The ritual dugong bone mounds of Koey Ngurtai, Torres Strait, Australia: Investigating their construction

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The islands of Western Torres Strait, between Papua New Guinea and Australia, saw the emergence of ritual dugong bone mounds approximately 400 years ago. These mounds were used as a means to commune with, and as an aid for the hunting of, dugongs. This paper explores the bone contents of three dugong bone mounds on the small, uninhabited island of Koey Ngurtai as a means to determine their construction and in doing so to explore the historical emergence of ritual bone mounds associated with dugong hunting magic-and thereby to historicise ethnographically known cultural practices-in Torres Strait.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-54
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Bone mounds
  • Construction
  • Dugong bones
  • Ear bones
  • Hunting magic
  • Ritual
  • Torres Strait

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