Historical Archaeology is the study of the past through material remains such as artifacts (i.e. objects), structures, features, and even whole landscapes modified by human activity and their spatial and stratigraphic contexts.
In Australia much of this discussion has been avoided and definitions of historical archaeology such as those adopted by the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology and the Government regulatory agencies, have focused on a definition emphasizing the combined use of documentary and material evidence.
The professional practice of archaeology in Australia is a relatively recent endeavor, only crystallizing into a distinct discipline in the 1960s and 1970s.
It was during this period that Australian archaeology was first taught at Australian universities, that professional organizations dedicated to Australian archaeology were formed, that Federal and State legislation was enacted to protect archaeological sites and artifacts, and that employment opportunities opened up, either in government departments and other institutions or in cultural heritage management.
Since then, there has been an enormous increase in the number of recorded sites, as well as increasing evidence for their environmental and cultural diversity, a growing understanding of the antiquity of Aboriginal occupation within Australia and an increasing interest in colonial (historical) and maritime archaeology.
However, there is still much work to be done in all areas of the country. Australian archaeology today covers a variety of interests: from Indigenous archaeology focusing on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander occupation of Australia over the last 50,000 years, to historical archaeology which deals with the last few hundred years since colonial contact.
The contemporary shape of academic archaeology in Australia reflects our colonial origins. Our major research and teaching departments were established by British or British-trained academics that followed the British model of treating archaeology as a separate discipline to anthropology.
Maritime Archaeology in Australia is also seen by some as a branch of historical archaeology. Certainly there is a considerable overlap in interests and techniques and this has been recognized by close relationships between the two professional bodies the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology and the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology.
The professional practice of archaeology in Australia is a relatively recent endeavor, only crystallising into a distinct discipline in the 1960s and 1970s.
The aim of the book is to provide an introduction to the archaeology of the last two centuries in Australia.