Bruce Pascoe’s famous book “Dark Emu” is historical fiction

Bruce Pascoe’s book “Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?” makes the case that the Aboriginal Australians and Torres Straits Islanders were not hunter gatherers as commonly believed, but sedentary agriculturalists, with sophisticated engineering, aquaculture, architectural, and botanical knowledge. However, scholarly scrutiny has proved that “Dark Emu” is historical fiction.

These videos describe the academic background to Dark Emu, it’s initial reception and rise to fame, the controversy over its accuracy, and its current reception in the scholarly community.

Allam, Lorena. “Dark Emu’s Infinite Potential: ‘Our Kids Have Grown up in a Fog about the History of the Land.’” The Guardian, 23 May 2019, § Books.

Attwood, Bain. Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History. Crows Nest, N. S. W: Allen & Unwin, 2005.

Behrendt, Larissa. “Indigenous Australians Know We’re the Oldest Living Culture – It’s in Our Dreamtime | Larissa Behrendt.” The Guardian, 22 September 2016, § Opinion.

Beveridge, Peter. “Aboriginal Ovens.” Journal of the Anthropological Society of London 7 (1869): clxxxvii–clxxxix.

Biki, Zeljko. Grain and Feed Update. Grain and Feed. United States Department of Agriculture, January 26, 2023.

Boyce, James. “Transforming the national imagination: The ‘Dark Emu’ debate.” Text. The Monthly, 1 July 2021.

Bradley, Kirsten. “Good Book: Dark Emu – Rethinking Indigenous Australian Agriculture.” Milkwood: Permaculture Courses, Skills + Stories, 24 September 2015.

Cawte, J. E., Nari Djagamara, and M. G. Barrett. “The Meaning of Subincision of the Urethra to Aboriginal Australians.” British Journal of Medical Psychology 39.3 (1966): 245–53.

Chaloupka, George. Journey in Time: The World’s Longest Continuing Art Tradition : The 50,000-Year Story of the Australian Aboriginal Rock Art of Arnhem Land. Reed New Holland, 1999.

Collins, David. On Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, from Its First Settlement in January 1788, to August 1801 … To Which Are Added, Some Particulars of New Zealand … and an Account of a Voyage … by Which the Existence of a Strait Separating Van Diemen’s Land from the Continent of New Holland Was Ascertained. London: Cadell, 1804.

Connor, Michael. “Fabrication and Deception: A French View of ‘Dark Emu.’” Quadrant 64.9 (84-87).

Cowlishaw, Gillian. “Misreading Dark Emu.” Pearls and Irritations, 14 August 2021.

Darmangeat, Christophe. “Vanished Wars of Australia: The Archeological Invisibility of Aboriginal Collective Conflicts.” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (2019).,

Davis, Michael. “Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident by Bruce Pascoe.” Aboriginal History 38 (2014): 195–98.

———. “Forensic Critique of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu Presents a Different View.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2021.

———. Review of Review of Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident, by Bruce Pascoe. Aboriginal History 38 (2014): 195–98.

Davis, Richard. “Black Agriculture, White Anger: Arguments over Aboriginal Land Use in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu.” Borderlands 1.1 (2020): 57–70.

———. “Dark Emu’s Critics.” Arena Quarterly 7 (2021): 80–83.

———. “Dark Emu’s Critics – Arena.” Arena Magazine, September 2021.

Denham, Tim. “Traditional Forms of Plant Exploitation in Australia and New Guinea: The Search for Common Ground.” Veget Hist Archaeobot 17.2 (2008): 245–48.

Dennett, Bruce. “Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu: The Debates within the Debate.” Teaching History 55.3 (2021): 6–9.

Ellen, Roy. “Modes of Subsistence: Hunting and Gathering to Agriculture and Pastoralism.” Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Edited by Tim Ingold. Taylor & Francis, 2002.

Fensham, Roderick J. “The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia.” Australian Geographer 43.3 (2012): 325–27.

Florek, Stan. “Bruce Pascoe and His Dark Emu.” The Australian Museum, 21 February 2017.

Frankel, David, and Janine Major. Victorian Aboriginal Life and Customs through Early European Eyes. 1st ed. La Trobe eBureau, 2017.,

Gammage, Bill. The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia. Allen & Unwin, 2012.

———. “The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia.” The Conversation, n.d.

Gardner, Peter. “Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu and the McMillan Photograph.” Victorian Historical Journal 91.2 (n.d.): 383–95.

Gerritsen, Rupert. Australia and the Origins of Agriculture. Archaeopress, 2008.

———. “Evidence for Indigenous Australian Agriculture” (2010): 3.

Gilligan, Ian. “Agriculture in Aboriginal Australia: Why Not?” Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association 30 (2010): 145–56.

Gorecki, P., M. Grant, S. O’Connor, and P. Veth. “The Morphology, Function and Antiquity of Australian Grinding Implements.” Archaeology in Oceania 32.2 (1997): 141–50.

Gott, Beth. “Ecology of Root Use by the Aborigines of Southern Australia.” Archaeology in Oceania 17.1 (1982): 59–67.

Griffiths, Billy, and Lynette Russell. “What We Were Told: Responses to 65,000 Years of Aboriginal History.” Aboriginal History 42 (2018): 31–54.

Griffiths, Tom. “Reading Bruce Pascoe | Tom Griffiths.” Inside Story, 26 November 2019.

Hankins, Don L. Review of Review of The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia, by Bill Gammage. Environmental History 17.3 (2012): 653–55.

Hardaker, David. “Bruce Pascoe Has Become Too Big to Fail — and Impossible to Question.” Crikey, 13 July 2021.

———. “Why Trust an Expert? Bruce Pascoe v the Establishment.” Crikey, 13 July 2021.

Hirst, Martin. “How ‘Dark Emu’ Upset the Right-Wing Media.” Independent Australia, 24 January 2020.,13523.

Hughes-d’Aeth, Tony. “Friday Essay: Dark Emu and the Blindness of Australian Agriculture.” The Conversation, 14 June 2018.

Johansen, Chris. “Book Review: Dark Emu. Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident by Bruce Pascoe.” Australian Greens, 18 August 2016.

Jones, Adrian, and Jo Clyne. “Is Dark Emu Good History? Helping Students Investigate a Controversial Book on Australian Aboriginal History in the Classroom.” Agora 56.3 (2021): 68–69.

Keen, Ian. “Foragers or Farmers: Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture.” Anthropological Forum 31.1 (2021): 106–28.

Kerkhove, Ray. “Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? Broome: Magabala Books, 2014, ISBN 9 7819 2214 2436, 174 Pp., A$35.” Queensland Review 24 (2017): 170–71.

Law, W Boone, Dawn N Cropper, and Fiona Petchey. “Djadjiling Rockshelter: 35,000 14C Years of Aboriginal Occupation in the Pilbara, Western Australia.” Australian Archaeology 70 (2010): 4.

Lefroy, Ted. “Environmental Baselines and the Myth of Lost Eden – Moffitts Farm.” Moffitts Farm, 18 November 2020.

L’Estrange, Sara. “Arts News — Federal Politicians Tasked with Reading Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu.” Sound. ABC Radio National. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 September 2019.

Lewis, Robert. Is Dark Emu Good History?: Helping Students Investigate a Controversial Book on Australian Aboriginal History in the Classroom. Eagle Resources, 2020.

Lourandos, Harry. “Review of Australia and the Origins of Agriculture by Rupert Gerritsen | Australian Archaeological Association.” Australian Archaeological Association, 31 May 2020.

Lucas, Adam. Wind, Water, Work: Ancient And Medieval Milling Technology. BRILL, 2006.

Macintyre, Stuart. “The History Wars.” The Sydney Papers 15.3 and 4 (2003): 76–83.

Macphail, Michael, and Timothy Owen. “What Was Growing along the Tank Stream Valley, Sydney Cove, in 1788?” Australasian Historical Archaeology 36 (2018): 16–28.

Marks, Russell. “Taking sides over ‘Dark Emu.’” Text. The Monthly, 5 February 2020.

McDonald, Jo. “Archaeology, Deep History and the Culture Wars: Why Most Archaeologists Have Not Critiqued Dark Emu.” Australian Archaeology 87.3 (2021): 313–15.

McDonald, Josephine J, and Peter M Veth. “Pleistocene Rock Art: A Colonizing Repertoire for Australia’s Earliest Inhabitants” (2010).,

McIntyre, Sue. Review of Review of The Biggest Estate on Earth, by Bill Gammage. Aboriginal History 36 (2012): 185–87.

McKenna, Mark. “Bruce Pascoe Has Welcomed the Dark Emu Debate – and so Should Australia | Mark McKenna.” The Guardian, 25 June 2021.

McNiven, Ian J. “Bandwagons and Bathwater.” Australian Archaeology 87.3 (2021): 316–17.

———. “Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate.” Australian Historical Studies 52.4 (2021): 641–44.

Morton, Rick. “Bolt, Pascoe and the Culture Wars | The Saturday Paper.” The Saturday Paper, 30 December 2019.

Muecke, Stephen. “Whitefella Magic: A Posthumanist Take on the Dark Emu Debate.” Overland (2021).

Neale, Timothy. “The Biggest Estate on Earth [Book Review].” Arena 116 (2012): 51.

Nicholls, Christine Judith. “Book Review: Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate Rigorously Critiques Bruce Pascoe’s Argument.” The Conversation, 13 June 2021.

Norman, Heidi. “How the Dark Emu Debate Limits Representation of Aboriginal People in Australia.” The Conversation, 8 July 2021.

O’Brien, Peter. Bitter Harvest: The Illusion of Aboriginal Agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu., 2020.

———. “It’s Hard Not to Say ‘We Told You So’ – Quadrant Online.” Quadrant Online, 31 June 2021.

Pascoe, Bruce. “Bruce Pascoe on the Reception to ‘Dark Emu’ | Books+Publishing.” Books+Publishing, 29 May 2019.

———. “Call for Conversation Not Screaming Match about Aboriginal History.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 September 2021.

———. “Dark Emu.” New South Books, June 2018.

———. “Dark Emu: A Fresh Insight into Aboriginal Landuse in Australia.” Geography Bulletin 49.2 (n.d.): 15–16.

———. Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture. Scribe Publications, 2018.

———. Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? Broome, Western Australia: Magabala Books, 2014.

———. “Decolonising Agriculture: Bruce Pascoe’s ‘Dark Emu.’” Foreground, 1 November 2017.

———. “The Grain Growers of Australia.” Pages 163–70 in Long History, Deep Time. Edited by Mary Anne Jebb and McGrath. ACT, Australia: Australian National University Press, 2015.

———. Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, 2020.

Pearson, Luke. “What Is a ‘Continuous Culture’… and Are Aboriginal Cultures the Oldest?” SBS, 21 December 2016.

Porr, Martin, and Ella Vivian-Williams. “The Tragedy of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu.” Australian Archaeology 87.3 (2021): 300–304.

Powell, Abram. “Live at the AM: HumanNature 2018 – Bruce Pascoe.” The Australian Museum, 7 January 2019.

Rice, Deborah. “Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu Wins NSW Premier’s Literary Prize.” ABC News, 16 May 2016.

Rintoul, Stuart. “Debunking Dark Emu: Did the Publishing Phenomenon Get It Wrong?” The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 2021.

Rundle, Guy. “In Defence of Bruce Pascoe.” Crikey, 15 July 2021.

Stanner, W. E. H. “After the Dreaming (1968).” White Man Got No Dreaming: Essays, 1938-1973. Canberra; Norwalk, Conn.; Norwalk, Conn.: Australian National University Press ; [Distributed by] Books Australia, 1979.

Sutton, Peter, and Keryn Walshe. Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers?: The Dark Emu Debate. Melbourne University Press Digital, 2021.

Taylor, Tony. “Australia’s ‘history Wars’ Reignite.” The Conversation, 31 March 2016.

Trembath, Richard. “Three Cheers for Hunter-Gatherers.” Australian Policy and History Network, 7 May 2020.

Ucko, Peter John, and G. W. Dimbleby, eds. The Domestication and Exploitation of Plants and Animals. Transaction Publishers, 2007.

Veth, Peter. “Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate.” Australian Archaeology 87.3 (2021): 333–35.

WHISPERINGGUMS. “Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? (Review).” Whispering Gums, 28 October 2016.

Willis, Jon. “Heteronormativity and the Deflection of Male Same-Sex Attraction among the Pitjantjatjara People of Australia’s Western Desert.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 5.2 (2003): 137–51.

“About Aquaculture,” 26 April 2016.

“‘Answer the Question’: Education Minister Admits Dark Emu Should Be Removed from Schools.” 2GB, 8 September 2021.

“Bruce Pascoe and His Book ‘Dark Emu’ Is False News Folks.” Cairns News, 16 June 2019.

“DARK EMU.” Bangarra, 2018.

“What the Media Are Saying about Dark Emu Exposed.” Dark Emu Exposed – The Myth of Aboriginal Agriculture?, 12 February 2020.

“Young Dark Emu.” Reading Australia, n.d.

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