Friday, June 20, 2008

Ancient Australia not written in stone
Aboriginal people are thought to have inhabited the Australian continent for around 45,000 years before European contact, and are frequently cited as the oldest continuous living culture on Earth.

However, written records of their lives exist only since European contact. Many historians and archaeologists assumed that the culture and traditions of Aboriginal people had altered little over time, and that these written records were an accurate window into the lives of the ancestors of today's Aborigines.

But some archaeologists argue that this is not necessarily the case.

Interesting little article and it includes a bit of professional wrangling over how to interpret the past. This sentence:
"Her method did not investigate the nature of ancient life but instead developed interpretations of the past that merely recreated the format of Aboriginal life in the historic period," he says.

is probably. . . .true in a lot of cases and gets right to the use of ethnographic analogy in archaeology. It would be exaggerating to say that all we do is map the present onto the past, but it's probably been a larger crutch than most will admit to.