Scarred Trees

Sometimes you may notice a tree in a paddock or out in the bush that has scar where the bark has been removed many years ago. In some cases these may be trees that have been scarred by Aboriginal people through the deliberate removal of bark or wood.

Aboriginal scarred tree

Aboriginal people took bark from trees for a wide variety of everyday tasks such as the building of shelters, canoes and containers. As artefacts made from bark don’t last long in archaeological sites. Very few bark artefacts have been preserved in museum collections so scarred trees give an important clue to Aboriginal occupation.

The characteristics of a scar can tell us much about the type of an activity that the bark was used for and here are 2 useful links to further information about the topic.

When looking at a scarred tree there are particular characteristics that determine if the scar is just due to a limb falling off or it has been damaged by machinery. Follow these links to find out more. http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/35870/AA_01_ScarTrees_12.06.08.pdf  

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/cultureheritage/ScarredTreeManual.pdf

All Aboriginal cultural places in Victoria are protected by law. Aboriginal artefacts are also protected. It is against the law to disturb or destroy an Aboriginal place. Artefacts should not be removed from sites. Aboriginal Affairs Victoria is the State Government agency which is responsible for Aboriginal sites. Aboriginal Affairs Victoria has a register of Aboriginal sites, and records and protects sites. If you know of scarred trees it is useful to have them added to the database.

In many cases, it is due to good land management that Aboriginal sites have been preserved. It is usually when there are major changes to the landscape, such as levelling dunes or clearing native bushland, that damage occurs. It is standard practice for councils and other authorities to have sites surveyed before work takes place that will disturb the soil.

Some practices such as ripping for tree planting or to destroy rabbit burrows may disturb sites. If you are planning a tree planting project there may be an opportunity to provide some extra protection to scarred trees by including them within the fenced area.

Scarred trees are won’t be around forever because of natural aging and decay but there are other processes that will hasten their demise such timber cutting, environmental problems such as salinity and fire. If they are recorded there may be a chance avert some accidental damage especially on public land.

There is a great poster series that describe Aboriginal heritage places, objects and processes relating to the management of Aboriginal cultural heritage in Victoria. http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/indigenous/publications-and-research/aboriginal-cultural-heritage-mini-posters

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