Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

The Australian Archaeologist's Book of Quotations

Edited by Mike Smith and Billy Griffiths


A print-sized collection that punches well above its weight, this collection is a must-have for active and armchair adventurers alike. Ruth A Morgan, Australian Book Review

From the book:

The discoverers, explorers and colonists of the three million square miles which are Australia, were its Aborigines. John Mulvaney, 1969

Perhaps we should call what the Aborigines did ‘fire-stick farming’. Rhys Jones, 1969

…if we Aborigines cannot control our own heritage, what the hell can we control? Rosalind Langford, 1983

Australian archaeology has been involved in a great enterprise over the last sixty years, uncovering the deep past of a desert continent and the history of its first people. This book is a guide to the catchphrases of the discipline. It is a meditation on science and place, culture and politics, deep time and the Dreaming – and it is steeped in an appreciation of good writing and a well-turned phrase. Woven in amongst these quotations is the story of how, as a nation, we are coming to terms with ancient Australia.

The entries are drawn from letters and journals, histories and poems, newspapers and novels. Each has been chosen because it is a pithy summation of an issue. Combined, they map the development of the field and encourage a dialogue between science and the humanities.


Mike Smith AM is a veteran desert archaeologist who learnt his trade in Australian archaeology’s ‘decades of discovery’. He is an emeritus research fellow at the National Museum of Australia and the author of The Archaeology of Australia’s Deserts (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Billy Griffiths is a Sydney-based writer and historian. He is the author of The China Breakthrough: Whitlam in the Middle Kingdom, 1971 (Monash University Publishing, 2012).

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