Once were foragers: The archaeology of agrarian Australia and the fate of Aboriginal land management

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The arrival of European agriculturalists emphatically disrupted the foraging economies of Australia Aboriginal peoples. Introduced farming based on non-native species was practiced over southern and eastern Australia, while much of arid and tropical Australia supported ranch pastoralism. Thus the primary setting for culture contact between Aboriginal societies and outsiders involved agrarian colonialism. In this configuration, some hunter-foragers became herders, domestic animal handlers, and gardeners. The transformation occurred quickly, within a single generation, although was essentially 'uneven' across families, kin groups, and regions. Much of the unevenness resulted from the social and political realities of colonial Australia, alongside environmental parameters. While Australia provides insight into how foraging societies transformed when faced with farmers, these changes occurred in specific historical contexts wherein the contingencies of agrarian colonialism greatly restricted the range of possibilities for Aboriginal people while destabilizing prevailing indigenous anthropogenic environments. This paper argues for an archaeology of agrarian Australia that aims to understand the emergence of Australian historical landscapes from combined Holocene Australian and Early Modern European roots.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-16
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2018


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