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2019 - Winner
Writing with clarity and insight, Billy Griffiths in Deep Time Dreaming presents the untold story of Australian archaeology, showing the transformative role it played by showing Australians that the history of their country began with indigenous culture more than 60,000 years before British settlement. Archaeologists achieved nothing less than a seismic shift in Australian historical consciousness by ensuring that Aboriginal history, to quote Griffiths, ‘moved from the periphery of the national story to its centre’.
Billy Griffiths’ book fills a critical gap in our understanding of Australia. Never before has there been a voice to explain the important part played by archaeology in Australian culture. Archaeology stopped the damming of the Franklin River — the biggest environmental controversy in Australia’s history — challenged perceptions of wilderness and empowered Indigenous activists by proving that their links to country went back tens of thousands of years. This beautifully written book is ultimately a revelation, showing that the influence of archaeology on the Australian consciousness has been far greater than anyone could have guessed.
The judges believe that this extraordinarily important work lucidly delivers an understanding of how Australian archaeologists led the charge in understanding human history on this continent. Griffiths shows how the study of archaeology has dramatically shifted, particularly in regard to ownership of the sites, the artefacts, the land and history by the first Australians. Deep Time Dreaming will not only be a standard reference for students of Australian archaeology, but a book that belongs on every Australian’s bookshelf to help us understand who we are as a nation.