I’m more conscious now of the close links between the Gomilaroi and Waiwun people and how they occupied the countryside pre 1788. When rivers fail in massive climate upheavals like the last iceage they leave their traces in the landscape. Here along the paleo river there are huge sand deposits with redgum lined lagoons and coolabah/bimblebox swamps. On Wailwun land, Cuddie springs is just one of many coolabah/ blackbox swamps. Thousands of years ago it contained the last of the water in the area so as it dried back the megafauna bogged and died and were butchered in the megadrought. Other swamps contain different but still interesting archaeological material especially those with sandy centres
The Ghost gate swamp has a hard sand inner area that may cover a freshwater lens, part of the riverine wetlands of the Murray-Darling basin. The GGS holds nearly all the same strange tree varieties that grow in the murrumanaarr sandhills and has plenty of CMTs. 10 Wilgas are growing inside blackbox trees in pairs like living gateways. Another thing that caught my attention in GGS was the eagle symbol stamped midway up a small tree. The tree is dead but still standing and was probably dead when the eagle was branded(?) onto it. I know this because when I sent the photo to Jonathan Palmer he replied ..” if there had been bark/living then the underlying cambium would have produced some wood that would have grown over the lip or edge of the scar. It looks to me that there is no rounded growth of wood over the edges of either scar – hence my feeling the tree was dead already”. Dr Jonathan Palmer | Research Associate
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES)University of New South Wales
If timber is dead it is more combustible so maybe these eagles were branded into the wood with something metal. The metal e.g. a horse shoe or stirrup could be heated & pressed onto the wood like we brand livestock (many farmers today use liquid nitrogen and freeze brand as its more humane & the hair grows back a highly visible white) Anyway, just a thought bubble as we know steel axes & other useful tools arrived up here via the indigenous trade routes years before the white man. Scars made with stone or steel or glass 200 years ago are still be standing today in the outback. That’s the beauty of an intact unburnt landscape. Shame our Archaeologists don’t spend more time out here doing field work & less studying the notes left by white explorers, surveyors, missionaries or amature anthropologists 2 centuries ago.
I had some quality tree time with Jen Silcock the ecologist recently & her adorable field assistant Rowan of Rin. Although 18 month Rowan was more interested in the Broom Brooms he posed patiently for CMT pics, which made a welcome change from Cubby of kelpie. We covered most of the chimera camps & ringtree clusters in 4 days but had some epic equipment fails trying to get core samples for Jonathan. The chimera guests were way harder than anticipated & we couldn’t penetrate more than half a cm into their tough exteriors. Still where there’s a will there’s a way & hopefully we find out soon if my bonsai theory holds. I think the small scrub tree guests are much older than their size suggests as anyone who has admired a Japanese bonsaied maple or beech tree would appreciate.
All the work that has gone into this project is voluntary and involves 3 groups of 3 main collaborators. Academics: Jen Silcock – the rangeland ecologist who is working on her waypoints, photos & field notes atm to make a preliminary report; Jonathan Palmer the UNSW Dendro-Chronologist who has patiently answered countless emails & will date our coring samples. His insights & professional expertise are crucial; Jude Field who many know from her Archaeology work at Cuddie springs. Jude has put countless hours into the ARC (Australian Research Council) submission so we can get some funding …to get some scientific knowledge……to add to our landowner 150 yrs written knowledge… to add to our Indigenous 60,000+ yrs oral knowledge.
The next essential part of this quest (to continue with the Emily Rodda theme) are my indigenous friends: Allan Tighe – my good mate & supplier of countless anecdotes re cultural reasons for and history of Gomilaroi tree changing. He has a side interest in megafauna bones & 5 racehorses to boot; Jason Wilson, Narran Lakes & plant use expert who was out last week with his cousin Priscilla for a cup of tea & stroll up chimera chase. Priscilla’s daughter is studying Archaeology & her generation will carry this work into the future I hope; Rhonda Ashby, who is our language & women’s business specialist. Women’s business is that knowledge that kept the people alive when climate change was sending rivers underground or flooding coastal nations. We thank the local land council (WLALC) for their support as well and for information about grave sites.
The 3rd leg of this tripod of knowledge are the current landholders and other farmers/graziers west of Walgett. In this group I put my husband Charlie & his forbears who have kept the Moramana outstation landscape intact & the CMTs upstanding (mostly) while trying to survive a changing political & climate agenda; My sister Sue, who manages the family property that takes in Cuddie Springs on Wailwun land. She knows her trees and where the weird ones are; Finally me who as well as uploading thousands of CMTs on the website for others to enjoy am also fielding questions and photos from an increasing range of interested people. I do this because I love these trees and the amount of joy & wonder they bring to my life far exceeds the time & money I spend. Call it a passion or call it an obsession I don’t care. I call it a calling XXXX