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1 February 2005

Four new books exploring the history and archaeology of the world's deserts and their people - and the impact of climate change - will be launched at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra this Thursday.

The books relate to the themes of the National Museum's current exhibition, Extremes: Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere, which features archaeological discoveries from deserts across Australia, South America and southern Africa.

Extremes is curated by desert archaeologist Dr Mike Smith who is contributor, editor or author of the four books.

'The world's great southern deserts are filled with extraordinary human histories," said Dr Smith, who is Director of Research and Development at the National Museum. "These books are ground-breaking in their revelation of desert knowledge and how people have survived and even thrived through dramatic environmental and social change.'

Dr Steve Morton, CSIRO Head of Environment and Natural Resources will launch the books in the Friends Lounge of the National Museum at 11am on Thursday, 3 February, along with:

  • Artist Mandy Martin on Strata: Deserts Past, Present and Future, an art book exploring the indigenous, scientific and artistic desert knowledge of western central Australia. Edited by Mandy Martin, Libby Robin and Mike Smith.
  • 'Mr El Nino' meteorologist Dr Neville Nicholls on A Change in the Weather: Climate and Culture in Australia, an interdisciplinary weather report on the relationship between climate and culture in Australia. Edited by Tim Sherratt, Tom Griffiths and Libby Robin.
  • Dr Mike Smith on Peopling the Cleland Hills: Aboriginal History in Western Central Australia, 1850-1980, a cross-generational history of contact between settlers and a desert people. By Mike Smith.
  • AIATSIS research director Dr Peter Veth on Desert Peoples: Archaeological Perspectives, a comparative international overview of hunter-gatherers across the world's deserts. Edited by Peter Veth, Mike Smith and Peter Hiscock.

And more on deserts! The National Museum also launches 23°S: Archaeology and Environmental History of the Southern Deserts, edited by Mike Smith and featuring world desert experts from the conference which inspired the making of Extremes, on 30 March 2005.

For review copies, interviews or images please contact Martin Portus at the National Museum on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or

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