Desert Archaeology, Linguistic Stratigraphy, and the Spread of the Western Desert Language

Mike Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Prehistory is written from many sources. When I began archaeological work incentral Australia more than 20 years ago, my long-term objective was to usedifferent strands of evidence to provide a fine-grained reconstruction of theprehistory of the region. I hoped – eventually – to be able to compare a regionaloccupation sequence, obtained through archaeological excavations, with detailed information on changes in regional environments, rock art, patterns of trade and exchange between regions, and data on the genetic and linguistic history of central Australian Aboriginal groups. My premise was that an interdisciplinary approach and a wide range of data would be necessary before we could understand the development of the distinctive central Australian societies documented by ethnographers at the close of the nineteenth century. The task as I saw it was broadly historical, but concerned with cultural process and with environmental history, as much as with culture history. The problem is that it has taken much longer to build up this data-set than anyone imagined.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesert Peoples
Subtitle of host publicationArchaeological Perspectives
EditorsPeter Veth, Mike Smith, Peter Hiscock
Place of PublicationMassachusetts, USA
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)1405100907, 1405100915, 9781405100908
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Archaeological literature
  • Australian aboriginal groups
  • Linguistic prehistory
  • Puntutjarpa rock shelter
  • Rudall river


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