Historical Archaeology in the Land of the Black Stump

Harrison, Rodney (2008). Historical Archaeology in the Land of the Black Stump. In: Mayne, Alan ed. Beyond the Black Stump: Histories of Outback Australia. Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press, pp. 85–112.

URL: http://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/books/beyondthebl...

Abstract

The discipline of archaeology in Australia has largely been divided along the lines of ‘prehistoric archaeology’, focusing on the pre-contact archaeology of Aboriginal Australia, and ‘historical archaeology’, with a focus on the settler experience of colonialism in Australia. Recent revisionist approaches have brought the historical archaeology of Aboriginal Australia to the foreground, so called ‘contact archaeology’, as a new and largely distinct stream of academic investigation. Emerging from this field of study are research projects that aim to reveal the mutual, shared histories of Aboriginal and settler Australians. This paper reviews these themes in an attempt to develop an agenda for the role of historical archaeology within a broader historical study of Australia’s Inland Corridor. I suggest that a focus on European centres has meant that contact archaeology in Australia has been dominated by a Eurocentric perspective on the contact experience, and has failed to engage with the significant flows of information, materials and social interactions across the landscape of rural Australia. In the space left to me after this review, I sketch the potential for a study of linear infrastructure routes as a remedy to such an approach, using the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia as an example. I conclude that historical archaeology in settler societies must address not only ‘the spread of European culture throughout the world since the fifteenth century and its impacts on indigenous peoples’, but the impacts of indigenous peoples and places on ‘European’ culture; the shared history and archaeology of becoming us, through broad-scaled regional surveys designed to understand the significant movement and flow of ideas and material culture in the land of the Black Stump.

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