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Synopsis

During the past thirty years the human history of the Australian continent has become the object of intense national and international interest. These years have been the 'decades of discovery', featuring fieldwork and analyses which have rewritten the distant past of Australia almost on a yearly basis. One measure of the international significance of these discoveries is the listing of three great archaeological provinces (Kakadu, Lake Mungo, and South West Tasmania) on the World Heritage Register.

The Archaeology of Aboriginal Australia seeks to convey a sense of the excitement and significance of the research undertaken during the 'decades of discovery'. The material presented here--specially commissioned essays and key published articles by new and established scholars--focuses on the themes and issues which continue to attract the most attention among archaeologists:

* the antiquity of the human settlement of Australia

* patterns of colonisation

* the significance of change in Aboriginal society in the late prehistoric period

* the usefulness of reconstructions of past ecological systems in understanding the

histories of Aboriginal societies

* the value of rock art and stone tool technology in understanding the human history

of Australia

* the archaeology of Aboriginal-European contact

An overview chapter discusses changes in the practice of Australian archaeology (and the political context in which it is undertaken) during the last two decades. The Archaeology of Aboriginal Australia also conveys the fact that there is by no means a 'party line' among practitioners about how to understand more than 40,000 years of human action.

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