In 1973, some of the world's oldest wooden artefacts were excavated by the archaeologist, Roger Luebbers, from a peat bog at Wyrie Swamp in South Australia.
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Luebbers at Wyrie Swamp.
Wyrie Swamp, south east South Australia
Photo: R Luebbers 1974
South Australian Museum
In the early 1970s, a local worker had alerted Luebbers that he occasionally found Aboriginal artefacts in the peat that he dug in a quarry site south of Millicent, south east of South Australia. The name, Wyrie Swamp, is thought to derive from a local Aboriginal word, 'waiirri', meaning 'the sky'.
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Complete Boomerang.
Fragmented Boomerang
Wyrie Swamp, south east South Australia
1974
South Australian Museum
Among the finds were three complete boomerangs - the oldest known examples of boomerangs in the whole country. They were made from wood of the drooping sheoak ('Casuarina stricta'). Luebbers believes that they lay perfectly preserved at the bottom of the ancient swamp for at least 9,000 years, and possibly for as long as 10,200 years.
A fragment of a fourth boomerang from Wyrie Swamp has been identified as being made from the root of the drooping sheoak. To prevent these wooden objects from falling apart when exposed to the air, archaeologists have treated them with polyethyleneglycol and then had them freeze dried.
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Chert stone implements found in association with an Aboriginal campsite.
Stone flakes
Wyrie Swamp, south east South Australia
1974
South Australian Museum
Other objects found include tools made from chert (a type of flint) and chipping debris associated with a campsite encampment, a simple short spear, at least two types of digging stick, and a barbed javelin fragment carved from a single piece of wood.
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Caddmans office.
Adelaide, South Australia
Photo: Trevor Peters 1990s
South Australian Museum
In the 1980s, the Museum investigated the flight properties of one of the Wyrie Swamp boomerangs by making a copy with the aid of a computer. Although exhibiting some flight properties, the boomerang chosen was found to be unsuitable for flying long distances. It is therefore possible that at least one of the boomerangs was a toy.
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Recently made boomerang from Millicent, South Australia.
Millicent, south east South Australia
Made by Lindsay Wilson 1991
South Australian Museum
Boomerangs that have been made in the lower south east region of South Australia since European settlement look remarkably like those that came from the depths of Wyrie Swamp. Lindsay Wilson made this boomerang at his home in Millicent in 1991. He was an Aboriginal man with connections to the Ngarrindjeri and Moandik people who lived in the region when Europeans first arrived. In his youth, such people as Clarence Long had taught Wilson how to make artefacts. He preferred the timber of the drooping sheoak, the same wood used at least 9,000 years ago to make the Wyrie Swamp examples. The origins of the boomerang will never be known, but it is clear that Aboriginal people were using them by the end of the Pleistocene Epoch (2,000,000 to 10,000 years ago).
 

 

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