Pearl shell pendant

Unknown maker, Kimberley, Western Australia1920 - 1930

Museums Victoria

Museums Victoria

Pearl shells were used in rain-making ceremonies by Aboriginal groups across Central Australia. The zigzag-shaped lines carved into some of the shells represent sheets of lightning associated with storm clouds, and the dots between the lines are droplets of rain. The anthropologist C P Mountford recorded a ritual ceremony conducted by the Pitjantjatjara people in which similar shells were used in a successful attempt to produce rain. The shells generally originated in Broome, Western Australia, and were highly prized objects of trade. Some examples have been found as far afield as Port Augusta in South Australia. This Bardi incised pearl shell was made in the early 1920s.

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  • Title: Pearl shell pendant
  • Date Created: 1920 - 1930
  • Physical Dimensions: w132 x h585 x d25 mm
  • Type: Object
  • Rights: Source: Museum Victoria. Indigenous or Cultural Rights Apply, Copyright Museum Victoria: Source: Museum Victoria / Photographer: Benjamin Healley. Indigenous or Cultural Rights apply
  • External Link: Museum Victoria Collections
  • Medium: Carved pearl shell, natural pigments, human hair
  • Subject: Aboriginal peoples (Australians), Aboriginal art, Ornament, neck
  • Artist: Unknown maker, Kimberley, Western Australia