ATS3543 - Australia's ancient Indigenous past: A 50,000 year archaeological odyssey - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.




Professor Ian McNiven

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2017 (Day)


The unit critically examines the range of techniques and theoretical frameworks used by archaeologists to understand Australia's 50,000-year plus Indigenous history. The focus will be archaeological sites and debates associated with the interpretation of excavated cultural materials. Issues covered include the origins of the first Australians, processes of continental colonisation, responses to environmental change and sea level change, human environmental impacts, broad-scale social changes; and responses to Europeans on the colonial frontier. Students will also examine long-term changes in the development of trading networks, art, social organisation and burial practices.


The overarching aims are to provide students with a broad understanding of how archaeologists have constructed a long-term picture of Australia's Indigenous past. On successful completion of the subject, students will be able to:

  1. Appreciate the broad range of techniques used by archaeologists to infer behaviour from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural sites and material culture.
  2. Develop advanced skills in critically evaluating major debates and contentious theoretical issues in Australian Indigenous archaeology.
  3. Understand key cultural changes over the past 50,000 years of Australian's Indigenous past.
  4. Appreciate the diversity of Indigenous Australians who in different parts of the continent developed different cultures and lifeways.
  5. Appreciate debates concerning the origins of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders from an archaeological perspective.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


Twelve credit points of second-year Arts units.