Fun_People Archive
18 Mar
Trail Blazing in Ancient Australia

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 18 Mar 98 16:46:03 -0800
To: Fun_People
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Subject: Trail Blazing in Ancient Australia

Forwarded-by: Bruce Sterling <>
Subject: Dead Media Working Note 30.4

Dead medium:  Trail Blazing in Ancient Australia

From: (Melissa Dennison)

Source:  Gossip from Native Australians


      As promised in an earlier email, here is what I know about Australian
Aboriginal boundary trees and scarred trees.

     Boundary trees were created by tying gum tree branches (or in the case
of very young trees, entire trunks) together with kangaroo sinews.  With
time the branches or trunks would knit together to form a very distinctive
shape == undoubtedly man-made.  Such trees signified the boundaries between
various tribes and clans.  Sometimes they were also marked by carving
various symbols into the bark.

    Scarred trees (usually just called "scar trees") were created by cutting
a piece of bark off a gum tree to use as a shield or other tool, or even a
canoe. Usually an oblong-shaped piece of bark would be cut.  As the tree
grows the scar grows, sometimes as much as 10 to 12 feet in length.

     The bark would be cut so that if you stood against the tree with your
back to the scar, you would be looking in the direction of something
significant, such as a water hole, burial ground, boundary tree, river,
mountain, "women's business"  or "men's business" site (sacred stuff, this).

     Boundary trees and scar trees formed a system of signage throughout
the Australian landscape.  Aborigines would read the trees just as we read
street signs and traffic lights.  Unfortunately, European settlers cut down
many of these trees and so there are now big gaps in the system.

    I'm sure this information is well documented in various texts in
Australia, but I got it from some young Aborigines who were generous enough
to share it with me when I travelled down under.

Melissa Dennison (

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