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Review of Prehistory of Australia


Bowman, DMJS, Review of Prehistory of Australia, Quarterly Review of Biology, 75, (2) pp. 223. ISSN 0033-5770 (2000) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]


PREHISTORY OF AUSTRALIA. By John Mulvaney and Johan Kamminga. Washington (DC): Smithsonian Institution Press. $27.95 (paper). xx + 480 P + 16 pi; ill.; index. ISBN: 1-56098-804-5. 1999. An apt adjective for both the Australian biota and the prehistory of the Aboriginal people is "enigmatic." Only recently, however, has it been appreciated how the historical and ecological biography of Australia and Aborigines are inextricably linked. This authoritative book lucidly explains why certainty and simplicity have retreated in direct proportion to the ongoing research effort into Australia's prehistory. For instance, the authors' sober analysis of the evidence demonstrates that the time of colonization remains an open question despite forty years of research. What this research has demonstrated, however, is that some of humanity's first seafarers colonized Australia sometime beyond the radiocarbon dating horizon of 40,000 years before present. Equally, the authors doubt the enduring hypotheses that Australia was colonized by "archaic" humans such as Homo ereetus or that the late Pleistocene inhabitants caused the extinction of the Australian megafauna. Aboriginal people have a rich body of oral traditions concerning their past, but Mulvaney and Kamminga feel that it is not possible to integrate these with the western scientific approach that they espouse. They accept that it is possible to extrapolate the knowledge ofthe "ethnographic present" to the relatively recent past of the last few millennia. They demonstrate, however, that the vast majority of the Australia's prehistory is as opaque as smoked glass.

Item Details

Item Type:Contribution to Refereed Journal
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Evolutionary biology
Research Field:Biogeography and phylogeography
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Effects of climate change on Australia (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:69189
Year Published:2000
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2011-04-19
Last Modified:2011-11-25

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