Oral Tradition, History, and Archaeohistory of Indigenous Australia

Iain Davidson, Heather Burke, Pearl Connelly, Stephen Porter, Hazel Sullivan, Lance Sullivan, Isabel Tarrago, Lynley A. Wallis

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

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article considers some of the uncertainties about the position of oral traditions in relation to historical studies with written texts and in the narrative studies derived from archaeological evidence that may be called archaeohistories. There are issues about the ways in which we learn about Indigenous peoples, sometimes using non-Indigenous people as intermediaries and sometimes, though rarely, in the direct voices of Indigenous peoples. This article discusses the relationships among oral history, oral tradition, history from written texts, and archaeohistory, including the role of sanctification in the survival of knowledge. This discussion includes some consideration of the accuracies of these sources given the different time and personal scales over which they operate. Illustrating the argument with examples of Indigenous oral knowledge from communities in different parts of eastern Australia, it then discusses the possibility that other Indigenous accounts include narratives about different sea levels around Australia. The article concludes with a discussion of the complex interplay of memory and forgetting, verifiable secular knowledge and ritual beliefs, and different classes of historical knowledge. Application of different cultural knowledge to these sources by different agents produces different accounts of the past.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Indigenous Australia and New Guinea
EditorsIan McNiven, Bruno David
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9780190095642
ISBN (Print)9780190095611, 9780190095628
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2022


  • Oral history
  • Oral tradition
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeohistory
  • Written history
  • Sahul
  • oral history
  • archaeology
  • oral tradition
  • archaeohistory
  • written history


Dive into the research topics of 'Oral Tradition, History, and Archaeohistory of Indigenous Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this