From at least 60,000 years ago to the present
Australian cultural heritage includes close to 60,000 years of human history, starting with the colonisation of the continent by the ancestors of Aboriginal Australians through to the maritime and industrial archaeology of more recent times.
Explore Australian cultural heritage through the links, FAQs and Fact sheets on this page.
Anthropology is the study of human society, including archaeology. In an Australian heritage context, anthropology most commonly relates to the study of Aboriginal cultural heritage through the sharing and recording of stories, family histories, cultural connections and Dreamtime. Anthropologists work closely with communities to help document and explore the cultural link between the past and present. This kind of study adds the very important ‘human’ overlay to the object-based evidence of archaeology. The two together best describe the past.
An archaeological site is a place that has evidence that past or ancient peoples were there. When archaeologists find clusters of artefacts together in the same place, they may call this collection an archaeological site. Sometimes there are no portable objects left, but there is evidence of a structure, building or road. However, an archaeological site does not need to have permanent structures; it can be an ancient campsite that was used on one occasion. The evidence left behind can be analysed and interpreted by archaeologists to work out who used a particular place, what they did there and how long ago they stayed there.
An artefact is an object that people in the past created and/or used. Artefacts are a primary source of evidence that can be used to interpret what happened in the past. In Australia, artefacts can include flaked stone artefacts, bone that has been modified, rock art, grindstones, stone arrangements, glass bottles, coins, pottery, bricks, timber and metalwork.