Symposium: Deep Time and Deep Histories: A Transdisciplinary Collaboration

This two-day symposium, 'Deep Time and Deep Histories: A Transdisciplinary Collaboration', has been organised by the Australian Centre for Indigenous History (ACIH).  

Download the program here

Speaking about his 2011 book Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present, Professor Daniel Lord Smail argued for a greater level of transdisciplinary collaboration in the quest to understand our ancient pasts. ‘Historians’, he remarked, ‘have to become more scientifically literate’, while ‘biologists and physiologists have to become more historically minded… The deep past is also our present and future.’ 

Via two ARC-funded projects that raise related questions, ‘Deepening Histories of Place: Indigenous Landscapes of National and International Significance’ and ‘Australia’s Ancient Pasts: a History of Lake Mungo’, we seek to expand this historical conversation with scientists from a range of disciplines and with Indigenous knowledge practitioners.

The symposium provides an opportunity to look beyond the conventional frames of history into the Palaeolithic and far beyond, into landscapes, space and the ultra deep history of the night sky. It will bring together people from different disciplines and Indigenous knowledge perspectives to explore histories that have played out in deep time. It will provide a forum for developing perhaps unexpected transdisciplinary and cross-cultural connections to investigate deep histories of time, place and people.

Participants are invited to work across disciplines to examine shared approaches to human history on a vast scale. They are encouraged to contribute cross-cultural and cross disciplinary perspectives to consider cosmologies of place, explorations of spirit, magic and affect, or histories where land may be protagonist and people the participants in a deep time drama. We welcome histories that challenge notions of peoples, disciplines or landscapes as empty or without history.


The symposium will include keynote speakers, a series of panels and open forum discussion.

  • Professor Daniel Lord Smail (Department of History, Harvard University)
  • Professor Ann McGrath (Australian Centre for Indigenous History, The Australian National University)
  • Professor Lisa Kewley (Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, The Australian National University)
  • Dr Jeanine Leane (Australian Centre for Indigenous History, Australian National University)
  • Assoc. Professor Harry Allen (Department of Anthropology, The University of Auckland)
  • Professor Tom Griffiths (School of History, The Australian National University)
  • Professor Peter Read (Adjunct Professor, School of History, The Australian National University)
  • Professor Paul Tacon (Chair in rock Art Research, Griffith University)

Symposium Volume

The proceedings of the Symposium will be published in a book of co-authored chapters in a combined volume edited by Ann McGrath and Mary Anne Jebb. It will have a quick submission turnaround and publication schedule. The presentations as well as discussion will be recorded and transcribed and edited thus contributing to the proposed book, which we aim to draft by the end of 2013. The book will also become an E-book with embedded audio-visual to encourage digital history presentations.

Symposium Convenors

Professor Ann McGrath (

Dr Mary Anne Jebb (

Dr Malcolm Allbrook (

Date & time

Tue 04 Jun 2013, 9am – Wed 05 Jun 2013, 5pm


Lecture Theatre 1 Hedley Bull Centre, ANU


Australian Centre for Indigenous History


Updated:  28 May 2013/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications