Customary exchange across Torres Strait is examined through a study of documentary sources, oral history and museum collections. The study includes an analysis of the material culture of exchange illustrating (he variety of artefacts of subsistence, ornamentation and dress, recreation, ceremony and dance, and warfare The idea that customary exchange across Torres Strait was a system of fixed, formalised, point-to-point trade routes is contested. This misconception, based on Haddon (1890, 1901-1935), McCarthy (1939) and Moore (1979), has arisen from reliance on historical documentary sources. By contrast, oral history from Torres Strait Islanders and coastal Papuans suggests that customary exchange was flexible and open, tied to changing social, political and cultural factors and operated within the framework of a dynamic Melancsian economic system. Customary exchange is re-evaluated and the paths and patterns of exchange are restructured.
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