Embedded in the Bark: Kimberley Boab Trees as Sites of Historical Archaeology

Ursula K. Frederick, Jane Balme, Jeffrey Jamieson, Melissa Marshall, Sue O’Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper discusses the Australian boab tree and its potential for research as living historical archaeology. Boab trees play an important role in the economy, culture, and cosmology of Indigenous people in northwest Australia and continue to hold a powerful presence in the Kimberley region today. Working with Nyikina and Mangala Traditional Owners we have undertaken to document examples of this iconic tree and its cultural and historical associations, particularly in the form of carvings and inscriptions embedded in the bark. Focusing on four individual trees located in the Kimberley region of northwest Australia, we propose that the modification of boab trees, as a practice undertaken by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, offers important insights into the everyday lives and historic events that shaped this cultural landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)817-840
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Historical Archaeology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


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