Australian Indigenous burial rituals




The Museum has commissioned burial poles, log coffins, bark paintings and associated accessories from the Tiwi Islands, and the Yolngu of north-eastern Arnhem Land, Northern Territory to represent various funerary rites of these maritime people.

Burial poles and bark paintings from Melville and Bathurst Islands represent the culture, history, ceremony and art of the Tiwi islanders. Burial rituals (called Pukumani) are based on the teachings of ancestral spirits; elaborately carved and painted poles (tutini) are placed around the grave of a Tiwi person. New songs, dances and body paint designs are commissioned for the Pukumani ceremony. Another form of funeral ritual is the hollow-log coffins of the Yolngu people. The logs are decorated in a complex style with the story of Mana the ancestral shark. Following the ceremony the bones of the deceased are placed in the top of the log coffin. Both ceremonies are still in practice today.

Some material included in this collection may be subject to copyright

By appointment only, please contact ANMM

Parts of this collection are digitised and available on the ANMM web site


1990s; Bark painting; Burial poles; Funerals; Indigenous artefacts

Indigenous Australian peoples

Coverage Spatial

Bathurst Island, Northern Territory, Australia; Melville Island, Northern Territory, Australia; Arnhem Land, Australia

Coverage Temporal



Related Collections


2012-05-30 23:40