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Garigal 'lived in a kind of paradise'

This second excerpt from the Garrigal Clan of Pearl Beach and Patonga, published by the Pearl Beach Aboriginal History Committee, explores what life would have been like for the Garigal Clan prior to 1700. The people who lived in the area of Pearl Beach and Patonga were the Garrigal, Garugal or Garigal clan depending on how it is written or said.

They occupied both sides of the Hawkesbury from West Head.

The word gal at the end of a name means "man of" and there is a belief that Garigal could have meant Wind People as the local word for wind was Garr or Gurr.

The Garigal clan would have lived in an almost perfect environment, a kind of paradise, with the forests, bushland streams, freshwater lagoons, bays and beaches providing an abundance of food and shelter.

They were reported to be physically larger and stronger than other Aboriginal peoples, probably as a consequence of their rich marine and bush diet.

The abundance of resources meant that the area was probably also an important ceremonial gathering place.

With very little cold weather each year, heaving clothing wasn't essential and simple bark huts or caves sufficed for shelter.

These bark huts were usually made from the bark of a single tree, bent in the middle with the two ends placed on the ground with a fire made at the mouth of the hut.

Old canoe wood was also used for this purpose.

They often built their huts beside caves so they could shelter there if need be from wind of heavy rain.

At the mouths of these caves midden were found - piles, often metres thick, of discarded sea shells built up over many, many years.

Ample evidence exists of many middens, especially at the wind-protected southern ends of beaches.

The early European settles prized these midden because the shells they contained could be burned into lime, necessary to plaster over inferior building materials and make the mortar for the buildings in the first settlement.

Limestone or chalk didn't naturally occur in the Sydney area and with very little lime brought from England the lime shortage was acute.

Remnants of these shells can still be seen in the mortar of some of Sydney's early colonial buildings today.

The Garigal clan would have moved in and out of the area for food feasts, ceremonies, kinship ties and trade.

Their economic and social links would have extended far beyond this area.

We know this because stone from the Central Coast and Upper Hawkesbury has been found along the Sydney coastline.

At the end of each winter the family clans of a tribe would come together in a big corroboree.

Pearl Beach was probably a regular ceremonial centre because of its protected terrain, its plentiful availability of varied foods, its magnificent lookouts that promoted privacy, its caves that provided shelter and its natural beach and beauty.

It is likely that several clans met and undertook seasonal celebrations and various rituals.

Ceremonial business was often highly protected and private business could include grievances between clans, initiation ceremonies, dancing and artworks.

Living on the Coast, the main foods of the Garigal would relied on were from the sea.

Rock engravings depict abundant fish and animal species, quite a few of which no longer exist here today.

Seals, dugongs, penguins and whales were in abundance as well as jewfish, snapper, mullet, mackerel, whiting, john dory, rock cod, leather-jacket and others were eaten.

Shellfish including oysters, mussels and cockles were a staple part of their diet which was supplemented by various vegetable foods, macropods, birds, possums and grubs.

They ate Burrawang (macrozamia) nuts which, without knowledgeable preparation, are highly poisonous.

Wild honey was also plentiful as well as yams, fern roots, the heart of the cabbage tree palms, lillypillies, native fig and various edible berries and roots.

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