About Ancient Redgum
Along the banks of Australia’s greatest river, the Murray, the red gum trees grew at a time when the climate was wetter than today following the last Ice Age.
For thousands of years these remnants of ancient riverine forests remained buried in the gravels until excavations exposed them. When unearthed by machinery, they were destined to be burnt until the wood was examined and dated. Red gums are noted for their durable timber and this account is a tribute to the durability of this majestic tree, exalted by the artists brush, steeped in history and even now a scientific wonder.
Ice Ages and Changing Environments
Some 18,000 years ago Australia was in the grip of a cold, dry period that devastated woodland vegetation. When the Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago, trees returned to the rivers and mountain slopes.
The Murray River, draining the south eastern highlands of Australia, remained a course, gravely stream. Colonies of giant red gums grew on its banks. As the channel wandered back and forth across the floodplain, these great trees fell and were buried by gravel. There they remained until discovered in 1989.
Dating and Scientific Value
As well as its special historical interest, this uncovered wood has great scientific value. The Australian National University using radiocarbon dating has dated many samples. The results of carbon dating various samples of wood indicate that the trees grew more than 5,000 years ago. Indeed, some samples tested were from trees, which grew 12,000 years ago! A record of once living organic matter that has neither decomposed nor fossilised.
The organic material in the wood today was photosynthesised by the living tree from carbon dioxide in the air of the time. In this way it represents a frozen sample of the atmosphere of long. Thus a comparison with the samples of today gives information about climatic changes in the past and possible in the future.
This ancient wood, older than European civilisation in Australia, older than the Roman Empire, The Pharaohs and Pyramids has surpassed the test of time.