Mount Windsor crew creating latex/fibreglass mould from dendroglyph.

Queensland Museum Network researchers, powered by Project DIG, led 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 tree carving 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 Network, 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 two methods of preservation included:

  • Photogrammetry (the science of making measurements from photographs), led by Queensland Museum Network
  • Fibreglass and latex mould managed by Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation (WYAC)

The photogrammetry driven by 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 form part of Queensland Museum Network’s digital collection being developed by Project DIG.

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

Johnny Murison, Chairperson for Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation (WYAC), is presented with the 3D print of the dendroglyph.

Using 3D 3modelling and printing technology to preserve Aboriginal cultural assets

Project DIG has curated a 3D print of the rare and endangered Aboriginal tree carving using binder jet 3D print technology, preserving it for generations to come.

Queensland Museum Network researchers used photogrammetry to create a 3D model and computer simulation of the rare and endangered dendroglyph, revealing new and intricate details not seen before by the human eye.

The carving depicts the Indigenous legend of the Yalanji Lizard Man from the Daintree in far North Queensland. While the carving of the man was easily identified, the 3D modelling uncovered a hunting spear through the man’s chest.

With the use of high quality, full colour granular print technology, the incredible detail in the computer simulation has been translated to a small scale 3D print.

Learn more about the binder jetting printing process:

  • Unlike other 3D print technology, binder jetting has CYMK capability producing full colour 3D models straight from the printer.
  • The process involves building the model up with layers of powder just 0.1mm in thickness, colouring each layer as it is built.
  • The entire process from printing and preparing to sealing and drying the dendroglyph took just under two days to complete.

Computer simulation and 3D print technology provide an efficient and non-invasive method of preservation for culturally significant discoveries like the dendroglyph. The 3D print has been presented to the Traditional Owners from Western Yalanji as an example of how they can preserve their cultural assets for generations to come.