Australian Aboriginal Subsistence in the Western Desert

  • Scott Cane


If anyone were tempted to characterize hunter-gather subsistence as “simple,” Scott Cane’s study of the traditional seasonal round of the inhabitants of the Great Sandy Desert would disabuse them of the notion. His study, conducted over six years with the Gugadja people, meticulously documents the resources utilized and the methods of their procurement and processing. He assesses the relative nutritional contribution and importance of key foods, providing quantified data on seed collection and processing — a key element in Aboriginal diet and one which allows them to exploit a habitat characterized by seasonally extreme aridity. Seeds are stored for the aptly named “hungry season.” It has long been known that seeds were important to Australian hunter-gatherers; Cane, however, shows that this is not true in terms of caloric intake. Seeds require much effort in collection, winnowing, and particularly in preparation for final cooking and consumption. It is because of their storability that they are vital. By documenting dietary shifts from season to season, Cane demonstrates that it is inaccurate to characterize such economies as primarily based on “hunting” or “gathering”; what people eat and how much effort they expend depends on the season.


Aboriginal People Western Desert Seed Cake Grass Seed Edible Seed 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott Cane
    • 1
  1. 1.Culture and HeritagePort LincolnAustralia

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