Art/ Collection/ Art Object


mid to late 19th century
Australia, Western Kimberley region, Western Australia
Western Kimberley
Wood, ocher
L. 21 x W. 4 1/2 x D. 3/8 in. (53.3 x 11.4 x 1 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
An iconic symbol of Aboriginal culture, the boomerang is the most familiar of all Aboriginal art forms. Created by many, but not all, Aboriginal peoples, boomerangs served a variety of purposes. The best-known type was the returning boomerang, which was made in parts of southeastern and western Australia. Most, however, were non-returning. Employed primarily in hunting and warfare, boomerangs were specialized throwing sticks, designed to strike the target and fall to the ground. In hunting, they usually served to incapacitate the prey, allowing the hunter to catch the animal, which was killed with spears or other weapons. Primarily projectiles, in some areas, boomerangs were also general purpose tools, serving, as needed, as knives, digging sticks, or fire-making implements. Some types were, and continue to be, used as musical instruments, clapped together to provide a rhythmic accompaniment for song and dance performances.
Douglas Newton, New York, until 1961; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1961, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, 1961–1978

Lumholtz, Carl. Among Cannibals: An Account of Four Years' Travels in Australia and of Camp Life with the Aborigines of Queensland. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1889.

McConnel, Ursula H. "Inspiration and Design in Aboriginal Art." Art in Australia (May 1935), p. 25, 49, 50-55, 59, no. 1, 348.

Davidson, D.S. "Australian Throwing-Sticks, Throwing-Clubs, and Boomerangs." American Anthropologist vol. 38 (1937).

McCarthy, Frederick D. Australian Aboriginal Decorative Art. no. 7 ed. Sydney: Australian Museum, 1966.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 215.

Brayshaw, Helen. Well Beaten Paths: Aborigines of the Herbert Burdekin District North Queensland: An Ethnographic and Archaeological Study. Townsville, Queensland: James Cook University of North Queensland, 1990, pp. 63–65.

Jones, Philip. Boomerang: Behind an Australian Icon. Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1996.

Barlow, Alex. Aboriginal Technology: Boomerangs and Throwing Sticks. Victoria Park: Macmillan Education Australia Pty Ltd, 1998.

Morphy, Howard. Aboriginal Art. London: Phaidon, 1998.

Khan, Kate. "Adornments and Design in North Queensland: A View from the Nineteenth Century." In The Oxford companion to Aboriginal art and culture, edited by Sylvia Kleinert, and Margo Neale. Melbourne and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Davies, Susan. Collected: 150 Years of Aboriginal Art and Artifacts at the Macleay Museum. Sydney: The Macleay Museum of Natural History, University of Sydney, 2001–2003, p. 76, pl. 85.

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 88, 147-8.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, p. 66.

Related Objects

Belt Ornament or Pendant

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Pearl shell, ocher, fiber Accession: 1978.412.748 On view in:Gallery 918

Mask (Buk, Krar, or Kara)

Date: mid to late 19th century Medium: Turtle shell, wood, cassowary feathers, fiber, resin, shell, paint Accession: 1978.412.1510 On view in:Gallery 354

Belt Ornament or Pendant

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Pearl shell, hair, ocher Accession: 1979.206.1540 On view in:Gallery 918


Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, ocher Accession: 1979.206.1539 On view in:Not on view


Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood Accession: 1979.206.1667 On view in:Not on view