The Archaeology of Australia's Deserts

Author(s): Mike Smith


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


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

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

General Fields

  • : 9780521407458
  • : Cambridge University Press
  • : Cambridge University Press
  • : February 2013
  • : 228mm X 152mm
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Hardback
  • : 350
  • : 80 b/w illus. 10 maps 45 tables