First Footprints: The Epic Story of the First Australians

First Footprints: The Epic Story of the First Australians

First Footprints: The Epic Story of the First Australians

First Footprints: The Epic Story of the First Australians

Synopsis

The epic story of Australia's Aboriginal people, as told through astonishing archaeological discoveries, ancient oral histories, and the largest and oldest art galleries on earth

Some 60,000 years ago, a small group of people landed on Australia's northern coast. They were the first oceanic mariners, and this great southern land was their new home. Gigantic mammals roamed the plains and enormous crocodiles, giant snakes, and goannas nestled in the estuaries and savannahs.nbsp;This isnbsp;the epic story of Australia's Aboriginal people. It is a story of ancient life on the driest continent on earth through the greatest environmental changes experienced in human history: ice ages, extreme drought, and inundating seas. Australia's first inhabitants were the first people to believe in an afterlife, cremate their dead, engrave representations of the human face, and depict human sound and emotion. They created new technologies, designed ornamentation, engaged in trade, and crafted the earliest documents of war. Ultimately, they developed a sustainable society based on shared religious tradition and far-reaching social networks across the length and breadth of the continent.

Excerpt

My grandfather had a bag of ‘flints’. The bag was made of calico, the sort used in banks to carry small amounts of cash. The flints were (I would eventually discover) not in fact flint but stone artefacts made on ‘cherty hornfels’—itself a rather curious name for ancient mudstones that had been cooked hard by equally ancient lava. The material had an appealing fine-grained texture, enriched by the scalloped fractures on the stone made by the people who used it. The artefacts fascinated me as a child, and I would look at them and touch them at every chance. My interest was subliminal, almost tangible but as yet unformed. The aesthetic appeal of the artefacts drew me to some mysterious human place I could neither understand nor stop longing for—where had they come from, who had made them and what were they for?

My grandfather was crippled after being shot in the hip during World War I. In the 1960s he was old and could no longer walk easily. He lived as a hermit in an old wooden army hut among the sand dunes on what was then a remote windswept beach—Clifton Beach, in southern Tasmania. He was a large man with a powerful frame, a formidable personality and a swaying limp that stopped conversations when he entered a room. He had presence, and most people were frightened of him. I was terrified. So I never asked about . . .

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