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The ritual dugong bone mounds of Koey Ngurtai, Torres Strait, Australia: Investigating their construction

Authors

  • Robert Skelly,

    1. Programme for Australian Indigenous Archaeology, School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia
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  • Bruno David,

    Corresponding author
    1. Programme for Australian Indigenous Archaeology, School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia
    • Programme for Australian Indigenous Archaeology, School of Geography & Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia.
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  • Ian J. McNiven,

    1. Programme for Australian Indigenous Archaeology, School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia
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  • Bryce Barker

    1. School of Humanities and Communication, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland 4350, Australia
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Abstract

The islands of Western Torres Strait, between Papua New Guinea and Australia, saw the emergence of ritual dugong bone mounds approximately 400 years ago. These mounds were used as a means to commune with, and as an aid for the hunting of, dugongs. This paper explores the bone contents of three dugong bone mounds on the small, uninhabited island of Koey Ngurtai as a means to determine their construction and in doing so to explore the historical emergence of ritual bone mounds associated with dugong hunting magic—and thereby to historicise ethnographically known cultural practices—in Torres Strait. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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