'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, N. and Wallis, L.A. and Burke, H. and Barker, B. 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. ISSN 0312-2417


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.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Resilient Regions - Centre for Heritage and Culture (1 Aug 2018 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2020 02:02
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2021 03:32
Uncontrolled Keywords: Culturally; modified; Cooktown ironwood trees
Fields of Research (2008): 21 History and Archaeology > 2101 Archaeology > 210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9503 Heritage > 950302 Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage
C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australia's Past
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology
Funding Details:
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03122417.2020.1749371
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/38675

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