The Point of Spinifex: Aboriginal uses of spinifex grasses in Australia

Heidi T. Pitman, Lynley A. Wallis

Abstract


For thousands of years spinifex grasses were utilized by Indigenous Australians, most commonly for the production of resin that was then used as a hafting adhesive. While varying levels of knowledge about this particular use are retained in Indigenous communities, museum collections serve as a valuable repository of little known information about a multitude of other uses of spinifex including ornamental, medicinal, structural and ceremonial functions. In this paper we describe the range of uses of spinifex, based on examinations of objects and photographs held in various museum collections, coupled with reviews of the ethnographic and ethnohistoric literature. This study (1) brings together disparate sources of knowledge about Indigenous uses of spinifex that are not well known among the scientific community and (2) demonstrates the value of museum collections for Indigenous communities seeking to ‘reconnect’ with aspects of so-called ‘lost traditional culture’. 

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Ethnobotany Research and Applications (ISSN 1547-3465) is published online by the Department of Ethnobotany, Institute of Botany, Ilia State University.
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