Page:The Aborigines of Australia (1988).djvu/17

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forced themselves on the attention either of the governments or philanthropists of Europe. Another cause, no doubt, of the unbroken obscurity in which the history of the aborigines of this territory has been permitted to remain involved, is the extreme difficulty which, from the very first, presents itself to the dispelling of the thick cloud which hangs around the primeval origin and subsequent progress of the Australian tribes. No monumental ruin, however obscure, or however feebly defined, has ever been discovered, throughout the length and breadth of the country, which might afford a clue to the civilization or barbarism of the people from whom they have descended. No form of worship, or well-defined religious belief, such as is found amongst almost all other barbarians, suggests the particular class of worshippers to which they originally belonged. No arts, however rude—none, however, in any way worthy the name—attest in the remotest degree, by their progress and condition, the period during which they might have been practised. Conjecture and analogy alone remain to guide the inquirer in any investigation touching the original inhabitants of the Australian wilds.

In entering on any investigation touching a people the first inquiry which naturally suggests itself is that concerning their origin. In assigning to the aborigines of Australia their position amongst the several families into which the human race is divided some difference of opinion prevails. Some have affirmed