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The Archaeology of Australia's Deserts


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Part of Cambridge World Archaeology

  • Author: Mike Smith, National Museum of Australia, Canberra
  • Date Published: May 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521407458

£ 88.99

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Takes an interdisciplinary approach: each chapter builds a story about desert people from different literature
    • Provides comprehensive coverage: this is a masterly survey of complex sources of science, history and archaeology
    • Presents a unique work: no previous book has examined in detail the deep human and environmental history of Australian deserts
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    • Winner of the 2013 John Mulvaney Book Award, Australian Archaeological Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    '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.' 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, Quaternary Australasia

    'The Archaeology of Australia's Deserts is a masterpiece.' Ramiro Barberena, 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, Inside Story

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521407458
    • length: 424 pages
    • dimensions: 260 x 182 x 30 mm
    • weight: 1.06kg
    • contains: 80 b/w illus. 10 maps 45 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The archaeology of deserts: Australia in context
    2. Deserts past: a history of ideas
    3. The empty desert: inland environments prior to people
    4. Foundations: moving into the deserts
    5. Islands in the interior: last glacial aridity and its aftermath
    6. The 'desert culture' revisited: assembling a cultural system
    7. Rock art and place: evolution of an inscribed landscape
    8. The chain of connection: trade and exchange across the interior
    9. The last millennium: archaeology and the classic ethnographies.

  • Author

    Mike Smith, National Museum of Australia, Canberra
    Mike Smith is the senior archaeologist at the National Museum of Australia. For more than 30 years, he has worked extensively across the Australian arid zone, piecing together the archaeology of this immense continental region of dune fields, sandy rivers, salt lakes and desert uplands. His previous appointments include field archaeologist at the Northern Territory Museum in Darwin and Alice Springs, research fellow in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University, and lecturer in archaeology for the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and of the Society of Antiquaries (London), the Australian Archaeological Association awarded him the Rhys Jones medal in 2006 for 'outstanding contributions to Australian Archaeology'. In 2010 he received the Verco medal from the Royal Society of South Australia for his research.


    • Winner of the 2013 John Mulvaney Book Award, Australian Archaeological Association

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