Few of us are ever fortunate enough to witness the discoveries of science firsthand, to experience the landmarks of its progress. But the constant theme of Digging Up Deep Time is that Australia is a vast palaeontology lab whose treasures are on permanent display to anyone inspired enough to take the thrill of venturing out to see them.
From a road trip to 15 key sites in Australian palaeontology, Paul Willis and Abbie Thomas have created a book that is both a guidebook and a history. Beginning in Western Australia’s Pilbara region and ending at Wellington Caves in New South Wales, the pair have captured the evolving story of Australia’s fossil record, and pieced together a little of the story of life on Earth. Willis and Thomas chart the evolution from the first oxygen-producing bacteria 3.5 billion years ago and the first multicellular life, through to the trilobites of Kangaroo Island and fish deposits of Gogo Station, and on to the lost mammals of the Pleistocene age.
Each site has its own chapter, chronicling its discovery and the stages of its exploration, and the identification of its treasures.
Short biographies are included of many key figures of Australian science, and useful suggestions are made about where to see the best of their finds.
Digging up Deep Time is a vital, working document that communicates the authors’ passion for their subject through the experiences of a long and captivating journey. It’s cleverly designed and well illustrated with monochrome as well as 16 pages of colour photographs.
It’s said Australia has little archaeology to offer, but Willis and Thomas present a convincing counter argument, using the archaeology of life as their evidence.