Cosmo-political landscapes of Torres Strait adhi and misœri stones: Closing the gap between Islander and non-indigenous perspectives

Rod Mitchell, Friedrich Von Gnielinski, Duncan Wright, McRose Elu, Joshua Willsher

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Torres Strait (TS), on Australia's north-east border, has a long history of research on pœrapœral kulal: powerful stones. Pœrapœral kulal contain vital power from site-of-origin and therefore their movement across the Coral-Arafura Sea corridor provides important information about past and present human relationships (Elu 2004). With few exceptions Western models draw on anthropological, linguistic and site origin research collated by a Cambridge University field team over 100 years ago, with little detailed reassessment of stone raw material and distribution or geological and archaeological surveys conducted within the intervening period. It is also unclear how TS Islanders engage with this literature, particularly the many communities poorly represented by 19th-century studies. In this paper, we test several assumptions influencing recent literature from contemporary islander and non-indigenous perspectives. This includes assessing whether: (a) western scholarship models oversimplify terminology and discussion; (b) early geological assessments of substantive movement of stones is correct; and (c) movement of exotic stones was a common feature across TS. Finally, using detailed cultural, archaeology, geology, and language data sets we reinterpret the regionally-varying role and antiquity of pœrapœral kulal within this animate cosmo-political land and seascape.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)56-73
    JournalArchaeology in Oceania
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2023

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