Echidna to Wolf’s Head: A 19th Century sealer’s ornament from Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Keryn Walshe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sacrum of an echidna (Family: Tachyglossidae), an Australian ant eating marsupial, was found on an archaeological site on Kangaroo Island, off southern Australia. High density scanning and digital imagery have provided convincing evidence that the bone was modifi ed to create an ornament. The arrival of whalers and sealers on Kangaroo Island has been posited to be circa 1800 and their presence has given rise to much intriguing research and discussion. With the demise of whale and seal populations globally, some of these men of the world’s oceans transitioned from hunting sea mammals to trapping terrestrial mammals on Kangaroo Island. Mostly from the northern hemisphere, they brought with them their own languages, beliefs and culture. It is suggested that the ornament reported here resembles a wolf head familiar in folk lore (Fenrir) and art of the northern hemisphere and is most likely to have been made by a European who was resident on Kangaroo Island during the 19th century. The ornament could have been worn as a pendant or as a toggle for a neckerchief or hank of hair.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-7
Number of pages5
JournalThe Artefact
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • trapper
  • sacrum
  • fur
  • echidna
  • archaeology
  • trapping mammals


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