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Research on Rainforest Shields of NQ

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Map of Australia showing research area in North Queensland.



Painted Designs on Rainforest Aboriginal Shields from North Queensland: An Analysis of Correlations between Design Styles and Geographical Distribution, by Lachlan, R.-L. (formerly Hale), James Cook University, Townsville. 1989.

IMPORTANT NOTE : info on thesis access, copyright, & user liability - CLICK HERE.

Link to more shield information and illustrations is below copyright & liability info.

>>> Thesis Access Request (Goes to extenal form.)




Dr Lachlan's research on the rainforest Aboriginal shields was initially commenced under a research grant from the Australian Museum, 1986 (under her former name Hale), for detailed examination of rainforest shields held at the Australian Museum, including those in the Roth Collection. With funding secured elsewhere, plus self-funding to continue and complete the study, Dr Lachlan subsequently expanded the research to include shields in collections in the major museums of Australia. The study ultimately included examination of slides and photographs in multiple collections throughout Australia. See below. While Dr Lachlan held the strongest wish to also conduct field research at a community in the Djirbal area of North Querensland, serious illness in that community naturally caused its people to be hesitant about having a research visitor during that sustained period of time. Fair enough. Although Dr Lachlan regularly drove past the entrance to the community when driving between Townsville and Cairns, she chose not to intrude on the community given the situation some of its people were facing. It is a human and ethical question that arises in this kind of research.


The thesis focused on detailed examination "of 190 slides and photographs of rainforest shields in the collections of the National Museum of Australia, the Australian Museum, the Museum of Victoria, the South Australian Museum, the Material Culture Unit of James Cook University of North Queensland, the Macleay Museum, and the Cairns Historical Museum."
(Lachlan [Hale], 1989, xv - xvi.)

The thesis was awarded the Roth Prize for most outstanding Grad. Dip. or M. Litt. thesis of the year by James Cook University.


"This thesis examines the possibility of a correlation between geographical distribution of the large wooden shields made by the Aboriginal people of the north Queensland rainforest and the designs appearing on the shields. The early chapters do this through an examination of the relationship between design and shield morphology for which a previous study had indicated correlation with geographical distribution (Abernethy 1984). Detailed analyses of the design symmetries and the relationships between these design symmetries, shield shapes, and the recorded distributions of language groups within the rainforest are also presented. In part, the study is also an attempt to find, without the benefit of field data, a theoretical and methodological basis for the study both of art and design on anthropological artefacts and the geographical distribution of artefacts on the basis of such art and design."
(Lachlan [Hale], 1989, ii.)


>>> Thesis Access Request > (Goes to extenal form.)


!!! All users who consult the thesis are bound by the most recent statement on access, including users who obtain access through unofficial means.

Further, all users MUST acknowledge the thesis author by name in either of the following two formats:
1. Lachlan, R-L (formerly Hale, R), 1989;
2. Hale, R (now Lachlan, R-L), 1989.

>>> Print, sign, and return the signed Statement on Access. Send to the published mailing address in the United States. Keep a copy for your records. !!!



The following excerpts from the statement on access of May 29, 2003, plus associated stipulations, supercede and replace that originally written December 28, 1989:

Effective date May 29, 2003:

"... All users consulting this thesis will have to sign the following statement: 'In consulting this thesis [online material] I agree not to copy or closely paraphrase it in whole or in part without the prior written consent of the author; I agree to make proper written acknowledgment for ANY and ALL assistance which I have obtained from it.

The following stipulations also apply:

  • The information set out here serves as public notice that copyright over Dr Ranna-Lesley Lachlan's (formerly Hale) thesis about the rainforest shields, and all related research materials (published and unpublished) generated by the author, is held solely by the author.
  • It is asserted here that, since Dr Ranna-Lesley Lachlan's thesis is one of only two dissertations devoted exclusively to the rainforest shields, any user consulting the thesis derives significant assistance from it and, therefore, consultation of the thesis [and/or online quotations above] immediately and automatically incurs all obligations and liabilities stipulated and implied here.
  • All users, individuals, and organizations consulting the thesis for any not-for-profit, commercial, or other purpose whatsoever MUST observe all legal and ethical protocols and obligations regarding licencing and ensuring due acknowledgment, and must make prior arrangements regarding same. Prior signed and dated written permission from the author is required before any of the thesis material [including that quoted above] can be used in any manner.
  • The terms 'users'/ 'users of the thesis' include, but are not limited to, those who consult the thesis during the development of or for production of exhibitions, exhibition catalogues, catalogues for other purposes, dissertations, papers, articles, and publications and any other products in any media (print, electronic, or other) that are on the subject of or make reference to the rainforest shields or other material contained in the thesis.
  • Tangible and enduring written acknowledgment of the thesis must be included in the document/ publication/ product/ project and its supporting documentation. In the case of exhibitions, labels are deemed ephemera and due acknowledgment must be in an enduring format readily visible and accessible to all sectors of the public during the exhibition, and accessible to them subsequent to the exhibition. Failure to make due acknowledgment of the author may be subject to legal proceedings. Users of the thesis who fail to make due acknowledgment and who subsequently receive career benefit deriving from their product/ project relating to the rainforest shields or other material in the thesis may be subject to legal proceedings. Organizations profiting in any manner from the products/ projects of, and/or employing, and/or contracting such users of the thesis and/or sponsoring and/or hosting their work may be subject to legal proceedings. The managers, directors or other responsible personnel or overseers of such organizations, may also be subject to legal proceedings.
  • All users of the thesis including managers, curators, authors, researchers, project developers, who consult the thesis and who receive financial remuneration and/or other monetary benefit and/or profit in any form for any subsequent exhibition/ document/ publication/ product/ project about the rainforest shields or other material contained in the thesis are liable for due compensation to the thesis author. Such commercial users who consult the thesis but who fail to make due compensation to its author may be subject to legal proceedings. Organizations profiting in any manner from the products/ projects of, and/or employing, and/or contracting such commercial users of the thesis and/or sponsoring and/or hosting their work may be subject to legal proceedings. The managers, directors or other responsible personnel or overseers of such organizations, may also be subject to legal proceedings.
  • All moral rights and any other considerations in favor of the author as provided for under law but not specified in these stipulations, are hereby asserted."
  • Dr Ranna-Lesley Lachlan
    May 29, 2003.

Clicking this link incurs automatic liability under the copyright and liability stipulations presented


Although Dr Lachlan is a full time contemporary artist in the U.S.A. and Australia, she periodically provides advice and liaison on Australian anthropology and material culture, the focus of her first graduate qualification, and on the arts of India and East Asia which were the focus of her PhD.

Dr Lachlan's other research - PhD Abstract

Other writings by Dr Ranna-Lesley Lachlan (formerly Hale)

Copyright over this material rests with the author, Dr Ranna-Lesley Lachlan (PhD , RPP, VCST, BFA, Grad. D. Mat. Anth.). Images of the artworks may NOT be saved, copied, printed, reproduced or used in any way in any medium without the prior signed and dated written permission of the author. Moral rights over the author'swork are also asserted here. Contact the author for prior signed and dated written permission to use any of the pages on this site or about the shields. Email authorizations will not be issued.

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