Possible ‘first encounter’ Aboriginal shield uncovered in Berlin museum

Kelly with shield found in Berlin

An Aboriginal mission to Europe to negotiate the return of centuries-old artefacts has made a shock discovery in a Berlin museum, uncovering a shield and boomerang that could date from the first encounter between Aboriginal people and James Cook in Botany Bay (now  Sydney). The group believes the items in Berlin could have been taken the same day the Gweagal shield was taken from the warrior Cooman, who was shot in the leg in 1770 by Captain Cook’s crew when the HMS Endeavour arrived at Botany Bay.


“This is a very positive and historic moment for my people because we just did not know about those items,” said Rodney Kelly, a descendant of Cooman and the delegation leader.

“It’s of great importance for the people to know about this now, so they can actually know that there are more artefacts there that were taken.”

More on this story here.

For an account by the visitors on what happened at the museum click here.


The delegation’s activities in Britain


'Our appointment was to catalogue the Aboriginal artefacts and sacred objects held in the Berlin museum. Our important side mission to repatriating the Gweagal shield is to document which other artefacts and sacred objects have been taken outside of Australia and locate where they are in the UK & Europe.'

The activists will have a workshop with students of the Technical University of Berlin about stolen artefacts on 12 November.

On 8 November they visited the Ethnological Museum in Berlin where the curator for Australia showed artefacts from New South Wales and Central Australia to Rodney, Vincent and Roxley. On 9 November the group visited the Grassi Museum in Leipzig where the curator for Australia showed them artefacts of Australia, after which they gave a talk in the museum. On 10 November they ran an audiovisual stage show “First Contact 1770: The Story of the Gweagal Shield” in der Werkstatt der Kulturen in Berlin-Neukölln.

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We had a fantastic week in Berlin. We did a lot of networking with people that can help trace more artefacts in European museums and that can help supporting the discussion about handing back artefacts. First commitments from museums to cooperate with Aboriginal people when identifying objects and developing exhibitions have been given.
You might have seen this one. It was the cherry on the cake: http://www.firstcontact1770.com/single-post/2016/11/08/BROTHER-SHIELD-FO...