Revisiting inscriptions on the Investigator Tree on Sweers Island, Gulf of Carpentaria

Collins, Sarah, Mate, Geraldine, and Ulm, Sean (2020) Revisiting inscriptions on the Investigator Tree on Sweers Island, Gulf of Carpentaria. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland, 124. pp. 137-164.

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The Investigator Tree, so named after Matthew Flinders’ ship HMS Investigator, is an inscribed tree currently on display in the Queensland Museum. Before being accessioned into the Queensland Museum’s collection in 1889, the Investigator Tree grew on the western shore of Sweers Island in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria. The tree’s “Investigator” inscription, attributed to Flinders (1802), provided the catalyst for future and varied forms of European inscription making on Sweers Island, including a contentious additional “Investigator” inscription on the Investigator Tree carved by Thomas Baines in 1856. Previous researchers have speculated that Baines’ second “Investigator” inscription has caused the faded original “Investigator” inscription to be misinterpreted as either a Chinese or Dutch inscription predating Flinders’ visit to Sweers Island. For the first time, this study undertakes a physical examination of all markings on the Investigator Tree, including a second portion of the tree located at the Queensland Museum since 2009. In combination with a review of the archival and historical record, findings provide alternative interpretations regarding the (28) inscriptions to address outstanding questions. Archival documents demonstrate that there were at least three inscribed trees on Sweers Island. This paper also revisits the possibility of there once being pre-Flinders inscriptions on the Investigator Tree.

Item ID: 63401
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0080-469X
Keywords: Investigator Tree; inscriptions; graffiti; Matthew Flinders; Sweers Island; HMS Beagle
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Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Discovery Project (DP120103179), ARC Future Fellowship (Project No. FT120100656)
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2020 03:59
FoR Codes: 43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430107 Historical archaeology (incl. industrial archaeology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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