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The food of the Tasmanian Aborigines

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posted on 2023-11-22, 10:00 authored by Fritz Noetling
In a previous paper* I made a short calculation as to the quantity of shells that would collect on the refuse heaps within a given time, supposing each person consumed 50 oysters or haliotis per day. The quantity, 36 million shells per year for a population of not more than 2,000 souls, is startling; but subsequently I had my doubts whether such a small quantity, though yielding an enormous number of shells, contained sufficient nourishment to be of material use in sustaining life.
Ling Roth in his classical book on the Aborigines of Tasmania devotes an interesting chapter to the subject of food. His account is based on the evidence of numerous eye witnesses, and it must therefore be considered as a reliable source of information. It is certainly more explicit and accurate than Dr. Campbell's account.
One source of information with regard to the diet of the Aborigines has not been considered yet, viz., the vocabulary. It is a priori very probable that the vocabulary will contain the names of those substances of either animalic or vegetabilic origin that formed the staple articles of their food. Though it is pretty certain that those animals and plants with which they came in frequent contact, either in a friendly or hostile way, were also distinguished by special names, we may safely assume that chiefly those that were valuable as foodstuffs were specially named.
*A peculiar group of tronattas, Pap. and Proceed. Royal Soc. of Tasmania, 1909. See also Noetling Studies ueber die Technik der tasmanischen tronatta, Archiv. f., Anthropologic Neue Folge Bd. viii., heft 3, 1909, pag. 197.

History

Publication title

Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania

Pagination

279-305

ISSN

0080-4703

Rights statement

In 1843 the Horticultural and Botanical Society of Van Diemen's Land was founded and became the Royal Society of Van Diemen's Land for Horticulture, Botany, and the Advancement of Science in 1844. In 1855 its name changed to Royal Society of Tasmania for Horticulture, Botany, and the Advancement of Science. In 1911 the name was shortened to Royal Society of Tasmania..

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