Adapting to a dry continent: technology and environment in Australian industrial archaeology Chapter uri icon

Book Title

  • The Oxford Handbook of Historical Archaeology


  • Technology, environment, and society have always been intimately connected in Australia, from the earliest arrival of modern humans almost 50,000 years ago to the more recent settlement of Europeans since 1788. Colonists from Britain quickly learned the lessons of the natural environment in terms of thin soils and erratic rainfall. These factors placed real limits on settlement and industry but they also stimulated the introduction and adaptation of new ideas and technologies, as well as emerging ideas about social identity and place. No environmental factor had greater impact on colonial settlement than the availability of water. Archaeologists in Australia have paid considerable attention to this resource, as a crucial nexus between environment, technology and society. Research has focused on the use of water as a source of industrial energy, its role in the formation of cultural landscapes, and the development of urban water supplies and drainage. Much archaeological work remains to be done, however, on documenting and interpreting the ways in which people captured, stored, and distributed water, and the ever-changing relationships between people, technology, and environment through time.

publication date

  • 2014