The Western Australian archaeological community is in mourning this month following the death of a giant of the discipline in the state, Sylvia J. Hallam. Hallam is perhaps best remembered for her fantastic book Fire and Hearth: A study of Aboriginal usage and European usurpation in south-western Australia, published by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies in 1975. She was committed to regionally-focused approaches to archaeology and cast a long shadow over both academic and commercial archaeology in the south west of the state. In 2011, her contribution to Australian archaeology was acknowledged and celebrated in a volume of collected essays in her honour published by the Western Australian Museum (Supplement 79).
An overview of Hallam’s career was written for the aforementioned Records of the Western Australian Museum supplement by the similarly legendary John Mulvaney and can be reviewed here.
An insight into Hallam’s approach to archaeology can be seen in this wonderful quote (here paraphrased), her response to what she saw as the solipsistic tendencies of the then-trendy New Archaeology: ‘This is how archaeology actually advances …not by obsessive introspection on significance, relevance, definitions, aims and methodology’…but with the ‘mud, dust and sweat’ of fieldwork.
She will be missed.