This is an Aboriginal neck ornament from central Australia, believed to have been made in the late 1800s. It comprises two pairs of eaglehawk claws, connected with resin to a string made of human hair. The ornament is 43 cm long and 4 cm wide.
Indigenous people of central Australia produced a variety of body ornaments for both ceremonial and decorative purposes and these included headbands, armlets, aprons, pubic tassels, pendants and neckbands such as this one. Body ornaments were traded between Aboriginal groups and in some cases the ornaments were 'sung' to give them certain magical powers.
The anthropologists Walter Baldwin Spencer (1860-1929) and Francis (Frank) Gillen (1855-1912) recorded that a neck ornament precisely like the one pictured had been made by the Waramanga (Warumungu) people near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.
This neck ornament has been made with two pairs of eaglehawk claws attached to a string made of human hair with resin that was probably collected from the leaf stalks of a species of 'Triodia', commonly known as spinifex or porcupine grass. Describing this or an identical neck ornament as 'somewhat unusual', Spencer and Gillen wrote in their 1904 book 'Northern Tribes of Central Australia' that the string was tied so that the claws hung down the wearer's back.
String made from human hair spun on a simple form of spindle was used by some central Australian Indigenous groups for a range of purposes, including ornaments like this one. However, Spencer also recorded that other Aboriginal groups believed a man's hair could be used to work evil upon him, and were careful to destroy even tiny fragments in case they fell into the hands of an enemy.
Other ornaments made by central Australian Indigenous peoples used a range of different animal parts. These included bones, teeth, fur and feathers from various birds.