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F.o.L. and M.B.Q.S., Surveyor-General of New South Wales, voL il
page 93.

t This was on the Lower Murray, near the mouth of the Darling.



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TfiE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA. 381

"The colour of the human body," observes Dr.
Forster, "depends, no doubt, upon these three great
causes : 1st, exposure to the air ; 2d, the influence of
the sun ; and 3d, €ome particular circumstances in the
mode of living. From the best inquiries set on foot
by anatomists, it appears that all the difference of colour
lies in the human skin, and especially in the outer in-
tegument called the cuticle ; which again is considered
by them under the two denominations of Epidermis and
MalpigMs reticular membrane. In white people, the
Epidermis is a very thin, pellucid, indurated lamella,
transmitting the colour of the reticular membrane im-
mediately lying under it, which is a white, or colour-
less, viscid or slimy substance. Whatever colour the
substance has which is immediately under the Epi-
dermis, that colour appears and becomes visible to the
eye. The blood, suddenly mounting into the blood-
vessels of the face, tinges the same with a vermilion
blush. The blood being coloured by the extravasated
bile causes the yellowish colour of the jaundice. The
yellow lymph deposited in the cutaneous vascula, im-
parts the yellow tint of those who, in the West Indies,
are afflicted with the yellow fQ^ver, The tattooing of
the Otaheitans, and gunpowder accidentally forced into
the skin, forms a black or blueish appearance. And in
negroes the late ingenious Mr. Meckel discovered the
reticulum of Malpighi to be black." And again,

" The Epidermis admits the beams of the sun and the
action of the air in colouring the reticulum mucosum
brown — but whenever it is coloured, nothing is suffi-
ciently powerful to extract the brown colour, and this
seems to be founded inMaily experience ; a man being
perhaps only one day exposed to a powerful sun shaU
become strongly tinted with brown, when to remove
this hue perhaps six or eight months of close confine-
ment are not sufficient."*

It is ridiculous to tell us, in alleged proof of the
radical and original distinction of the white and black

* Forster's ObservationB, &c., pp. 259 and 275.



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COOKSLAND.

races, that Europeans do not get black notwithstanding
a protracted residence either in India or Africa. Are
Europeans, it may well be asked in reply, ever exposed
to the sun and the other influences of climate in these
countries, as the Papuan race have uniformly been
within the Tropics — ^having their naked bodies exposed
to the heavens for many successive generations 1 It
is surely not a matter of wonder that different causes
do not produce like effects.

From certain peculiarities in their manners and cus-
toms, and especially from their general practice of
cannibalism in one of its most remarkable forms, I am
strongly inclined to believe that the Papuan race is
part of that great family of nations which was known
to the ancients under the generic name of Scythians,
and which derived both its name and its origin from
Gush, or Cuth, the eldest son of Ham, the son of Noah.
After informing us that the descendants of Japheth had
directed their course from the original settlements of
the human race, after the Deluge, to the north-westward,
and peopled Europe and the coasts of the Mediter-
ranean or " the Isles of the Gentiles," the Sacred Writer
proceeds ^o inform us as follows of the distribution and
migrations of the descendants of Ham: — '< And the sons
of Ham ; Cush and Mizraim, and Phut and Canaan.
And the sons of Cush ; Seba and Havilah, and Sabtah,
and Raamah, and Sabtechah : and the sons of Raamah ;
Shebah and Dedan. And Cush begat Nimrod : he
began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a
mi^ty hunter before the Lord : wherefore it is said.
Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.
And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and
Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh,
and the city Behoboth, and Calah, and Hesen between
Nineveh and Calah ; the same is a great city." Gren.
X. 6-12. From this it is evident not only that the
£simily of Cush established the most ancient of the post-
diluvian kingdoms in the territory which has since
been called Babylonia, but that a portion of this frunily.



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THE ABORIGINES OP AUSTRALIA. 383

branching off fi*om the parent settlement, directed theit
course to the eastward. There is reason to believe,
indeed, that the course of emigration in the post-di-
luvian world was principally to the eastward, and the
comparatively dense population and superior civiliza-
tion of the nations of India and China in an early period
of the history of man, are proof positive of the fact.
But the progress of emigration and civilization in the
ancient world was, in all likelihood, much the same in
its character and circumstances as it is in the modem
— the main body of agricultural emigrants, mechanics,
and townspeople would be preceded by a light infantry
of trappers and backwoodsmen, or squatters, deriving
their subsistence partiy from the chase and partly from
a limited and occasional cultivation. Now, if the
Papuan race, as a branch of the great family of Gush,
occupied this position, as the vanguard of emigration
to the eastward in the ancient world, and was con-
stantiy pushed forward by the constantly-increasing
pressure from behind, its earlier arrival at the south-
eastern extremity of Asia, its peculiar condition at that
period, as being in a lower and feebler state of civiliza-
tion, and its consequent inability to withstand the
irruption of a more advanced race, will be all easily
explicable.

The following passage from the learned pen of Sir
William Jones, is in remarkable accordance with the
views I have just given in regard both to the source
and the cause of ancient emigration, as well as in re-
gard to the time and manner in which the stream of
population was originally directed, from the earliest
post-diluvian settlements of the human race, towards
the Indian Archipelago, Australia, Polynesia and
America. I confess I am strongly of opinion, that
the Aborigines of all these countries are of the race of
Ham: —

^ Hence it seems to foUow that the only family after the flood
established themselves in the northern part of Iran/' (the Asiatic
name for Asia to the westward of the Indus ;) *' that as they
moltipliedy they were divided into three distinct branches, each



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384 COOKSLAND.

retainmg little at first, and losing the whole by degrees, of their
common primary language, but agreeing severally on new ex-
pressions for new ideas ; that the branch of Yafet extended in
many scattered shoots over the North of Europe and Asia, dif-
fusing themselves as far as the Western and £astem Seas, and
at length in the infancy of navigation beyond them' both ; that
they ciStivated no liberal arts,and had no use of letters, but formed
a variety of dialects as their tribes were vigriousl^ ramified ; that,
secondly, the children of Ham, who founded m Iran itself the
first monarchy of Chaldeans, invented letters, observed and
named the luminaries of the firmament, calculated the known
Indian period of 432,000 years, or 120 repetitions of the Saros ;
that they were dispersed at variom intervals, and in various colo-
nies, over land and ocean ; that the tribes of Mesb, Cush and
Rama, (names remaining unchanged in Sanscrit, and highly re-
vered by the Hindoos,) settled in Africk and IncUa ; while some
of these, having improved the art of sailing, passed from Egypt,
Phoenice and Phrygia, into Italy and Greece ; whilst a swarm
from the same hive moved by a northerly pourse into Scandinavia,
and another by the head of the Oxus, and through the passes of
Imaus into Cashgar and Esghir, Khatr and Khoten, as mr as the
Territories of Chin and Tancut, where letters have been imme-
morially used, and arts cultivated ; nor is it unreasonable to be-
lieve that some of them found their way from the Eastern Is-
lands into Mexico and Peru, where tnices were discovered of
rude literature and mythology analogous to those ^f Egypt and
India ; that, thirdly, the old Chaldean empire being overthrown
by Cayumers, other migrations took place ; especially into
India, while the rest of Shem's progeny, some of whom had be-
fore settled on the Bed seas, peopled the whole Arabian peninsula,
pressing close on the nations of Syria and Phoenice ; that, lastly,
from all the three families many adventurers were detached, wno
settled in distant islands or deserts, and mountainous regions ;
that, on the whole, some colonies might have migrated before the
death of Noah, but that States and Empires could scarcely have
assumed a regular form till 1500 or 1600 years before the Chris-
tian epoch ; and that for the first thousand years of that period,
we have no history unmixed with fable, except that of the turbu-
lent and variable, but eminently distinguished nation descended
from Abraham."*

In the preliminary dissertation prefixed to his trans-
lation of the Koran of Mahomet, the learned Mr. Sale
informs us, that " The country called Citsh in Scrip-
ture does not appear to have been Ethiopia, as the



* Life of Sir William Jones by Lord Teignmouth, p. 385.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC



THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA. 385

word is translated in our version. It was rather a
tract of country extending along the banks of the Euph-
rates and the Persian Gulf, now called Chuzestan or
Suskma; from whence probably Shushan is derived,
the name of the capital of the Persian monarchs in
the days of Ezra." It is evident, therefore, that the
great starting point of post-diluvian emigration was far
to the eastward ; and as Eaamah, one of the sons of
Cush, is unquestionably the god Bam of Indian, or
rather Buddhist mythology, there is proof positive of a
great Cushite emigration to the eastward having been
directed from that starting point in the very infancy of
the human race.

The learned Jacob Bryant, who, notwithstanding his
many singular fancies, has struck out not a few lights
that serve to illumine the darkness of antiquity, in-
forms us that Cush, the son of Ham, was styled by his
descendants, the Babylonians and Chaldeans, Cuth,
their country being styled Cutha and its inhabitants
Cuthites or Cuthaeans. These words commencing with
a Strang guttural or aspirate became, in the mouths of
the Greeks, 2xu^a or 2xu^/a and 2xu^/o/, Scythia and
Scythians, on the same principle as * TX»j, g^w, iirrct and
akg in Greek, became sylva^ serpo, septem and sal^ in
Latin. This is evident from the following passage,
which he quotes from the treatise of Epiphanius, ad-
verms Haeres. Aifo h rou xXtjuaros x. r. X. "Those
nations which reach southward from that part of the
world, where the two great continents of Europe and
Asia incline to each other and are connected, were
universally styled Scythae (Scythians,) according to an
appellation of long standing. These were of that
family who of old erected the great tower and who
built the city Babylon." V. 191. Now, it is a singu*
lar fiict, that the general voice of antiquity charges this
most ancient portion of the human family with the
practice of that most revolting species of cannibalism,
which, we shall find in the sequel, is practised systema-
tically by the Aborigines of Australia, that of devouring
the dead bodies of their relatives and connexions, and doing
2b



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386 COOKSLAND.

it moreover as an act of piety. And so peculiarly Scy-
thian did the ancients consider this practice, that Mr.
Bryant lays it down as a general principle, in regard to
the origin of the nations of antiquity, that " all those
among whom these customs prevailed may be esteemed
Ethiopians. They were all of the Cuthic race ; and
consequently of Ethiopic original."* The following are
some of the testimonies on the subject, adduced by Mr.
Bryant. —

Strabo says of the Scythians genendly. Toug fLiv
ya^ tivat p^aXe^ouj, wtfrg xa/ avQguyTeofayttv. " They are
a very savage people, and even practice cannibalism."

Pluiy records the fact also in three different passages,
in one of which he refers to the religious character and
origin of the practice. Anthropophagi Scythae — hu-
manis corporibus vescuntur, — " The Scythians are can-
nibals, and eat the bodies of men." Esse Scytharum
genera, et plurima, quae corporibus humanis vesceren-
tur, indicavimus, — " We have shown that there are
very many tribes of Scythians that eat human bodies."
Scythae sunt Androphagi et Sacae. Indorum qui-
dam nullum animal occidere, nulla carne vesci, opti-
mum existimant. Quidam proximos, parentesque, prius-
quam annis et aegritudine in maciem eant, velut hos-
tias,caedunt; caesorumque viscerUms epularifas, et maxi-
nie pium est, — " The Scythians and Sacae are men-
eaters. Certain of the Indian nations consider it im-
proper to kill any animal, or to eat flesh. Others sa-
crifice their near connexions and relations, before they
become emaciated with sickness and disease, and con-
sider it not only lawful, but a great act of piety to feast
upon the entrails of those who are thus killed."

TertuUian (Contra Manichaeos) repeats the same
charge in the following language: — Parentum ca-
davera cum pecudibus caesa convivio devorant (scili-
cet Scythae) " The Scythians in their banquets devour
the bodies of their relations whom they have put to

* New System, or an Analysis of Ancient Mythology. Six
volumes^ Loudon, 1807. Vol. v., p. 218.



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THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA. 387

death for the purpose, along with those of their sheep
and cattle."

In addition to these charges of the ancients against
the Scythians, for which I am indebted to Mr. Bryant,
I happened to find the following passage, which is still
more to the purpose, as exhibiting the practice of the
Aborigines of Australia, in Lucian : —

AnXofievot xara ra e&vri rag ra^ag, 6 jiisv^EWriv exavffsv,
6 de Ils^ffrig g^a-vj/gy, 6 ds Ivdog vaXu '^ig'Xi'^h o ds Sjju^jjs
xarsffdisi, ra^tyivit de 6 Aiywrriog' Lucian. Ils^i 'jrsv&ovg-

" Different nations have very different modes of dis-
posing of their dead — the Greeks burn them; the
Persians bury them ; the Indians anoint them with
gums ; the Scythians eat them, and the Egyptians em-
balm them."*

As it is utterly incredible, therefore, that a practice
so monstrous in its character, so inexplicable in its
origin, and so revolting to the feelings of all other clas-
ses and tribes of men, whether savage or civilized,
should have arisen independently of each other among

* Diogenes Laertius also informs us to the same effect, that
^etitrovfi ^f Ajyt/^rrioi fitv ret^t^tuovrtSt *Yuft.(tiot ^i xettovriSy Tlaions
2i us rag Xtfivets ^iTrowrts' — Pyrrhus.

** The Egyptians first embalm, and then bury their dead — the
Romans burn them, and the Paeonians throw them into lakes.''

Diogenes is scarcely correct, however, in regard to the Romans,
at least the more ancient Romans ; among whom the dead were
either buried or burned, as is evident from the following law of
the Twelve Tables, in which the practice of burying, which
was probably the more frequent of the two at an earlier period,
is mentioned first : — Hominem mortuum in urbe ne sepelito, neve
urito, — ^** Let no dead body be either buried or burnt within the
city." The Paeonian practice has not unfrequently been follow-
ed by the Aborigines of New South Wales in regard to the living,
in the case of infants. When walking one day with my brother
along a beautiful lake on his property in that Colony many years
ago, a black woman of rather an agreeable appearance met us,
who, my brother told me, before she came up to us, had thrown
several of her children into the lake. I immediately asked him
how many ? and he asked the woman herself, who held up three
or four of her fingers to indicate the particular number : and
when I asked her, Why she had done so ) she replied with the
greatest apparent indifference, ^ Piccaninny too much cry 1"



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388 COOKSLAND.

the Papuan race of the South-eastern Hemisphere and
the ancient Scythians or Cuthaeans, so far to the west-
ward, there is reason to believe that it had a common
origin in both cases, and that the modem Papuans are
merely a branch of that most ancient family of nations,
or in other words, " descendants of Cush." It is not im-
probable, indeed, that this practice was one of the su-
perstitions and abominations of the ancient antediluvian
world, of which there is reason to believe that not a
few were revived and continued, especially in Egypt,
among the posterity of Ham.

The following description of the physical character
and aspect of the Aborigines of AustnJia, extracted from
the recent Work of that able and enterprising Austra-
lian traveller, Mr. Eyre, entitled. Central Australia, is
in almost every particular so applicable to the natives
of Cooksland, that I shall willingly substitute it for any
description of my own ; the more so indeed as its per-
fect suitableness to my subject, with only one or two
exceptions which I shaQ state in foot-notes, serves to
prove the absolute identity of the race in all parts of
the Territory : —

The male is well built and muscular, averaging from five to sis
feet in height, with proportionate upper and lower extremities.
The anterior lobes of the brain are fairly developed, so as to give
a facial angle far from being one of the most acute to be found
amone the black races. The eyes are sunk, the nose is flattened,
and me mouth wide. The lips are rather thick, and the teeth
generally very perfect and beautiful, though the dental arrange^
ment is sometimes singular, as no difference exists in many be-
tween the incisor and canine teeth. The neck is short and.some-
times thick, and the heel resembles that of Europeans. The
ankles and wrists are frequently small, as are, also, the hands
and feet. The latter are well-mrmed and expanded, but the
calves of the legs are generally deficient.* Some of the natives

* The natives of Moreton Bay do not exhibit this remarkable
deficiency of the calves of the legs, which forms so striking a cha-
racteristic of many tribes to the southward, both on the coast and
in the interior. I am satisfied it originates among the latter in
a deficiency of food, or in some peculiarity in the mode of living.
Perhaps the different methods of ascending trees practised re-
spectively in the Northern and Southern districts, may have some
effect on the physical conformation of the arms and limbs of the



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THE ABORIGIKES OP AUSTRALIA. 389

in the upper districts of the Murray are, however, well formed
in this respect. In a few instances natives attain to a consider-
able corpidency. The men have fine broad and deep chests, in-
dicating great bodily strength, and are remarkably erect and up-
right in their carriage, wiSi much natural grace and dignity of
demeanour. The eye is generally large, black, and expressive,
with the eye-lashes long. When met for the first time, in his
native wilds, there is frequently a fearless intrepidity of manner,
and insenuous openness of look, and a propriety of behaviour,
about me aboriginal inhabitant of Australia, which makes his ap-
pearance peculiarly prepossessing.

Aborigines in these districts respectively. To the northward,
and within the Tropics, where wild vines or parasitical plants of
great length, strength, and pliancy are always easily procurable,
the natives uniformly ascend trees by means of these vines, in-
closing the trunk of the tree and their own body beneath the
shoulders in a piece of the vine (of which the two ends are
knotted together) of the requisite length to enable the body, when
leaning back, to form a considerable angle with the tree. In this
position, the vine-cord being extended horizontally, the native,
with a sudden jerk, brings up his body close to the tree, and
throws up the vine, which he grasps for the purpose with both
hands, a foot or two farther up. Then leaning back again upon
the vine, and climbing up with his feet along the trunk, he re-
gains his former position, and again repeating the process, mounts
the tree with amazing celerity. This practice, wnichf in all prO'
babUitjff is the indention of the Papuan race, is universally prac-
tised in the Archipelago and in the South Sea Islands. In the
Southern parts of Australia, where wild vines of the requisite
strength and pliancy are but rai'ely procurable, this practice is
unknown, and dire necessity, the mother of invention in so many
other cases, has led the natives to the discovery of another and
not less ingenious method of ascending the loftiest trees, viz. by
forming a series of notches in the bark, several feet asunder, and
sufficient only to admit the great toe of each foot alternately.
By this rude species of accommodation-ladder, which no Euro-
pean could make use of, or even think of making use of without
shuddering, the black native ascends trees of amazing girth with
perfect confidence, and never fails to find the game he is in quest
of, perhaps at the height of seventy feet from the ground. Now
it appears to me that the frequent use of the limbs in this way
must render the muscles of the lower extremities much more ri-
gid and sinewy, than the other mode of ascent by the vine, in
which there is comparatively little stress upon these muscles.
In fact, legs with large calves would not be suitable for the pur-
pose. I may add that the natives of Moreton Bay are generally
remarkably athletic and well-proportioned, and far more of them
are upwards of five feet eight inches than under that stature.



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390 COOKSLAND.

In the female, the average height is ahont five feet, or perhaps
a little under. The anterior part of the brain is more limited
than in the male ; the apex of the head is carried further back ;
the facial angle is more acute, and the extremities are more at-
tenuated. The latter circumstance may probably be accounted
for from the fact, that the females have to endure, from a very
early age, a great degree of hardship, privation, and ill-treatment.
Like most other savages, the Australian looks upon his wife as a
slave : to her belongs the duty of collecting and preparing the
daily food — of making the camp or hut for the night— -of gather-
ing and bringing in firewood, and of procuring water. She must
also attend to the children, and in travelling carry all the move-
able property, and frequently the weapons of her husband. In
wet weather she attends to all the out-side work, whilst her lord
and master is snugly seated at the fire. If there is a scarcity of
food, she has to endure the pangs of hunger, often, perhaps, in
addition to ill-treatment or abuse. No wonder then that the fe-
males, and especially the younger ones (for it is then they are
exposed to the greatest hardships) are not so fully or so roundly
developed in person as the men. Yet, under all these disadvan-
tages, this deficiency does not always exist. Occasionally, though
rarely, I have met with females in the bloom of youth, whose
well-proportioned limbs, and symmetry of figure, might have
formed a model for the sculptor's chisel. In personal appear-
ance the females are, except in early youth, very far inferior to
the men. When young, however, they are not uninteresting.
The jet-black eyes, shaded by their long dark lashes, and the de-
licate and scarcely-formed features of incipient womanhood, give
a soft and pleasing expression to a countenance that might often
be called good-looking — occasionally even pretty.

The colour of the skin, both in the male and female, is gene-
rally black, or very darkly tinged. The hair is either straight
or curly, but never approaching to the woolliness of the negro.
It is usually worn short by both sexes, and is variously orna-
mented at different periods of life. Sometimes it is smeared with
red-ochre and grease ; at other times adorned with tufts of
feathers, the tail of the native dog, kangaroo teeth, and bandages
or nets of different kinds.

When the head of the native is washed clean, and purified from
the odour of the filthy pigment with which it is bedaubed, the
crop of hair is very abundant, and the appearance of it beautiful,
being a silken, glossy, and curly black. Great pains are used to
destroy or mar this striking ornament of nature.

Without the slightest pride of appearance, so far as neatness is



Online LibraryJohn Dunmore LangCooksland in north-eastern Australia: the future cottonfield of Great ... → online text (page 37 of 47)