Historical Event

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Date:

January 2, 1908

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Short Description:

Human kidney fat was used by cannibals in the belief that it conferred magical qualities on the recipient. and they were "fond of the fat of a dead foe, which is not only eaten as a delicacy and as a strengthening food, but is also carried as an amulet."

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Some Notes on Cannibalism

Topics: (click to open)

Food Taboos
Cannibalism
Man The Fat Hunter

Important Text:

The utilization of kidney fat in the belief that it conferred magical qualities on the recipient seems to have been practised in both the northern and southern halves of the survey area. In the Maryborough district, after the flesh had been eaten, the kidney fat was rubbed on the points of spears and the kidneys themselves affixed thereon to make the spears more deadly.'*'' 


Mrs K. Emmerson 48, now residing at Chinchilla, relates that when she was living near the Bowen River in 1908, an Aboriginal employee of her father was killed by members of a local tribal group and his kidney fat eaten. 


An instance was reported 49 in the wild country between the headwaters of the Herbert and Burdekin Rivers as recently as 1934. In fact fat in general was highly regarded for its magical powers. Howitt 50 recorded how Aborigines of the "Turrbal tribe" rubbed it over their bodies; Thomas 51 that it was rubbed on the faces of the "principal medicine men". Duramboi left behind an account 52 of how an Aborigine would hold a receptacle under his portion of flesh in order to catch the melting fat, which he then imbibed. Lumholtz 53 reported that the Aborigines of the Herbert River were fond of the fat of a dead foe, which is not only eaten as a delicacy and as a strengthening food, but is also carried as an amulet. A small piece is done up in grass and kept in a basket worn around the neck, and the effect of this is, in their opinion, success in the chase, so that they can easily approach the game.



47. Howitt, A. W.: op. cit. P. 753. 


48. Letters from Mrs K. Emmerson to the writer. 


49. Registry of Northern Supreme Court, Townsville. Cases 370 and 371 of 1934. In the case of the two North Queensland instances reported on Page 27 where Aborigines were killed and their kidney-fat eaten, the writer considers that investigations could be made with advantage of the belief by local white residents, that the two victims had been so treated because of their alleged violation of tribal laws relating to women. 


50. Howitt, A. W.: op. cit. P. 752. 

51. Thomas, A. W.: op. cit. P. 110. 

52. Lang, J. D.: Cooksland. P. 427. 

53. Lumholtz, C. op. cit. P. 272.

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