Australia in the Before Time

Shelter and warmth

Indigenous peoples used different types of shelter depending on their location and the season to protect themselves from the weather. In areas where the climate was mild, people often slept outside with one or two campfires to keep them warm. In cooler areas, shelters were simple, as they were not permanent places of living.

In the Northern Territory simple shelters were covered with overlapping sheets of paperbark. Bending stringybark branches and positioning each end into the ground was another type of simple shelter found in the Northern Territory. Stronger shelters were made by building a framework of straight branches using vines as ropes, covered by pieces of bark and leafy branches. The texture of the bark depended on the tree it was taken from; paperback yielded a soft, pliable bark in contrast to stringybark, which was stronger and thicker.

The strongest shelters were those constructed by the eel farmers of Lake Condah in Victoria, and also similar ones at High Cliffy Island on the north-west Kimberley coast. At High Cliffy Island in the far north-west of the continent, there are hundreds of stone circular structures with a small entrance. The walls stand up to 1 metre high and the internal area was usually 3 metres in diameter. These semi-permanent structures were built in stone circles.

Clothing protected against the cold and kept people warm. In the cooler climates of Victoria and southern New South Wales clothing was constructed using the skins of animals such as kangaroos, possums and wombats. Decorations were often produced from a range of materials found in the local area, for example, leather was used for wrist and arm bands, shells, bones and teeth for necklaces, and headbands with feathers for headdresses. Different areas used different kinds of decoration.

A snapshot of NaN

  • January
    • The Royal Society approached King George III for financial assistance to fund an expedition to observe the transit of Venus from the South Seas.

  • April
    • The ship HM Bark Endeavour (formerly the Earle of Pembroke) was commissioned by the British Royal Navy Board to undergo a voyage to the South Seas. She was to be captained by Lieutenant James Cook.

  • July
    • Cook was involved with fitting out HM Bark Endeavour while moored in Deptford.

  • August
    • Lieutenant James Cook left Plymouth Harbour for Madeira.

  • November
    • Cook wrote to the Royal Society complaining of the poor treatment he received from the Portuguese viceroy at Rio de Janeiro. The viceroy believed that Cook's real purpose was smuggling or piracy.

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