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In contrast to all the other continents discussed in this volume, Australia’s hunter-gatherers did not share, or contend for, the land with indigenous cultivators or pastoralists. The foraging economy reigned exclusively throughout the history of human habitation until the catastrophic events of conquest and settlement by the British caused its collapse within the last 200 years. Certainly there were differences between the way the indigenous people of Australia gained a living from the land in different regions, from more to less mobile, which will enter the picture as we focus our discussion here.
Foragers are often portrayed as “others” standing outside the main trajectory of human social evolution, which began with the Neolithic Revolution. In some forms of this narrative, foragers are static, left behind in the tide of history by their dynamic cousins, the farmers.
Hunter-gatherers are often portrayed as 'others' standing outside the main trajectory of human social evolution. But even after eleven millennia of agriculture and two centuries of widespread industrialization, hunter-gatherer societies continue to exist. This volume, using the lens of language, offers us a window into the inner workings of twenty-first-century hunter-gatherer societies - how they survive and how they interface with societies that produce more. It challenges long-held assumptions about the limits on social dynamism in hunter-gatherer societies to show that their languages are no different either typologically or sociolinguistically from other languages. With its worldwide coverage, this volume serves as a report on the state of hunter-gatherer societies at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and readers in all geographical areas will find arguments of relevance here.