Monumental colonialism: Megaliths and the Appropriation of Australia's Aboriginal Past

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Colonizers often subjugate the colonized Other as an inferior form of humanity. In the Euro-Australian settler-colonial context such ethnocentric views legitimated the acquisition of indigenous lands. An important element of this process of dispossession was the appropriation of indigenous heritage and the (re)presentation of indigenous archaeological sites as dimensions of European prehistory. In America and Africa last century, interpretations of indigenous sites frequently invoked the prior occupation of an advanced race who had close affinity with the European colonizers. Nineteenth-century representations of stone circles in Australia reveal similar attempts to dissociate Aboriginal people from their past. The stone circles near Mt Elephant in Victoria provide an extreme example of this process wherein a fallacious depiction of indigenous sites as European megalithic structures ensured Aboriginal dispossession and subsequent European (re)possession. The Mt Elephant representations subsequently gave rise to hyper-diffusionist claims early this century that Aboriginal stone circles reflected cultural influences from Egypt. Within the Australian context the processes of dispossession and (re)possession were part of a more encompassing paradigm which held Aborigines to be the living Stone Age ancestors of modern Europeans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-298
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Material Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Australian Aborigines
  • Colonialism
  • Megaliths
  • Mt Elephant

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