History of Boomerangs

On this page is some information on history of boomerangs.

Most people in the world associate boomerangs with Australian Aboriginal People.

It is true that it has been one of the most important tools and weapons for Australian indigenous people, however boomerangs were not only used in Australia.
Aborigine with a Boomerang, c.1860s
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy

The Oldest History of Boomerangs
While the oldest boomerangs used by Australian Aboriginal People are about 10,000 years old, similar items of older age have been found on many other continents like in Europe, northern Africa, America and Asia. Firstly, there are many different kinds of boomerangs. Not nearly all boomerangs are the recreational toys that Aboriginal people in Australia today teach tourists how to throw – they are the classic “boomerangs that come back”. There are however many boomerangs that won’t come back, and they were never meant to! This is because they were made for different purposes. Hunting boomerangs are the largest ones, they can be up to two metres long, and they are way too heavy to ever come back. They were thrown at kangaroos and emus to cut their legs or necks, and it would not have been practical in the hunting action to waste time waiting for the boomerang to come back.

Vice Presidential Candidate Henry A. Wallace, Throwing a Boomerang in a Field
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy

The Returning Boomerangs
Other, smaller boomerangs were also used as battle clubs, musical instruments and even fire starters. How the returning boomerang was first invented is not very well known, but it has been suggested that it could have developed from the flattened throwing stick that was used by Australian indigenous people, and also some other indigenous cultures around the world. It may have been that some sticks that were more bent, showed a turning flight path, and the indigenous people finally worked out the exact angle that was needed for the boomerang to come back to the thrower. A hunting boomerang however is much more difficult to make, and it has to be much more exactly balanced. Apart from Australian indigenous people, hunting boomerangs are known to have been used by Egyptians, Native Americans and people from southern India.

Vice Presidential Candidate Henry A. Wallace, Throwing a Boomerang in a Field
Poster by AllPosters. Click on thumbnail to buy

Australian History of Boomerangs
Not all Australian Aboriginal People used boomerangs however. Many tribes in Northern Territory, Tasmania, South Australia, and northern parts of Western Australia and Queensland didn’t use returning boomerangs. About 60% of Australian indigenous people used both returning and non-returning boomerangs. About 10% used only non-returning ones, and 30% used none at all. Both returning and non-returning boomerangs have however mostly been associated with Australia, perhaps because they were very well suited to Australian open landscape and hunting the upright standing animals like emus and kangaroos, so they may have been more important weapons in Australia than elsewhere. The word “boomerang” is believed to come from Australian Aboriginal language, from tribes that lived south of Sydney in New South Wales.

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