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The Didjeridu
What is a didjeridu?

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Timeline 1  |  Timeline 2

Didgeridoo History - Timeline 1

Whilst some people believe the Aboriginal people of Australia have been using the didgeridoo for 40,000 years or more, archaeological research suggests that the didgeridoo is only about 2000 years old. The evidence of this research comes in the form of rock art studies in the Northern Territory which show images of humans playing the didgeridoo painted on cave walls starting from about 2000 years ago. Before this time, there are no images of didgeridoos or humans playing didgeridoos.

Regardless of how old the didgeridoo is, Western society has only recently - relatively speaking - become acquainted with the didgeridoo. The following timeline shows important dates relating to our understanding of the didgeridoo. The timeline includes historic events that either directly or indirectly led to greater awareness and understanding of the didgeridoo and the Aboriginal cultures that it is a part of.

A useful feature of this timeline is the date of establishment of mission stations in the didgeridoo's traditional heartland. Missions were important outposts through which early collecting efforts by institutions and individuals alike were conducted.

1788 Australia colonised by Europeans.

1835 First written account of the didgeridoo is published where it is described as a trumpet.
1908 Mission station established at Roper River.
1912 First audio recording of the didgeridoo. These recordings were made by Sir Baldwin Spencer using a phonograph and wax cylinders.
1916 Mission station established on South Goulburn Island.

1921 Galiwin'ku Mission established by Rev. J. C. Jennison.
1921 Mission Station established at Groote Eylandt.
1922 Anthropologist Norman Tindale conducted ethnographic research on Groote Eylandt.
1923 Mission at Galiwin'ku shifted to Milingimbi.

1925 Mission station established at Oenpelli. The word didgeridoo came into being, attributed to Herbert Basedow.
1926 Anthropologist W. Lloyd Warner commenced field research at Milingimbi, and later published "A Black Civilization: A Social Study of an Aboriginal Tribe", the first ethnographic study of an Australian Aboriginal tribe. Mention is made of the Iraki, a "trumpet about four feet long".
1931 Arnhem Land is established as an Aboriginal reserve.
1934 Mission established at Yirrkala by Rev. Wilbur S. Chaseling. A local arts and craft industry is created at Yirrkala to supply ethnographic museums and private collectors.

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