Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Death and the Afterlife - Disposal of the Body

There are a number of ways of disposing of a body, different areas preferring a particular method, though sometimes more than one method could be used in any given area. Among the methods of body disposal were burial, exposure on a platform or a tree, desiccation-mummification, cremation, in a hollow tree, a construction that has been called a coffin, burial cannibalism, reburial or secondary burial. As the various methods are not usually mutually exclusive, the bones may be collected then either carried around or reburied. The body could be placed on a platform until it decomposed following which the bones were recollected and placed in a cave or a hollow log.

An instance of one form of this practice was told to my family by my great grandmother. After arriving from Ireland in 1882 they settled in Maryborough, Queensland. My great grandparents befriended some of the local Aborigines and one particular woman they often invited to their home was known as Kitty Biglip, because of an ornament she wore in her lip. I don't know if any of the family knew her Aboriginal name. My family sometimes invited their Aboriginal friends to Sunday dinner (midday). One day after her husband died Kitty arrived with his bones in a dilly bag, I think it was carried around her neck, but I'm not sure. I don't know if that was the normal practice among the Aborigines in the Maryborough area.


Sources & Further reading

R. M & C. H. Berndt, The World of the First Australians, Ure Smith Pty Ltd, 1964


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