‘On the brink of a fever stricken swamp’: culturally modified trees and land-people relationships at Lower Laura (Boralga) Native Mounted Police camp, Cape York Peninsula

Cole, Noelene, Wallis, Lynley A., Burke, Heather, Barker, Bryce, and Rinyirru Aboriginal Corporation, (2020) ‘On the brink of a fever stricken swamp’: culturally modified trees and land-people relationships at Lower Laura (Boralga) Native Mounted Police camp, Cape York Peninsula. Australian Archaeology, 86 (1). pp. 21-36.

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Abstract

The archaeological record of Lower Laura (aka Boralga) Native Mounted Police camp, a longstanding base for Queensland’s frontier war in Cape York Peninsula, includes a diverse assemblage of culturally modified Erythophleum chlorastychys (Cooktown ironwood) trees. Analysis of cultural scar attributes and tool marks – which were found to be variously associated with Aboriginal stone tools, tomahawks of different types, and long handled axes – reveals a scenario of nineteenth century land use and technology that transcends the pre-conflict era of Aboriginal clan estates. As well as reflecting traditional patterns of Aboriginal tenure of prime waterfront land, the assemblage reveals innovations that occurred in Aboriginal technology in the lead-up to war. However, an unusual style of cultural scar cut using long handled axes appears to signal transformations in demography and land use following Native Mounted Police occupation. By integrating historical, oral history, spatial, typological, and botanical data this study provides evidence of demographic and environmental changes set in train by the gold-rush invasion. It also highlights the complexities of documenting Cooktown ironwood trees of advanced age and their fragile, deteriorating cultural modifications.

Item ID: 63183
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0312-2417
Keywords: culturally, modified, Cooktown ironwood, trees
Copyright Information: © 2020 Australian Archaeological Association
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP160100307
Date Deposited: 18 May 2020 21:52
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 70%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950302 Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage @ 30%
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