“No Houses and Skin Garments, Sheep, Poultry and Fruits of the Earth”: Aboriginal Australia, Narratives of Human History, and the Built Environment

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


    This paper critically discusses how the Australian Aboriginal built environment has been conceptualized in the past and how it should be viewed in the light of current archaeological and ethnographic evidence. The historical view of Aboriginal built structures is necessarily entangled in Western or European perceptions of Australian Aboriginal lifeways. Western narratives of global human history prioritized economic practices (e.g. farming) as well as material technologies (which also included permanent built structures) to measure the degree of progress of societies. Australian Aboriginal societies were invariably placed at the bottom of these schemes. These narratives are fundamentally challenged on two levels. The first is a recognition of the complexity of the material transformations that are observable in Australia and related to a wide range of complex Australian Aboriginal practices. The second is a critique of the established understanding of the processes of the establishment of meaning in the context of places and landscapes and their interrelationships with human practices, worldviews and values. Beyond the recognition that “complexity” does not depend on built structures as defined by dominant Western narratives, this latter aspect relates to a critique of the boundary between nature and culture and the definition of a built environment itself.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPostcolonialism, Heritage, and the Built Environment
    Subtitle of host publicationNew Approaches to Architecture in Archaeology
    EditorsJessica Nitschke, Marta Lorenzen
    Place of PublicationSwitzerland
    Number of pages13
    ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-60858-3
    ISBN (Print) 978-3-030-60857-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Publication series

    NameSpringerBriefs in Archaeology

    Cite this