Here we document the investigation of the first Australian Aboriginal mortuary tree found since the early 20th century and the first studied by archaeologists and Aboriginal traditional owners. In 2001, a landowner discovered Aboriginal skeletal remains inside a fallen, dead tree while evaluating the tree’s potential as firewood, leading to the investigation of the site. The tree was located near Moyston, in southwestern Victoria, in traditional Djab Wurrung country and held the partial skeletons of three Aboriginal individuals—two adults and a child. Clay pipe-stem wear on several teeth belonging to the two adults indicates that these remains were broadly contemporaneous secondary placements from the early post-contact period (ca. A.D. 1835–1845). Along with five additional mortuary trees within 30 km of the Moyston tree, this practice constitutes a previously unknown traditional mortuary pattern and contributes to our understanding of the complex mortuary behavior of the Aboriginal people of southwestern Victoria.
Field of Research
210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology
Socio Economic Objective
970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology
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