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Thinking of purchasing a book but not sure whether it’s going to be worth the purchase price? Check here first to see if it’s been reviewed in Australian Archaeology!  All of the book reviews from recent volumes, listed alphabetically by book title, compiled in one place to make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for.





Abandonments of Settlements and Regions: Ethnoarchaeological and Archaeological Approaches edited by C.M. Cameron and S.A. Tomka (reviewed by Peter Veth).

Aboriginal Economy and Society: Australia at the Threshold of Colonisation by Ian Keen (reviewed by Peter Veth).

A Companion to Archaeology edited by John Bintliff (reviewed by Bruno David).

A Companion to Rock Art edited by Jo McDonald and Peter Veth (reviewed by Ken Mulvaney).

A Companion to Social Archaeology edited by Lynn Meskell and Robert W. Preucel (reviewed by Alistair Paterson).

A Critical Exploration of Frameworks for Assessing the Significance of New Zealand’s Historic Heritageby Sara Donaghey (reviewed by Jane Lennon).

Adventures in Fugawiland: A Computer Simulation in Archaeology, Second Edition by T. Douglas Price and Anne Birgette Gebauer (reviewed by Katrina MacDonald).

Aesthetics and Rock Art III Symposium: Proceedings of the XV USIPP World Congress edited by Thomas Heyd and John Clegg (reviewed by June Ross).

A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse Legacies of the Cold War edited by John Schofield and Wayne Cocroft (reviewed by Iain Stuart).

African Civilisations – Pre-Colonial Cities and States in Tropical Africa: An Archaeological Perspectiveby Graham Coonah (reviewed by Zoe Wakelin-King).

After Caption Cook: The Archaeology of the Recent Indigenous Past in Australia edited by Rodney Harrison and Christine Williamson (reviewed by Judy Birmingham).

After Modernity: Archaeological Approaches to the Contemporary Past by Rodney Harrison and John Schofield (reviewed by Alice Gorman).

Altered Ecologies: Fire, Climate and Human Influence on Terrestrial Landscapes edited by Simon Haberle, Janelle Stevenson and Matthew Prebble (reviewed by Bruno David).

Altered States: Material Cultural Transformations in the Arafura Region edited by Clayton Fredericksen and Ian Walters (reviewed by Christopher Chippindale).

American Beginnings: The Prehistory and Palaeoecology of Beringia edited by Frederick Hadleigh West (reviewed by Rob Gargett).

A Millenium of Culture Contact by Alistair Paterson (reviewed by Angela Middleton).

An Analysis of Ice Age Art. It’s Psychology and Belief System by Noel W. Smith (reviewed by Robert Bednarik).

An Annotated Bibliography of Theses in Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Studies at The University of Queensland, 1948–2000 by Sean Ulm, Anna Schnukal and Catherine Westcott (reviewed by Annie Ross).

Ancestors for the Pigs: Taxonomy and Phylogeny of the Genus Sus by Colin Groves (reviewed by Tim Flannery).

An Archaeology of Australian Since 1788 by Susan Lawrence and Peter Davies (reviewed by Iain Stuart).

An Archaeology of Institutional Confinement. The Hyde Park Barracks, 1848-1886 by Peter Davies, Penny Crook and Tim Murray (reviewed by Susan Piddock).

An Introduction to Landscape by Peter J. Howard (reviewed by Tom Kimber).

A Pacific Odyssey: Archaeology and Anthropology in the Western Pacific. Papers in Honour of Jim Specht edited by Val Attenbrow and Richard Fullagar (reviewed by Alison Crowther).

A Pictoral Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture by R. Apperly, R. Irving and P. Reynolds (reviewed by Susan Lawrence Cheney).


Archaeological Dimensions of World Heritage: From Prevention to Social Implications edited by Alicia Castillo (reviewed by Ian Lilley).


Archaeological Investigation by Martin Carver (reviewed by David Frankel).

Archaeological Typology and Practical Reality: A Dialectical Approach to Artifact Classification and Sorting by W.Y. Adams and E.W. Adams (reviewed by Glenn R. Summerhayes).

Archaeology and Colonialism: Cultural Contact from 5000 BC to the Present by Chris Godsen (reviewed by Rodney Harrison).

Archaeology and Linguistics: Aboriginal Australia in Global Perspective edited by P. McConvell and N. Evans (reviewed by Ian Lilley).

Archaeology as Long-Term History edited by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Matthew Spriggs).

Archaeology of the Chinese Fishing Industry in Colonial Victoria by Alister M. Bowen (reviewed by Neville Ritchie).

Archaeology of the Coastal Exchange System: Sites and Ceramics of the Papuan Gulf edited by David Frankel and James W. Rhodes (reviewed by J. Peter White).

Archaeological Theory and the Politics of Cultural Heritage by Laurajane Smith (reviewed by Thomas F. King).

Archaeological Theory in Practice by Patricia Urban and Edward Schortmann (reviewed by Martin Porr).

Archaeological Theory: Who Sets the Agenda? edited by Norman Yoffee and Andrew Sherratt (reviewed by Laurajane Smith).

Archaeologies of Memory edited by Ruth M. van Dyke and Susan E. Alcock (reviewed by Rodney Harrison)

Archaeologies of Mobility and Movement edited by Mary C. Beaudry and Travis G. Parno (reviewed by Thomas G. Whitley).

Archaeology and the Media edited by Timothy Clark and Marcus Brittain (reviewed by Hilary du Cros).

Archaeology in Practice: A Student Guide to Archaeological Analyses edited by Jane Balme and Alistair Paterson (reviewed by Annie Ross).

Archaeology of Ancient Australia by Peter Hiscock (reviewed by Brian Fagan).

Archaeology of Asia edited by Miriam T. Stark (reviewed by Bill Boyd).

Archaeology of Oceania: Australia and the Pacific Islands edited by Ian Lilley (reviewed by Richard Fullagar).

Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom edited by Heather Burke and Claire Smith (reviewed by Martin Gibbs).

Arrernte Present, Arrernte Past: Invasion, Violence and Imagination in Indigenous Central Australia by Diane Austin-Broos (reviewed by John White).

Art and Archaeology: Collaborations, Conversations, Criticisms edited by Ian Alden Russell and Andrew Cochrane (reviewed by June Ross).

Artefact Classification: A Conceptual and Methodological Approach by Dwight W. Reed (reviewed by David Frankel).

At a Crossroads: Archaeology and First Peoples in Canada edited by George P. Nicholas and Thomas D. Andrews (reviewed by Paul S.C. Tacon)

Australia’s Fossil Heritage: A Catalogue of Important Australian Fossil Sites by the Australian Heritage Council (reviewed by Judith Field).

Australia and the Origins of Agriculture by Rupert Gerritsen (reviewed by Harry Lourandos).

Australian Apocalypse: The Story of Australia’s Greatest Cultural Monument by Robert G. Bednarik (reviewed by Paul Tacon).

Australian Archaeology ’95: Proceedings of the 1995 Australian Archaeological Association Annual Conference edited by Sean Ulm, Ian Lilley and Annie Ross (reviewed by Peter Veth).

Australian Rock Art: A New Synthesis by Robert Layton (reviewed by Claire Smith).

Australia’s Eastern Regional Sequence Revisited: Technology and Change at Capertee 3 by Peter Hiscock and Val Attenbrow (reviewed by Chris Clarkson).

Between Plateau and Plain by June Anderson (reviewed by Madge Schwede).

Beyond Art: Pleistocene Image and Symbol edited by Margaret W. Conkey, Olga Soffer, Deborah Stratmann and Nina G. Jablonski (reviewed by Linda Conroy).

Blue Mountain Dreaming: The Aboriginal Heritage by Eugene Stockton (reviewed by Val Attenbrow).

Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination by Karin Sanders (reviewed by Miranda Aldhouse-Green).

Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past edited by Julie M. Schablitsky (reviewed by Peter Hiscock).

Bradshaws: Ancient Paintings of North-West Australia by Graeme L. Walshe (reviewed by Mike Morwood).

Bridging the Divide: Indigenous Communities and Archaeology into the 21st Century edited by Caroline Phillips and Harry Allen (reviewed by Chris Wilson).

Bruising the Red Earth: Ochre Mining and Ritual in Aboriginal Tasmania edited by Antonio Sagona (reviewed by Bruno David).

Burning Bush. A Fire History of Australia by Stephen J. Pyne (reviewed by Lesley Head).

Bushfires and Bushtucker: Aboriginal Plant Use in Central Australia by Peter Latz (reviewed by Wendy Beck).

Catalogue of the Roth Collection and Aboriginal Artefacts from North Queensland by Kate Khan (reviewed by Paul Gorecki).

Cave Art: A Guide to the Decorated Ice Age Caves of Europe by Paul Bahn (reviewed by Iain Davidson).

Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions by A. Barrie Pittock (reviewed by Mike Rowland).

Coastal Themes: An Archaeology of the Southern Curtis Coast, Queensland by Sean Ulm (reviewed by Bryce Barker).

Colouring the Past: The Significance of Colour in Archaeological Research edited by Andrew Jones and Gavin MacGregor (reviewed by Noelene Cole).

Conserving Australian Rock Art: A Manual for Site Managers by David Lampert (reviewed by Christopher Chippendale).

Constructing Frames of Reference: An Analytical Method for Archaeological Theory Building using Ethnographic and Environmental Data Sets by Lewis R. Binford. (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).

Consultation and Cultural Heritage: Let us Reason Together by Claudia Nissley and Thomas F. King (reviewed by Lynley A. Wallis).

Contemporary Archaeology in Theory: A Reader by R.W. Preucel and Ian Hodder (reviewed by Bryce Barker).

Continent of Hunter-Gatherers: New Perspectives in Australian Prehistory by Harry Lourandos (reviewed by Ian McNiven).

Conversations with Landscape edited by Karl Benediktsson and Katrin Anna Lund (reviewed by Harry Lourandos).

Coobool Creek: A Morphological Analysis of the Crania, Mandibles and Dentition of a Prehistoric Australian Human Population by Peter Brown (reviewed by Phillip J. Habgood).

Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military edited by Peter G. Stone (reviewed by Umberto Albarella).

Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon: The Calender in Mesoamerican Civilization by Vincent H. Malmstrom (reviewed by Gabrielle Vail).


Desert Peoples: Archaeological Perspectives edited by Peter Veth, Mike Smith and Peter Hiscock (reviewed by Mike Basgall).

Digging it up Down Under: A Practical Guide to Doing Archaeology in Australia by Claire Smith and Heather Burke (reviewed by George Nicholas).

Digging up a Past by John Mulvaney (reviewed by Bruno David).

Dingo Makes Us Human by Deborah Bird Rose (reviewed by Peter Thorley).

Dirty Diggers: Tales from the Archaeological Trenches by Paul Bahn (reviewed by Duncan Wright).

Documentary Archaeology in the New World edited by Mary V. Beaudry (reviewed by Tim Murray).

Documental Filmmaking for Archaeologists by Peter Pepe and Joseph W. Zarzynski (reviewed by Karen Martin-Stone).

Doing Archaeology: A Cultural Resource Management Perspective by Thomas F. King (reviewed by John L. Craib).

East of Wallace’s Line: Studies of Past and Present Maritime Cultures of the Indo-Pacific Region edited by Sue O’Connor and Peter Veth (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

East of Wallace’s Line: Studies of Past and Present Maritime Cultures of the Indo-Pacific Region edited by Sue O’Connor and Peter Veth (reviewed by Martin Williams).

Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, society and cultureedited by D. Horton (reviewed by Sharon Wellfare).

Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Martin Porr).

Environmental Archaeology: Principals and Practice by Dena Dincauze (reviewed by Tim Owen).

Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria, Volume 1 edited by Ilya Berelov, Mark Eccleston and David Frankel (reviewed by Pamela Ricardi).

Exhuming Loss: Memory, Materiality and Mass Graves of the Spanish Civil War by Layla Renshaw (reviewed by Jon Prangnell).

Explorations into Highland New Guinea, 1930-1935 by Michael J. Leahy (reviewed by J. Peter White).

Exploring Central Australia: Society, the Environment and the 1984 Horn Expedition by S.R. Morton and D. J. Mulvaney (reviewed by June Ross).

Fantastic Dreaming: The Archaeology of an Aboriginal Mission by Jane Lydon (reviewed by Celmara Pocock).

Faunal Extinction in an Island Society: Pygmy Hippopotamus Hunters of Cyprus by Alan H. Simmons and Associates (reviewed by Mike Smith).

‘Fire and Hearth’ Forty Years On: Essays in Honour of Sylvia J. Hallam edited by Caroline Bird and Esmee Webb (reviewed by Harry Lourandos).

First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies by Peter Bellwood (reviewed by Tim Denham).

First Footprints: The Epic Story of the First Australians by Scott Cane (reviewed by Douglas Bird).

First in their Field: Women and Australian Anthropology edited by Julie Marcus (reviewed by Claire Smith).

First Light by Peter Ackroyd (reviewed by Tony Smith).

Flintknapping: Making and Using Stone Tools by John C. Whittaker (reviewed by Katerina McDonald).

Frauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology by Kenneth L. Fedden (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).

Gendered Archaeology edited by Jane Balme and Wendy Beck (reviewed by Stephanie Moser).

Geoarchaeology: The Earth-Science Approach to Archaeological Interpretation by G. Rapp Jr and C.L. Hill (reviewed by Rob Gargett).

Gunyah, Goondie and Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia by Paul Memmott (reviewed by Cherrie de Leiuen).

Handbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology edited by Soren Blau and Douglas Ubelaker (reviewed by Judith Littleton).

Handbook of Landscape Archaeology edited by Bruno David and Julian Thomas (reviewed by David S. Whitley).

Heritage, Communities and Archaeology by Laurajane Smith and Emma Waterton (reviewed by Amy Roberts).

Heritage: Critical Approaches by Rodney Harrison (reviewed by Keir Reeves).

High Lean Country: Land, People and Memory in New England edited by Alan Atkinson, J.S. Ryan, Iain Davidson and Andrew Piper (reviewed by Sharon Sullivan).

Historical Archaeologies of Cognition: Explorations into Faith, Hope and Charity edited by James Symonds, Anna Badcock and Jeff Oliver (reviewed by Edwina Kay).

Historical Archaeology edited by Martin Hall and Stephen W. Silliman (reviewed by Jon Prangnell).

Historical Archaeology: Why the Past Matters by Barbara J. Little (reviewed by Alasdair Brooks).

Hominid Adaptations and Extinctions by David W. Cameron (reviewed by Sylvia Hallam).

How a Continent Created a Nation by Libby Robin (reviewed by Veronia Strang).

Human Evolution, Language and Mind: A Psychological and Archaeological Enquiry by William Noble and Iain Davidson (reviewed by Howard Morphy).

Hunters and Collectors: The Antiquarian Imagination in Australia by Tom Griffiths (reviewed by Mike Smith).

Hunter-Gatherers in History, Archaeology and Anthropology edited by Alan Barnard (reviewed by Ian McNiven).

Inauthentic Archaeologies: Public Uses and Abuses of the Past by Troy Lovata (reviewed by Denis Gojak).

Indigenous Peoples and the Collaborative Stewardship of Nature: Knowledge Binds and Institutional Conflicts by Anne Ross, Kathleen Pickering Sherman, Jeffrey G. Snodgrass, Henry D. Delacore and Richard Sherman (reviewed by Joe Watkins).

Inscribed Landscapes: Marking and Making Place edited by Bruno David and Meredith Wilson (reviewed by Michael Slack and Richard Fullagar).

Interpreting Ground-Penetrating Radar for Archaeology by Lawrence B. Conyers (reviewed by Ian Moffat).

Introduction to Rock Art Research by David S. Whitley (reviewed by Natalie R. Franklin).

Investigating Olduvai : Archaeology of Human Origins by Jeanne Sept (reviewed by Peter Grave).

Invitation to Archaeology Second Edition by Philip Rahtz (reviewed by Simon Holdaway).

Islamic Art and Archaeology of Palestine by Myriam Rosen-Ayalon (reviewed by Alan Walmsley).

Kakadu: Natural and Cultural Heritage and Management edited by Tony Press, David Lea, Ann Webb and Alistair Graham (reviewed by Sean Ulm).

Landscapes, Rock-Art and the Dreamings: An Archaeology of Pre-Understanding by Bruno David (reviewed by Tim Murray).

Lapita Design Form and Composition: Proceedings of the Lapita Design Workshop Canberra, Australia, December 1988 edited by Matthew Spriggs (reviewed by Jim Specht).

Late Holocene Indigenous Economies of the Tropical Australian Coast: An Archaeological Study of the Darwin Region by Patricia M. Bourke (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

Lessons for Human Survival: Nature’s Record from the Quaternary edited by Paul Bishop (reviewed by Scott Smithers).

Lithics Down Under: Australian Perspectives on Lithic Reduction, Use and Classification edited by Chris Clarkson and Lara Lamb (reviewed by Ian J. McNiven).

Lithics in the Land of the Lightning Brothers: The Archaeology of Wardaman Country, Northern Territory by Chris Clarkson (reviewed by Richard A. Gould).

Love’s Obsession: The Lives and Archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart by Judy Powell (reviewed by Andrew Sneddon).

Making Archaeology Happen: Design versus Dogma by Martin Carver (reviewed by Tim Murray).

Managing Archaeological Resources: Global Context, National Programs, Local Actions edited by Francis P. McManamon, Andrew Stout and Jodi A. Barnes (reviewed by Thomas F. King).

Many Exchanges: Archaeology, History, Community and the Work of Isabel McBryde edited by Ingereth Macfarlane with Mary-Jane Mountain and Robert Paton (reviewed by Martin Gibbs).

Marine Molluscan Remains from Franchthi Cave by Judith C. Shackleton (reviewed by Moya Smith).

Maritime Archaeology: A Technical Handbook by J. Green (reviewed by Iain Stuart).

Material Culture of the North Wellesley Islands by Paul Memmott (reviewed by Asa Ferrier).

Measured on Stone: Stone Artefact Reduction, Residential Mobility and Aboriginal Land Use in Arid Central Australia by W. Boone Law (reviewed by Michael J. Shott).

Motherland by Timothy O’Grady (reviewed by Tony Smith).

Much More than Stones and Bones: Australian Archaeology in the Late Twentieth Century by Hilary Du Cros (reviewed by Tracey Ireland).

Mungo over Millenia: The Willandra Landscape and its People edited by Helen Lawrence (reviewed by Josephine M. Flood).

Mystery Islands: Discovering the Ancient Pacific by Tom Koppel (reviewed by Matthew Spriggs).

Native Title and the Transformation of Archaeology in the Postcolonial World edited by Ian Lilley (reviewed by Alistair Paterson).

Neolithic by Susan Foster McCarter (reviewed by Phillip C. Edwards).

Ngarrindjeri Wurrawarrin: A World That Is, Was and Will Be by Diane Bell (reviewed by James Knight).

Nomads in Archaeology by Roger Cribb (reviewed by Ron Lampert).

Nonlinear Models for Archaeology and Anthropology: Continuing the Revolution edited by Christopher S. Beekman and William W. Baden (reviewed by Mal Ridges).

North American Archaeology edited by Timothy R. Pauketat and Diana DiPaolo Loren (reviewed by Michael Slack).

Object Lessons: Archaeology and Heritage in Australia edited by Jane Lydon and Tracey Ireland (reviewed by Celmara Pocock).

Oceania Explorations: Lapita and Western Pacific Settlement edited by Stuart Bedford, Christophe Sand and S.P. Connaughton (reviewed by Patrick V. Kirch).

Otoliths of Common Australian Temperate Fish: A Photographic Guide by Dianne Furlani, Rosemary Gales and David Pemberton (reviewed by Marshall Weisler).

Our People’ Series (reviewed by Anne Skates).

Owls, Caves and Fossils: Predation, Preservation and Accumulation of Small Mammal Bones in Caves, with an Analysis of the Pleistocene Cave Faunas from Westbury-Sub-Mendip, Somerset, United Kingdom by Peter J. Andrews (reviewed by David Cameron).

Pacific Production Systems. Approaches to Economic Prehistory edited by D.E. Yen and J.M.J. Mummery (reviewed by J.P White).

Palaeonenvironmental Change and the Persistence of Human Occupation in Southwestern Australian Forests by Joe Dortch (reviewed by Sylvia Hallam).

Palaeopathology of Aboriginal Australians: Health and Disease across a Hunter-Gatherer Continent by Stephen Webb (reviewed by Graham Knuckey and F. Donald Pate).

Patterns of Burning over Archaeological Sites and Landscapes: Prospection and Analysis by Alistair Marshall (reviewed by Kelsey Lowe).

Peopling the Cleland Hills: Aboriginal History in Western Central Australia 1850-1980 by Mike A. Smith (reviewed by Jo McDonald).

Pictures of Time Beneath: Science, Heritage and the Uses of the Deep Past by Kirsty Douglas (reviewed by Josephine M. Flood).

Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle: Archaeology of the North, South and Centre by Stuart Bedford (reviewed by Jennifer G. Kahn).

Pinning Down the Past: Archaeology, Heritage and Education Today by Mike Corbishey (reviewed by Craig Baxter).

Pitt Rivers. The Life and Archaeological work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, DCL FRS FSA by Mark Bowden (reviewed by Ron Lampert).

Place as Occupational Histories: An Investigation of the Deflated Surface Archaeological Record of Pine Point and Langwell Stations, Western New South Wales, Australia by Justin Shiner (reviewed by Ben Marwick).

Plants in Australian Archaeology edited by Wendy Beck, Annie Clark and Lesley Head (reviewed by Bill Boyd).

Pleistocene Geology, Palaeontology and Archaeology of the Soa Basin, Central Flores, Indonesia edited by F. Aziz, M.J. Morwood and G.D. van den Bergh (reviewed by Jillian Garvey).

Port Essington: The Historical Archaeology of a North Australian Nineteenth Century Military Outpostby Jim Allen (reviewed by Charles E. Orser Jr).

Prehistoric Marine Resource Use in the Indo-Pacific Regions edited by Rintaro Ono, Alex Morrison and David Addison (reviewed by Mirani Litster).

Prehistory and Heritage: The Writings of John Mulvaney by D.J. Mulvaney (reviewed by R.J. Lampert).

Prodigious Birds. Moas and Moa-Hunting in Prehistoric New Zealand by Atholl Anderson (reviewed by Brendan Marshall).

Quantifying Diversity in Archaeology edited by Robert D. Leonard and George T. Jones (reviewed by Colin Pardoe).

Quaternary Environments by M.A.J. Williams, D.L. Dunkerley, P. De Deckker, A.P. Kershaw and T. Stokes (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).

Quaternary Environments (Second Edition) by M.A.J. Williams, D.L. Dunkerley, P. De Deckker, A.P. Kershaw and J. Chappell (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).

Quinkan Prehistory: The Archaeology of Aboriginal Art in S.E. Cape York Peninsula, Australia edited by Michael J. Morwood and Douglas R. Hobbs (reviewed by Bruno David).

Reading Material Culture: Structuralism, Hermeneutics and Post-Structuralism edited by Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Bruno David).

Recent Studies in Australian Palaeoecology and Zooarchaeology: A Volume in Honour of the Late Su Solomon edited by Jillian Garvey and Judith Field (reviewed by Joe Dortch).

Re-Constructing Archaeology: Theory and Practice by Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Bruno David).

Records in Stone: Papers in Memory of Alexander Thom edited by C.L.N. Ruggles (reviewed by R.J. Lampert).

Recovering the Tracks: The Story of Australian Archaeology by David Horton (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

Remains to be Seen: Archaeological Insights into Australian Prehistory by David Frankel (reviewed by Annie Ross).

Renewing Women’s Business: A Documentary by Julie Drew and Wardaman Aboriginal Corporation (reviewed by Sally Babidge).

Returning to Nothing: The Meaning of Lost Places by Peter Read (reviewed by Veronica Strang).

Rock Art and Ethnography: Proceedings of the Ethnography Symposium, Australian Rock Art Research Association Conference, Darwin, 1998 edited by M.J. Morwood and D.R. Hobbs (reviewed by Noelene Cole).

Rock Art and Posterity: Conserving, Managing and Recording Rock Art edited by C. Pearson and B.K. Schwartz (reviewed by Christopher Chippendale).

Rock Art of the Dreamtime: Images of Ancient Australia by Josephine Flood (reviewed by Annie Thomas).

Rock Art of the Kimberley: Proceedings of the Kimberley Society Rock Art Seminar held at the University of Western Australia, Perth, 10 September 2005 edited by Mike Donaldson and Kevin Kenneally (reviewed by Paul S.C. Tacon).

Roonka: Fugitive Traces and Climatic Mischief edited by Keryn Walshe (reviewed by Eleanor Crosby).


Salvage Excavation of Human Skeletal Remains at Ocean and Octavia Streets, Narabeen, Site #45-6-2747 by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd (reviewed by Judith Littleton).

Salvage Excavation of Six Sites along Caddies, Seconds Ponds, Smalls and Cattals Creeks in the Rouse Hill Development Hill Area by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd (reviewed by Fiona Hook).

Scribes, Warriors and Kings, the City of Copan and the Ancient Maya by William L. Fash (reviewed by Rene Viel and Jay Hall).

Second Nature: The History and Implications of Australia as Aboriginal Landscape by Lesley Head (reviewed by Harry Allen).

Secrets at Hanging Rock by Alan Watchman (reviewed by Claire St George).

Shamans, Sorcerers and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion by Brian Hayden (reviewed by Bryce Barker).

Shared Landscapes: Archaeologies of Attachment and the Pastoral Industry in New South Wales by Rodney Harrison (reviewed by Lynette Russell).

Sites and Bytes: Recording Aboriginal Places in Australia edited by Josephine Flood, Ian Johnson and Sharon Sullivan (reviewed by Peter Veth).

Social Theory and Archaeology by Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Bruno David).

Social Theory and Archaeology by Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Chris Godsen).

Structured Worlds: The Archaeology of Hunter-Gatherer Thought and Action edited by Aubrey Cannon (reviewed by Colin Pardoe).

Style, Society and Person: Archaeological and ethnological perspectives edited by Christopher Carr and Jill E. Neitzel (reviewed by Bruno David).

Surface Collection: Archaeological Travels in Southeast Asia by Denis Byrne (reviewed by Sarah Milledge Nelson).

Sustaining Heritage: Giving the Past a Future by Tony Gilmour (reviewed by Richard Mackay).


The Archaeologist’s Field Handbook by Heather Burke and Claire Smith (reviewed by Tim Ormsby).

The Archaeologist’s Fieldwork Companion by Barbara Ann Kipfer (reviewed by Ian J. McNiven).

The Archaeologist’s Manual for Conservation: A Gudie to Non-Toxic, Minimal Intervention Artifact Stabilization by Bradley A. Rodgers (reviewed by Brandy Lockhart).

The Archaeology of Australia’s Deserts by Mike Smith (reviewed by Peter Hiscock)

The Archaeology of Contextual Meanings edited by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Matthew Spriggs).

The Archaeology of Difference: Negotiating Cross-Cultural Engagements in Oceania edited by Robin Terrence and Anne Clark (reviewed by Jo McDonald).

The Archaeology of Drylands: Living at the Margin edited by Graeme Barker and David Gilbertson (reviewed by Mike Smith).

The Archaeology of Market Capitalism: A Western Australian Perspective by Gaye Nayton (reviewed by William Lees).

The Archaeology of Montebello Islands, North-West Australia: Late Quaternary Foragers on an Arid Coastline by Peter Veth, Ken Aplin, Lynley A. Wallis, Tiina Manne, Tim Pulsford, Elizabeth White and Alan Chappel (reviewed by Goeff Bailey).

The Archaeology of the Angophora Reserve Rock Shelter by Josephine McDonald (reviewed by Val Attenbrow).

The Archaeology of the Aru Islands, Eastern Indonesia edited by Sue O’Connor, Matthew Spriggs and Peter Veth (reviewed by Daniel Rosendahl).

The Archaeology of the Colonised by Michael Given (reviewed by Rodney Harrison).

The Archaeology of Time by Gavin Lucas (reviewed by Michael Morrison).

The Archaeology of Whaling in Southern Australia and New Zealand by Susan Lawrence and Mark Staniforth (reviewed by Peter Veth).

The Axe had Never Sounded: Place, People and Heritage of Recherche Bay, Tasmania by John Mulvaney (reviewed by Lyndall Ryan).

The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage (reviewed by Bruno David).

The Bone Readers: Atoms, Genes and the Politics of Australia’s Deep Past by Claudio Tuniz, Richard Gillespie and Cheryl Jones (reviewed by Iain Davidson).

The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia by Charles Higham (reviewed by Robert Theunissen).

The Cainozoic in Australia: A Reappraisal of the Evidence edited by M.A.J. Williams, P. De Deckker and A.P. Kershaw (reviewed by Scott Smithers).

The City in Time and Space by Aidan Southall (reviewed by Jim Walmsley).

The Dark Abyss of Time: Archaeology and Memory by Laurent Olivier (reviewed by Steve Brown).

The Death of Prehistory by Peter Schmidt and Stephen Mrozowski (reviewed by John Giblin).

The Dendroglyphs of ‘Carved Trees’ of New South Wales  by Robert Etheridge (reviewed by Jeanette Hope.

The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq edited by Peter Stone and Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly (reviewed by Dan Potts).

The Discovery of the Hobbit: The Scientific Breakthrough that Changed the Face of Human History by Mike Morwood and Penny van Oosterzee (reviewed by Michael Green).

The Discovery of the Past: The Origins of Archaeology by Alain Schnapp (reviewed by Heather Burke).

The Domestication of Europe by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Ron Paul Rainbird).

The Early Prehistory of Fiji edited by Geoffrey Clark and Atholl Anderson (reviewed by Yvonne Marshall).

The Fabrication of Aboriginal History. Volume One, Van Diemen’s Land 1803–1847 by Keith Windschuttle (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk: An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilisation by Michael Balter (reviewed by Andrew Fairbairn).

The History and Archaeology of the Sydney Cove Shipwreck (1797): A Resource for Future Work by Shirley Strachan (reviewed by David Cameron).

The Illusion of Riches: Scale, Resolution and Explanation in Tasmanian Pleistocene Human Behaviourby Richard Cosgrove (reviewed by Judith Field).

The Illustrated History of Humankind edited by Goran Burenhult (reviewed by Jane Balme).

The Incas by Terence N. D’Altroy (reviewed by Dave Bulbeck).

The Languages of Archaeology: Dialogue, Narrative and Writing by Rosemary Joyce  (reviewed by Darren Griffin).

The Lost Legions: Culture Contact in Colonial Australia by Alistair Paterson (reviewed by Nan Rothschild).

The Makers and Making of Indigenous Australian Museum Collections edited by Nicolas Peterson, Lindy Allen and Louise Hamby (reviewed by Michael Westaway).

The Meaning of Water by Veronica Strang (reviewed by Ingereth Macfarlane).

The Naïve Lands: Prehistory and Environmental Change in Australia and the South-West Pacific edited by John Dodson (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

The Nature of Heritage: The New South Africa by Lynn Meskell (reviewed by Keir Reeves).

The New Archaeology and Aftermath: A View from Outside the Anglo-American World by K. Paddayya (reviewed by Tessa Corkhill).

The Northern Barbarians 100 BC-AD 300 by Malcolm Todd (reviewed by M. Ruth Megaw).

The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People by Josephine M. Flood (reviewed by J. Peter White).

The Origins and Spread of Domestic Plants in Southwest Asia and Europe edited by Sue Colledge and James Connolly (reviewed by Tim Denham).

The Origins of Hereditary Social Stratification by Malcolm McKay (reviewed by Ian Lilley).

The Origins of War: Violence in Prehistory by Jean Guilaine and Jean Zammit (reviewed by Graham Knuckey).

The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus by Peter Sutton (reviewed by Luke Godwin).

The Prehistory of the Mind: A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science by Steven Mithen (reviewed by Catherine Mitchell).

The Riches of Ancient Australia by Josephine Flood (reviewed by Wendy Beck).

The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period by Darrell Lewis (reviewed by Kim Sales).

The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period by Darrell Lewis (reviewed by Natalie Franklin).

The Rocks: Life in Early Sydney by Grace Karskens (reviewed by Jane Lydon).

The Roth Family, Anthropology and Colonial Administration edited by Russell McDougall and Iain Davidson (reviewed by Luke Godwin).

The Science of Human Origins by Claudio Tuniz, Giorgio Manzi and David Caramelli (reviewed by Iain Davidson).

The Shore Whalers of Western Australia: Historical Archaeology of a Maritime Frontier by Martin Gibbs (reviewed by Ian Smith).

The Social Archaeology of Australian Indigenous Societies edited by Bruno David, Bryce Barker and Ian J. McNiven (reviewed by Richard Cosgrove).

The Stone Mirror: A Novel of the Neolithic by Rob Swigart (reviewed by Andy Fairbairn).

The Uses of Style in Archaeology edited by Margaret W. Conkey and Christine A. Hastorf (reviewed by Robert G. Bednarik).

The Willandra Lakes Hominids by S.G. Webb (reviewed by Phillip J. Habgood).

Thinking from Things: Essays in the Philosophy of Archaeology by Alison Wylie (reviewed by Tim Murray).

Time, Energy and Stone Tools by Robin Torrence (reviewed by Dan Witter).

Time to Quarry: The Archaeology of Stone Procurement in Northwestern New South Wales, Australia by Trudy Doelman (reviewed by Justin Shiner).

Tracks, Scats and Other Traces: A Field Guide to Australian Mammals by Barbara Triggs (reviewed by Rob Gargett).

Transitions: Pleistocene to Holocene in Australia and Papua New Guinea edited by Jim Allen and J.F. O’Connell (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

Treasures of the Nicholson Museum, The University of Sydney edited by D.T. Potts and K.N. Sowada (reviewed by Vincent Megaw).

23°S: Archaeology and Environmental History of the Southern Deserts edited by Mike Smith and Paul Hesse (reviewed by Peter Thorley).


Uncommon Ground: Cultural Landscapes and Environmental Values by Veronica Strang (reviewed by Wendy Beck).

Uncovering Australia: Archaeology, Indigenous People and the Public by Sarah Colley (reviewed by Ian McNiven).

Understanding Sea-Level Rise and Variability edited by John A. Church, Philip L. Woodworth, Thorkild Aarup and W. Stanley Wilson (reviewed by Mike Rowland).

Uses of Heritage by Laurajane Smith (reviewed by Jane Lennon).

Virtual Archaeology: Re-Creating Ancient Worlds edited by Maurizio Forte and Alberto Siliotti (reviewed by Roland Fletcher).

Visions from the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art by Mike J. Morwood (reviewed by Meredith Wilson).

Weipa Shell Mounds: Cultural or Natural Deposits? by Geoff Bailey (reviewed by Elizabeth Rich).

Whalers and Free Men: Life on Tasmania’s Colonial Whaling Stations by Susan Lawrence (reviewed by Martin Gibbs).

What is an Animal? edited by Tim Ingold (reviewed by Iain Davidson and William Noble).

What is Archaeology? An Essay on the Nature of Archaeological Research by Paul Courbin (translated by Paul Bahn) (reviewed by Allan Lance).

What’s Changing: Population Size or Land-Use Patterns? The Archaeology of the Upper Mangrove Creek, Sydney Basin by Val Attenbrow (reviewed by Brit Asmussen).

Women in Archaeology: A Feminist Critique edited by Hilary du Cros and Laurajane Smith (reviewed by Alexy Simmons).

Working with Rock Art: Recording, Presenting and Understanding Rock Art Using Indigenous Knowledge edited by Benjamin Smith, Knut Helskog and David Morris (reviewed by Sven Ouzman).

Writing Archaeology: Telling Stories about the Past by Brian Fagan (reviewed by Karen Murphy).


Review of ‘Roonka: Fugitive Traces and Climatic Mischief’ edited by Keryn Walshe


Roonka: Fugitive Traces and Climatic Mischief edited by Keryn Walshe.  South Australian Museum, Adelaide, 2009, 334pp, ISBN 9780646503882. 

Reviewed by Eleanor Crosby

Turnix Pty Ltd, 21 Castle Hill Drive, Gaven Qld 4211, Australia

Roonka Flat is located on the west bank of the Murray River approximately half-way between the point where the Murray River turns south and the well-known sites at Tartanga, Devon Downs and Fromms Landing excavated by Tindale and Mulvaney between 1930 and 1960.

Roonka’s significance to Aboriginal Australian history is centred on its status as a burial ground commencing after post-glacial sea-level rise led to the deposition of new sandy sediments in the Murray trench. This is an immensely long time for one place to have served one major purpose and Roonka well and truly deserves this volume, with its tantalising hints of avenues of enquiry still to be pursued.

Amongst these are some more general ones. For example, although the burial practices are fascinating (the later ones linked neatly to a number of ethnographic records and the earlier ones providing examples of very different mortuary practices) and although this volume emphasises GP’s determination to place the inhumations in both their broad landscape and cultural contexts, neither the geomorphic history of the region, nor an exacting ethnographic and cultural approach has yet been written.

In 1969, Roonka Flat presented a difficult set of excavation choices. Not only was the stratigraphy neither broadly nor in detail understood; not only was the surface litter of eroded skeletons incredibly confusing; not only was the only labour available volunteers; but the work proceeded on alternate weekends for nearly six long years. The accuracy and detail of the outcome is a work of superogation. Between 1969 and 1974 volunteers, giving of their professional and recently-learned excavating skills, worked over 137 days in the field and put in innumerable hours (over $600,000 worth in a 1974 estimate) of ‘spare-time’ plotting plans, printing photographs, analysing finds, and transcribing field records.

The open area approach taken to excavation at Roonka (Trench A was 30m x 15m) was no doubt partly the result of the tangled surface remains and partly a response to working in soft sand where the traditional Wheelerian system of squares separated by baulks was very nearly impossible to keep pristine. Only the exacting survey record by architect Vern Tolcher and the rigidly adhered to 3cm spits kept everything under control. Other volunteers kept the comprehensive photographic record and the finds record. Together with field notes this meant that almost all bits of information were recorded in at least three ways.

GP’s major publication on Roonka was in 1977 (reproduced here as Part 3). The other parts are: an introduction by Keryn Walshe,a fascinating insight into the reactions of a volunteer to the work at Roonka and a summary of the developments at Roonka since 1974, including a discussion of the palaeodemography of Roonka Flat by Rebekah Candy.

This volume fills in a large gap in the history of studies at Roonka, but is by no means the last word about this complex place.

Graeme Pretty (GP) always envisaged the spectacular 11,000 year span of burials at Roonka Flat as but one element in the whole history of the district. And herein lies a rather cruel irony – that GP who had such a wide vision of the cultural landscape of Roonka ended by being stymied by the very magnitude of his vision. He wanted to produce a definitive study of Roonka in its environmental and cultural setting, but ended up, so to speak, so submerged in ‘data smog’ that no adequate synthesis was ever forthcoming. Which is to say that the broad archaeology of Roonka has still to be compiled (though a series of hitherto unpublished papers listed in his bibliography may indeed fill in many lacunae, and should at least be published, perhaps through one of the electronic publishers).

For the future, the authors have identified a need for more radiocarbon dates, but have not suggested a complementary digitising of the voluminous plans. Perhaps some Time Team-like whizz-bang graphics could be applied to give a 3D plot of the site? Amongst other possible patterns such a graphic plot would provide a pattern of levels from which various graves were dug.

I have had my interest in Roonka revitalised by this book. I was fascinated on my visit to Roonka on a weekend in 1970 (and surprised to find my name in the list of volunteers) especially as I had previously been a volunteer at Laila Haglund’s very different but equally exacting Broadbeach burial excavations (Haglund 1976). I might also mention Bernard O’Reilly’s description of vertical burials in the Kanimbla Valley, near the Blue Mountains, NSW which have not hitherto been mentioned, as a contribution to the ongoing work (O’Reilly 1949:288-289).

In status, this book may be compared with Pope’s introductory volume on the British Palaeolithic site of Boxgrove (Pope 1996) – a way of providing a summary to the many people who worked on the site, and a pointer to future determinations. The work at Boxgrove is still ongoing, but without such interim stimulus might have lapsed for want of a wider audience. Roonka is equally as significant and it is to be hoped that Walshe’s volume will do for Roonka what Pope’s did for Boxgrove – stimulate the necessary further research.


Haglund, L. 1976 The Broadbeach Burial Ground – An Archaeological Analysis. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

O’Reilly, B. 1949 Green Mountains and Cullenbenbong. Brisbane: Smith and Paterson.

Pope, M.I. 1996 Boxgrove: A Field Guide to the Excavations. Brighton: Boxgrove Project Publications.

Review of ‘Managing Archaeological Resources: Global Context, National Programs, Local Actions’ edited by Francis P. McManamon, Andrew Stout and Jodi A. Barnes

managing-archaeological-resources book coverManaging Archaeological Resources: Global Context, National Programs, Local Actions  by Francis P. McManamon, Andrew Stout and Jodi A. Barnes (eds). Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA, 2008, 299pp, ISBN 9781598743128.

Reviewed by Thomas F. King

PO Box 14515, Silver Spring, MD 20911 USA

This book comprises a very interesting set of often excellent chapters, in search of an organising theme. In their introduction, the editors propose that the chapters collectively explore aspects of ‘the liberals’ dilemma’ – expressed archaeologically in ‘the contradictions that might arise in the practice of an archaeology that works toward including local ‘voice’ on one hand and adherence to professional standards of archaeological practice on the other’ (p.19). This reviewer, however, could not find this dilemma very explicitly posed, or even, seemingly, regarded as a dilemma, by any of the chapter authors. This was something of a disappointment, because I think the issue is a real one – if not, perhaps, as big an issue as the editors’ emphasis on it suggests. Be this as it may, the volume has much to recommend it.

Chapter 1 by Sharon Sullivan, Nicholas Hall and Shelley Greer, describes a suite of programmes in Australia designed to train members of Aboriginal communities in exercising custodianship toward physical aspects of their cultural heritage; that is, in managing cultural places and controlling impacts on them. Notable among the initiatives described is the Australian Heritage Commission’s Protecting Heritage Places Information and Resource Kit, a tool for use by communities and others aspiring to protect and manage some aspect of their heritage. Built around a (probably deceptively) simple 10-step process, the kit has served to structure training and planning throughout the country. With reference to the ‘liberals’ dilemma’ that troubles the editors, it is interesting to note that Sullivan and her colleagues see one of the values of the programmes they describe as being ‘to demystify professional approaches to heritage conservation’ (p.52) – without, apparently, diluting their professional quality. They acknowledge evolution in their own approaches, informed by the Aboriginal worldview of ‘managing country and special places within it [as] a two-way interaction between people and country’ (pp.52-53), but they seem to find this a positive experience, not one posing an existential dilemma.

Chapter 2 by Babatunde Aghaje-Williams, presents a thoughtful Nigerian perspective on ‘cultural resource management’, emphasising the need to define the field more broadly and ‘culturally’ than simply as an aspect of archaeology. The narrowly archaeological American model to which Aghaje-Williams objects has become a rather obsolete one since publication of the sources on which he relies, but that doesn’t lessen the force of his argument; ‘cultural resource management’ really ought to have something to do with culture, not just its dead leavings.

Chapter 3 by Penny English, focuses on the European Union (EU), Article 151 of the European Community Treaty, and the difficulties inherent in trying to forge a European identity while respecting both national and subnational (regional, local, ethnic) identities, particularly where matters of cultural heritage (however defined) are involved. She notes that the effort has had the unintended but hardly unwelcome consequence of allowing ‘the emergence of reinvigorated regional identities’ (p.83).

Chapter 4 takes us back to Africa, with McEdward Murimbika and Bhekinkosi Moyo revealing the crisis of heritage management that accompanies Zimbabwe’s political, economic and social turmoil. They hold out the hope that archaeology throughout sub-Saharan Africa – and one assumes, the broader sort of heritage management called for by Aghaje-Williams – can actually mobilise support for and play a positive role in national development, but only if ways are found to make it meaningful to, and involve, local communities.

Chapter 5 skips across the seas to bicultural New Zealand, where Ian Barber discusses the evolution and interpretation of the Historic Places Act 1993. The statute he says, ‘privilege(s) a disciplinary emphasis on the values of archaeological discovery and recovery, while encouraging the … concept that a site is not lost if it can be preserved in records’ (p.123) – a problem of archaeo-privilege that affected communities the world over rail against.

Chapter 6 by David M. Browne, is about the efforts of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales to relate to the ancient landscapes of Wales on the one hand and to the needs and concerns of its contemporary people on the other. I was intrigued by his reference to the ‘painful changes in mind sets’ (p.137) that these efforts have entailed. There must be more of a story here than could be revealed in Browne’s short chapter, which does not seem to express much pain.

Chapter 7 is an interesting description of archaeology conducted in the context of a regional programme with national support. Andy J. Howard, Mark H. Whyman, Keith Challis and Kay McManus discuss how the Vale of York Visibility Study has tapped into the United Kingdom’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund to finance a comprehensive regional study and channel its results to stakeholders. One wonders, though, if all the stakeholders are as satisfied as the authors seem to be with the programme’s emphasis on archaeological research as opposed to other imaginable resource management priorities.

Chapter 8 by Marko L. Stokin, Matjaž Novšak and Ana Plestenjak, is to this reader a refreshingly straightforward look at archaeology in environmental impact assessment and planning. Using Slovenia as a case study of a nation in political and economic transition, they write about the problems of finding and addressing ancient sites in development project planning, the integration of archaeology into more general planning schemes, and an innovative system for the virtual capture and presentation of data. Chapter 9 by Julian D. Richards takes us back to the United Kingdom and outlines the important work of the Archaeology Data Service. This service, operated by a consortium of universities and government bodies, seeks to rescue, organise, and preserve the vast archives of paper and digital data – something that most of us (archaeologists and governments alike) tend to ignore to posterity’s loss.

Chapter 10 by Christopher Judge recounts the impressive record of the South Carolina (USA) Heritage Trust in the acquisition and management of archaeological sites that otherwise might be lost to development and other forces of destruction. Toward the end of the chapter, though, he reveals that priorities have shifted within the state’s department of natural resources toward the acquisition of large contiguous areas such as river corridors and working forests, which he feels will work to the detriment of archaeological site protection.

Chapter 11 by Lynn M. Alex, concerns the work of the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist (USA). Iowa is a good-sized Midwestern state whose land is largely privately owned. Alex emphasises the importance of reaching out to people in all walks of life, through the educational system and otherwise, to encourage responsible attitudes toward archaeology.

Chapter 12 by Cara Lee Blume of Delaware (USA), is the only chapter I found that actually touched on the ‘liberals’ dilemma’, without explicitly acknowledging it as such. The chapter recounts the education that Blume and her colleagues in the state’s Division of Parks and Recreation have received over the years in relating, as archaeologists and land managers, to the interests of Native Americans. Confronted as she wrote the chapter with the proposition that collections not being used for research or interpretation should be returned to the ground, Blume acknowledges her discomfort with the idea, but realistically calls for continued discussions.

Chapter 13 is, as it were, something of an odd duck among the other chapters, dealing as it does not with a particular nation or region or with the relationships of different stakeholders to the archaeological record, but with a general kind of site in a particular kind of environment. Heather Gill-Robinson is concerned about wetlands and the data – both archaeological and palaeoenvironmental – they contain. She discusses the special preservation qualities of wetland sites, the natural and anthropogenic forces that threaten them, and a variety of management strategies.

Chapter 14 by Mary S. Carroll, returns to the subject of Chapter 9 – the capture, organisation and preservation of data. Where Julian Richards focused in detail on the work of a single programme – the United Kingdom’s Archaeology Data Service – Carroll paints with a somewhat broader brush, discussing programmes in both the United Kingdom and the United States and outlining a range of technical, institutional, and practical issues in addressing the problem.

Chapter 15 by Sergio J. Chávez, is a superb paper that should be read by anyone contemplating an archaeological project involving – or just carried out in – a community. It describes the long-term project that Chávez and his colleagues have overseen at Ch’isi and elsewhere in the neighborhood of Copacabana, Bolivia. In clear, unpretentious language it outlines the way their relations with the local community have evolved. Starting from a condition in which the community provided laborers who just did what they were told, Chávez recounts a transition to one in which the community has taken ownership of and responsibility for the Ch’isi temple site, begun developing plans for other heritage management projects, and along the way enhanced its residents’ educational situation, restructured attitudes toward women and their work, and developed critical infrastructure. Chávez and his colleagues have obviously invested a tremendous amount of their own resources, and themselves, in the project and its people, and he does not shrink from (but also does not belabor) the difficulties and obstacles they have faced, but they seem to have developed a model programme that should be carefully examined by archaeologists and government heritage authorities alike, not just in Bolivia but worldwide.

Chapter 16 by Maria Isabel Correa Kanan and Rossano Lopes Bastos, concludes the volume with a discussion of collaborative archaeological management in Brazil. The rock art of Campeche Island and the massive coastal shell midden sites of Santa Catarina State are used as case studies. The authors begin with an outline of archaeological heritage management’s evolution in Brazil, emphasising the developing role of the Instituto do Patrimonio Historico e Artistico Nacional (IPHAN). Like other such national government bodies in Latin America and elsewhere, IPHAN seems to be going through a perhaps painful transition from merely registering elements of patrimony and expecting them to be left alone except when subjected to research or modification by government, toward more active and creative forms of preservation planning and management. Predictably and creditably, IPHAN’s efforts involve increasing engagement with local communities, with public education, and with the overall national and state legal-political systems. In the case of the Campeche Island petroglyph sites, a management plan has been developed that stresses partnerships, education, and regular interaction with interested parties. Evolving management planning for the shell middens reasonably appears to emphasise state/national coordination and addressing midden management in the context of the overall environment.

To see with new eyes: A phenomenological investigation of a contact landscape at the Weipa ‘Twenty Mile’ mission, northwestern Cape York Peninsula, Queensland

Claire Ratican

B. Archaeology (Hons), Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, October 2009

The thesis presents the results of a phenomenological analysis of a contact landscape at the Weipa Mission in Weipa, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. Many archaeological studies of contact have framed relations and experiences in terms of domination and passivity. In response, later studies have focused on the innovation, agency, resistance and accommodation of Indigenous people through ethnographic, landscape and material culture studies. This shift towards an archaeology of engagement brings to light the active participation of both cultures in social interaction.

Phenomenology serves as an alternative framework which deconstructs the inequality implicit in conceptions of contact relations by attempting to understand these experiences through the body’s mediation of the contact landscape. The potential of phenomenology to contribute to contact archaeology was tested at Weipa Mission. To do this, archaeological survey was carried out to map the spatial arrangement of the site and mission diaries were analysed for records of people and events occurring within the landscape. These records were plotted into the map generated by the survey using GIS, which modelled the relationship between spatiality, sensuality, social practices and the landscape. These maps also acted as a reference point from which phenomenological recreations of past Indigenous experiences of space were made, complemented by the mission diaries and historical photographs. This enabled a phenomenological exploration of how the landscape was sensuously perceived by the Indigenous inhabitants of the Mission.

Analysis showed that many experiences of Mission places were common to all inhabitants as dictated by the ideological and social role they played in the life of Weipa Mission. However, the phenomenological reconstructions of sensory experience, based on the events narrated in the mission diaries, suggest a wide scope of diverse and individualistic experiences which were deeply personal. This study shows that post-contact relations at the Weipa Mission were much more interactive and dynamic than can be revealed using a domination and resistance model, and that phenomenology has great potential for exploring past human behaviours in historical archaeological contexts.

Mining the landscape: Finding the social in the industrial through an archaeology of the landscapes of Mount Shamrock

Geraldine Mate

PhD, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, September 2010

In this thesis I offer a fresh approach to the historical archaeology of industry, using landscape as a framework for the investigation of a mining settlement. This approach marries the study of the social with the industrial reality of mining towns, acknowledging the role of landscape in framing people’s understanding of their everyday world. In particular, I examine how people made – created, constructed and understood – their landscape in the gold mining town of Mount Shamrock, in Queensland, Australia, settled in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Landscape as a theoretical perspective provides a means of articulating how people understood the place in which they lived and worked. Although landscape studies have been undertaken in historical archaeology, they have generally not extended to a holistic view that includes the construction and embedding of meaning in landscape. Instead, landscape studies in historical archaeology have tended to limit analyses to the structuring of a landscape, not taking into account the dialectic of creating meaning in and taking meaning from the landscape. Further, in historical archaeology as a whole and in Australia in particular, there is frequently a false dichotomy in the way industrial towns are approached with the separation of industry and settlement.

This study examines social influences in the establishment and layout of Mount Shamrock, identifying significant elements in the construction of the physical and social landscape of the residents. I also consider how people created landscapes of meaning and attachment as they settled in the area and how this meaning was embedded in the landscape through movement, narrative and experiences. The influence of technologies on the social landscape the residents constructed and lived in is analysed and conversely social influences on the way mining and processing were carried out.

Archaeological survey, historical documentation, maps, photographs and experiential reading were used to examine the remnants of Mount Shamrock. From the analysis of results, I argue that there was a constructed landscape at Mount Shamrock with a degree of structuring, evidenced by spatial arrangement and location of particular features in the landscape. People’s social relationships were embedded in landscape, for example with kinship networks represented in the proximity of properties. However, there was also evidence of social mobility within the social landscape of the settlement, the context of Mount Shamrock as a goldmining town, situated in nineteenth century Queensland facilitating that mobility.

Residents initially perceived their landscape as wilderness – quickly transforming the landscape into something they could know and understand. They also regarded the landscape as a resource – they conceptualised it as such, they promoted it that way and they structured it that way – as a mining landscape that was experienced in everyday activity and even through sensory perceptions. The influence of technology on the social hierarchy of Mount Shamrock was clear; technology was integral to how the residents operated and how they perceived the social landscape. Further, analysis also demonstrated the role social influences played in the adoption of particular types of technology.

The analysis of the landscapes of Mount Shamrock shows both the applicability of a landscape framework to historical archaeology and the versatility and depth of interpretation that can be gained by considering landscapes as a whole. Further, it is evident that industry and settlement are integrally linked, and all part of a meaningful and engaged landscape. At Mount Shamrock, gold mining was all pervasive in people’s perceptions of the landscape, part of the lived experience and it is clear that the ‘social’ of everyday life was indeed to be found in the ‘industrial’.

Review of ‘Arrernte Present, Arrernte Past: Invasion, Violence and Imagination in Indigenous Central Australia’ by Diane Austin-Broos

arrernte-present-arrernte-past book coverArrernte Present, Arrernte Past: Invasion, Violence and Imagination in Indigenous Central Australia by Diane Austin-Broos. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2009, xv+326pp, ISBN 9780226032641.

Reviewed by John White

School of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia

Two and a half years after the Howard government declared a ‘national emergency’ in Northern Territory Indigenous affairs, policy-makers are still coming to terms with the dilemma of valuing Indigenous autonomy and difference, while seeking to ‘close-the-gap’ between living standards in Indigenous communities and those enjoyed by the broader Australian population. Not surprisingly, Arrernte Present, Arrernte Past: Invasion, Violence, and Imagination in Indigenous Central Australia, is a topical commentary on this period of uncertainty and perplexity. It is also an important work of ethnohistory that contextualises present conditions in Indigenous Central Australian communities in a broader history of socio-cultural change. Austin-Broos is not content to paint a broad-brush picture of invasion, dispossession and the structural processes associated with institutionalisation, the outstation movement, welfarism and the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER). Rather, the author develops the notion of ‘ontological shift’ to provide an analysis of the way in which the world and being of the Western Arrernte has changed since the arrival of explorers and pastoralists in the 1860s. In doing so, the book doesn’t merely describe a change of circumstances; it develops Heidegger’s notion that material life is defined by particular acts that are taken for granted in terms of their value and take shape as relational orders of value. Austin-Broos argues that ‘when such orders are disrupted, in this case by invasion and subsequent forms of change, things and strategies start to lose sense. At the same time, other phenomena become apparent or “present,” waiting to be invested with value as social practice changes course’ (p.5). Employing a theoretical approach termed a ‘phenomenology of the subject’ and drawing on extensive archival and ethnographic research, Austin-Broos marks two significant periods of change as moments of ‘ontological shift’. The first of these periods was the initial invasion by white pastoralists. Alienated from their land, the Western Arrernte ‘fell back to the Hermannsburg Mission’ (p.3) and developed a sedentary way of life with new social and economic orders. The second period of change was associated with land rights, welfarism and the outstation movement in which the Western Arrernte came to be included in the cash economy, while remaining peripheral and marginalised in Australian society.

The book is divided into three main parts (each consisting of three chapters) in which the author deals with the material thematically rather than chronologically. Part One draws mainly on fieldwork the author conducted in the 1990s in which Western Arrernte memories of the Hermannsburg Mission are coupled with archival and early ethnographic material to describe the initial decades of settler and missionary contact. Part Two then shifts to focus on contemporary everyday life for Western Arrernte people living in outstation communities. Austin-Broos draws on Farmer’s notion of ‘structural violence’ to describe how the violence of the everyday in insecure and changing marginalised communities is part of broader ‘intended’ and ‘unintended’ effects of Indigenous policy-making. She argues that contemporary Western Arrernte social suffering must be understood and placed into the historical context of ‘invasion, mission rule, and poorly conceived policies for a transition to modernity’ as processes of structural violence (p.10). Part Three examines the second moment of change in which the missionaries withdrew from Hermannsburg to be replaced by a ‘state sponsored return to tradition’ that was also the Western Arrernte’s ‘medium of modernity’ (p.177). Austin-Broos provides an interesting analysis of factionalism arising from the outstation movement in which the shift from life on the mission to self-determination produced new forms of intra-community loyalties along factional lines that were further entrenched by white politics. Through the course of this discussion, Austin-Broos suggests that an unreasonable burden of expectation was placed on outstations by the state.

Austin-Broos draws on Taylor’s concept of ‘modern social imaginaries’ to describe the difference between the Western Arrernte’s hopes for outstation life and the changing policies of the bureaucratic state. Through the course of the book, Austin-Broos describes three Western Arrernte social imaginaries that have developed through processes of ‘ontological shift’. The first was ‘an imaginary of tracks and a sociality focused on place and relatedness creating tracks … in which ancestral travel, geography, and daily practice were analogues’ prior to white settlement in the region (p.265). The second was associated with the arrival of the Lutheran missionaries in which pepe (a localised experience and metaphor for Christianity) became a central and ‘elaborate imaginary’ in a centralised, authoritarian regime. The final social imaginary that Austin-Broos suggests is the unsettled one in the present-day context, involving ‘Arrernte modernity on country’ (p.265). In doing so, Austin-Broos sets up a contradiction between the social imaginary of the ‘market individual’ and that of the Western Arrernte. For the Western Arrernte, Austin-Broos proposes, the subject is defined by social relations in which ‘autonomy is to be a player in the dynamics of aggregation and dispersal across a region’ marked by located relatives, tracks and beats (p.209). This is contrasted with the ‘market individual’ for whom autonomy is to be self-sustaining in the cash economy. The crucial question that comes out of this discussion is: Can there be a Western Arrernte experience of modernity when these imaginaries collide? Austin-Broos notes that there has been a substantial Arrernte engagement with ‘work’ either through waged labour or through Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) programmes, however she suggests that many people ‘maintained social imaginaries that grafted work onto networks of relatedness stretched across a region’ (p.236). Austin-Broos argues that it is precisely these emplaced sets of social relations and identities that the state seeks to separate out from the economy for remote communities to be viable in a market-driven modernity. In doing so, the book urges for a dramatic change in direction by policy-makers but makes few substantive suggestions for the way forward. The final chapter on the NTER is probably the most topical, although many of the issues have been explored more thoroughly elsewhere. The real strength of the closing chapter is, however, Austin-Broos’ strong argument that the discourse surrounding the emergency ‘involved the way in which it stripped away both the cultural and structural specificity of a people, leaving only moral pathology and state control as the response’ (p.257). The overall success of this monumental work lies in its depth of scholarship and sensitive analysis of the complexities of social change for the Western Arrernte. This is a book that digs far below the surface of populist discourses and challenges many preconceptions that a reader may hold about everyday life in remote communities. I highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in anthropology, Aboriginal history and contemporary issues facing Aboriginal communities in Australia.

Cave archaeology and sampling issues in the tropics: A case study from Lene Hara cave, a 42,000 year old occupation site in East Timor, Island Southeast Asia


The entrance to Lene Hara Cave in Timor-Leste (published in Australian Archaeology 71:31).

Sue O’Connor, Anthony Barham, Matthew Spriggs, Peter Veth, Ken Aplin and Emma St Pierre

New evidence from Lene Hara Cave, East Timor, demonstrates that it was first occupied by modern humans by 42,454±450 cal BP at approximately the same time as nearby Jerimalai shelter. Together these sites constitute the earliest evidence for modern human colonisation of Island Southeast Asia east of the Sunda Shelf. Here we report on the dating and stratigraphy from the 2000 and 2002 test excavations at Lene Hara, as well as new dates obtained by sampling breccia deposits in 2009. The post-2000 excavations and sampling demonstrate that different areas of the cave preserve different sedimentary sequences and necessitate a revision of our earlier interpretations of the occupation history of the cave. At Lene Hara, and other caves with complex depositional histories in tropical regions, the occupation sequence will only be revealed through integrating information from extensive areal sampling.

When calibrated, the early dates from East Timor now align closer to the oldest evidence for occupation in northern Australia, with substantial implications for current theories on the colonisation of this region by modern humans. The Nusa Tenggara (Lesser Sunda) island chain emerges as a likely passage for modern human entry into Greater Australia. In view of the short water crossings required to reach Flores from Timor, the apparent absence of modern humans on Flores prior to the Holocene appears highly anomalous.

A minimum age for early depictions of Southeast Asian praus in the rock art of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Tacon_etal AA71 Figure2Paul S.C. Tacon, Sally K. May, Stewart J. Fallon, Meg Travers, Daryl Guse and Ronald Lamilami

In 2008, we began two related research projects that focus on recent Australian rock art, made after the arrival of Asians and Europeans, in part of northwest Arnhem Land’s Wellington Range. This area has extensive and diverse rock art, including many examples of paintings that reflect contact between local Aboriginal people and visitors to their shores. At some sites figures made of beeswax are found superimposed under and over paintings, thus providing a means of obtaining minimum and maximum ages for pigment art. We reporton the results of an initial radiocarbon beeswax dating programme at the Djulirri site complex. Results include the earliest age for a depiction of a Southeast Asian watercraft in Australian rock art, which is also Australia’s earliest contact period rock art depiction discovered so far. Based on the probability distribution of the calibrated ages, it is 99.7% probable this image dates to before AD 1664 and likely is much older. The significance of this result is discussed in relation to early contact history, as revealed by historic documents and archaeological excavation. Other important results suggest a close encounter between local Aboriginal people and Europeans occurred in the 1700s, before British exploration and settlement in the Arnhem Land region.

Review of ‘The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus’ by Peter Sutton

Peter Sutton

Politics of Suffering book coverThe Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus by Peter Sutton. Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2009, xii+268 pp., ISBN 9780522856361.

Reviewed by Luke Godwin

Central Queensland Cultural Heritage Management, 16 Moren Street, Rockhampton Qld 4700, Australia

For various reasons I found writing this review to be a real challenge. Firstly, the book is not about archaeology much at all, although it draws on some (very limited) archaeological data in discussing one issue. But mostly, the challenge derived from the issues covered and what has proved to be a controversial line of argument. That the book was published at much the same time as the Northern Territory intervention was gaining a head of steam only served to heighten that controversy.

Before going into the issues, it is important to contextualise these by reviewing the author’s credentials. Peter Sutton is one of the most highly-regarded anthropologists in Australia – well, perhaps less so after he published this book. He started his research as a linguist undertaking salvage work in northern and central Queensland in the late 1960s (interestingly, this becomes a point of contention with others who have reviewed his book). Then, he was one of the bunch of anthropologists drawn together in the early 1970s at The University of Queensland, who undertook research in Cape York. It was the quality of this pool of work that underwrote successful Native Title claims in the mid-1990s, and Sutton was at the forefront of this. Seen by the Queensland Government as dangerous radicals who were stirring up Aborigines with incendiary ideas about land rights, Sutton and his colleagues attracted the attention of the infamous Special Branch. During the 1970s and 1980s, Sutton was a major player as a researcher and expert witness in a large number of successful land rights claims in the Northern Territory. In doing so, he often worked as a consultant rather than being based in the academy, although he regularly has been granted professorial status with research grants (again, earning a living as a consultant has also provided ammunition to various critics). He has published constantly, taking the fight on occasion to those who he considered were proffering flawed and misinformed views about native land tenure that were detrimental to Aboriginal interests. The National Native Title Tribunal has commissioned him to provide a range of materials to assist others in managing Native Title. All this is not simply to sing Sutton’s praises, rather it is to demonstrate that we are not dealing with someone who has surfaced from some neo-conservative think tank dedicated to correcting liberal leftist wrongs as part of the recent ‘history wars’. Here we have someone who has devoted a large chunk of his life to a cause which has not always been fashionable or sexy, and who has had an exemplary career in that area.

It is precisely this impressive commitment and capacity over a long career that makes the messages contained in this book so challenging to so many but demand that we consider them with circumspection, mulling over the argument with care. They cannot be dismissed as the writings of someone determined to blunt the charge of the land rights liberals, waiting until the time seems ripe to launch a salvo. In fact, this book had its genesis long before either the demise of ATSIC or the intervention. It came about from a lecture delivered in 2000, and a lecture, by the by, that enjoyed the support of others not noted for their antipathy to social justice agendas.

The main tenant of Sutton’s argument is that the emphasis on land rights and other social justice projects as the remedy for a range of problems that beset Aboriginal communities has been at the expense of things that the broader community expects and takes for granted: the right to live your life free of fear, with safety and security guaranteed for all, as well as access to a reasonable standard of healthcare and physical well-being. Sutton has followed an emotionally painful course to arrive at this conclusion. He has watched as communities of which he has been an intimate member have spiralled into increasing levels of physical and sexual violence, ill-health and conditions of abject poverty, paradoxically at the same time they have been granted increasing levels of autonomy and land ownership. Sutton presents some compelling evidence in this regard. He has, for instance, by virtue of his great experience and knowledge brought a forensic eye to the question, assembling a range of historical data to demonstrate, for instance, that the rate of homicide in various communities has increased alarmingly from both times of missions and before that as well, and that the causes of this are far more complex than previously thought. Why, he asks, have land rights as part of a broader social justice project, to which he has so demonstrably committed himself for 40 years, not delivered the expected outcomes?

The answer for Sutton lies in various areas. These include the misguided expectations of the liberals who championed land rights and other related issues. Thus, bureaucracies that, in their desire to promote respect for Indigenous culture, seek to accommodate traditional health practices at the same time and in addition to Western medicine, based as it is on the scientifically provable germ model, are countenancing a process that is probably entirely counter-productive to a modern health care system. Sutton also marshals data that suggest it simply may be an unreasonable expectation to seek First World health outcomes in remote communities and outstations where conditions that would allow such an outcome simply do not exist and are unlikely ever to do so.

But in what is the most controversial, and perhaps unexpected, line of argument, and one Sutton recognised would cause considerable ire, he suggests that the cause of many problems lies within Aboriginal culture itself, or the interplay of that traditional culture with new conditions. While clearly effective in first colonising and then occupying every part of Australia, there are elements of a generally highly mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle that simply cannot be accommodated in the sedentary residential patterns that dominate pretty much everywhere. For instance, methods of non-judicial dispute resolution in which physical self-redress was normal but often regulated by fission of a group simply do not work in a sedentary residential community. Practices such as ‘cruelling’ may have been important in the past but now may only exacerbate the problem. These are but a few examples: there are many more throughout the book.

The obvious consequence of this line of thinking is that, if Sutton is correct, then it is Aboriginal communities themselves that are going to have to determine just what it is they really want, understanding that some compromise is clearly required: security and healthy life may well demand the abandonment of some traditional cultural practices. For Sutton, it will be impossible to achieve parity with the mainstream community in key areas such as health and personal safety while holding fast to traditional practices as well as to recently granted rights, such as unfettered access to alcohol, which can radically promote problems. This is simply irreconcilable with the desired outcomes. This is a hugely controversial position and Sutton has been attacked for daring to put the argument.

For me, two particular questions emerge: is Sutton blaming the victim and, in arguing that some elements of Aboriginal law and custom are unsustainable in contemporary settings and will need to be set aside if other outcomes are to be achieved, is this as the basis for another attack on Native Title, among other things?

When the book was published, the Australian Anthropological Society (AAS) listserver was alive with commentary. The book generated sufficient clamour for an entire session of the 2009 AAS annual conference to be devoted to exploring the issues he raised, as well as Sutton’s own attitudes and motivations. Has a book in Australian archaeology generated this sort of heat, or warranted this sort of attention? Possibly the early debates around intensification approached it in the polarisation of the participants, if not the ultimate seriousness of the topic? Some of the commentary has assumed quite a virulently personal form. There are plenty who consider that Sutton is blaming the victim. Worse, they see him as an active element of some nefarious ‘Government project’, intimately linked to the forces arrayed against Aboriginal people, seeking to disempower them and to wind back the clock on progress made over the last 40 years. On occasion, Sutton was virtually accused of having sold out to the paying customer, with his status as a consultant standing as some sort of proof that he, and presumably his opinions, was for sale like some anthropological Alan Jones. Similarly, his early career as a linguist was cited as if in some way indicating that he was not a real anthropologist, and so presumably his insights and arguments were tainted or flawed. In contrast, those with whom Sutton takes issue in his book are treated fairly if tellingly subjected to a rigorous critique of their logic. Of course, it is perhaps the case that I, as a consultant, and thus up for sale, have been captured by the very same project, and either naively cannot see this or simply refuse to remove my project-purchased blinkers.

I am not sure that Sutton’s arguments can be reduced simply to ‘blaming the victim’. He certainly argues that whatever has passed for policy and practice is significantly to blame for the morass in which communities find themselves. But in making the argument regarding fundamentally flawed and failing policy, he is surely also making the point that policy-makers need to confront and modify their own thinking, not attribute failure elsewhere. Does this mean he supports each and every element of the intervention? I do not know, although Sutton makes few bones that finding a way to provide a reasonable level of safety for the weakest in a society requires a major, perhaps radical, move away from the situation as it is. The support he enjoys in this from people such as Marcia Langton is not to be lightly dismissed. If he suggests that the Aboriginal community itself needs to take up the challenge and find new ways of managing and confronting various challenges, then he is not alone. Noel Pearson, among others, has been prominent in exploring this point with some elegance and in detail for years. There is nothing in Sutton’s book that leads me to a view that he considers people should be left to their own devices with the Government withdrawing resources, or alternatively that the Government, in providing resources, is obliged to deprive Aboriginal communities of some or any role in delivery of a revised programme of policy and services.

Sutton certainly does, of course, consider that there is a need to strike a very different balance between priorities of the social justice agenda and the delivery of basic community services, and that there may be a strong, possibly unpleasant, palliative to be taken in all this which may have to be administered by the State. That others have suggested that the State was the cause of the problem in the first place and therefore questioned how can they be trusted to fix up the mess, or that they have some other agenda in all this simply begs another question: if not the State, then are they seriously suggesting that non-government organisations, mining companies, a paternalist squattocracy and religious organisations will be able to step up to the plate and provide the resources to solve the problems? Or is there some other, so far undescribed, model in the offing? Perhaps the communities alone and in isolation!

As to the legal consequences of any of the shifts in cultural practice that Sutton sees as important in creating the more secure and healthy society that any reasonable person would want for anyone, only time will tell. Will the cultural changes eventuate in the first place? And what interpretation will a court place on any apparent willingness to jettison certain practices that may no longer adequately service the needs of a community confronting new modes of lifestyle. The capacity for courts to understand the evolution of any society in the context of Native Title is one that needs to be tested. There is enough to suggest that a rock¬like intransigence, impervious to subtle and nuanced arguments addressing issues of this sort, should not be presumed (Sutton also explores the issue of a dual legal system of traditional law and Western jurisprudence operating in tandem or parallel).

While there was a shrill and discordant response from some, Sutton has found his supporters as well, and these include people who could hardly be lumped into some stereotypical neo-conservative backlash. If some neo-cons hasten to bend Sutton’s arguments to their own purposes, is he to blame for this? It was the failure either to see, or in seeing a determination to set to one side or ignore what were unfortunate distractions from the main agenda (and which would in any case be remedied by completion of the land rights project) that contributed to things getting to where they are. Should we just keep quiet for the sake of some greater game? Or is someone saying there is nothing to fix and just keep on rollin’? Or is there opposition to change because of a deep attachment to ‘the other’ and an aversion to its’ possible dilution – an attachment to ‘the sanctity of cultural difference’ (p.15) as Sutton puts it? That would be a truly unhappy situation: Aboriginal people perhaps being held back to satisfy the academic interests or psychological urges of others.

All this is not to say that there are not some very thoughtful critiques of Sutton. These explore and challenge some important elements of his argument. Among the best that I have found are those by Trigger (2009) and Dombrowski (2010). Each has considered Sutton in some depth, and is able to recognise the strength and truth in some of his observations and arguments. At the same time they clearly identify some significant weaknesses in his arguments. They observe that some of his arguments lead to cul de sacs, or fail to move to the deeper level of analysis that some of his commentary demands if we are to truly understand and find answers to some of the drivers and motivations that require redress. For those who want to get a useful corrective to some of Sutton’s arguments, these two, and there probably are others, are recommended. For any amount of exposure to what we might call less rounded commentary, go to anything by Lattas in postings to the AAS listserver.

For the immediate appeal to an archaeologist, what is available? Well, Sutton cites data collected by Stephen Webb on skeletal pathologies to demonstrate that the archaeological evidence of skull fractures puts the incidence of this injury in pre-European Aboriginal Australia at the very highest end of a worldwide survey of its incidence. He follows this with historical evidence and then into the modern, and the recent availability of alcohol in many communities, and the vast disparity in hospitalisation rates of Aboriginal women with those of the broader population, and a huge increase in rates of homicide in various communities to make a compelling case that whatever the past, there is something very wrong with this picture right now, and that it could well derive from a dangerous mix of traditional attitudes to violence married with uncontrolled access to large amounts of booze. That alcohol management plans, some government-imposed but others brokered within a particular community, have started to turn around the truly awful statistics associated with this demonstrates that in this instance, at least, Sutton’s analysis and suggested solutions may not be too wide of the mark.

Sutton also provides some interesting data relating to marriage patterns in the context of discussing customary law. He notes that, in Australia, a rate of mixed marriages (one Aboriginal and one non-Aboriginal partner) of 46% in 1986 had risen to 71.5% in 2006. In major urban centres such as Sydney the figures for both genders are in excess of 80%. Sutton argues that the behavioural shift that this indicates is ‘why the construction of Aboriginal identity is decreasingly founded on cultural differences or differences of appearance, and increasingly founded on assertions of an ethnicity based on past ancestry, family history and present recognition’ (p.158). He goes on to state that there is ‘an inevitable homogenising effect on how people look and live … [but] this is not resulting in a diminution of Indigenous identification … 87% of the children of interracial unions were identified as Aboriginal’ (p.159). Only in remote Australia are the figures significantly different and greatly lower. Sutton proffers the view that customary law and practice is, in such circumstances, likely to already be ‘on the way out’ (p.159) if not gone already: this ‘one major structural and cultural factor, at least, works firmly against maintenance or revival of customary law’ (pp.159). This observation, of course, brings into some focus an obvious (but by no means absolute) dichotomy in cultural heritage management: the extreme emphasis on archaeology in urban and regional areas for both (generally) white professionals and Aboriginal people, and the far greater emphasis on anthropological/ethnographic inquiries in remote Australia. It also does provide some context for, and a way of reconciling, for instance, curious and paradoxical experiences many managers may have had. By way of example, in one recent experience on a project in a closely settled region I was told, I believe in all seriousness, that it was culturally appropriate to undertake an archaeological excavation, of course using standard approaches rooted in a Western scientific discipline, while in the next breath being advised that videoing the exercise would, however, be inappropriate. The questions Sutton’s observation raises in relation to significance assessment, for instance, might attract attention from managers and legislators.

Turning elsewhere, I also really enjoyed the lovely descriptions that Sutton provides of the relationships between various anthropologists and their primary Aboriginal informants. It is a real insight into anthropological method and fieldwork that a dry textbook rendition could not hope to convey. That Sutton then uses this as a springboard to consider the much larger issue of national reconciliation is an interesting example of his working from the particular to the general in some cases.

The book is beautifully written which, of course, can be a great way to mask some of the limits of thesis and thinking. But this is an important book that deserves to be read and reread and pondered and critiqued by any thinking Australian concerned with what is happening in Aboriginal communities. If it seems I have not formed an opinion around all this it is because I have not. But I suspect that the end of consensus, with the possibility that different, possibly competing, models could be trialled and assessed and refined, with a little less confident certainty of the efficacy of any one approach from the start, and a little less one size suits all, could be no bad thing. Whether the policy wonks could cope with such an approach remains to be seen.


Dombrowski, K. 2010 The white hand of capitalism and the end of indigenism as we know it: Review of ‘The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus’ by Peter Sutton. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 21:129-140.

Trigger, D. 2009 Sustaining fictions: Challenging the politics of embarrassment: Review of ‘The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus’ by Peter Sutton. Australian Book Review 316:42-43.

Style, space and social interaction: An analysis of the rock art on Middle Park Station, northwest Queensland

Victoria Wade TA AA71Victoria Wade

B. Archaeology (Hons), Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, October 2009

This thesis investigates the previously undescribed rock art of Middle Park Station in northwest Queensland. Queensland rock art has been intensively studied over the past four decades, leading to the identification of several distinct art ‘provinces’: central Queensland, Mt Isa, the northern Queensland highlands and Cape York Peninsula. The Middle Park study area is centrally located between these art provinces, and is also situated in an area of ethnographically documented trade routes, making it an ideal setting in which to explore themes such as territoriality, social interaction and ideas exchange. This is achieved through characterisation of the Middle Park rock art assemblage, including analysis of motifs, techniques and their frequencies, and subsequent comparison with those of surrounding regions.

Using geographic information systems to assess site locations, and motif and technique frequencies, a spatial-stylistic approach was adopted at both local and regional levels to identify patterning within the landscape. Application of the principles of the information exchange theory of style then allowed conclusions to be drawn from this data regarding territorial behaviour and inter-group interaction. It was argued that, despite superficial stylistic similarities, the northern Queensland highlands, of which Middle Park is a part, cannot be considered merely an extension of the Central Queensland Province, owing to distinctly different motif ranges and technique frequencies. Further, owing to distinct stylistic and technical disparities within their rock art assemblages, it was deemed highly unlikely that there was contact with groups from the adjacent Cape York or Mt Isa regions.

Analysis of material culture and hand variations present within the Middle Park rock art assemblage was also undertaken to complement ethnographic information and extend our knowledge of traditional lifeways. A range of boomerangs, shields, spear throwers and digging sticks were identified, and through ethnographic analogy it was concluded that the majority of artefacts depicted were associated with hunting or fighting. Hand stencil variations were also present, though examination indicates that suggestions by others that they represent sign language among groups in the Middle Park area as recorded ethnographically cannot be supported. Closer consideration of such motifs using digital image enhancement indicated that people bearing cultural hand mutilations were present in the study area.

Historicising the present: Late Holocene emergence of a rainforest hunting camp, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea

McNiven_etal AA71 Figure3

The remains of recent camping at Epe Amoho (published in Australian Archaeology 71:44).

Ian J. McNiven, Bruno David, Ken Aplin, Max Pivoru, William Pivoru, Alex Sexton, Jonathon Brown, Chris Clarkson, Kate Connell, John Stanisic, Marshall Weisler, Simon Haberle, Andrew Fairbairn and Noel Kemp

Historicising the emergence of ethnographic activities provides insights into the reliability of ethnographic analogies to aid archaeological understandings of past human societies, as well as allowing us to explore the historical emergence of ethnographically contextualised cultural traits. Epe Amoho is the largest hunting camp rockshelter used by the Himaiyu clan (Rumu people) of the Kikori River region, southern Papua New Guinea. Contemporary ethnographic information indicates dry season site use with subsistence practices directed towards riverine fishing and shellfishing, mammal hunting and gardening in the surrounding rainforest. But how long has the site been used and when in the past did activities start to resemble those known ethnographically? Archaeological excavations revealed three pulses of activity: Recent Phase (0-500 cal BP), Middle Phase (900-1200 cal BP) and Early Phase (2500-2850 cal BP). Pollen data reveal increasing rainforest disturbance by people through time. While the best match between ethnographic and archaeological practices occurs during the Recent Phase, selected aspects of Rumu subsistence extend back to the Early Phase. As the temporal depth of ethnographically-known practices differs between archaeological sites, a complex picture emerges where Rumu cultural practices unfolded at differing points in time and space over a period of at least 3000 years.

Review of ‘Archaeological Investigation’ by Martin Carver

Archaeological Investigation book coverArchaeological Investigation by Martin Carver. Routledge, London, 2009, xxxviii+ 424 pp., ISBN 978-0-415-48918-8 (hbk), 978-0-415-48918-8 (pbk).

Reviewed by David Frankel

Archaeology Program, School of Historical and European Studies, La Trobe University, Bundoora Vic. 3086, Australia

There are now many books on excavation and other aspects of archaeological research designed for readers and students of all levels. Is there room in this increasingly crowded marketplace for yet one more? This book gives a clear and positive answer, for it provides an important, refreshing and different perspective. It brings together a number of concepts and approaches that Martin Carver has developed and promoted over several decades, integrated here to provide a coherent model of process and practice: a model of archaeological projects as ethical activities, with responsibilities to people in the present and in the future. Although written from a European perspective it is relevant to archaeologists everywhere.

The book is divided into four main sections, dealing in turn with principles, fieldwork, writing up and project design. Part 1 (Principles) begins with a brief outline of the nature of archaeological sites, their formation and aspects of stratigraphy. It leads on to a key chapter ‘Approaches’, where Carver sets out his central concept – his ‘evaluative archaeology’ – set against, or rather developed from, other major trends in fieldwork and associated relationships to problem definition and explanation. Four current broad approaches (historical, empirical, processual and reflexive) are briefly described in their historical and intellectual context of evolving and developing practice, aims and styles of research. All operate today. Carver does not set out to replace them but to draw from them and apply their particular strengths as appropriate for each new specific, practical circumstance. Within this framework the reader is introduced to the issue of project design, which, operating at all stages of work, lies at the heart of good practice. An example of the general approach and the development of a clear, formal Field Research Procedure is given in Chapter 3, where Carver outlines his project at Sutton Hoo as an model of the various stages of work from initial reconnaissance through evaluation, project design, implementation, analysis and on to publication. Alongside and affecting the research agenda is the ‘ethical stance’ of engagement with all the official and unofficial stakeholders in this major complex project.

Part 2 (In the field) briefly covers much of the same ground as many other books on archaeological methods, but provides a valuable introduction to the variety, complexity and challenges inherent in fieldwork rather than a simpler prescription of correct methods. Here approaches to landscape survey, site survey and excavation are dealt with through anecdotal accounts and summaries of examples, neatly linking their aims, rationales and strategies. Once again, the underlying message is one of flexibility and the selection of appropriate strategies coupled with the need to understand how attitudes and techniques affect observations and the identification of relationships as archaeologists construct the primary contextual record in the field.

Part 3 (Writing up) includes all post-excavation activities, not just the final component or set of tasks implied by the title. Synthesis and publication are seen as essential elements of seamless process involving all aspects of material and contextual analysis. Once again we are presented with an introduction to potentials rather than a more mechanistic definition of techniques as Carver provides sufficient material to appreciate how and why evidence of varied kinds may be collected and dealt with in particular ways or grouped into different contextual sets to permit a range of questions to be addressed. Synthesis – the integration of disparate data and construction of explanatory and interpretive models – leads on to ‘publication’ where an array of outcomes including primary archives, formal technical reports and those designed for a more general audience are all considered as valuable if not essential. The final part (Part 4: Project Design) outlines the social and academic context within which archaeologists work. In some ways it returns the reader to the early parts of the book as Carver develops and explicates the consistent theme that none of the stages of archaeological investigation, from conception to publication, should happen by accident or be seen in isolation. All can be integrated into a designed programme of work. This is not to say that flexibility and variation are excluded, for one must always be responsive to the opportunities and limitations that emerge as ideals meet the challenges of reality.

There is no doubting Carver’s passion for archaeology and his commitment to all facets of our complex endeavours, and his great enthusiasm for fieldwork shines though. But it is not simply an enjoyment of the personal experience and the pleasures of research, but also a pleasure in the work of others – in seeing good work done and new approaches developed. The wealth of examples described or illustrated reveals this broad engagement with the world of archaeology. These examples encourage both the student and the established scholar to look at the discipline as a whole, to consider principles and diverse solutions. Archaeological Investigation is therefore more of a stimulus to good practice than a technical manual of procedures. It is an important introduction to the field, for students, researchers and managers, and one where the reader is expected to follow up the issues outlined; to look up the examples illustrated, referred to or summarised; and to discover the processes leading to creative syntheses, models and approaches. It should be read by all involved in both pure and applied archaeology, and will certainly be a core text in the senior courses which I teach.

Earliest evidence for ground-edge axes: 35,400±410 cal BP from Jawoyn Country, Arnhem Land

#2188#Bog1SQ2ARTJean-Michel Geneste, Bruno David, Hugues Plisson, Chris Clarkson, Jean-Jacques Delannoy and Fiona Petchey

Evidence for the world’s earliest stone tools dates to 3.4 million years ago and pre-dates the earliest known Homo species in eastern Africa. However ground-edged tools did not appear until the dispersal of cognitively fully modern Homo sapiens sapiens out of Africa. We report on the discovery of the earliest securely dated ground-edge implement in the world at Nawarla Gabarnmang (northern Australia). The fragment of ground-edge axe is sandwiched between four statistically indistinguishable AMS radiocarbon dates of 35,400±410 cal BP, indicating technological innovations by fully modern Homo sapiens sapiens at the eastern end of the Out-of-Africa 2 Southern Arc dispersal route.

Image caption: The Pleistocene ground edge fragment (published in Australian Archaeology 71:67).

The age of Australian rock art: A review

Langley&Tacon SR AA71 Figure1Michelle C. Langley and Paul S.C. Taçon

The growing corpus of ‘direct dates’ for rock art around the world has changed the way researchers understand rock art. ‘Direct dating’ refers to methods for obtaining chronometric ages through the dating of material directly associated with motifs, thus providing minimum, maximum or actual ages. Materials associated with rock art that may be directly dated include the original media (e.g. beeswax), organic binders found in pigment, or natural coatings (e.g. wasp nests) which can either provide a terminus ante quem or terminus post quem for art. In Australia, 432 direct dates for rock art are now available, providing the basis for developing absolute chronologies for rock art regions and specific periods within them. In this paper we review the dating results but caution against using them to derive broad interpretations, especially continent-wide narratives and global comparisons.

Image caption: Location of sites included in the analysis (published in Australian Archaeology 71:70).

Buggering around in the backyard: Creating attachment to place through archaeology and material culture

Brown SR A71 Figure4

Toy cars (published in Australian Archaeology 71:76).

Steve Brown

Archaeologists create strong attachments to the places they investigate, in particular through the performance of excavation. However, the social value of archaeological places to archaeologists is rarely considered when it comes to conservation management planning of excavated heritage places. While community values, particularly values held by Aboriginal people, and scientific values are commonly identified, assessed and managed in Burra Charter terms, the social heritage of places to the discipline of archaeology is not. Explorations of place attachment to my own backyard can contribute to reflecting more broadly on the social value of heritage places to archaeologists, both individually and collectively. The thoughts presented here reflect initial explorations of attachment to place in personal terms. I am interested in exploring my attachment to, and identity connected with, the suburban space at 85 Fairview Street in Arncliffe (FSA) because I believe it can bring insights into the historical and contemporary attachments of other people and groups to their special places. This study provides an opportunity to look at concepts like social value, intangible heritage and associative landscapes, which are hotly debated and contentious in today’s heritage discourse.

Painting history: Indigenous observations and depictions of the ‘other’ in northwestern Arnhem Land, Australia

May_etal AA71 Figure11Sally K. May, Paul S.C. Taçon, Daryl Wesley and Meg Travers

In this paper we focus on contact rock paintings from three sites in northwestern Arnhem Land, Australia. In doing so we highlight that such sites provide some of the only contemporary Indigenous accounts of cross-cultural encounters that took place across northern Australia through the last 500 years. Importantly, they have the potential to inform us about the ongoing relationships that existed between different parties. The lack of research on contact rock art is emphasised and the development of a large-scale project (of which this fieldwork is part) aimed at addressing this problem is outlined. Important new findings for contact rock art are presented, including evidence for ‘traditional’ protocols relating to rock art continuing long after first contact, evidence for particular contact period subject matter dominating in art of this region, and the oldest date yet recorded for contact art in Australia.

Image caption: An aeroplane motif painted at Bald Rock in the Wellington Range, Northern Territory (published in Australian Archaeology 71:63).

Unveiling rock art images: A pilot project employing a geophysical technique to detect magnetic signatures

Jennifer Milani

M. Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, October 2010

The use of geophysical techniques in archaeology has become widespread, however these methods have rarely been applied to rock art research. There is a need to record and document rock art images as they face deterioration from environmental, industrial and human impacts. This project trials the use of a magnetic susceptibility (MS) meter to non-invasively detect and spatially resolve ochre rock art images. Ochre is frequently used in rock art production and previous research in other contexts has shown that it emits a MS signature due to its inherent magnetic characteristics. These ochre images can be hidden behind silica or carbonate crusts or may deteriorate over time limiting their visibility. The rock art images that lie behind such crusts are likely to be protected from weathering and are amenable to dating using such techniques as uranium-series and radiocarbon accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS).

This research demonstrates that, if present in sufficient abundance, red ochre can be imaged and spatially resolved with a MS meter when applied to a rock face in a variety of geological environments. The type of binder used, pre-application heating or the rock type does not appear to have a significant effect on the viability of the technique. More important to the success of a survey is the equipment setting, spatial resolution of the survey and the use of a correction to control instrument drift. Imaging ochre beneath a proxy crust was trialled without success; however this is attributed to poor survey design rather than a fundamental problem with the technique. The success of this trial demonstrates the validity of continuing investigations in the emerging field of rock art geophysics and highlights the importance of future trials on field sites.

Painting the police: Aboriginal visual culture and identity in colonial Cape York Peninsula

Cole AA71 Figure8

Lee Cheu paintings from Laura, Cape York Peninsula (published in Australian Archaeology 71:21).

Noelene Cole

Aboriginal rock paintings of policemen near Laura and their ‘ethnographic interpretation’ were reported by Percy Trezise (1985:74, 1993) but are otherwise unstudied. This research integrates formal analysis of an assemblage of police and associated depictions with  cultural, historical and archaeological evidence to shed light on Indigenous society and identity in the frontier period (c.1873-1890s). In drawing on Aboriginal testimony the study connects with local webs of meaning. Stylistic analysis reveals the police motif as an innovative, specialised category within Quinkan style. Signs of cognitive structure include visual, material and contextual attributes (e.g. shape, colour and form, paint recipes,  graphic associations, positions and locations). Stylistic coherence suggests that radically new contexts of production (war, social and demographic transformations) did not disrupt the ancestral knowledge systems and unique worldviews which lie at the heart of visual culture at Laura. Unlike most colonial texts, the depictions record Indigenous identity in the contexts of local agency and colonialism.

A dingo burial from the Arnhem Land Plateau


ben (R.G.) Gunn, Ray L. Whear and Leigh C. Douglas

The skeleton of a mature dingo was found wrapped in paperbark and cached on a ledge in a rockshelter on the Arnhem Land plateau. Such burials have not previously been recorded from the region and are considered uncommon by contemporary Jawoyn elders. Radiocarbon dating of a vertebra from the skeleton provided a conventional radiocarbon age of 77±35 BP. This finding is discussed in relation to other recorded aspects of the dingo’s relationship with humans in the ethnography and also its presentation in the rock art of Arnhem Land and elsewhere in Australia.

Review of ‘Measured on Stone: Stone Artefact Reduction, Residential Mobility and Aboriginal Land Use in Arid Central Australia’ by W. Boone Law


Boone LawMeasured on Stone: Stone Artefact Reduction, Residential Mobility and Aboriginal Land Use in Arid Central Australia by W. Boone Law. British Archaeological Reports International Series S1962, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2009, x+154 pp., ISBN 978-1-4073-0445-8.

Reviewed by Michael J. Shott

Department of Classical Studies, Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-1910, USA

In Australia and elsewhere, their abundance in the record makes stone tools one of archaeology’s chief analytical subjects. Stone tool interpretation long has reflected the intellectual tropes of its times. Sollas (1911) used the lithic record to identify Australian prehistory with evolutionary stages. At mid-century, McCarthy (e.g. 1967) stressed typology with culture-historical overtones. Only when Tindale (1965) described resharpening and the progressive change of size and form that it produced in tools, and modern Aborigines surprised Hayden (1977), did archaeologists forge a dynamic view of tool production and use. To explain their size and form, typology was replaced by an understanding that amount and pattern of retouch explain much of the variation found in retouched stone tools. The resulting synthesis is revolutionising Australian lithic analysis (e.g. Hiscock and Attenbrow 2005). This is an Australian expression of the reduction thesis (Shott 2005), the view that retouch imparts significant variation in tool size and form independent of function, form or typology, and the analytical techniques to demonstrate these effects.

The reduction thesis is important not only for its typological implications, but in the possibility that a single implement may pass through several types in the course of its use. Amount of reduction also reflects amount of use, one definition of curation (Shott 1996). In turn, curation is implicated in technological organisation and patterns of land-use. Thus, how much and in what way tools were retouched can reflect organisational properties of past cultures.

Law’s monograph, based on his ANU dissertation, analyses the lithic assemblages from the Puli Tjulkura chert quarry and Puritjarra Rockshelter, 60 km apart in central Australia. Puli Tjulkura’s white chert is found in some abundance at Puritjarra, distinguished from those of similar appearance by geochemical means. In framing his analysis, Law offers legitimate criticisms of typology (i.e. that size-form variation is continuous, not typological, that typology applies only to few well-formed tools among the multitudes that comprise most assemblages). After a review of the mostly American literature of lithic technological organisation (somewhat selective by comparison of citation patterns and sources to, for example Nelson 1991), Law uses reduction measures and other data to test organisational models in its data.

Kuhn’s ‘geometric index of unifacial reduction’ (GIUR) and a perimeter-reduction index (PRI) are analytical centerpieces of the study. GIUR has ardent Australian champions like Hiscock, Law’s supervisor. Recent debates about the comparative value of GIUR and other ways to measure reduction in retouched flakes have thrown off much heat and some light. Law tactfully avoids the controversy, acknowledging GIUR’s undeniable value but also that it is ‘not suitable for all retouched flakes’ (p.12) owing to its assumptions about pattern of retouch and cross-section geometry. Other measures are described in Andrefsky (2008) and chapters therein and elsewhere.

The general pattern found is high percentages of cortex and flake breakage and low rates or degrees of core and flake retouch at Puli Tjulkura, whereas white chert (but not local cherts) at Puritjarra exhibits nearly the opposite pattern especially from mid-Holocene onward (To calibrate chronological trends, Puritjarra’s depth-age curve [Figure 5.3] generally patterns as expected but requires some massaging in the key mid-Holocene interval). GIUR patterns clearly, PRI somewhat ambiguously, with time. Law explains results with respect to toolstone quality and organisational properties of Aboriginal cultures. In the process, he concludes that higher late Holocene rates of reduction (which he does not explicitly identify with curation) and discard do not indicate increasing sedentism – Smith’s (2006) intensification argument – but its opposite.

Any study of this breadth and details prompts some reservations. For instance, Law eschews typology partly because it ignores many artefacts. Yet of the 17,000 Puritjarra artefacts, only 431 were retouched, of which only 289 were unbroken, of which only 70 were of Puli Tjulkura white chert. About 130 artefacts, fewer than one discarded per year on average, ground the construction of fairly protracted trends there (p.85). Thus, small parts of large assemblages are the focus of analysis here, as in typological studies.

Smith’s intensification thesis rests on high late Holocene retouch rates, tool density, and discard rate. Law is right to argue that assemblage composition, not just reduction rate, bears upon the question but his logic seems ad hoc in places. To him, Smith’s evidence for rising intensification is ‘plausible’ only if people had ‘less opportunity to reprovision with non-local’ toolstones (p.89). Puli Tjulkura white chert’s rising late Holocene proportion and small, reduced size in cores at Puritjarra mean the opposite to Law (although cherts of local and intermediate origin do not exhibit entirely complementary patterns with distance to white chert): decreasing sedentism, because people had to travel 60km to acquire chert and failed to ‘provision’ distant places like Puritjarra with large cores and flakes. Yet sedentism is a relative term; 60km trips for chert, especially if embedded in other movements, seem not unreasonable even for relatively sedentary groups. Moreover, it is perilous to rest precise inferences about land-use upon ambiguous distance-to-source data (Brantingham 2003); this logic equates land-use patterns with scale of procurement. Foragers can be relatively mobile even using only local toolstone if their frequent movements are confined to a small region, or can be relatively sedentary even using distant sources if their procurement is embedded in occasional trips. More thorough evaluation of Smith’s and Law’s opposing views might involve not just lithic analysis but inference to land-use pattern and scale from forager comparative ethnography.

Also, at Puritjarra Law equates the size of white chert cores and flakes at discard with their presumed size at introduction, yet small size at discard may reflect reduction and curation. Here is a curious blind spot in an analysis that otherwise rests firmly on a reduction perspective. It produces logical inconsistencies when, for example, low incidence of retouched flakes means short-term occupation at Puli Tjulkura (p.40) but their high incidence at Puritjarra also means short-term occupation (pp.89-92).

Finally, evidence of core/flake size documents curation directly, and only implicates land-use intensity indirectly. Curation rate can vary with land-use intensity but also with other factors. Finally, Law’s monograph reflects what may be entrenchment between antipodean schools of thought. Of course there is frequent reference to prominent Australian archaeologists, but Law does not so much as cite Holdaway and Stern (2004) or Doelman’s (2008) fairly detailed study of a New South Wales chert quarry comparable in some respects to Puli Tjulkura. Diverse schools of thought characterise a healthy field; fortified camps impede communication and serve no-one in the long-term.

Quibbles aside, Law’s monograph is an example of straightforward archaeological interpretation and intelligent reduction analysis in the service of theoretical model-testing. In the future, Australian archaeologists might emulate Law’s practice, particularly in the ecumenical use of reduction measures that include, but are not limited to, GIUR and PRI. But beyond descriptive measures and statistics for degree of reduction, we must learn to leverage the analytical power that resides in reduction and curation data. For instance, Law and Smith use density of retouched tools to measure occupational and tool-use intensity. This logic is reasonable as far as it goes, but it should be extended by adjusting raw density for degree of reduction experienced by the tools under study. Thus, a raw density of, say, 100/m3 for tools only half-reduced on average does not equal the same density for tools that are almost completed reduced on average; ceteris paribus, a half-used tool does not represent an equal amount of use as a fully used one, therefore not the same density (amount actually), of tool use. Also, besides using reduction measures like GIUR to estimate curation at the level of artefacts, we must treat reduction and curation at the assemblage level as palaeodemographers treat skeletal age: by fitting distributions of values to mathematical models and, via relevant theory, to identify the form of those distributions with different kinds (e.g. gradual attrition vs catastrophic failure) or degrees (e.g. via interpretation of Gompertz-Makeham parameter estimates) of curation. My own work using New Guinea data (Shott and Sillitoe 2005) illustrates the approach and some of its analytical potential, in part by proposing an interval-scale curation measure derived from the Gompertz- Makeham b parameter.

Characteristically, BAR condenses considerable text, dozens of tables, 20 figures and 22 plates into 97 pages. The monograph also includes a glossary and appendices that contain geochemical data and artefact measurements from the two sites.

From his perch at what Europeans might consider the center of the archaeological universe, Glyn Daniel (1975:372) once wrote that ‘‘new’ … methods and concepts are developed in the study of the most unrewarding material’, a backhanded complement if ever one was offered. By ‘study’ he meant of hunter-gatherer and tribal cultures and by ‘unrewarding material’ he meant stone tools among other things. The broader context of this benighted comment was the rise of American processualism, but Daniel’s view applies equally to Australia (which did not so much as appear in his index). When you lack truly impressive evidence – Daniel cited Stonehenge and Maltese temples – then you must make the most of the humble materials at hand. The corollary is that with truly important evidence at hand, viz. temples and pyramids, only fools study humble rocks. In this view, poor American (and Australian) archaeologists dote upon stone tools merely by default, because they have nothing better to dote upon. Law’s monograph belongs in the growing literature that demonstrates the range and rigor of inference to past cultures from sophisticated analysis of ‘unrewarding’ material. We should be past the time when scholars casually judge regions, not to say continents, by such criteria as Daniel’s. Measured on Stone offers detailed analysis to test sophisticated models of past cultural behaviour. Whether from Australia’s Central Desert or Stonehenge, all archaeologists are well-served to study closely such examples as this.


Andrefsky, W. (ed.) 2008 Lithic Technology: Measures of Production, Use, and Curation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brantingham, P.J. 2003 A neutral model of stone raw material procurement. American Antiquity 68:487-509.

Daniel, G. 1975 A Hundred and Fifty Years of Archaeology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Doelman, T. 2008 Time to Quarry: The Archaeology of Stone Procurement in Northwestern New South Wales. BAR International Series S1810. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Hayden, B. 1977 Stone tool functions in the Western Desert. In R.V.S. Wright (ed.), Stone Tools as Cultural Markers: Change, Evolution and Complexity, pp.178-188. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.

Hiscock, P. and V. Attenbrow 2005 Australia’s Eastern Regional Sequence Revisited: Technology and Change at Capertee 3. BAR International Series S1397. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Holdaway, S. and N. Stern 2004 A Record in Stone: The Study of Australia’s Flaked Stone Artefacts. Melbourne: Museum Victoria.

McCarthy, F.D. 1967 Australian Aboriginal Stone Implements. Sydney: Australian Museum.

Nelson, M. 1991 The study of technological organisation. Archaeological Method and Theory 3:57-100.

Shott, M.J. 1996 An exegesis of the curation concept. Journal of Anthropological Research 52:259-280.

Shott, M.J. 2005 The reduction thesis and its discontents: Review of Australian approaches. In C. Clarkson and L. Lamb (eds), Lithics ‘Down Under’: Australian Perspectives on Lithic Reduction, Use and Classification, pp.109-125. BAR International Monograph Series S1408. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Shott, M.J. and P. Sillitoe 2005 Use life and curation in New Guinea experimental used flakes. Journal of Archaeological Science 32:653-663.

Smith, M.A. 2006 Characterising late Pleistocene and Holocene stone artefact assemblages from Puritjarra Rock Shelter: A long sequence from the Australian desert. Records of the Australian Museum 58:371-410.

Sollas, W.J. 1911 Ancient Hunters and their Modern Representatives. London: Macmillan.

Tindale, N.B. 1965 Stone implement making among the Nakako, Ngadadjara, and Pitjandjara of the Great Western Desert. Records of the South Australian Museum 15:131-164.

Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination by Karen Sanders

bodies-in-the-bog-and-the-archaeological-imaginationBodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination by Karen Sanders, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2009, xx+317pp, ISBN 978-0-226-734040

Reviewed by Miranda Aldhouse-Green

School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University, Humanities Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU, UK

Bodies in the Bog is a strange, haunting and often inspiring book, beautifully and elegantly written (although sometimes the prose is let down by some muddy images). Despite the main title, the main themes are not so much concerned with the mummified remains of Iron Age people themselves but more to do with ways in which it is possible to ‘read them’ from the time of their disinterment from their swampy graves. In a very real sense, then, what Karin Sanders has done is to give ancient bog-bodies post mortem biographies, powerful voices that project backwards and forwards in time. Sanders’ sensitive treatment of this curiously preserved archaeological phenomenon enables us to ask questions not only about the human dead of the remote past but also about ourselves, and our own humanity. This study serves to contextualise bog bodies with broad brushstrokes and to offer a penetrative perspective on our past and our present. A central tenet of the book is the manner in which bog bodies allow our imagination to explore different arenas of human experience and expertise – from fictive literature to art and from politics to poetry.

Using P.V. Glob’s seminal text The Bog People (Faber and Faber, London, 1969) as a platform, Sanders takes the reader on an intricate and often disturbing journey along a pathway that seeks to interpret interpretation. Her introduction, titled ‘Remarkable Remains’, discusses the way in which the evidence for bog bodies has been used by modern scholars and writers, the ambivalent nature of bogs themselves and their freakish preservation of organic remains. The most powerful point made here concerns the manner in which bog bodies interrupt the linear flow of time, and catapult themselves from their own period into ours. This is because these bodies are visible to us as uncomfortably fleshed humans rather than as comfortable skeletons whose humanity is distanced by the absence of muscle and skin. Sanders lyrically describes such interruption as ‘a bursting bubble in a landscape of time’. Introduced in this early section but running as a constant thread through the book is the idea of bog bodies as doubly temporal, as having undergone a rebirth in their emergence from the bog.

Chapter 1, ‘Nature’s Own Darkroom’, compares the bogs as repositories for the human dead to a camera lens, providing a ‘photograph’ of past individuals. Both the camera and the bog have the property of embalming a body and enshrining the person to whom it belonged. Sanders describes the bog as a ‘prosthetic memory’ for it replaces something missing, the past (usually decayed) body. Using Tollund Man as a prime example – because only his head is genuinely preserved and on display – this chapter also engages with dichotomies of originality/authenticity and the bogus element of restoration/reconstruction. Such observations lead to issues of ethics versus aesthetics and pose questions as to the relative validity of presenting ancient bodies as they came out of the bog, however distorted and incomplete, or of ‘prettifying’ them in order to tell a convincing story.

Chapter 2 is enigmatically called ‘The Archaeological Uncanny’. ‘Uncanny’ means ‘unnatural’, against the ordered, regular scheme of things, and the point is made that their very preservation acts against the proper decomposition process. I am less than convinced by the discussion of Freud, his ‘back to the womb’ theory and other Freudian concepts that form the nucleus of this section. Indeed, I found the matter on Freud and Jung discordant and otiose within the largely enthralling pulse of Sanders’ story. While I like the comparison between bog bodies and the casts made from the cavities left by the decay of the pathetic victims of the Pompeian disaster (and by the way Sanders makes a gross error in ascribing the Vesuvian eruption as occurring in 79 BC; it happened in AD 79), such comparison can be only partial since the casts are manufactured while the bog bodies are real flesh. Still, as argued here, both the bog bodies and the ‘remains’ of the Pompeian dead are liminal and immediate, bringing the modern viewer up-close and personal with their remote ancestors.

The recent hotly-contested debate about ‘Celticity’, the validity of a present Celtic identity for the north and western edges of Europe based upon past ethnicities (real or imagined) and the manipulation of identity are all highly relevant to and parallel with Sanders’ chapter ‘Uses and Abuses: Bog Body Politics’. This section deals with the hijacking and suborning of bog bodies to project current (or recent) political ideologies, such as Nazism. Most sinister of all, perhaps, were interpretations of ancient bog bodies, by such as Himmler, in terms of Tacitus’ (Germania 12) resonant phrase corpores infamae, a term the Roman writer uses to describe the marsh drownings of ‘disreputable bodies’, in order to fuel the Nazis’ denouncement of racial and sexual ‘deviance’ from the Aryan ideal. So, in this context, bog bodies (contained within slimy, dirty and miasmic swamps) were perceived as tropes of the effeminate and other. In airing such views, Sanders raised the quintessential issue of whether bog-bodies can legitimately ‘be seen as stand-ins for other extreme figures and victims in history’ (p.67). There follows a survey of the relationship between bog bodies and the presentation of the Holocaust in fictive literature, the presentation of the idea of these marsh mummies as topoi upon which to hang notions of humans at risk, as victims. In addition to the Nazi manipulation of ideologies, Sanders explores other ways in which bog bodies have been used as ethnic tools, ending the section with Seamus Heaney’s political take on bog bodies and his powerful poetic use of ancient Irish marsh victims to explore recent and current Irish sectarian troubles.

‘Erotic Digging’ is the title of Chapter 4. To me, parts of Sanders’ presentation of voyeurism and the erotic gaze lack conviction and, in contrast to most of the book, sometimes appear contrived. Such links as there are between bog bodies and sex derive, in part, from erroneous past identification of individual bog bodies as historical people. A good example of this practice is the middle-aged Iron Age female interred in the Haraldskjaer bog in Jutland, wrongfully identified as the cruel but voluptuous Viking queen Gunhild. Although false, such connections provide extra layers of meaning to ancient bog victims because they become imbued with the persona of their historical person as whom they are interpreted. Another conduit of sexuality is provided by Tacitus’s (Germania 19) account in which he describes the punishment meted out to adulterous ancient German women, who were stripped naked, their hair shorn and flogged out of their community. The nakedness of the female bog body and her lack of defence against both the gaze and the forensic penetration of her body may be perceived both as a kind of archaeological rape and as analogous to the punishment for sexual crimes recorded by Tacitus. Notwithstanding the sexual connotations of nakedness, vulnerability and adulterous punishment, the links made here between bog bodies and eroticism seem somewhat tenuous. Far more important a contribution to this part of the book is the wonderful fund of modern stories and poems woven around bog bodies, their excavation and the ‘gender-bending’ ambiguity surrounding such finds as the Windeby ‘Girl’, recently reassigned male status.

Chapters 5 and 6 are titled ‘Bog Body Art’ and ‘Museum Thresholds and the Ethics of Display’ respectively. Both are concerned with visual manipulation of bog bodies and the optical connections between the bog body as reality (or idea) and their modern ‘consumers’. The section on art contains a fascinating presentation of some truly remarkable paintings, sculptures and other artistic material inspired by bog victims that parallel the formidable assemblage of fictional literature and poetry surrounding these ancient corpses. The discussion on bog bodies in museums resurrects ethical issues and engages with the oscillation between opposites: corpse/artefact; individual/image; real/unreal, for example. Bodies are immediate, yet visitors to museums where they are displayed cannot touch them. The bog bodies are the remains of real people, yet their shiny, leathery skins give them the look of carved sculptures. Museums are artificial constructs where the rules designed to guard the treasures of the past serve to inhibit direct linkage between the body and those who study it. At what point does a human body become an object rather than a person?

The issues raised in Chapter 6 are developed further in the final chapter, a discussion on facial reconstruction. Sanders begins by pondering why faces are so important to notions of personhood, of self. The complexities surrounding the rebuilding of ancient faces from skeletal or soft tissues include matters concerning subjectivity and authenticity (I have a problem with facial reconstruction anyway because, for me, most of the rebuilt faces have a grammar of sameness that denies the corpses any real individuality). Most interesting, perhaps, is the way in which – to an extent – the recreation of ancient physiognomies is influenced by particular paradigms or canons regarding perceptions of race and civilisation. In this way, there can sometimes be a danger that facial reconstruction becomes a mirror of cultural baggage rather than objective forensic reasoning.

The final chapter is, somewhat misleadingly called a ‘Postscript’, in spite of its length, and would have been better termed Chapter 8. It is both a conclusion, drawing the threads of the book together, and an entity in itself whose nexus is the concept of frozen time. Here, the author returns to an initial consideration of her study, the notion of bog bodies as twice-born; their second birth being their uncovering within and recovering from their marsh tombs. She also considered the essentially liminal paradox of the bog victim: its close relationship to us but its foreign otherness. Despite the flesh and faces retained by these ancient people, they nonetheless appear very dead and very remote. The very survival of their bodies serves ironically to remind us that while they remain to be looked at and studied, the complex web of contexts in which these people walked, talked, thought, worked, laughed, loved and prayed have been wiped away. So although bog bodies allow us metaphorically to shake them by the hand, they do not allow us to speak to them, and their world is nearly as remote from us as if they were visiting Martians.

I found this book a joy to read because, unlike most archaeological studies, it combines scholarship with superb literary style, the whole salted by the provision of numerous imaginative pathways. I, for one, will never study or write about bog bodies in the same way again and I will try to ensure that the same is true of my students. Despite the few caveats mentioned above, it is a work of true originality that lifts bog victims out of their purely archaeological dimension and travels with them on a journey towards enlightenment. Early on in the study, the author speaks of bog bodies being embalmed with words. That is nowhere more true than in this book.

Site disturbance and archaeological integrity: The case of Bend Road, an open site in Melbourne spanning Pre-LGM Pleistocene to Late holocene periods

Hewitt and Allen AA70 Figure 8

The north section of Squares G and H in Pit at the Bend Road Site (image from Australian Archaeology 70:9).

Geoff Hewitt and Jim Allen

Bend Road is an open site covering c.12 hectares on a sand sheet formation in southeast Melbourne, now bisected by the new Mitcham-Frankston tollway. Results from earlier salvage archaeology suggesting this was a significant scientific site were subsequently questioned on geomorphological grounds that indicated post-depositional disturbance. In 2006 the authors carried out extensive and detailed excavations and analysis that indicated that while both large-scale aeolian deflation events and smaller scale bioturbation could be demonstrated, paradoxically the archaeology retained a clear coherence. While the bulk of the archaeology relates to the backed artefact period – the site has now yielded hundreds of asymmetric points and geometric microlith forms from the late Holocene – an earlier sequence extends back to 30–35,000 BP, putting Bend Road amongst the oldest known sites in Victoria. This paper summarises the methodological procedures and results that reflect both the natural disturbances to the site and the data that demonstrate its archaeological integrity, and points to a growing imbalance between increasingly sophisticated dating techniques available to the archaeologist and the levels of scale and resolution that usually pertain in archaeological sites.

Review of Handbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology

handbook-of-forensic-anthropology-and-archaeologyHandbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology by Soren Blau and Douglas Ubelaker (eds). Research Handbooks in Archaeology Series, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA, 2009, 534 pp., ISBN 978-1-5987-4074-5.

Reviewed by Judith Littleton

Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland Mail Centre, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

In the last few years there have been many new volumes on forensic anthropology and archaeology. With the exception of Oxenham’s 2008 edited volume Forensic Approaches to Death, Disaster and Abuse (Australian Academic Press, Bowen Hills), most have had a northern hemisphere focus. This volume, emerging as part of the World Archaeological Congress Research Handbooks in Archaeology Series, avoids that and has a much more representative mix of papers from across the world, including non-English speaking areas. The term ‘handbook’ however is misleading. This is a substantial volume (41 chapters) which gives much more of an overview of the current state of forensic archaeology and anthropology than a manual of practice.

There is an interesting conflict highlighted by the series editors (Hollowell and Nicholas) at the beginning of the volume. Citing the WAC Tamaki-Makarau Accord on the Display of Human Remains and Sacred Objects, they requested that authors comply with the Accord by seeking permission from affiliated descendents or descendant communities. The response by the writers of the various chapters was to comply in respect of identifiable persons. The solution and many of the chapters highlight that most of these authors are closely involved and very keenly aware of the ethical dilemmas surrounding their work. In no instance are the photographs used for prurient interest, but they do highlight that archaeology and anthropology are visual endeavours – to try to explain the sheer breadth of work in the tsunami for instance without the accompanying photographs would be a failure.

The first section deals with a historical overview and highlights the geographical breadth of the book. Ubelaker provides a conventional history of the development of forensic anthropology in the United States, however the other chapters in this section are more interesting. Cox, writing of the United Kingdom, and Donlon, of Australia, both provide thoughtful evaluations of the state of work. For those having to deal with endless student enquiries regarding forensic work, I can recommend these chapters. They provide an accessible and frank evaluation of the amount of work and prospects for those in the field. The Canadian chapter by Skinner and Bowie is much more optimistic in tone but again provides a good survey, as does the chapter from South America (Fondelbrider). Surprisingly there is a chapter by Etty Indriati on Indonesia which is really valuable. Indonesia, despite being the focus of forensic work by Australians and others (e.g. Briggs and Buck this volume), is rarely evident in the forensic literature except as a source of case studies. Similarly, for an English-speaking audience, the chapters from France, Italy and Spain where forensic anthropology exists within the discipline of legal medicine point to significant differences across the world in the role and status of forensic practitioners.

The second section deals with forensic archaeology but only contains two chapters. These pick up on two aspects of archaeological practice: finding buried objects and interpreting the buried environment. The small number of chapters in this area highlights the limited nature of archaeological work in regard to forensics. Holland and Connell’s chapter on surveying reviews traditional as well as more recent techniques. They emphasise (contrary to some more optimistic commentators) the goal of such surveys: to reduce the area requiring ground truthing. A further emphasis is that geophysical methods are only as good as the analyst and his or her post-processing of the data. Cheetham and Hanson deal with the differences between, and requirements of, forensic and traditional archaeological excavation and recording. The chapter introduces a series of more methodological questions such as standardisation and justification of practice. Neither chapter provides the sort of detailed overview implied by the term ‘handbook’ but both highlight the need for thoughtful evaluation of method under the differing circumstances of forensic excavation.

The third section dealing with forensic anthropology is more familiar material – the diagnosis of bone as human or nonhuman, dating, comingling, ancestry, age, sex, stature, trauma, taphonomic effects and craniofacial identification. Some of the chapters are simply a review and explanation of techniques (e.g. Mulhern, Sauer and Wankmiller, Braz, Crowder, Willey, Stephan). They are useful as a source of references and brief overview but not meaty enough to be used by themselves. Others such as Thompson on burnt remains are more a summary of the history of studies than a substantive survey. However, other chapters go well beyond the summary. Byrd and Adams describe a range of techniques to identify commingling but go beyond that to raise ethical questions about the procedures used. They highlight that all forensic work has a range of stakeholders and that desires of the community may not match the techniques being engaged. Clement’s chapter on forensic odontology discusses similar ethical issues and in particular the effects that a failure to identify the missing may have on those who are left. On a different line, Rogers’ chapter on aging rather than listing techniques examines some of the underlying principles and the interpretative paradigms used when ageing skeletal remains. It is a good discussion of the need for a more fully integrated and anthropological programme. These three chapters stand out in highlighting the development of a discipline with a broader focus than the pure identification of human remains.

Part four consists of case studies. There are two chapters on domestic forensic work (Wolfe Steadman and Hunter). The remainder deal with disaster victim identification (the tsunami, the Bali bombings, United States guidelines) and political violence (the Solomons, former Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Iraq). All emphasise the interdisciplinary nature of the work and the limited role that forensic archaeologists and anthropologists may play. However, the chapters by Sledzik, Congram and Sterenberg, and Flavel and Barker raise further ethical issues and the potential role of anthropologists in dealing with the interaction of family members and the needs of society. In particular the Guatemalan and Iraq chapters raise the potential conflicts between humanitarian and evidentiary goals of excavation and identification. The Iraq chapter is especially interesting in its discussion of the complex organisational landscape of mass grave excavation.

The final section is labelled ‘The Professional Forensic and Archaeologist and Forensic Anthropologist’. Blau raises a range of ethical issues, many of which have been highlighted by earlier authors but are bought together here. Wright and Hanson write about dealing with large organisations, in a chapter which places the forensic archaeologist in the foreground rather than as a member of a large interdisciplinary team. The chapter by Ross and Kimmerle on quantitative methods sits rather oddly in this section. It fits more as a primer for new methods in dealing with the statistics of identification. Henneberg describes the stages of being an expert witness in a very accessible and practical fashion while Ranson (with an Anglo-Australian bias) deals with the legal aspects of identification. This section seemed to be more of a mixed bag than the other sections of the book which were very coherent.

In sum this volume is much more than the ‘handbook’ of the title suggests. In biological anthropology its closest parallel is probably the edited book by Cox and Mays, Human Osteology in Archaeology and Forensic Science (2000, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge). Many chapters can be mined as introductions to different aspects of forensic archaeology and human identification but could not be relied upon as manuals for practice. Other chapters, however, really serve as a detailed and very grounded introduction to the discipline, the current state of work, and the directions in which this work is going. That difference makes it hard to identify the audience for this book. In reality those teaching and working in areas of forensic anthropology will find it useful both for their own interest and as a source of set readings for students. It is a massive undertaking and, like the Oxenham volume before, it does serve to situate forensic anthropology and archaeology as concerns beyond the northern hemisphere.

Constant resurrection: The Trihybrid Model and the politicisation of Australian archaeology

Shoshanna Grounds and Annie Ross

Most Australian archaeologists would say that Birdsell’s trihybrid model is defunct and no longer worth considering. Unfortunately, this is not the view of many in the Australian public. In his revisionist history of Australia, the conservative commentator Keith Windschuttle still refers to this model, and, potentially more seriously, writers with a particular political agenda to deny Aboriginal people legitimate Native Title rights have also adopted Birdsell’s model as ‘fact’. In this paper we analyse one such political text in detail: Pauline Hanson: The Truth. We demonstrate that in this, and other similar works, archaeological ‘data’ are used selectively to sustain sensational claims about Australia’s Aboriginal past. Although perhaps easily dismissed by professional archaeologists, such claims are still widely embraced by a surprisingly large number of people in the wider Australian public, and a debate needs to be held about how the archaeological community should challenge such ‘knowledge’.


Persistent traditions in the face of natural disasters: Stemmed and waisted stone tools in late Holocene New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Kononenko et al AA70 Fig 4a

One of the investigated stemmed tools from site FAAJ (image from Australian Archaeology 70:21).

Nina Kononenko, Jim Specht and Robin Torrence

Studies of the technology and function of small retouched stemmed and waisted stone tools from late Holocene sites in central New Britain provide a powerful means for monitoring the effects of the massive W-K2 volcanic eruption (3480–3150 cal BP), after which pottery occurs in this region for the first time. Use-wear and residue studies show that these tools were used for processing soft starchy plant materials (tubers and wood) and human tattooing. Despite the catastrophically destructive event, results indicate cultural continuity, most likely by descendants of the original population, rather than population replacement or major cultural change. These results contribute to the ongoing debate about possible migration from Island Southeast Asia c.3400 years ago.

Lithic artefact distribution in the Rouse Hill Development Area, Cumberland Plain, New South Wales

White and McDonald AA70 Figure3

Artefact distribution and mean density at tested areas (from Australian Archaeology 70:36).

Beth White and Jo McDonald

For several years systematic test excavations have been conducted in the open landscape  of the Rouse Hill Development Area (RHDA), as part of development impact mitigation projects. Data on artefact distribution and density from these projects are combined here to identify patterns which might signal Aboriginal peoples’ preferences for artefact discard in their landscape. Topographic and stream order variables correlate with artefact density and distribution. High artefact density concentrations may have resulted from larger numbers of artefact discard activities and/or from intensive stone flaking. Highest
artefact densities occur on terraces and lower slopes associated with 4th and 2nd order streams, especially 50–100m from 4th order streams. Upper slopes have sparse discontinuous artefact distributions but artefacts are still found in these landscape settings. As artefacts are found in all tested areas and site boundaries are not identified, most of the RHDA could be regarded as a cultural landscape.

Review of Australia and the Origins of Agriculture by Rupert Gerritsen

Gerritsen 2008Australia and the Origins of Agriculture by Rupert Gerritsen. British Archaeological Reports International Series S1874, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2008, iii+205pp, ISBN 9781407303543.

Reviewed by Harry Lourandos

81 Outlook Crescent, Bardon Qld 4065, Australia

In this detailed book, Gerritsen’s argument is quite clear: that agriculture can be identified in at least two of the traditional regions of Indigenous Australia, and that in one of these its origins are clearly local developments. As this can be perceived as a somewhat provocative and controversial claim, as he acknowledges, it needs to be examined in some detail. On what evidence and arguments are these claims based? Essentially Gerritsen’s approach is ethnohistorical, or ‘reconstructive ethnography’ as he refers to it, with only scant archaeological contributions. His study areas include the central west coast of Western Australia (Nhanda), the Darling Basin and the ‘Corners’ region of central eastern Australia, so-called because it includes the corners of several states – Queensland, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia. The latter region incorporates Cooper Creek, the Thompson, Diamantina, Georgina and Mulligan Rivers and also Warburton Creek. Two further study areas included are southwestern Victoria and the Coorong coast of South Australia. This material is discussed in quite a detailed way, immersing the reader in the data and taking them on an unfolding journey through these past Indigenous landscapes. Its purpose appears to be to allow the reader to confront the data before the material is subjected to more rigorous examination. This is quite a powerful method and would have served well in a more popular book; one whose purpose was to persuade the reader that what she or he was seeing was something quite different to what they had experienced before in Australia, and that indeed this might be agriculture itself. But is this result achieved here?

Firstly, a good deal of this material – though by no means all – has appeared before and, unfortunately, is presented here under-referenced. I felt an uneasy sense of deja vu as I read the chapter on southwestern Victoria and also those including the Darling Basin and Cooper Creek; and puzzled why reference to the researchers who had generated this, or similar, information was either very minimal or non-existent. It is not until the very end of the book (p.162) that mention is made of ‘commendable reconstructive studies’ carried out in the above three regions; but again these are unreferenced and unnamed. There is a further problem. These are not just primary data. This ethnohistorical material was generated and embedded within the matrix of a series of debates, including the Australian ‘intensification’ debate. Use of the data, therefore, required entering the debates. But this he avoids. In other words, he has used the Australian material and dodged the debate.

Gerritsen reveals his theoretical position quite slowly and only in Chapter 8 is the issue of ‘complex hunter-gatherers’ discussed, where he appears to acknowledge that herein might lie the crux of the arguments concerning ‘intensification’ and ‘rudimentary agriculture’ (p.124). If this discussion had preceded the ethnohistorical coverage it would have enabled him to more clearly establish his arguments and then put them to work. This is so also for the discussion of the ‘origins of agriculture’ that only appears in the second last chapter (10). This lack of a clear theoretical context at the start of the book leads to a fragmentation of argument and considerable repetition that makes for a bumpy, and at times frustrating, ‘ride’ through the material.

Gerritsen’s case for agriculture, however, rests upon the ‘Corners’ example and also the Nhanda. This is the strongest part of the book, detailed and extending earlier discussions of the material. His arguments focus upon the extent of planting, broadcasting, tending, harvesting and storage of seeds, and their importance in the economy; as well as division of labour, exchange and levels of sedentism. Socio-political complexity is also considered. The scale of seeded and planted areas and their location, for example on fertile alluvial soils, are cornerstones of his arguments. The Nhanda example, in contrast, is of vast ‘planted’ areas of yams on rich alluvial soils that may have been influenced by early European – Dutch – visitors. Much of this material, however, with the exception of the Nhanda, is broadly similar to that discussed previously by others, and during the Australian ‘intensification’ debate. So how does Gerritsen distinguish his assessment from these? He employs comparisons – models – drawn largely from Eurasian ‘agricultural’ contexts and discussions. The problem here is that all such assessments are arbitrary in their assignment of category, such as ‘complex hunter-gatherer’, ‘agriculturalist’ and the like. This issue re-emerges when he compares Australian societies, such as those of southwestern Victoria, to ‘food producers’; a model that fits other ‘complex hunter-gatherers’ also, as he admits (p.134). But, once again, in what way are the latter to be distinguished from still other ‘food producers’ such as ‘agriculturalists’? The question remains, therefore: how is agriculture to be distinguished from other economies?

His main argument, however, emerges later (p.162) that the Australian material has been viewed from within a ‘hunter-gatherer’ theoretical framework, thus limiting the possibility of observing an ‘agricultural’ practice on the continent. Presumably his own perspective is different to this and appears to come out of the ‘agricultural debate’, rather than from the ‘hunter-gatherer debates’. This is demonstrated in his use of the literature, theoretical and also archaeological, coming predominantly from the Eurasian-American debates. Information from New Guinea, both anthropological and archaeological, is also largely sidestepped (except on p.157).

Presumably, therefore, he is arguing that while a ‘hunter-gatherer’ perspective allows us to see a version of ‘hunting-gathering’ in the Australian material discussed here; a more ‘agriculturally-attuned’ perspective permits us to observe an ‘agricultural’ formation. Even so, are we not still observing largely the same or similar phenomena as detailed in the above discussion of the ethnohistorical material? We have not been presented with information that is substantially different to that discussed by others previously. As he has not engaged with the Australian debates incorporating this material, he has not clearly differentiated his ideas from those of previous researchers covering similar material. The debates and the data go hand-in-hand. The main difference here appears to be the labels employed. Has this complex of arguments, then, been reduced to labelling?

Towards the end of the book (p.156), Gerritsen introduces a universal, predictive model for the development of agriculture. Put simply, the model generally associates world centres of agricultural development with regions of high biogeographic fertility and high levels of information gain. The reinterpreted Australian material, he argues, conforms to the predictions established by the model. This biogeographic-functionalist model may have its merits, but in relation to the arguments presented here, it could just as easily have represented the Australian material within the ‘complex hunter-gatherer’ frame rather than the ‘agricultural’; and still conform to prediction. For, as argued here, the only significant difference is the labelling; the details remain essentially the same.

This serves to highlight a central issue: that these arbitrary categories of ‘hunter-gatherer’ and ‘agriculturalist’ lie in a ‘grey area’ or indefinite place; and that this has been at the core of the Australian debates, whether archaeological, anthropological, ethnohistorical or ethnobotanical. Rather than enter these debates from the start, if he were to use the material embedded within them, Gerritsen has stood aside, arguing from within the more traditional Old World ‘agricultural’ debates. To establish the connection with ‘agriculture’, he could have asked a different question, such as: in what ways are the Australian examples different from so-called ‘incipient agriculturalists’ or ‘agriculturalists’? This would have allowed him to explore these possibilities more fully. That is, it was not necessary to relabel the Australian material as it clearly lies in the ‘grey area’. At present, in world debates, a main dividing line between definitions of ‘agriculture’ and ‘hunting-gathering’ is the ‘domestication’ of plants and animals and how to recognise this; as many of the other features of ‘complexity’ are shared between ethnographic examples of both ‘hunter-gatherers’ and ‘agriculturalists’. The focus of attention should remain therefore, on the ‘grey areas’ lying between the two categories, and not on labelling, that only creates boundaries. Rather than classification, therefore, the issue, apart from ‘domestication’, also should concern ‘process’, and therefore the dynamics of these social formations and their landscapes. In these ways we can hope to understand these societies at all levels, including the biological and sociocultural, and how these are connected.

This leads us to the important question of how to understand ‘managed’ landscapes and resources, and their roles in past traditional Indigenous societies. This takes us also to the core of the debate: how to understand ‘social constructions’ of landscape and the difficult question of presumed ‘natural’ landscapes. At issue here are to what extent, and how, people interacted with the ‘natural’ world, and with each other. Here, we are left wondering what exactly we are observing when we face hectares of planted and dug-up ‘fields’ of yams, as in the case of the Nhanda; or the planting and tending of seed-bearing grasses along rich alluvial flats, extending for kilometres, in the ‘Corners’ example. Just how ‘managed’ or ‘natural’ are these phenomena? They obviously are both. That both examples appear to coincide with zones of high ‘natural’ fertility does not exclude their ‘cultural’ nature. Given the social practices involved: for example, planting, broadcasting, irrigating, firing and intensive harvesting and storage of seeds; we are left pondering. To what extent are these dense, extensive yam and seed fields also products of Indigenous ‘management’ strategies? Once again we are back to ‘labels’, all of which carry culturally-loaded assumptions.

It is little wonder that such debates fell prey to criticism directed from a number of quarters: that they represented colonial prejudices, and Eurocentric historical concepts embedded in unilinear or determinist evolutionary models; and that they also avoided Indigenous constructions of their past, as Gerritsen argues also. Surely it is time to move away from these now and view these phenomena once again from a wider range of perspectives including the Indigenous. After all, we are only seeking to understand and appreciate these past Indigenous worlds and landscapes, as much as those of the present. But the labels, along with their cultural baggage, only impede our progress.

The Emo Site (OAC), Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea: Resolving long-standing questions of antiquity and implications for the history of the ancestral hiri maritime trade

David et al A70 Figure5

The Aird Hills: emo, with Kumukumu mountain in the background (photograph by Bruno David) (image from Australian Archaeology 70:41).

Bruno David, Jean-Michel Geneste, Ken Aplin, Jean-Jacques Delannoy, Nick Araho, Chris Clarkson, Kate Connell, Simon Haberle, Bryce Barker, Lara Lamb, John Stanisic, Andrew Fairbairn, Robert Skelly and Cassandra Rowe

Since the 1970s the site of Emo (aka ‘Samoa’, ‘OAC’) in the Gulf Province of Papua New Guinea has been cited as one of the earliest-known ceramic sites from the southern Papuan lowlands. This site has long been seen as holding c.2000 year old evidence of post-Lapita long-distance maritime trade from (Austronesian-speaking) Motu homelands in the Central Province, where pottery was manufactured, to the (non-Austronesian) Gulf Province some 400 km to the west where pottery was received and for which large quantities of sago were exchanged (the ancestral hiri trade). However, until now the only three radiocarbon dates available for Emo were out of chronostratigraphic sequence, and few details on the site had been published. This paper presents the results of new excavations and the first detailed series of AMS radiocarbon determinations from Emo, thereby resolving long-standing uncertainties about the age of the site and its implications for the antiquity of the long-distance Motuan hiri maritime trade.

Review of ‘Surface Collection: Archaeological Travels in Southeast Asia’ by Denis Byrne

surface-collection-archaeological-travels-in-southeast-asiaSurface Collection: Archaeological Travels in Southeast Asia by Denis Byrne. Worlds of Archaeology Series, AltaMira Press, Lanham, MD, 2007, xix+187 pp., ISBN 9780759110182.

Reviewed by Sarah Milledge Nelson

Anthropology Department, University of Denver, 2000 East Asbury Street, Denver, CO 80208, USA

For archaeologists engaged in thinking about the processes and purposes of archaeology, this original and thoughtful book should be required reading. It is both a discursive travelogue and a careful analysis of what can be seen on the surface and what an archaeologist has to dig for, both literally and figuratively. The author raises questions about events that have been deliberately hidden, and events that appear to have been deliberately forgotten, but which have left archaeological traces despite local wishes for them to disappear.

The occasions for these ruminations are varied projects in Southeast Asia that the author experienced in the course of being involved in archaeological heritage conservation. The Preface is required reading for setting the chapters into the context of archaeology. Bryne explains his notion of an underground of the psyche, as well as the literal underground where archaeologists dig. He compares the surface and the underground, and their various interactions in different settings and times. He brings an archaeological habit of viewing the surface with the intent of trying to understand what might be under the ground to thinking about contemporary Southeast Asian lives and what might be invisible or barely visible on the surface, but still impacting people’s lives.

Each of the eight chapters of the book makes comparisons between the surface and the underground in different but complementary ways. Byrnes’ travels in pursuit of archaeological heritage have taken him from the Philippines to Bali, via Thailand and Vietnam. I have been to all these countries, although not to the specific locations he describes. He is a keen observer of the present, as well as traces of the past, which gives this book both edge and charm.

To provide a flavour of the book without trying to discuss all its revelations, I will summarise a bit about the underground and surface of Bali, from two of the chapters. This is not the Bali of tourist brochures, but a Bali with pasts that intrude on the present in potentially sinister ways. One chapter recounts the search for evidence of a large eruption in March 1963 of Mt Agung, the large, central volcano of Bali on the slopes of which an important temple exists. The eruption was so large, and spread its ash so far, that it was covered by National Geographic. The eruption was particularly devastating because a rare ceremony called Ekadasa Rudra, which takes place approximately once in a century, was in progress at the temple of Besakih on the upper slopes of the volcano when the eruption occurred, in spite of prior rumblings from Gunung Agang and official warnings. Some of the participants were killed, and whole villages disappeared under the wet hot ash and rock that cascaded down the mountain. Yet surface traces of the disaster were elusive when Bryne went looking for them some 30 years later. Only the tops of huge rocks, now surrounded by rice fields, and remnants of an old road marked by collapsed bridges suggested the previous site of a village whose devastation had been captured in a National Geographic photograph. Villages were rebuilt, and people lived their lives as if the eruption had not occurred. Apparently the event had been deliberately forgotten by the villagers old enough to remember. But the rebuilt temple was not forgotten. A footnote reveals that the Balinese were able to resist an attempt by Indonesia to nominate Besakih for World Heritage status, because the nomination considered the temple to be an object, not a being.

The other series of events, detailed in Chapter 4, took place in Bali in 1965–1966. It was more human and more sinister than a volcanic eruption, but equally devastating to people, villages, and the built environment. This was the rounding up and killing of many people suspected of siding with the rivals of the new Indonesian government of the time. Eventually Bryne learned that one of the first luxury hotels built on Bali was constructed over the site of a mass grave – an example of a deliberate attempt to force villagers to forget. Whole villages were burned to the ground, the men killed and the women and children taken elsewhere. While no traces of the destroyed villages were visible, Byrne went looking for traces of a destroyed raja’s palace. It, too, was elusive.

This is a complex book. Objects and features are traced in intriguing ways – the scent of Shalimar, destroyed Buddhist statues, the famous rice terraces of northern Luzon in the Philippines, the road in Vietnam that carried most of the Australian and New Zealand troops who went there to fight an impossible war. Relics of that war still exist. Byrne questions why a historic Spanish fort should be restored as a conservation of Philippine heritage, when more significant events occurred at that location more recently. While such events may seem more relevant to historical archaeologists than to prehistory, there is much in the way these tales are told to cause archaeologists of all stripes to think about their work in new ways. The relationship between what can be seen on the surface and what is ‘underground’ in Byrne’s sense is embedded in the tales of archaeological traces of the past in Southeast Asia, as well as being occasionally foregrounded by the author.

On the one hand this is travel writing, so well-written you will think you have been there. But much more important to archaeologists is Byrne’s search for a ‘signature of loss in the landscape’ (p.59). In ‘thinking about deterioration, decay, abandonment, and ruin in relation to built heritage,’ (p.59) this book offers many new ways to consider archaeological sites.

An archaeological re-investigation of the Mulka’s Cave Aboriginal rock art site, near Hyden, southwestern Australia

Rossi TA AA70Alana M. Rossi

MA, School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University, January 2010

Mulka’s Cave is a profusely decorated hollow boulder at The Humps, a large granite dome near Hyden, 350km southeast of Perth. The importance of the artwork has been recognised for 50 years. Test excavations in 1988 yielded 210 mainly quartz artefacts assignable to the Australian Small Tool phase and a radiocarbon date of 420+50 BP from just below the lowest artefact found. The artwork was recorded in detail in 2004. The recorder considered the radiocarbon date to be ‘anomalously young’ because most of the artwork is in poor condition, suggesting that it was made 3000–2000 years ago. Other dated rock art sites in southwestern Australia came into use 4000–3000 BP. The excavators argued that the site was fairly insignificant, while the rock art researcher thought the profusion of motifs (452) made it a site of some significance. The main aim of this study was to investigate these conflicting claims by reinvestigating how Mulka’s Cave had been used by Aboriginal people in the past.

This research became possible because local tourist organisations obtained federal funding to install an elevated walkway outside the cave in 2006. Under Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (AHA), 12 of the 34 postholes required were excavated and artefacts were collected from all the ground surfaces to be impacted. Subsequently, under Section 16 of the AHA, four small 50cm x 50cm testpits were excavated around the site: outside the cave entrance, on The Humps and in the Camping Area, a sheltered spot where the Traditional Owners had camped as children. Analysis focused on the numbers and types of stone artefacts recovered. The artefacts excavated in 1988 were also reanalysed. Five radiocarbon dates were obtained, which suggested that people began visiting the Camping Area (and using ochre) about 6500 BP, making Mulka’s Cave one of the oldest radiometrically dated rock art sites in southern Western Australia. The artefact data from Mulka’s Cave were compared to those from these other sites.

The low artefact discard rate and high proportion of retouched/formal tools found at Mulka’s Cave may indicate that the site was used differently from the other sites, but the data are problematic. Most (70%) of the handstencils in Mulka’s Cave can be attributed to adolescents, possibly boys, which may also suggest that the site had ceremonial significance; perhaps as a focus for male initiation rituals. The artefact data do not support this hypothesis, however. There is no evidence of spatial patterning in artefact type or frequency across the site, which would be expected if the cave had had a ritual function. Instead, the Camping Area, Walkway Area and Mulka’s Cave itself seem to have been used similarly.

It was concluded that, given the scarcity of free-standing potable water in the surrounding region and the presence at The Humps of two capacious gnammas (rockholes), people probably visited the site when the gnammas were full. At Mulka’s Cave, they may have added to the corpus of rock art and carried out other ceremonial business, but there is no archaeological evidence for the latter. It was concluded that much more research needs to be undertaken in this neglected part of the semi-arid zone before the significance of Mulka’s Cave can be properly assessed and its place in the archaeological record of southwestern Australia determined.

Image caption: Excavating the Camping Area at Mulka’s Cave. Charcoal from this testpit predates ca 5000 years BP (image courtesy of Alana Rossi).

Material culture and behaviour in Pleistocene Sahul: Examining the archaeological representation of Pleistocene behavioural modernity in Sahul

Langley MAP of Pleistocene Sahul TAMichelle C. Langley

MPhil, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, September 2009

Sahul, the combined landmass of Australia and New Guinea, provides a record of behavioural modernity extending over at least the last 50,000 years. Colonised solely by anatomically and behaviourally modern humans, this continent provides an alternative record to the African Middle Stone Age and Eurasian Upper Palaeolithic in the investigation of behavioural modernity.

In the past, the archaeological record of behavioural modernity in Sahul has been described as simple, sparse and essentially different from those records of Africa and Eurasia. These differences have been attributed to either low population densities during the Pleistocene or the loss of behavioural ‘traits’ on the journey from Africa to Sahul. While a number of studies have been undertaken, no sustained attempt has been made to investigate the role of taphonomy and sampling on the representation of behavioural modernity in the archaeological record, despite Sahul being characterised by extreme environments, highly variable climates, and archaeologically, usually only small excavations.

This study compiles a database of some 223 Pleistocene sites, including details of chronology, evidence for behavioural modernity and excavation details. Site spatial and temporal distribution, site characteristics, excavations, absolute dating, preservation and sample size are examined to determine how the behavioural complexity of a modern human population is characterised on this isolated southern continent and the impact of taphonomy and archaeological sampling on that representation.

Results demonstrate that preservation and sampling play a significant role in structuring the spatial and temporal representation of behavioural modernity in the archaeological record of Pleistocene Sahul. Contrary to previous findings, the evidence for behavioural modernity in Sahul is found to resemble the archaeological records of the African Middle Stone Age and Eurasian Upper Palaeolithic in terms of behaviour and artefact diversity. In terms of global narratives, these results also indicate that current understandings of behavioural modernity are incomplete and may misrepresent levels of behavioural complexity in early periods in some regions.

Djadjiling Rockshelter: 35,000 14C years of Aboriginal occupation in the Pilbara, Western Australia

Law et al AA70 Figure S2

The eastern section of Unit 5, Djadjiling Rockshelter, Pilbara (photograph by W. Boone Law) (image from Australian Archaeology 70, Supplementary Material).

W. Boone Law, Dawn N. Cropper and Fiona Petchey


The Pleistocene settlement of the arid zone is a prominent research theme in Australian archaeology (Hiscock 2008:45-62; Hiscock and Wallis 2004; Marwick 2002a, 2002b; O’Connor et al. 1998; Smith 1987, 2005; Thorley 1998; Veth 1993, 1995, 2005). Of particular interest is the inland Pilbara region of the western arid zone, which until recently was reported to have been first occupied between c.20,000 BP and c.26,000 BP (Brown 1987:27; Edwards and Murphy 2003:45; Maynard 1980:7). The recent test excavations at Juukan-1 rockshelter suggest the region was occupied before 32,920±270 BP (Slack et al. 2009:34). Our research at Djadjiling rockshelter supports this result by demonstrating an Aboriginal presence at the site c.35,000 years ago. Not only is the site unique for its antiquity, but excavations have recovered a large flaked stone assemblage from the earliest occupational phase. The evidence demonstrates repeated early site use, and a sequence of intermittent occupation throughout the late Pleistocene and Holocene. The preliminary findings are presented below …

Review of ‘Gunyah, Goondie and Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia’ by Paul Memmott

Gunyah-goondie-and-wurleyGunyah, Goondie and Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia by Paul Memmott.  University of Queensland Press, St Lucia Qld 2007, xx+412 pp., ISBN 978 0 7022 3245 9.

Reviewed by Cherrie de Leiuen

Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia

The perception and pervasive myth that Indigenous Australia was a land without architecture, without permanent, significant houses and settlements, and that Indigenous people were nomadic is squarely challenged in Paul Memmott’s book. His central subject is Aboriginal ‘ethno-architecture’ as practised prior to colonisation and throughout and beyond the contact period. Memmott’s examination of the complexity and range of such practices is important; indeed, this book fills a large gap (and need) in our documented knowledge and is a tangible response to the question of terra nullius. Most significantly, the book sees and recognises Indigenous architecture as the built expression of complex and changing social structures, reflections of, and inter-relatedness to, kinship groups and elaborate social rules and structures as well as the response to resources, lifestyle and climate.

Memmott has been documenting regional architectural styles for over 30 years and this book is a collation of some 20 publications. The result is what appears to be an encyclopaedia of Indigenous architectural practices. However, this book is more of a starting point than a completed catalogue. This is a significant attempt to begin to collate and document a more definitive resource on the subject. The audience is the lay reader and the academic (p.xiv) – not a book written for archaeologists – however, the systematic documentation of many types of regional Indigenous architecture is both informative and useful. The architectural ‘view’ of the built environment has the potential to inform our archaeological perspectives. In addition, the extensive collation of photographs, paintings, magazine and journal articles and use of Indigenous voices is both impressive and informative.

Specific themes addressed in the book include campsite domiciliary behaviour, travelling between campsites as a response to seasonal changes, semi-sedentary villages, spatial organisation of campsites and the diffusion and influence of design types across regions. These themes are explored region-by-region using case studies. For example, Chapter 4 examines the north east rainforest and how the tropical wet seasons result in sedentary village architecture, while Chapter 9 looks at the spinifex houses of the Western Desert. ‘Boxes’ are also used to provide additional case studies within each chapter. These are valuable but the layout makes reading of the main text somewhat disjointed.

This book also examines outstation architecture from the 1970s, with the collaborative architectural projects between Aboriginal groups and non-Aboriginal architects, as well as contemporary architecture by Indigenous architects with Western qualifications and training.

While some of Memmott’s analyses of the use of space by dogs is refreshingly outside mainstream thinking (with the exception of Colin Pardoe), his use of primarily male anthropological sources has biased some of his interpretations. For example, his discussion of the Alyawarr’s use of campsite space includes an innovative and fascinating discussion on men’s, women’s and dog’s space. However, there is more depth committed to the role of dog’s space than to women’s space and this is indicative of a gender bias within the book as a whole. In the chapter, women’s use of space is addressed in a rather superficial way (p.40):

Women’s ritual is often planned and organised from within women’s domiciliary spaces. Women also, of course, go about their daily chores of food preparation, cooking and childcare in these spaces.

A considered analysis of women’s use of space would have strengthened this volume, and is an obvious area for future research.

Gunyah, Goondie and Wurley is impressively hard-bound and its weight and feel is, in some sense, imposing and authoritative. As it is written by an architect, the book has an aesthetic property, which cannot be ignored. The book makes a substantive contribution to our knowledge of Aboriginal architecture. It can be difficult to read, but it is pleasure to peruse.