“Sometimes the things we think are lost are only hidden, waiting to be discovered” } Cloud Cuckoo land by Anthony Doerr. I use this quote after seeing the photos below in my ABC newsfeed. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-02-11/mystery-community-of-aboriginal-and-indonesian-families/101901188?utm_campaign=abc_news_web&utm_content=link&utm_medium=content_shared&utm_source=abc_news_web.
The photos found in an Italian library show a group of Yolngu people living in Makassar Indonesia in the 1870s. Previous evidence in rock art like this has been found on Groote Eylandt.
Art & tools as well as language & culture has shown connections with Indonesian fishermen but these pictures are proof of human traffic not just sea cucumber trading.If the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley & Arnhem land can be sailors & even immigrate back to Asia after 60,000 years why can’t the Gomeroi of Murramanaarr be botanists? Why is the media of so stereotyped – when Aboriginal cultures are as diverse as the land they live in. The people here didn’t have rock art, they made cross hatched bark drawings.shown here – original bark slab found in an old camp last year & a painting by Frankie Wright the local highly regarded Aboriginal artist.
They acknowledged Biaime as the creator not some rainbow serpent. Below are 2 wailwun images of Biaime from around Coonamble & Quambone back in 1898. Earth moulds & drawings obviously didn’t last much beyond the Bora ceremony itself but alterations to trees did. So why is the custom of growing trees in other trees so outrageously unlikely that no one can get their heads around it – not even the Gomeroi descendants themselves?
No one has difficulty accepting early settlers sometimes grew trees inside old stumps and even broken barrels to stop the rabbits eating the seedlings. Russell Fairfax sent me this titled ‘Lay of the Land’ from The Worker (Wagga) 3 Sep 1908 p23.
“A Gundagai pastoralist advises planting Kurrajong trees in old tree stumps.” – “He says the latter will afford the necessary protection from rabbits.” – “They’d be just as well protected if they were planted in the middle of George-street, Sydney.”
Obviously there were no rabbits pre 1788 but there were wombats, wallabies, possums, bilbies & other native grazers that ate seeds & fresh shoots. Old hollow eucalypts may have been stuffed with native tree seeds as a conservation method ie to protect them from fire or drought or even the arrival of the Europeans. The last of the Aboriginal labour force living here left in the 1960s. After 40,000 years, give or take a few millennia, they would have worked out how best to grow harvest & conserve their favourite food/ medicine trees. They just didn’t write about it in the local rag.
I saw a European travel/ foodie show on TV the other day where an arborist claimed the average growth rate for olive trees in the drier Greek islands & Croatia was 1 mm per year – So if an olive tree has radius of 300 ml it is approx. 300 years old. When you google the rainfall in the areas featured in the show its mostly higher than here. Russell calculated a figure of 1.39 mm P.A for box trees here but that was for resprouts not trunks on an established tree. Russell goes on to say
“Whether the answer is closer to 1mm or 2mm, we’re in a landscape that’s taken centuries to acquire/house/create/sustain etc ‘valuable commodities’, and that multi-century scale is simple enough to inform the operating scales of quite a few. Having said that, I wouldnt be surprised if after several centuries growth rate slows – your paleo channels or at least the largest trees may have looked much the same for a while (someone will prove this again for other species using art or even photography in due course). Making each scar even more rare, deliberate and significant. And making now more important than tomorrow for understanding all this”
Some trees out here are so heavily manipulated that its astonishing they are still alive! Unseen & unloved but its the farmers/ graziers who know where these trees live now not the Aboriginal Elders & Land councils.
Although ecologists Russell Fairfax & Jen Silcock are my most intelligent & reliable sources of information I occasionally send random pleas for help out into the wilds of the web. You can send questions to Dr Biology based in the US [email protected] – below is some of this email exchange re TinTs.
QUESTION: “….. They are known by botanists as accidental epiphytes l think. I dont believe there is anything accidental about them. They must be of anthropological origin or they would be more randomly distributed. Size is the missing piece in the puzzle ie why are some of the ‘guests’ so small? The average growth rate of eucalypts here is between 1-2 mm per. The average growth rate of the scrub tree guests is unknown. The average growth rate of scrub trees growing inside eucalypts has never been considered.
ANSWER: Depending on their circumstances, seeds can be viable (i.e. have the potential to grow) for a very long time. Perhaps most famously, The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway stores seeds at −18°C, under the driest circumstances possible in order to preserve seed viability for as long as possible. (Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svalbard_Global_Seed_Vault)
SEEDLING GROWTH: Once germination has begun, seedling growth rates result from a combination of species and environment. For example, tree saplings growing under very dense forest canopies may be decades older than saplings of the same size that have been grown under nursery conditions. Once a large tree falls and light enters the forest canopy, however, the aforementioned sapling is likely to grow at a much accelerated pace in a race for light against other such saplings (source: Peter Wohlleben’s ‘The Hidden Life of Trees,’ 2015).
So that’s all Ive got to say this month. Since Picasa has scrambled all my photos in the ‘crash’ its hard to lay my hands on relevant pics now. There is so little interest in Aboriginal culture even amongst Aboriginal people themselves that Im starting to despair that we will ever know why so many trees are growing in other trees west of Walgett. Everyone is playing the short game of race politics now- not the long game of preserving Aboriginal culture. We all lose …