Deep history stands in stark contrast to the history scholarship in the academy, which has been content to explore a short history or past of Australia- since 1600. This kind of history sees Aboriginal history as timeless — time is lacking so there is no need for history. Aboriginal people are outside human history. They are not even mentioned in texts on ancient history. Australian history becomes imperial history whilst its Anglocentric colonial narratives about modernity fail to mention aboriginal people’s long enduring history of survival across dramatic climatic and geographical change.
The legacy of the twentieth century is one in which Australia was called a ‘timeless land’. It was either that ‘people’ had not been there before, or as if those people had no history. In historical discourse timelessness as an existence is one where time is not marked but melds in an unchanging, static environment. This makes colonial times, places and history the only reality.
So it is good to see the recent turn to a deep history of place (ie., deep time history) by academic historians, which shifts the narrative of Australian history beyond the post 1788 story. An example exploring the association between the deep past and historic people, such as the Indigenous Australians who have occupied the continent for 60,000 years.
What this example highlights for photographers is for them to learn to think “with” the living landscape, to imagine its long enduring past coupled to the deep histories of place, and to touch the deep past in the present. This requires new ways of seeing and to the relationship of seeing to being. I was prodded to start to think this way when we came across the aerodynamically shaped black tektites lying on the ground near the edge of Lake Frome. Ryan and Kym advanced the “Meteorite Impact Theory” that happened 700,000 years ago to explain the tektites.