Queensland Museum researchers, powered by Project DIG, have been part of a rescue mission to preserve a centuries old Aboriginal tree carving, helping document it for future generations using technology known as photogrammetry.

The rare and endangered dendroglyph, a symbolic scar tree of the Traditional Owners from Western Yalanji in Far North Queensland, was at risk of being destroyed during the wet season after the host yellow walnut tree died from a fungal and insect infestation in late 2018.

A collaborative rescue team including Queensland Museum, experts from Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation (WYAC), Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), and Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) worked together to preserve the culturally significant dendroglyph using two different methods. 

The rescue team embarked on an epic journey involving helicopters and a four-hour trek through challenging terrain to access the dendroglyph, located in remote rainforest of the Mt Windsor Tablelands in North Queensland.

The two methods of preservation included photogrammetry (the science of making measurements from photographs), led by Queensland Museum and a fibreglass and latex mould managed by Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation (WYAC).

The photogrammetry driven by Queensland Museum and BHP’s partnership called Project DIG captured more than 600 individual high-resolution images in challenging physical conditions. These photos have been ‘stitched’ together using advanced digital imaging software to form a 3D model of the dendroglyph.

The dendroglyph will now be a part of Queensland Museum’s digital collection being developed by Project DIG. A 3D model of the dendroglyph will also be presented to the Traditional Owners from Western Yalanji as an example of how they can preserve and protect their cultural assets for generations to come. 

The institutions will jointly author a research paper comparing the results of the two methods to assist in future preservation works of Indigenous scar trees. 


Mount Windsor crew creating latex/fibreglass mould from dendroglyph.