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

Noelene Cole, Lynley Wallis, Heather Burke, Bryce Barker, Rinyirru Aboriginal Corporation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-36
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Archaeology
Volume86
Issue number1
Early online date13 May 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Native Mounted Police
  • Cape York Peninsula
  • Culturally Modified Trees
  • Culturally
  • Cooktown ironwood
  • modified
  • trees

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