The ‘outback archive’: Unorthodox historical records in the Victoria River District, Northern Territory

10th May 2014

Darrell Lewis recording a blab tree at Gregory's Depot (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Darrell Lewis recording a blab tree at Gregory’s Depot (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Darrell Lewis

Written documents are the fundamental resource used by historians, and to a lesser extent by archaeologists. This resource usually comprises paper records, photographs and paintings in public archives or private collections, but there are other types of ‘documentation’ available. In Australia these include inscriptions on trees and rocks by explorers and settlers, and later on infrastructure built by settlers. In the northwest such ‘unorthodox ‘ documentation is particularly common, with many inscriptions and pictures carved onto boab trees which are widespread and common, and the large iron water storage tanks at station and stock route bores. When combined with standard documentation, or interpreted via oral traditions of local non-Indigenous and Aboriginal people, these inscriptions provide insights into local history that otherwise would remain unknown.

Lewis, D.
The ‘outback archive’: Unorthodox historical records in the Victoria River District, Northern Territory
June 2014
78
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Article
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