"-pigeons. 138. Small Birds. 139. Cockatoos, Corellas, Galahs. 140. Ducks, Cranes, Diver-birds, &c. 141. Pelicans. 142. How Birds are prepared for Eating. 143. Bandicoots, "Porcupines," &c. 144. Opossums. 145. Kangaroos. 146, Dingoes. 147. Pituri.

105. Throughout the Boulia District all Seed-Food has the generic term of pap-pa applied to it: the following, with their Pitta-Pitta names, unless otherwise stated, are some of the varieties utilised.

106. The ya-ra-ka "star-grass" (Eeusine agyptiaca, Pers.). A sufficient quantity haying been collected—a woman always preparing all plant food—it is more or less broken up with the hands, next brushed into a heap, and then put into a circular hole in the ground (Fig. 214). Within this hole, about 12 inches in diameter and 7 or 8 in depth, the woman stands: pressing alternately one foot upon the other (Fig. 215) she exerts a sort of rotary motion into which she throws all her weight, with the result that the grass upon which she treads becomes more and more disintegrated, the seed itself gradually working its way to the bottom. To throw all her weight upon the legs, she either supports herself on a sort of tripod of forked sticks erected in front of her, or else, when it happens to be handy, some low-lying limb of a tree. From the hole the seed is transferred to a koolamon, any of the larger sprigs, &c., are removed with the fingers, and the rest winnowed with the breath or a current of air: it is now clean enough and ready for grinding on the pappa-stone (sect. 154). This is effected by a more or less forwards and backwards movement, the position of the operator being shown in the illustration. Fig. 216. During the grinding process the seed is moistened with water, and as each handful is adequately ground it is smeared over the edge of the slab into a koolamon; when sufficient of this pasty mass has been prepared, it is roasted after the manner of a "damper," though sometimes it is eaten raw. Whatever opinion may be expressed as to the taste, it is always, as might have been expected, extremely gritty; indeed, the flattened "ground-down" appearance of the crowns in the teeth among all these aboriginals must, in great measure, be ascribed to the sandy nature of their seed-food.

107. The ka-too-ra (Sporobolus actinocladus, F. v. M.) reminds one of the Ayrshire Downs Barley-grass. This is cut down, tied into small bundles, taken down to the nearest water-hole, and dipped under just for a minute or two: the bundles are next laid out to dry in the sun for a quarter-of-an-hour or so, but to prevent the process taking place too rapidly, especially on a very hot day, they may be covered over with some other grasses or bushes. When the moisture has been sufficiently removed, each bundle is firmly held by the stalk-portion with one hand, while the head-portion is gently brushed over and squeezed with the other, the seed so loosened being allowed to fall into the water contained in a koolamon beneath (Fig. 217). The water is drawn off subsequently by tipping up the vessel, and so letting the fluid escape through the interdigital spaces of the hollowed hand (Fig. 218): the seed itself is then dried again before being ground and made up into a damper.