Calories and bytes: Towards a history of Australian Islands

Friday, 30 June 1978
Dr Rhys Jones

The study of Aboriginal society in its broadest context - its economy, genetics, language, music, art and prehistory '…places upon Australian Anthropology its unique responsibility and makes it, from a world standpoint, by far the most important academic project in
Australia', and furthermore that 'the loss from the failure to record the facts of Australian Aboriginal life is irreparable. Because of this, humanity may lose forever the best chance of an insight into the forces which guide all human societies; the real nature of men everywhere.' 

In the inaugural Wentworth Lecture, Dr Rhys Jones (later Emeritus Professor) examines the role of food energy (the 'calories' of the title) as a fundamental driver in the development of Indigenous Australian culture and technology (the 'bytes'). Starting by exploring the question "why did the Aborigines not have agriculture?" he looks at migration patterns, hunting technology and cultural developments that impacted, and were impacted by, the availability and accessibility of food sources.