Many Exchanges: Archaeology, History, Community and the Work of Isabel McBryde

By Davidson, Janet | Australian Aboriginal Studies, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Many Exchanges: Archaeology, History, Community and the Work of Isabel McBryde

Davidson, Janet, Australian Aboriginal Studies

Ingereth Macfarlane with Mary-Jane Mountain and Robert Paton (eds)

Aboriginal History, Canberra (Monograph 11), 2005, xxxv+412pp, ISBN 0958563772

As one who maintains only a cursory interest in Australian archaeology, I found this book a fascinating guide to the work of Isabel McBryde, and to the current preoccupations of Australian archaeologists who are building on that work.

The book had its origin in a day-long symposium, held in Canberra in July 2001 and attended by 115 people. Seven of the prepared papers presented at the symposium have been revised and updated for the book; transcriptions of three personal tributes given on the day are also included. But the book has 30 contributions in all: 28 papers and tributes (which grade seamlessly from one to the other), an extensive preface by the principal editor, Ingereth Macfarlane, and a unique 'Spatial history of the work of Isabel McBryde' compiled by Win Mumford. This last, with its map of fieldwork locations and annotated list of studies and their dates, introduces the reader to the scope of Isabel's work with an impact that no essay can match. The Preface fills out the background with a brief review of the various aspects of Isabel's work and an explanation of the structure of the book.

Unlike some festschrifts, this book throughout is closely concerned with the person honoured and work she initiated. It is not just a diverse collection of papers by scholars honouring one of their own. The first section of 12 contributions, 'Exchange of ideas', is a series of evaluations of and tributes to Isabel: her overall career, her New England research, her role as a teacher, her interactions with students, her contribution to public archaeology, Aboriginal heritage and through it, world heritage, and the affection and respect of Aboriginal people for her. If, in the past, Isabel's contributions have been undervalued, as Jack Golson's 'salutation and mea culpa' suggest, this book must surely rectify that and reveal her as not just an Elder but a Giant of Australian Archaeology.

My own acquaintance with Isabel's research has been focused on her studies of stone tools and their distribution through trade and exchange. The full extent of her work was a revelation, not least her enormous contribution to Aboriginal heritage and her ability to reconcile archaeological and Aboriginal interests. But it seems that she did everything--detailed site survey, careful excavation, stone sourcing, experimental tool manufacture and use, faunal analysis, the careful and rigorous consideration of linguistics, ethnographic and archival records; and of course, teaching and heritage management. I find it disappointing that her work on faunal analysis is not being followed; Ingereth Macfarlane notes (p.xxxii) that 'since the late 1980s there has been a shift in the frame of disciplinary enquiry and midden analyses are not currently part of anyone's research interests'. Perhaps the term 'midden analysis' should be banned--what is involved here is the reconstruction of human subsistence and interaction with the environment, as Isabel knew.

The nine papers in the second section consider exchanges in the widest sense, including between disciplines. Some are concerned in some way with stone tool use and exchange, but there are also some interesting historical studies. The seven papers in the last section are more specifically concerned with stone tools. The last two papers, by Robin Torrence and Jim Specht, move beyond Australia, but in ways entirely in keeping with the volume.

All the papers are relatively short. Although one or two are a little dense for the non-Australian reader, there is much that is of wide general interest to archaeologists elsewhere.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Many Exchanges: Archaeology, History, Community and the Work of Isabel McBryde


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?