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Harvest of the Unploughed Plains

  • Geoffrey Blainey

Abstract

For several generations most European settlers who had opportunities of observing the traditional life of aboriginals came to clear conclusions about their diet. Aboriginals, they decided, were mainly flesh-eaters who occasionally ate fruit and vegetables. Thus the first European explorer in western Victoria, finding a bag in which aboriginal women carried food, looked inside and saw three snakes, three rats, some yabbies, about two pounds of a tiny freshwater fish resembling whitebait, and many small roots of a dandelion or chicory which was then specking the plains with yellow flowers. The explorer saw no evidence in the spring of 1836 to suggest that vegetables were more than a small supplement to a diet of fish and meat. He was inclined to conclude that the main food was opossum. Caught in the trees and lightly toasted, it had the flavour of singed wool.

Keywords

Plant Food Aboriginal Woman Cape York Peninsula European Explorer Digging Stick 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 155.
    1860 expedition: A Moorehead, Cooper’s Creek (London, 1963), pp. 39, 165, 189.Google Scholar
  2. 156.
    E. Palmer, ‘On Plants Used by the Natives of North Queensland’; R.S.N.S.W., 1883, vol. 17, p. 93 ff.Google Scholar
  3. 157.
    Western Australian coast: Sara J. Meagher, ‘The Food Resources of the Aborigines of the South-West of Western Australia’, Records of the W.A. Museum, 1974, vol. 3, pp. 14, 24–27.Google Scholar
  4. 157.
    Wilson’s Promontory: G. S. Hope and P. J. F. Coutts, in Mankind, 1971, vol. 8, pp. 105–109.Google Scholar
  5. 158.
    Adelaide oxalis: John Stephens, The Land of Promise (London, 1839), p. 77.Google Scholar
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    Toxic yams at East Alligator: J. Lewis, Fought and Won (Adelaide, 1922), p. 131.Google Scholar
  7. 168.
    Betty Hiatt, ‘The Food Quest and the Economy of the Tasmanian Aborigines’, Oceania, 1967–8, vol. 38, pp. 99–133, 190–219, esp. p. 216;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Betty Hiatt, in Fay Gale ed., Woman’s Role in Aboriginal Society (Canberra, 1970), pp. 7–12.Google Scholar
  9. 169.
    Carl O. Sauer, Land and Life (Berkeley, 1965), p. 161. Of the seven reasons I offer for the inadequacies of surviving evidence, the first two come from Sauer.Google Scholar
  10. 170.
    Rhys Jones, ‘Tasmanian Aborigines and Dogs’, Mankind, 1970, vol. 7, p. 267.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey Blainey

There are no affiliations available

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