Making the Rainforest Aboriginal: Tindale and Birdsell's foray into deep time

McGregor, Russell (2016) Making the Rainforest Aboriginal: Tindale and Birdsell's foray into deep time. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, Cultural Heritage Series, 10. pp. 9-21.

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Abstract

In the late 1930s Norman Tindale and Joseph Birdsell identified the inhabitants of the North Queensland rainforests as a distinct race of Indigenous Australians. This classification was a keystone of their attempted reconstruction of the deep past of Australia. According to their narrative, the Aboriginal inhabitants of the rainforests were relicts of the first human occupants of Australia, refugees from later waves of Aboriginal invaders who seized all but the most inhospitable parts of the continent. From the outset, Tindale and Birdsell's argument was burdened with serious problems, both in the qualities they attributed to rainforest people and in their representation of the rainforest environment as a 'refuge'. While Tindale and Birdsell's racial theorising and historical speculations drew some supporters, they failed to win general academic acclamation and by the 1970s were quite thoroughly discredited. Yet the category 'rainforest Aboriginal' survived, disengaged from the reconstruction of Australia's past that had inspired it and anchored instead to the distinctive economy of rainforest subsistence, instantiated in a unique material culture. This paper takes Tindale and Birdsell's relict-race representation o frainforest Aboriginal people as the starting point in an exploration of how European people represented the Aboriginal inhabitants of the North Queensland rainforests over roughly a hundred years, from the 1870s to the 1970s.

Item ID: 46957
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1440-4788
Keywords: Tindale; Birdsell; racial classification; North Queensland; rainforest Aboriginal people; artefacts; Australian anthropology
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC Discovery Grant DP110102291
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2017 00:10
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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