"The Absence of Ghosts": Landscape and Identity in the Archaeology of Australia's Settler Culture

by Tracy Ireland
Historical Archaeology ()


This article is a case study investigating archaeology as a practice embedded in a complex web of culturally constructed codes of meaning or discourses. A distinctive form of discourse concerning the landscape and its role in determining national identity characterizes Australian culture. This discourse has been central to the construction of the idea of the nation and its past: in particular, concepts of the land as hostile and empty, of the bush as the essence of Australia, and of the landscape as feminine. The paper considers the ways in which this landscape discourse has operated within historical archaeological research and heritage management and discusses the implications of these discursive relationships for past and future research.

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