the axe project

About the Aboriginal Axehead Display Project

Early in 1998 a garage sale at the Mt. St. Bernard College fete in Herberton, Far North Queensland, led to the scavenging of hidden junk. While searching for old door and window frames beneath the three quarters of a century old school buildings five aboriginal axeheads were found in a pile of rocks. Their origins were a mystery but due to some simple investigation methods we managed to gather a fair idea about their origins and stories.
When we first took on this project we approached it from a scientific point of view. We measured them, took sketches, identified the type of rock  and looked at them under a microscope.
As the project went on, the cultural side of them became more and more important. We realised that these axeheads were necessary and of critical economic resources just two hundred years ago. We discovered that stone tool production was a precise and refined, highly technical skill using rare and unique materials. Yidinji elder Nungbana put the project into perspective and restored an axe to functional condition using traditional methods shown to him by his grandfather as he lived as a child in the bush of the Atherton Tablelands.
The main thing we discovered is that scientific investigation has much less value than first hand knowledge when it comes to axeheads.
Our plan is to use the photos and data we have collected, together with plaster casts of the axeheads for a public display that will travel around the schools, libraries and shire offices of Far North Queenland. Display materials and photos were donated to the permanent collection of Irvinebank Museum in 2001.
Participants
Nungbana (George Davis) -Yidinji elder
Courtney Bethel, Ryan Burnell, Rachel Cameron,
Samantha Chapman, William Cockrell,Cassie Gabiola,
Daniel Hogan, Vanessa Lee Cheu, Nicole Mcphee,
Noel Missingham, Guy Moulang Alesha Pearson,
Ken Crompton

in association with the Tablelands Reconciliation Group
Mt. St. Bernard College
the Cairns Catholic Education Office
display materials and pbotographs through an Education Grant from BP Amoco Australia
website courtesy Earth Science Australia

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