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Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia by Billy Griffiths

Review by Rae Nunan

In this beautifully written book Billy Griffiths goes beyond Australia’s documented history of the last few centuries and digs into the archaeology of Australia’s deep past.

Beginning in 1956 with stories about Australia’s only trained archaeologist of the time, Griffiths then moves on to details of the sites excavated by the archaeologists that followed him, including Willandra Lakes where Mungo Lady was discovered, and more recently the Madjedbebe rock shelter at Kakadu, now dated to 65,000 years. The recurrent theme in these stories is how archaeologists have had to progressively wind back their estimation of the date for human arrival in Australia and at the same time reassess the strengths and power of the complex, living indigenous culture that has existed in Australia through vast expanses of time, surviving periods of great stability and continuity and others of major change.

The author quotes Charles Perkins’ words: ‘’My expectation of a good Australia is when White people would be proud…when they realise that Aboriginal culture…is all there waiting for us all. White people can inherit…60,000 years of culture, and all they have to do is reach out and ask for it.’’

Griffiths argues that these revelations about Australia’s ancient past provide a wonderful story that all Australians can respectfully embrace, and one that provides a foundation for a communal commitment to the preservation and enrichment of their shared land. 

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