Beyond the orthodox view: A body of evidence for food getting, plant domestication and farming by the “hunter-gatherers” of pre-colonial Australia

01st June 2011

William J. Ellwood

BA(Hons), Department of Anthropology, Archaeology and Sociology, James Cook University, December 2009

Like the concept of terra nullius, the idea that pre-colonial Australia was a continent of hunter-gatherers can be overturned. Ethnohistoric records indicate that Aboriginal resource exploitation cannot be adequately described as a generalised hunter-gatherer economy. This thesis maintains that the majority of pre-colonial Australian economies show evidence of food procurement activities comparable to practices that are attributed to the complex hunter-gatherer and agricultural economies of other parts of the world. Moreover, these practices occur not only in the so-called rich environments of the coastal fringe and rivers, but also in the semi-arid interior of Australia. Therefore the characterisation of the Aboriginal Australians as generalised hunter-gatherers in supposedly impoverished environments misrepresents both the Australian environments and human exploitation of those environments. This thesis explores the need to reopen a discussion addressing the use and understanding of the hunter-gatherer and agriculturalist models of subsistence. I argue for a revision of the various models in use not only in Australia, but also worldwide. Finally, this thesis brings an Aboriginal perspective to the study and understanding of subsistence strategies and practices.

William J. Ellwood
Beyond the orthodox view: A body of evidence for food getting, plant domestication and farming by the "hunter-gatherers" of pre-colonial Australia
June 2011
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Thesis Abstracts
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