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Australia and the Pacific

The Ancient World and Fashion > Peoples of the South and East

During the last Ice Age, adventurous groups of people from Southeast Asia began to journey in boats. They rowed south across the Pacific Ocean, which was much smaller than it is today because large amounts of land were covered in ice. Some people settled on islands in the South Pacific, and some reached as far as Australia. Very much later, around 750 BCE, a group called the Maoris arrived in New Zealand.

Pacific Islanders

The people who settled on the Pacific islands woreskirts made from dried grasses and necklaces made from shells, feathers, and teeth. They may have decorated their faces and bodies with body paint or tattoos, like the Maoris. They may also have worn small carvings as good-luck charms.

Australian aboriginals
Australian aboriginals

Today, some Australian aboriginals still paint their bodies with the same designs that their ancestors used thousands of yearsago.

Australian Aboriginals

The aboriginal people of Australia first arrived on the continent around 40,000 years ago, and gradually spread out all over Australia. In the cooler regions, the aboriginals wore animal skins to keep warm, but in many parts of Australia there was no need for clothes. The early aboriginals painted their bodies with patterns using pigments made from ochers, white clay, and charcoal. Both men and women wore a range of ornaments made from natural materials such as bark, teeth, and feathers, or carved from wood. Aboriginal hunters used boomerangs, clubs, and spears, and defended themselves with wooden shields, which were decorated with carvings or paintings.

Dreamtime Patterns

All the patterns used in aboriginal body painting have traditional meanings. They show figures and events from the Dreamtime, a period when their world was created by the Spirit Ancestors, according to aboriginal belief.

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