Tjuringa Ritual Object

Central Desert Indigenous Peoples, Australia

Wood, pigment traces

19th/early 20th Century

24x3.5 in/61x9 cm


A Tjuringa (or Churinga) is the most sacred object of the indigenous communities populating Australia's Central Desert. Only the highest initiates might view them. An old man would carve motifs related to fertility and "dream time" themes into a piece of wood that might later be used for curing illnesses or healing wounds by rubbing the sacred stick on the sick man; women were never allowed to see them. This example was carved on both sides, probably with a rat tooth to make the fine lines. The vigor of the  curvilinear motifs suggests  a pre-contact date, although the age of such pieces is very hard to determine. This is a piece of exceptionally fine quality.