Scarred and carved trees
Scarred trees are trees from which bark has been removed to make tools or artefacts suchas canoes, containers (for example, coolamons), shields, boomerangs, bark shelters,burial tubes or from traditional hunting and foraging. Common scarred tree species includeeucalypts such as poplar box (
), gum topped grey box (
), forest red gum (
) and also budgeroo (
). The bark was removed – traditionally with stone axes – in such a way thatthe tree was not killed. Some trees have been barked a number of times and have multiplescars.There are four main features associated with traditional scars: the dry face; overgrowth;dieback and epicormic growth. Some scars are clearly made with steel axes and this becamecommon in the early days of European settlement when Indigenous people adopted themfor traditional use. It is not always possible to determine whether scarring is the result of natural events or the result of human action. When scars are made by humans they usuallydo not go to ground level, are generally symmetrical and regular in outline, and the endsare often squared off or peaked. Regrowth on the margins of the scar becomes roundedand deep. Some scars may be associated with the cutting of sugarbag (native honey) or possums from tree trunks (typically diamond shaped).Carved trees generally have larger areas of bark removed and carved lines are etcheddeep into the sapwood. Designs include geometric or linear patterns, and figures such asanimals, birds and mythological beings. They are now very rare and extremely significant.Carved trees can be associated with burials or with ceremonial areas such as bora rings.Non-Indigenous people stripped bark for shelters, for processing hides and other uses,and generally used a full-sized timber axe with a 100-150mm edge. Scars made whilestripping bark for shelters display distinctive triangular serrated top edge. Other scars, suchas ringbark collars and frilling, blazes and shields, were made by early explorers, farmers,pastoral and timber workers, miners and surveyors.Natural scarring can be mistaken for Indigenous use. Damage can occur from lightningstrikes, branch tears and abrasions, fire, insects, birds and arboreal species, livestock,ringbarking and other mechanical impacts.
Scarred and carved trees can be observed in many places across Queensland. Carvedtrees were reported by Leichhardt near Rockhampton and by J.D. Lang at Breakfast Creek inBrisbane. They have been reported on Fraser Island and South Stradbroke Island and carvedtrees were once found near the bora ring at Toorbul Point. Carved trees are now mostly foundin the wet tropics of North Queensland.Many scarred and carved trees have been destroyed as a result of natural decay, bushfires,clearing and timber harvesting. They are now most commonly found along inland waterwaysand associated flats, among older stands of remnant timber. Many existing scarred andcarved trees date from the post-contact period and are generally between 100–200 yearsold.
• Scarred trees have hadbark removed for use inthe manufacture of canoes,coolamons, boomerangs,shields, bark shelters and otherwooden artefacts.• Scarred trees generally havesymmetrical scarring; the scarseldom reaches the ground andthe ends of the scar are oftensquared off or peaked.• Common scarred tree speciesinclude eucalypts such aspoplar/gum top/grey box,ironbark, forest red gum,stringybark and also budgeroo.• Carved trees may be associatedwith burials, ceremonial sites orboundary markers.• Fire damage and age are themost significant threats toscarred and carved trees.
A stone axe cut opening in a dead
possibly to access a possum, goanna or native bee hive
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