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Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  205 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Soon after Billy Griffiths joins his first archaeological dig as camp manager and cook, he is hooked. Equipped with a historian’s inquiring mind, he embarks on a journey through time, seeking to understand the extraordinary deep history of the Australian continent.

Deep Time Dreaming is the passionate product of that journey. In this original, important book, Griffiths invest/>Deep
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 26th 2018 by Black Inc.
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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 ·  205 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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“British archaeologist Christopher Chippindale reflected, ‘Does the history of humans in Australia . . . belong to the ethnic descendants of those first inhabitants? . . . Or is there some wider claim, of science and common human concern, to rights of access to relics of the past??’

Fantastic resource! Science, history, anecdotes, politics – and at the base of it all is the world’s oldest continuing culture. Exactly how old keeps changing. I think we’re up to 65,000 years now for Australia’s Indigenous people. There was so much wreflected,5★
Stella Budrikis
Mark McKenna wrote "‘Once every generation a book comes along that marks the emergence of a powerful new literary voice and shifts our understanding of the nation’s past. Deep Time Dreaming is one such book. Read it: it will change the way you see Australian history.’
That sums it up really. Billy Griffiths' book charts the gradual change in perception of Australia's archaeological past, from the days of "Australia has no archaeology to speak of" to the more recent acceptance that people have be
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
Billy Griffith's account of the history of Australian archeology and of its intersection with Australia's Aboriginal peoples is easy to read though scholarly and detailed. The 60,000 year deep time of Australia's human history has been revealed in the western sense by archeologists. The Aboriginal people whose history this is and their relationship with the western 'discovery' of that 60,000 is told mostly chronologically starting in 1957 with John Mulvaney. I appreciated Billy's coverage of the ...more
Andrew Carr
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent. Beautifully written history of modern archaeology in Australia, as it relates to the study of Aboriginal Australia. A fascinating look at how we know what we know and how indigenous culture, techniques and tools changed as their natural and social environment did (such as building major huts, farming crops, fish and eels, managing land via fire etc) as well as debates over the date of their arrival (around 60'000 years at best estimate) and much more.

The book also gives pe
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is not a history of Australia, but is instead a history of the archaeology discipline as practised in Australia, written from an outsider's perspective, "from the fringes, steeped in the neighbouring discipline of history".(p.4) Moving chronologically, each chapter is devoted to a particular archaeologist (Mulvaney, Bowler, Rhys Jones), or an archaeological dig that moved out of academe into the wider politics of Australia (e.g. the Franklin River, Lake Mungo). The book documents the r ...more
Astrid Edwards
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
What is the common heritage of mankind? And who are the gatekeepers of that knowledge? These are the questions Deep Time Dreaming forces us to consider. There are no easy answers, particularly as the early decades of archaeology in Australia are rife with questionable practices and methodologies that leave their mark on the discipline – and the physical sites – to this day.

As Griffiths quotes (on page 128), ‘Australia – virtually ignored by prehistorians until the 1960s as a tedious archaeol
Tim Neale
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: Billy is a colleague, and because of this I got my hands on an advance copy. I think this is an outstanding book that should find a broad readership. The book builds up an argument about how archaeology has come to understand and discuss the deep history of the Australian continent by sticking to narratives of the people who've been engaged in that work, their lives, their ideals, and their mistakes. In the process, he outlines some of the big controversies of the field, how its ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A remarkable book that is a detailed, absorbing, and reflective history of Australian archaeology. Through the lens of key sites and archaeologists, we become enthralled with the history of archaeological research in Australia; the impact of the research, researchers, and the Aboriginal identity of country and time. A thrilling history of how and what archaeological research is and its unique engagement with the culture and politics of first Australians.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
One of the most remarkable aspects of Billy Griffith’s Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia is the revelation that a science as young as Australian archeology (Griffiths contends that not until 1956 did the modern era of archeological investigation begin in Australia, Loc 448) has from that time been a driving force in determining the history of one of the world’s most ancient people, a history believed to be longer than 60,000 years.(Loc 74) The book gave me a greater understanding of many ...more
Sue Law
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: archaeology, history
This is a fantastic and easily readable book on the development of archaeology in Australia and the way it became entwined with the reemergence of Australian Aboriginal identity to the ultimate benefit of both. Griffiths has selected about a dozen archaeologists who he feels carried out seminal studies starting with John Mulvaney's excavation at Fromm's landing in 1957, the first carefully stratigraphic excavation of a aboriginal campsite which produced then-startling occupation dates of up to 6 ...more
May 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a more academic tome about archaeology.
Jazzy Lemon
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An informative book about the archeology and archeologists of 20th c. Australian Aboriginals.
James Whitmore
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this a stimulating and thorough guide to the recent study of Australia’s past. It is a history of the discipline of archaeology in Australia, with the aim of continuing the work of undoing the ‘great Australian silence’: the lack of knowledge and curiosity about the first Australians. As the anthropologist WEH Stanner described when he coined that phrase in 1968, it is not so much that Australian history has been filled with lies, but is ‘a view from a window that has been very carefully ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book for all Australians.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ancient history of Australia

The book is the result of an extensive and structured research by the author. It tells Australian history from an aboriginal perspective based on the hard work of early archeologists and support of the land custodians. The book is also a history of Australian archeology.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Astounding. I loved this.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, australian
As a child, I was fascinated by archaeology, but didn't see a future as an archaeologist in Australia. This book shows how wrong I was. It is a history of archaeologists in Australia taking a person-per-chapter approach, rather than a theory by theory approach to age or settlement patterns. The time frame is somewhat narrow, focusing on the 1950s to 1970s. I had heard of many of the names and places, but hadn't realised how much impact the archaeological evidence had on the eventual decision not ...more
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book on this topic feels like it should have been written years ago, although I doubt it would have been as good if it had. Griffiths does a great job of telling the history of Australian archeology - interspersing explanations of changing techniques and learnings with personality sketches that always stay respectful and affectionate. As an amateur who tries to keep up with developments in archeology, this was a relief to read, putting many jigsaw pieces together and spelling out some of the m ...more
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book. No doubt it’s content - a charting of Australian archaeological discoveries coupled with a reflection of the flow-on effect in politics and identity - is important to contemporary debate.

There is much value on understanding how archeology from the 50s and 60s strengthened the growing Indigenous Peoples rights movement. The narratives are not so simple: those early research projects often ignored issues of land rights and community engagement. They caused a lot of p
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book about the extraordinary history of humans in Australia.

Most Australians would have no idea that Indigenous Australians have been living on this continent for over 65,000 years. That number is hard to fathom, but it takes us back well into the middle of the last ice age, when Tasmania was still connected to the mainland. One of my favourite bloggers Tim Urban puts in into nice perspective with colourful charts here (This is a wonderful book about the extraordinary history of humans in Australia.

Most Australians would have no idea that Indigenous Australians have been living on this continent for over 65,000 years. That number is hard to fathom, but it takes us back well into the middle of the last ice age, when Tasmania was still connected to the mainland. One of my favourite bloggers Tim Urban puts in into nice perspective with colourful charts here (

The book uncovers the amazing story of how Indigenous communities across the continent managed to sustain communities through dramatic environmental changes that occurred over that period.

The story is told in a really compelling and accessible way through mini-biographies of archaeologists who worked to reveal the 'deep time' history of Australia over the last century. It gives me a whole new perspective on the land on which I live.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
As my first book in the area some terms went over my head (even with the kindle dictionary) but other than that it was interesting.
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and important read and contribution to Australian and Aboriginal history through the lens of archaeology.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating story of how science finally figured out that Aboriginal Australians (the original Australians) have been on this continent for 40,000 to 60,000 years. Challenges preconceptions about what constitutes Deep Time and how long people have been living in cultures that celebrate trade, art and sacred traditions. Far from being “primitive” or “savage” these cultures have advanced symbolic and cultural practices that go back for untold generations. This deep history is part of Australian hi ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A well-written and detailed look at the development of Australian archaeology. Highlights for me:

Lake Mungo - Mungo Woman and Mungo Man

Learning about how the original Australians managed the land, particularly by fire, and the insights into the technologies they used.

How thermoluminescence dating rolled back human habitation of our continent to [at least] 65,000 years ago so that "the New World had become the Old".

The results of recent genetic stud
Su McLaren
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoking

A different look at Aboriginal Australia through the eyes of the archaeologists. Takes the view archaeologists were behind all the major descisions regarding white attitudes to Aboriginals. Check the details and read with this in mind and it is a good summary of the changes in attitude that have happened in the last 1/2 century. Thought provoking, interesting, packed with adjacent lines of investigation, I would suggest this book as an openning gambit to further deep ibvestigati
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Finished: 19.04.2019
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: A+++
#NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2019
Deep Time Dreaming is MY CHOICE
as winner of the non-fiction
Douglas Stewart Prize ( NSW Literary Awards 2019)!
Here is why...

My Thoughts

Dan Sherrell
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Picked it up expecting a primer on the mind-bogglingly long legacy of aboriginal culture on the Australian continent (65,000 years!!!), and what sections of this there were were all really fascinating. The historiographical parts about the discipline of archaeology interested me less, and took up a good 2/3 of the book I’d say
Philip Hunt
Such an important book for Australians. Part history of archeological research, part analysis of the awkward relationship between indigenous culture and scientific research, and part reverie on how little we whitefellas understand, let alone value, the culture of the oldest living people on earth.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best, and most insightful, histories of Australia that I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended reading for anyone interested in Australian cultural identity, Australian History, Ancient History or Indigenous Issues.
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Billy Griffiths is the author of The China Breakthrough and co-editor with Mike Smith of The Australian Archaeologist’s Book of Quotations. He is a research fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.