This film documents the Board for Anthropological Research (BAR) expedition to MacDonald Downs, Central Australia [Northern Territory] during 17 August - 11 September 1930. The expedition party included numerous BAR members.
The expedition party travelled by train to Alice Springs, passing through localities including Peterborough, Quorn, Farina, Coward Springs, Boorthanna (South Australia) and Rodinga Station (Northern Territory). From Alice Springs the party drove two cars and a truck North East to MacDonald Downs station. See: NB Tindale Journal (AA 338/1/6) pp.1-3.
NB Tindale (AA 338) in his unpublished manuscript 'Natives of Central Aust[ralia] and the Great Western Desert: A Descriptive Account of the 16mm films of the Board for Anthropological Research' (AA 346/9/27/1-3) p.2, states that 'active filming' of the BAR expeditions did not begin until MacDonald Downs, 1930.
The cinematographers were NB Tindale and TD Campbell (AA 52). The final film production consists of Reels 1-2 which were processed in the BAR film catalogue as #B1 and #B2. During the expedition both 35mm nitrate and 16mm safety films were shot, both of which were silent and black and white.
The South Australian Museum Archives (SAMA) Master Preservation Tape (AA 346/9/4/11) consists of the Travelogue (AA 346/9/4/1), the final film production Reels 1-2 (AA 346/9/4/3 - AA 346/9/4/4) followed the previously unpublished reels 'A624' and 'A624-1' (AA 364/9/4/7) followed by National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) 'Title No. 34105' (AA 346/9/4/10), total duration 44 minutes 34 seconds, with intertitles. Currently the SAMA Master Preservation Tape represents the entirety of know footage to be identified with the BAR expedition to MacDonald Downs, NT, 1930.
The 35mm nitrate film held in NFSA managed as 'NFSA Title No. 34105'. This nitrate film and all other SAMA nitrate films were deposited with NFSA in 1979. See: the Series Report (AA 346/9). Note that the original nitrate film has deteriorated and the quality of the footage between Time Code In 35:57 - Time Code Out 37:10 is affected.
During the digitization process it was noted that footage from the BAR expedition to Koonibba (South Australia) August 1928, was found amongst a previously unpublished item 'A624. 81ft' thought to be exclusively of MacDonald Downs. Consequently the Time Code In 30:18, Time Code Out 32:27 represent footage that was afterwards spliced together with footage from MacDonald Downs.
In this summary all intertitles are italicised and within quotation marks. All spelling within intertitles have been left as originally spelt. Language and terms which reflect the author's attitude or that of the period in which the item was produced may be considered inappropriate today.
The method adopted by BAR expeditions to undertake research and record the results involved assigning a unique number to each individual (here called 'individual subject number'). This number was given the expedition symbol as a prefix, and remained consistent throughout the research (for example: [F33]. Where possible the 'individual subject number' of those who appear in the film have been noted.
Note that the time coded summary is in minutes and seconds. Following the summary of this film is a list of references and further notes.
Formats Held: 16mm B&W Silent; SP Betacam, Digital Betacam, Access DVDs.
Summary (Time Coded) Taken from Access DVD 3 (AA 346/9/4/15)
00:00 'MacDonald Downs, C.A. 1931.'
00:00 Cultural Sensitivity Warning.
00:00 The Museum Board of South Australia © 1930.
01:30 Start of 'MacDonald Downs, CA, 1930.' Travelogue Reel.
01:30 'University of Adelaide film produced by the Board for Anthropological Research Central Australian Expedition. Aug - Sept 1930.'
01:38 Gate post sign, of the University of Adelaide.
01:43 Sign on the gate post 'The University of Adelaide.'
01:50 Facade of Mitchell Building, The University of Adelaide.
01:56 Mitchell Building, Elder Hall and Goodman Crescent, The University of Adelaide.
02:07 Map of Australia.
02:10 A pencil points out the journey to MacDonald Downs via Oodnadatta and Alice Springs.
02:35 'Railway Dam at Beresford.'
02:38 View of the Beresford Dam.
03:02 'Crossing Algebuckina Bridge - Near Oodnadatta.'
03:05 Train goes over Algebukina Bridge.
03:22 'Approaching Heavitree Gap, MacDonald Ranges - view from train.'
03:26 View of landscape from the train.
04:24 'Ernest Allchurch - Best known man in Centralia.'
04:28 Ernest Allchurch, Alice Springs Telegraph Stationmaster, smiles for the camera.
04:33 'Negotiating a "creek" en route to MacDonald Downs.'
04:37 A car drives through a dry creek bed.
04:53 'Natives working a well "whip" - A common station scene.'
04:57 Two Australian Aboriginal people use a horse to pull a winch which draws water from the well, this water is then poured off into a holding tank located next to the well.
05:47 'Disturbers of the outback silence - galahs!'
05:51 A flock of galahs fly from a tree.
06:01 'Some life at MacDonald Downs.'
06:04 Sheering a sheep using a pair of hand sheers.
06:27 A herd of goats in a pen.
06:42 A tame wallaby. See: NB Tindale Journal (AA 338/1/6) pp.4-5
06:53 Group of Aboriginal Australian men, in the foreground a man is preparing to make damper.
07:06 A general view of our camp and "dormitory."
07:10 View of the BAR expedition camp in the creek bed.
07:54 'Meet the Expedition personnel - all very camera shy!'
07:58 BAR expedition members walk out of a tent carrying physical anthropological apparatus, TD Campbell (AA 52) followed by JB Cleland (AA 60), T Harvey Johnston (AA 161), HM Hale (AA 124), RH Pulleine (AA 259), NB Tindale (AA 338), HK Fry (AA 105), HG Gray and HJ Wilkinson.
08:36 'But have a closer look at them.'
08:40 'Dr TD Campbell, Expedition organizer Physical Anthropology.'
08:44 TD Campbell talks in front of the camera, country in the background.
08:48 'Professor JB Cleland, Blood grouping and pathological observations.'
08:52 JB Cleland talks in front of the camera, city in the background.
09:00 'Professor Harvey Johnston, Blood grouping and parasitology.'
09:04 T Harvey Johnston talks in front of the camera, country in the background.
09:11 'Herbert M Hale, Photography and plaster cast work.'
09:15 HM Hale talks in front of the camera, in the background is the State Government 'Archives' building at the University of Adelaide. [This building is presently the Art Gallery of South Australia's auditorium.]
09:21 'Dr RH Pulleine, Physiological observations.'
09:25 RH Pulleine, talks in front of the camera, the University of Adelaide in the background.
09:32 'Norman B Tindale, Ethnologist.'
09:35 NB Tindale, country in the background.
09:43 'Dr H Kenneth Fry, Physiological and intelligence tests.'
09:47 HK Fry, talks in front of the camera, hedge in the background.
09:49 'J Hugo Gray Physical Anthropology.'
09:53 J Hugo Gray laughing, talks in front of the camera, in the background the State Government 'Archives' building at the University of Adelaide. [This building is presently the Art Gallery of South Australia's auditorium.]
09:58 'Professor HJ Wilkinson, Physical Anthropology.'
10:01 HJ Wilkinson, the University of Adelaide in the background.
10:06 'Uncle Robert discussing the weather with a neighbour.'
10:10 RH Pulleine discussing the weather with an Australian Aboriginal man, near the BAR expedition camp in MacDonald Downs.
10:20 'Now interested in our precious water supply.'
10:24 RH Pulleine at the expedition parties water supply, a 44 gallon drum.
10:32 'Same old business - some could not get away from it.'
10:38 BAR Expedition members washing, shaving etc.
10:48 'Glimpses of some of the serious work undertaken.'
10:52 'Hale and Tindale at plaster cast work face and hand moulds.'
10:58 NB Tindale and HM Hale under the shade of a tent, making a plaster cast mould of an Australian Aboriginal man's face.
11:38 HM Hale outside a tent making an plaster cast mould of an Australian Aboriginal man's hand.
11:50 NB Tindale and HM Hale at the University of Adelaide showing the completed plaster casts of Australian Aboriginal faces.
12:08 'Tindale gathering information from the natives.'
12:12 NB Tindale sits with four Australian Aboriginal men recording vocabulary.
12:33 A shot of NB Tindale using a cinematographic camera to film the process of axe making demonstrated by an Australian Aboriginal man. See: NB Tindale Journal (AA 338/1/6), pp.14-15.
12:39 NB Tindale is seen operating a cine camera on a tripod.
12:42 End of 'MacDonald Downs, C.A. 1930.' Travelogue.
12:52 Start of 'MacDonald Downs, C.A. 1930.' Reel 1.
12:52 'University of Adelaide MacDonald Downs Expedition Natives of the Iliaura Tribe and their customs.'
12:57 'Typical natives of the Iliaura Tribe.'
13:00 Several close up views of men of the Iliaura people, seated in the creek bed at Lilatara, on Fraser Creek. Alata [F12] an old man with a white beard is seated next to a younger man who smokes a cigarette, then playfully pretends he is asleep. Further shots of Iliaura men.
13:48 Angurukua [F14] Iliaura people turns around to face the camera.
13:55 Tjalbudaduda [F52] and old woman of the Iliaura people sits beside a fire, children play in the background. Sequence of shots of several children.
14:31 'Observe the consolidated locks of this native's hair.'
14:35 Alatja [F16] of the Iliaura people displays his coiffure.
14:47 'And these mourning scars, cut with stone knives.'
14:51 The scared back of Tjalbudaduda [F52] of the Iliaura people. See: NB Tindale Journal (AA 338/1/6), pp.17.
14:57 Native games: Gum leaves are used as whistles.'
15:01 A little boy plucks a gum-tree (Eucalyptus) leaf and, folding it over, blows through it, making a shrill whistling sound.
15:11 Ngar'engur'engura - The spinning leaf game Gum leaves are heated and bent into propeller shape.
15:19 A boy warms a gum-tree (Eucalyptus) leaf over a fire. As it wilts he bends it in the middle and it sets in a propeller-shaped toy. He makes several ngar'engur'engura while he is seated beside his fire. See: NB Tindale Journal (AA 338/1/6), pp. 20-21
15:34 And spun into an upwards hot air current.
15:39 Several boys are seen spinning the ngar'engur'engura in heated air over the fire. The leaves rise upwards of twenty feet into the air before their spinning ceases and they tumble to earth. The boys demonstrate the method of holding the ngar'engur'engur leaf so as to impart the twist and flick with which to dispatch the spinning leaves.
16:12 'Tjebudja - primitive marionettes. Pieces of bark represent human beings and camp happenings.'
16:18 Two children seated on the ground place leaves and sticks in circles to represent a native camp. They move the stick and leaves about in accordance with the story they are enacting. See: NB Tindale Journal (AA 338/1/6), pp.24-25.
16:43 'Imitating Tracks of Animals - Kangaroo, Dog, Emu.'
16:47 We see a boy making first the mark of a kangaroo on the ground, followed by the tracks of a dog and an emu.
17:26 'Watch this boy climb - Knees are not used.'
17:31 A boy of about five years approaches a sapling, which he climbs using only his hands and feet.
17:53 'Aboriginal Stone implements making Stone Axes.'
17:57 'Selecting suitable pieces of stone.'
18:00 Two men, Aratuaruta [F5] and Urpmanwiljunka [F10] go to the axe factory site at Ilappa (also called 'Ilappateila') situated on the headwaters of Irukaru Creek to obtain stone for new axes. The men pick out large boulders from the weathered outcrop and break them against neighboring slabs of stone. See: NB Tindale Journal (AA 338/1/6), pp.14-15.
18:15 'The "Blanks" are first chipped into shape.'
18:19 Having secured a suitable sized piece of stone they sit down and strike the sides and thus trim the selected stone into an axe shape. Several shots in the process of making an axe, some of which is filmed in slow motion.
18:48 'And then subjected to the initial sharpening process.'
18:52 Axe making process continues.
19:05 'Another old factory site, note the numerous chippings.'
19:09 Pan of the rocks and blanks which litter the ground.
19:29 Restricted Content Starts.
21:12 Restricted Content Ends.
21:12 End of MacDonald Downs, CA 1930. Reel 1. [No intertitle]
21:17 Start of MacDonald Downs, CA 1930. Reel 2. [No intertitle]
21:17 'Gathering and preparation of native foods.'
21:20 'Boys cooking and eating lizards.'
21:23 Three boys cook lizards in a fire and share it among themselves.
22:11 'Collecting that delicacy - The witchetty grub, Alpalaita.'
22:15 A youth is clinging to the trunk of gum with his feet and chipping a hole in the tree-trunk in search of witchetty grubs. He uses a metal tomahawk to assist him in his search. Breaking off a twig from a nearby branch he makes a hook with which he draws a grub from its tunnel within the wood of the trunk. He comes down the tree and holds the grub up for us to see. He then prepares a small fire and cooks the grub.
23:23 'Gathering honey of the tiny stingless native bee.'
23:27 Searching for Imbana - minute droppings of the bees.'
23:31 Men search for bush honey, squatting on the ground they scan the ground carefully in the vicinity of lofty gum-trees. Once they discover the fresh droppings of the bees they track the bees to their home in the branches.
23:49 'Tapping and searching for hollows in suspected trees.'
23:53 With his fingers a man taps at the trunk of the tree in search of hollows. The tree he is tapping on has two scars indicating where bark dishes have been removed when honey has been gathered on previous occasions. This tree often possesses a hive of bees.
24:03 'Note methods of climbing and of carrying axe.'
24:07 A man climbs a tree using his hands and feet. Sometimes he carries his axe in his left hand, and at other times he places it on his left shoulder and grips it by bending his head to one side. A small youth climbs a big tree and inspects every inch of the hollow trunk of the tree for the entrance of the bees nest. When the nest is located he uses the axe to chip an entrance. He tastes the honey and then breaks off a piece of bark from an adjoining branch. Using this improvised dish the man bales out the honey, and carefully descends to the ground.
25:39 'Eagerly enjoying the spoils - honey, comb and bees.'
25:43 Four men and boys share the honey they have gathered.
26:22 'Ants gather grass seed - This is collected by women.'
26:27 Two women gather grass seed in places on the flood plane. They gather the grass seeds by sweeping it up with a handful of dried grass stalks. Ants have carefully piled it up around the margins of their nests, which are abundant within these grassy patches. Tindale records that the principle women involved were Albambaka [F33] Akakuk [F41] and 'Rosie'[F50] of the Iliaura people. See: NB Tindale's Journal (AA 338/1/6) pp.25-26.
26:39 'Preliminary winnowing separates the lighter waste material.'
26:43 A close up view shows the women sweeping together the accumulation of grass seeds around one of these ant's nests.
26:55 'The seed is then subjected to a primitive threshing.'
26:59 The gathered grass seed has been placed in a pit in the ground at the base of a tree. The woman grasps the tree with her hands and moves her feet over the contents of the hole in such a way as to thread and thresh the grain. This rotary motion is continued until the threshing is complete.
27:21 'And skilful manipulation results in further cleansing.'
27:24 The next stage of cleaning the grass seed is carried out by means of a flat wooden dish. A quantity of the grain is placed in it, and the dish is vigorously rocked from side to side. Several different motions are used in the different stages. In the first stage the woman holds the dish rather high in the air and moves both hands simultaneously in such a way that the dish is rocked through a figure of eight. After this preliminary rocking, dust is winnowed from the grain by lifting the grain into the air and allowing the dust to blow away. There are two dishes of grain on the ground before the woman. After the greater part of the dust has been removed, further rocking takes place, with an entirely different motion. The dish is moved upwards into the air, with a jerky motion, both hands moving simultaneously. The grain is thus thrown into the air. Under this treatment the grain and heavier particles separate and we see the woman sweeping the rubbish from one end of the dish. The clean grain is placed on a separate wooden dish. A third method is employed to clean the grain, the dish is rocked from side to side, and every little while it is bumped against the right thigh with a jerky outward motion. This again results in the separation of good grain at the end of the dish nearest the right hand. The dish is rotated and the cleaned grain allowed to fall into the other dish.
27:58 'The seed is then ground with water on stone mills.'
27:03 A woman sits in front of a large grinding stone with a wooden dish of water to her left. She rests her left knee on the stone to hold it in position. She places grain on the right margin of the mill stone and grins the grain to meal. Between the stone and her left knee, and passing partially underneath the stone there is a short wooden dish. As the meal is formed, the movement of the stone push it over the edge of the mill stone into the dish below, where it accumulates as a mixture of meal and water. At each successive forward movement of the grinding stone, the woman takes a small additional quantity from the pile of grain on the dry part of the stone, and at one end of each forward movement she causes a quantity of meal to fall into the dish. See: NB Tindale Journal (AA 338/1/6), pp. 9-10
28:20 'And the floury liquid is baked to a damper on hot ashes.'
28:26 A hole is scooped in the hot ashes of a fire and the liquid meal is poured in so that it comes to occupy a long basin within the ashes of the fire. The pouring is done careful in such a way that few or no ash float upwards into the liquid meal. Sticks are placed over the surface of the small pool of liquid meal, and as the surface bakes and hardens it is gradually covered up with hot ashes and the whole left until it is cooked right through. It sets as an unleavened bread. When the cooking is complete the ashes are carefully raked from around the loaf as it is easily broken. The bread is brushed clean with a blade of grass. The final stages of cleaning the bread are done by blowing. She then tastes a sample of her cooking. See: NB Tindale Journal (AA 338/1/6), p. 26.
29:47 'All this is warm work, so one must cool off.'
29:52 A woman drinks water from a dish and then cools down her body using the remaining water.
30:06 Close up of NB Tindale operating an cinematographic camera.
30:09 End of 'MacDonald Downs, C.A. 1930.' Reel 2 [No Intertitle]
30:15 Start of 'A624. 81ft' [No Intertitle]
30:18 The camera pans Koonibba Oval. In the far background amongst the vegetation can be seen Koonibba Church and other mission buildings. A group of people are standing and walking around in the mid background. They are shooting rifles, dust from rifle shots hitting the ground rises in the air and a lizard runs into the foreground. Koonibba, South Australia, 1928.
30:33 The camera pans the Koonibba scrub.
30:43 A man with a stick traces the direction of a Mallee tree root on the ground. An Australian Aboriginal man digs and pulls out a Mallee tree root.
30:58 Woman grinding grass seed [as per MacDonald Downs Reel 2.] Close up of the mill stone and the process of grinding the seed to meal. Cooking of the meal in the ashes of a fire.
31:48 Continuation of Koonibba Sequence on 'A624. 81ft.'
31:48 Bilili [D.1] of the Wirrangu people, demonstrating how to hold a spear in a spear-thrower. He prepares to throw his spear in profile and then aims towards the camera. Koonibba, South Australia. 1928.
32:04 Bilili with a the spear and spear-thrower and an older man, Mingaritja (also 'Mingaritcha') [D.2] of the Wirrangu people who holds a boomerang. Koonibba, South Australia. 1928.
32:11 Bilili straightens a spear on a raised platform of earth using ash from a nearby fire to assist the process. Koonibba, South Australia, 1928.
32:27 End of 'A624. 81ft'. [No Intertitle]
32:31 Start of MacDonald Downs CA 1930. 'A624-1. 90ft.' [No Intertitle]
32:31 A woman with a child beside her, is gathering nut-grass (Cyperus) bulbs in a dish. She takes ashes from the fire she rocks the hot ashes and the nut-grass bulbs together in a dish. From time to time she rubs them in the dish to free the bulbs from their outer husks. Her child walks up and stands by to her.
33:02 The same woman, with her child, digs vigorously in the ground search for yelka. The woman's cooking process continues. We see her cooking the cleaned yelka in the ashes. She samples one to see whether they are properly cooked.
33:16 Restricted Content Starts.
33:17 Restricted Content Ends.
33:17 An over-exposed portion of film showing children running about.
33:24 An Aboriginal Australian man kneels down on the ground searching for honey ant droppings. A close portrait of an Aboriginal Australian men smiling. Further shots in the search for honey, a man in the tree chops vigorously at a branch which then falls to the ground.
33:48 The branch is searched for bees. Shot of an Aboriginal Australian man eating honey. A young boy in the tree.
34:03 End of MacDonald Downs CA 1930. 'A624-1. 90ft.' [No Intertitle]
34:11 Start of 'NFSA Title No. 34105.'
34:11 'MacDonald Downs, 1930'
34:23 'Children digging Lyrids.' [Lizards]
34:40 Four young boys dig for and catch a small lizard.
35:39 Cooking the lizard in hot ashes.
35:57 A possum in the branches of a tree.
36:30 Two men, Aratuaruta [F5] and Urpmanwiljunka [F10] at the axe factory site at Ilappa making stone axe heads. See also: Time Code In 18:00 – Time Code Out 19:04.
37:11 'MacDonald Downs winnowing and grinding ngilyana seed.'
37:23 Threshing the seed using the feet. The next stage of cleaning the grass seed is carried out by means of a flat wooden dish. A quantity of the grain is placed in it, and the dish is vigorously rocked from side to side. After this preliminary rocking, dust is winnowed from the grain by lifting the grain into the air and allowing the dust to blow away.
38:39 Two women walk around with their dishes searching and gathering grass seeds.
39:24 Three women with their dishes full of gathered grass seed stand stationary.
39:35 The seed has been placed in a pit in the ground at the base of a tree. The woman grasps the tree with her hands and moves her feet over the contents of the hole in such a way as to thread and thresh the grain. This rotary motion is continued until the threshing is complete. See also Time Code In 26:59 - Time Code Out 27:20.
39:58 'MacDonald Downs. Children Playing Tjebudja.'
40:21 Two children play on the ground with sticks and leaves. This is the same scene [See: Time Code In 16:12 - Time Code Out 16:42] shot from a different angle.
41:02 Restricted Content Starts.
41:38 Restricted Content Ends.
41:38 'MacDonald Downs axe making at Illuppa.'
42:03 Men at the axe factory site at Ilappa making stone axe heads. See also: Time Code In 18:00 - Time Code Out 19:04, and Time Code In 36:30 - Time Code Out 37:10.
43:19 Blank film.
43:20 An Australian Aboriginal boy warms a gum-tree (Eucalyptus) leaf over a fire to make ngar'engur'engur. As it wilts he bends it in the middle and it sets as a propeller-shaped toy.
43:45 Several boys are seen spinning the ngar'engur'engur in heated air over the fire. The leaves rise upwards of twenty feet into the air before their spinning ceases and they tumble to earth.
44:34 The boys demonstrate the method of holding the ngar'engur'engur leaf, so as to impart the twist and flick with which to dispatch the spinning leaves. See also: Time Codes 15:11-16:11.
44:38 'Glen Helen August 1929.'
44:49 Various views of landscapes around Glen Helen, CA [Northern Territory].
46:04 End of 'NFSA Title No. 34105.'
Tribal / language groups recorded during the BAR expedition to MacDonald Downs as noted in the Data Cards (AA 346/4/12).
Tindale Tribes: Iliaura; Aranda
AIATSIS Tribal / Language Groups: Alyawarre; Arrernte