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The Archaeology of Australia's Deserts
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  • Cited by 52
  • Mike Smith, National Museum of Australia, Canberra

Book description

This is the first book-length study of the archaeology of Australia's deserts, one of the world's major habitats and the largest block of drylands in the southern hemisphere. Over the last few decades, a wealth of new environmental and archaeological data about this fascinating region has become available. Drawing on a wide range of sources, The Archaeology of Australia's Deserts explores the late Pleistocene settlement of Australia's deserts, the formation of distinctive desert societies, and the origins and development of the hunter-gatherer societies documented in the classic nineteenth-century ethnographies of Spencer and Gillen. Written by one of Australia's leading desert archaeologists, the book interweaves a lively history of research with archaeological data in a masterly survey of the field and a profoundly interdisciplinary study that forces archaeology into conversations with history and anthropology, economy and ecology, and geography and Earth sciences.


'Mike Smith has produced an impressive overview of the prehistory and environmental history of Australia’s vast and variable arid interior. His expert synthesis of over forty years of scholarly archaeological, scientific and related research will appeal to anyone interested in the archaeology of deserts, hunter-gatherers and Aboriginal Australia.'

Source: Antike Welt

'…a substantial undertaking … an impressive an elegant work. Informative, comprehensive and engaging, it [is] a pleasure to read and is a worthwhile addition to the Cambridge World Archaeology series and to the bookshelf of any practising or aspiring archaeologist.'

Jacqueline Tumney Source: Quaternary Australasia

'The Archaeology of Australia’s Deserts is a masterpiece.'

Ramiro Barberena Source: Historical Records of Australian Science

'… the most important exploration of Australia’s ancient human history since John Mulvaney’s The Prehistory of Australia was published forty-four years ago.'

Tom Griffiths Source: Inside Story

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  • The Archaeology of Australia's Deserts - Half title page
    pp i-ii
  • Series page
    pp iii-iv
  • Cambridge World Archaeology - Title page
    pp v-v
  • Copyright page
    pp vi-vi
  • Dedication
    pp vii-viii
  • Contents
    pp ix-x
  • Figures and Tables
    pp xi-xvi
  • Preface
    pp xvii-xx
  • Acknowledgements
    pp xxi-xxiv
  • Note on Calibration of Radiocarbon Dates
    pp xxv-xxvi
  • Chapter 1 - The Archaeology of Deserts: Australia in Context
    pp 1-16
  • Chapter 2 - Deserts Past: A History of Ideas
    pp 17-44
  • Chapter 3 - The Empty Desert: Inland Environments Prior to People
    pp 45-69
  • Chapter 4 - Foundations:Moving into the Deserts
    pp 70-108
  • Chapter 5 - Islandsin the Interior: Last Glacial Aridity and Its Aftermath
    pp 109-156
  • Chapter 6 - The‘Desert Culture’ Revisited: Assembling a Cultural System
    pp 157-211
  • Chapter 7 - RockArt and Place: Evolution of an Inscribed Landscape
    pp 212-265
  • Chapter 8 - The Chainof Connection: Trade and Exchange Across the Interior
    pp 266-301
  • Chapter 9 - The Last Millennium: Archaeologyand the Classic Ethnographies
    pp 302-342
  • Glossary of Technical Terms
    pp 343-348
  • References
    pp 349-390
  • Index
    pp 391-406


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