What are ‘Burial Poles’?

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Not long ago hollow logs were used as coffins by the aboriginal people in Arnhem Land.

There are plenty of hollow trees as termites eat the centre out of the trees.

Burial Poles

When a person died, the family constructed a tall wooden platform, covered it with branches and leaves and placed the body up on the platform. The family and friends would cry and wail for the dead person.

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In the meantime the men would go out into the forest and cut down one of these hollow trees and carry the tree back into the camp. They worked hard and removed all the bark and smoothed it.

Then they collected the coloured ochres and painted the log with special images or designs for the deceased person. For example, if the man was a great fisherman they would paint fish, turtle and other creatures from the sea on the log.

With time the body becomes just clean bones.

The family collect the bones and rub red ochre all over them. Then they wrap the bones in paper bark and place the bundle inside the hollow log. The bark is carefully collected from trees.

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All the people will gather for a big ceremony with lots of singing to farewell the dead person. The log containing the bundle of bones is then placed upright in a special place. For the fisherman this will be over looking the sea.

Aboriginal people show great respect for the deceased.

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