When the British First Fleet arrived in 1788, Sydney was home to numerous Aboriginal communities who had been living there for thousands of years. Within a year, well over half the local population had succumbed to smallpox and, as the British colony expanded, loss of country and acts of aggression made their traditional way of life impossible.

Sydney’s Aboriginal Past: Investigating the Archaeological and Historical Records is a fascinating insight into Aboriginal life in Sydney before colonisation in 1788 and during the first thirty years of white settlement. Drawing on the historical, archaeological and environmental records, Val Attenbrow reveals the diversity of Aboriginal life in the Sydney region describing the different groups and how they lived; the resources available; the foods they ate and their means of obtaining them; their tools, weapons and equipment, and how they were made; where they camped; their shelters, clothing and personal adornment; their beliefs, ceremonial life and rituals; as well as their designs and images.

Sydney’s Aboriginal Past also contains an extensive ‘Sites-to-visit supplement’ with information on how and where to find some of the places where archaeological evidence of Sydney’s Aboriginal past can be seen.

This second edition incorporates new findings and thoughts by archaeologists, historians, linguists, geologists and geomorphologists. They include the results of: archaeological excavations including additional radiocarbon ages for pre-colonial Aboriginal sites; analyses of stone artefacts and faunal remains; and residue and use-wear studies. In addition, there are new opinions on the chronological changes in stone tool assemblages; and the age of rock art.


Bibliographic Data

Sydney’s Aboriginal Past. Investigating the Archaeological and Historical Records. (2nd edition – soft cover)
Attenbrow, V. J
Publication Type
UNSW Press
Number of pages
UNSW Press
Place Published