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  • The Riches of Ancient Australia: An Indispensable Guide for Exploring Prehistoric Australia
  • Harry Allen
The Riches of Ancient Australia: An Indispensable Guide for Exploring Prehistoric Australia. Josephine Flood. 3rd ed. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1999. xix + 382 pp.; illustrations, maps, bibliography, index. ISBN: 0-7022-3083-9.

The Riches of Ancient Australia closely follows the text of the 1990 edition with only minor changes. This is appropriate for the data chapters and for Chapter 1, "Do the Right Thing," but is less acceptable for Chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 2 is an introduction to Australian prehistory, which misses the last decade, a period of signifi cant discovery in Australian archaeology. This is also largely the case with Chapter 3, "Introduction to Australian Rock Art." While it is noted that the cation-ratio dating of rock engravings has been discredited, this chapter largely misses Alan Watchman's painstaking breakthroughs in the dating of Australian rock paintings. On Figure 2.3 (p. 18), New Guinea is shown as a part of Greater Australia. However, in Table 2.1 (p. 17), aspects of New Guinean prehistory prior to 7,000 B.P. are separated from those of Australia and are listed "In rest of world" rather than with Australia. It should be made clear that The Riches of Ancient Australia are limited to those which relate to the boundaries of the current nation state, excluding the Torres Strait Islands. [End Page 192]

Western Australia (Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7) is a state about which I know little. The guide to its sites and places of interest is well written, informative, and interesting. Advice on when private visitation is impossible, through remoteness, difficult terrain, or Aboriginal sensitivities is invaluable. As the author notes, in such situations, the visitor is advised to join a tour group. Also invaluable are the estimates of time to allow a complete round trip, advice that can save a life in the Australian outback. Two descriptions are new to this edition, Kunnunurra region cave paintings and Lake Argyle area (p. 79). An excellent addition to this edition is that telephone numbers have been updated or added.

Chapter 8 deals with the "Top End of the Northern Territory." The first section of this chapter discusses archaeological discoveries made in Western Arnhem Land, early dates, early art, early ground-edge axes, sequences of changes in artifact and art styles, and describes locations associated with these. A second section labeled "Kakadu National Park" begins on page 92. Here are noted places that Parks Australia, the authority which manages Kakadu National Park, has prepared for year-round visitation. There is some overlap and repetition between the two sections. Climatic conditions make many of the sites unvisitable during the wet season, some roads and sites are permanently closed, while others require permission from park and Aboriginal authorities. There is no mention that a major township, Jabiru, and the Ranger mine and uranium processing plant are located within the park boundary. The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Center near Yellow Water, which presents an Aboriginal oriented view of the area and its history, is worth a mention and a visit.

I have some problems with the details of Chapter 8 where a number of points of debate are skirted over. Are the Kakadu sand sheets definitely the product of human-firing activity? Do the thermoluminescence dates represent Australia's "oldest firmly dated traces of human presence"? Did the rising of the sea at the end of the "ice age" (hardly an appropriate term for tropical Australia) have a profound effect on Aboriginal culture? Did the post-glacial rise in sea level lead to the birth of the Rainbow Snake traditions? Birndu is no longer an accepted name for Ngarradj Warde Djobkeng. The rest of Chapter 8 reflects the author's long knowledge of the western part of the Top End and does contain the type of detail requested above for Kakadu. The section on Jinmium (p. 108), including the revised dates for occupation, is an addition to the 1990 edition.

Queensland receives two chapters (9 and 10). Queensland's archaeological, palaeontological, and art sites are spectacular and varied. Many are in national parks...


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