Deep Time Dreaming—Uncovering Ancient Australia

Shortlist year: 2019

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: Black Inc.


Soon after Billy Griffiths joins his first archaeological dig as camp manager and cook, he is hooked. Equipped with a historian's inquiring mind, he embarks on a journey through time, seeking to understand the extraordinary deep history of the Australian continent. Deep Time Dreaming is the passionate product of that journey. It investigates a twin revolution: the reassertion of Aboriginal identity in the second half of the twentieth century, and the uncovering of the traces of ancient Australia.

About the author

Billy Griffiths

Billy Griffiths

Billy Griffiths is a research fellow at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation. He is the author of The China Breakthrough and co-editor with Mike Smith of The Australian Archaeologist's Book of Quotations. His 2018 book, Deep Time Dreaming, received wide critical acclaim and won a number of awards including the John Mulvaney Book Award, the Ernest Scott Prize and NSW Premier's Literary Awards Book of the Year.

Judges’ comments

Understanding the deep history of the Australian continent is the purview of Indigenous Australians and archaeologists. In this elegantly written book, Billy Griffiths explores both the history of Australian archaeology and how non-Aboriginal Australia thought about that deep past, Indigenous Australians, their heritage, and their history. As Griffiths shows, there has always been a tension between archaeologists and Aboriginal people which has ebbed and flowed over the decades. In part, this is a consequence of a focus on scientific discoveries at the expense of the cultural. Through a study of individual, often colourful characters, this book maps the history of a discipline alongside the deep history of a continent. The contribution of figures like John Mulvaney are enhanced, and others such as Isabel McBryde are rightly restored and reinstated. The history of ancient Australia has put Aboriginal Australia on the global stage, and for this, all Australians can be rightly proud.