Visions of the Australian Pleistocene: prehistoric life at Lake Mungo and Kutikina
Australian Archaeology, (35), .
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In addition to the vast number of historic images of Australian Aboriginal peoples, a number of archaeological images depicting life in prehistoric times in Australia have recently been produced (Attwood and Edwards 1987; Deiley 1979; Jones 1987a; Wood 1977). While the historic images include drawings, paintings and photographs produced in association with the early scientific expeditions to Australia and the European settlement of the country, the prehistoric images include drawings and paintings which have been produced in association with the excavation of major archaeological sites in the country. The historic images appear in colonial accounts and expedition memoirs, and have been used as a documentary resource in a wide range of disciplines including history, anthropology, archaeology and art history, and the prehistoric images appear in popular scientific texts and have been used as a resource for communicating archaeological findings to the wider public. While the historic images have been used to assess the ways in which the Europeans rationalised their invasion of Australia and their oppression of the Aboriginal population, the prehistoric images can be used to assess the way in which prehistorians have rationalised their reconstruction of prehistoric behaviour and their development of theories about how the continent was first colonised by human populations. In essence, both the historic and prehistoric visions of Australian Aboriginal peoples constitute a critical resource for understanding both the colonial construction of Australian Aboriginal identity and the archaeological construction of prehistoric Aboriginal lifeways. Despite the fact that the prehistoric images or visual reconstructions are limited in number, they still make an important contribution to the rich iconographic tradition of depicting Australian Aboriginal peoples. Similar to the historic images, the value of the prehistoric images lies not so much what they tell us about what the Aboriginal peoples looked like and what they did, but also in what they tell us about ourselves and how we have constructed knowledge about Australian prehistory. This paper constitutes a preliminary attempt to outline the role that such images play in the conceptualisation of the Australian Pleistocene
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