Australia's human prehistory through more than 40,000 years is the challenging theme of this masterly survey. John Mulvaney and Johan Kamminga bring together the discoveries and often controversial interpretations of six decades of archaeological research to reveal that across this island continent, in the face of contrasting environments and changing climates, human responses produced many cultures, languages and life styles. The Old World is usually credited with the origins of art and spirituality. Recent discoveries, however, prove that symbolic rock art and complex burial rites also existed in Australia at challengingly early times. The authors evaluate the dating evidence upon which Australia's human story before 1788 is reconstructed. They review diverse topics, such as the controversy about the time people first arrived on the continent's rthern coast, the extinction of marsupial megafauna and the diversity of Aboriginal rock art. Prehistory of Australia explains why Aboriginal Australia is recognised today for its significance in global prehistory and why so many of its archaeological places have merited World Heritage listing.
JOHN MULVANEY is the founder of Australian archaeology, a frequent media commentator on current issues and the only living Australian public intellectual to have had a book entirely devoted to his work. After 40 years of university teaching and advising governments, he remains a highly respected yet controversial activist. JOHAN KAMMINGA is a consultant archaeologist, chosen by Mulvaney to assist him in surveying the last three decades of discovery.