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dendroglyph, Chatham Island, New Zealand
Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G. Marcot
Explanation: People all over the world have carved into trees probably since humans and trees first met. But the carvings represented in this week's photos carry especially important messages: a culture gone by, and a serious warning.
The above photo on the left shows what archeologists call a dendroglyph, or tree-writing. It is an image of a person, perhaps an important community leader, carved centuries ago by the Moriori people. We are on Chatham Island, part of a small group of oceanic islands isolated in the South Pacific Ocean some 500 miles (800 km) east of South Island, New Zealand. Here, the indigenous Moriori people left behind a number of tree carvings of birds, fish, and people, the purpose and meaning of which are still a mystery.
dendroglyphs of Chatham Island are cultural treasures being conserved as
best can be done, given the ravages of time and decay of the trees.
Images of these carvings have
been preserved using 3D
laser scanning technology by the University of Otago, New Zealand, and
Department of Conservation. The carvings are found only mature kopi
trees (Corynocarpus laevigatus) which have been dying out on the
In the second photo above, and the photo to the left here, we encounter a very different, and quite ominous, dendroglyph -- a serious warning to stay away.
I encountered trees with these carvings while on a trek into the remote recesses of Salonga National Park in the Congo River Basin of central tropical Africa.
These are carvings left by bands of poachers who invade the sanctity of the park to snare and shoot essentially any wild animals they encounter, mostly to sell as "bushmeat" on the black market back in the city.
During our trek into the African jungle, we were accompanied by two park guards wielding AK-47 rifles -- in part to scare off any charging forest elephants which can be quite dangerous, but more in case of an encounter with a gang of poachers.
did not find poachers but did encounter a number of their warnings, carved
into trees along the way.
Next week's picture: Dwarf Croc Captured
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