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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer

4

Sam, King of Merton, Presented by William Dawes Esq

2004.0079.0006

Sam, King of Merton, Presented by William Dawes Esq

Object information

Description

Merton is located in central western QLD, west of Hughendon.

Physical description

A crescentric, brass breastplate without chain, obverse engraved 'SAM / KING OF / MERTON / PRESENTED BY WILLIAM DAWES Esq.', with an emu on the left and a kangaroo on the right, including two holes to fit a neck chain. The surfaces is tarnished.

Statement of significance

This collection is comprised of seventeen Australian Indigenous breastplates (also known as king plates or gorgets). They come from a collection accumulated by L. Richard Smith, a noted collector of medals and porcelain. The breastplates are associated with Indigenous people from Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. The breastplates are all metal, of varying size, and are generally crescent shaped. Each is inscribed with the recipient's name, and many include an associated region and an honorary title such as 'king', 'queen' or 'chief'.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, government authorities and settlers gave breastplates to Indigenous people for a variety of reasons. They were used as a way of selecting and identifying local elders to act as intermediaries between settlers and local Indigenous people. They were also given out in recognition of service and/or assistance (for example to Aboriginal stockmen or for saving people from ship wrecks). As such, they are significant cross-cultural objects that document early interaction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in different regions of Australia. They often record the names of Indigenous people, and the station or region with which they are associated; people who are not otherwise represented in historical records. The collection is also significant in expanding the geographical scope of the National Museum's existing breastplate collection.

Object information

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