Review of The Northern Tribes of Central Australia by Spencer and Gillen, and The Native Tribes of South East Australia by Howitt
The Northern Tribes of Central Australia. By BALDWIN SPENCER AND F. J. GILLEN. New York : The Macmillan Co., 1904. Pp. xxxv + 784. $6.50; The Native Tribes of South East Australia. By A. W. HOWITT. New York : The Macmillan Co., 1904. Pp. xix + 819. $6.50.
Spencer and Gillen's earlier work, The Native Tribes of Central Australia, was regarded by sociologists, on its appearance about four years ago, as throwing more light on the origins or society than any ethnological work which had appeared, perhaps, within a generation, and the appearance of works of similar importance in the same field and covering neighboring territory was hardly anticipated. But the same writers have now issued another volume of equal interest and scientific value, and Mr. Howitt, who has worked in southeast Australia for forty years, and who has already wade numerous valuable contributions to our knowledge of the natives, has now brought together the results of his studies in a final form. And in one respect, at least----the treatment of the personality of the Aus-
( 701) -tralian and the intimate side of his life - his book seems to me more satisfactory than those of Spencer and Gillen.
Spencer and Gillen have confirmed in these later studies the general conclusions reached in their study of the more central tribes, and have brought further and more detailed evidence to bear on their earlier statements that among the central Australian tribes (1) the members of a totem eat sparingly of the totem, with a view to increasing the numbers of their totemic animal for the benefit of members of other totems; (2) that no connection is recognized between reproduction and sexual life, all children being regarded as reincarnations of ancestors or alcheringa; and (3) that group marriage exists in a modified form. The volume is enriched by no less than 315 illustrations, for the most part reproductions of photo-graphs, two plates, and a map.
While performing the same service, so far as it concerns social organization, tribal and ceremonial life, marriage, etc., for the south-eastern tribes which Spencer and Gillen have performed for the central tribes, Howitt has supplied, both from his lifelong acquaintance with the natives and by the aid of a large number of correspondents resident among the aborigines, some information (particularly in his chapter on " Various Customs ") greatly desired by the student of society, and not to be found elsewhere. His chapter on " Tribal Government" is particularly significant, demonstrating as it does that, contrary to general teaching, the Australians have definitely recognized head-men, whether we call them chiefs or not ; and his chapter on " Messengers and Message Sticks " demonstrates that the native has a somewhat definitely developed system of communication through the medium of notched sticks — a system which may be fairly compared with the Peruvian quipu, or string writing.
Mr. Howitt's book is also richly illustrated, and an appendix contains a valuable collection of Australian legends.
William Isaac THOMAS.