Aborigines, Maoris and Hull's whaling industry

Aboriginal bone comb

This is a comb carved from bone, it was made by Australian aborigines. The aborigines are the native people of Australia. At one time they lived in clans. There were approximately 300 different clans, and they spoke around 250 different languages. They survived by hunting and gathering, often hunting and fishing with spears with fish bone tips.


It wasn't only the aborigines that used bone to make objects. At one time it was a common choice across the world, especially when whaling was at its peak. Whales were hunted for their meat and blubber. Whalers would often use the bones and teeth of whales as well as tusks of other marine animals (such as walruses) to make carvings. They would make a variety of different objects, a common item whalers produced are known as scrimshaws. Scrimshaws were made by making tiny intricate engravings and then colouring the engraving with a dark pigment. The images on scrimshaws were often of marine animals and whaling boats, but would sometimes feature portraits of loved ones.


As well as whale bone, baleen fibres were also used for some common objects. Baleen whales (Blue, Gray, Humpback and Right whales) do not have teeth, instead they use a special filtering structure in the mouth known baleen. The baleen has many tiny fibres, and these fibres sieve out small animals from large mouthfuls of seawater. Baleen fibres are strong and were often used as the bristles on hair brushes (like the example here) and sweeping brushes. 


Document icon Learning article provided by: Hull Maritime Museum | 
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