Australia in the 1770s


In Botany Bay, Cook and his men faced the weapons of the local Gweagal people – the shield and spears. Joseph Banks (1743–1820) described one of the spears as a weapon that had been enhanced by the addition of stingray barbs that served as a point, and three or four smaller barbs tied in the reverse way. The barbs were smeared with resin into which was stuck many broken bits of sharp shells.

The bark shield was used for protection against spears and was an oblong shape about one metre long and about half a metre wide.

Materials for making weapons varied across the continent: for example, coastal groups used fishbone to tip their weapons, whereas desert groups used stone tips. Tools and implements such as knives, scrapers, axe-heads, spears, various vessels for eating and drinking and digging sticks varied from group to group.

The spear thrower was an Aboriginal invention. It is known as a woomera in some language groups in New South Wales. It acts as a lever to increase the speed at which the spear is thrown, thus increasing the distance over which it travels.

In some parts of Australia in this decade, boomerangs were used for hunting and fighting, and sometimes as digging sticks. There is a wide range of boomerangs of many different shapes and sizes made from a variety of materials depending on the area from which they come and the purpose for which they were made. Some boomerangs are built to return to the thrower, but most are not.


A snapshot of 1778

  • January
    • Captain James Cook began his third Pacific expedition in the ships HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery.

  • February
    • France entered the War of American Independence.

  • June
    • Spain declared war on Great Britain.

  • July
    • Louis XIV of France declared war on Great Britain.

  • November
    • Captain James Cook was the first European to sight Maui Island of the Hawaiian Islands.

More resources


{tpl region name=footerbottom}