Aborigines did acquire from the macassans some loan

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Aborigines did acquire from the Macassans some loan words, some cere- monies, and the practices of using dugout sailing canoes and smoking tobacco in pipes. But none of these influences altered the basic character of Australian society. More important than what happened as a result of the Macassan visits is what did not happen. The Macassans did not settle in Australia— undoubtedly because the area of northwestern Australia facing Indonesia is much too dry for Macassan agriculture. Had Indonesia faced the tropi- cal rain forests and savannas of northeastern Australia, the Macassans could have settled, but there is no evidence that they ever traveled that far. Since the Macassans thus came only in small numbers and for temporary visits and never penetrated inland, just a few groups of Australians on a small stretch of coast were exposed to them. Even those few Australians got to see only a fraction of Macassan culture and technology, rather than a full Macassan society with rice fields, pigs, villages, and work- shops. Because the Australians remained nomadic hunter-gatherers, they acquired only those few Macassan products and practices compatible with their lifestyle. Dugout sailing canoes and pipes, yes; forges and pigs, no. Apparently much more astonishing than Australians' resistance to Indo- nesian influence is their resistance to New Guinea influence. Across the narrow ribbon of water known as Torres Strait, New Guinea farmers who spoke New Guinea languages and had pigs, pottery, and bows and arrows faced Australian hunter-gatherers who spoke Australian languages and
YALI'S PEOPLE » 315 lacked pigs, pottery, and bows and arrows. Furthermore, the strait is not an open-water barrier but is dotted with a chain of islands, of which the largest (Muralug Island) lies only 10 miles from the Australian coast. There were regular trading visits between Australia and the islands, and between the islands and New Guinea. Many Aboriginal women came as wives to Muralug Island, where they saw gardens and bows and arrows. How was it that those New Guinea traits did not get transmitted to Aus- tralia? This cultural barrier at Torres Strait is astonishing only because we may mislead ourselves into picturing a full-fledged New Guinea society with intensive agriculture and pigs 10 miles off the Australian coast. In reality, Cape York Aborigines never saw a mainland New Guinean. Instead, there was trade between New Guinea and the islands nearest New Guinea, then between those islands and Mabuiag Island halfway down the strait, then between Mabuiag Island and Badu Island farther down the strait, then between Badu Island and Muralug Island, and finally between Muralug and Cape York. New Guinea society became attenuated along that island chain. Pigs were rare or absent on the islands. Lowland South New Guineans along Torres Strait practiced not the intensive agriculture of the New Guinea highlands but a slash-and-burn agriculture with heavy reliance on sea- foods, hunting, and gathering. The importance of even those slash-and-

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