Peter Dixon Hiscock (born 27 March 1957) is an Australian archaeologist. Born in Melbourne, he obtained a PhD from the University of Queensland. As of 2013 he is the Tom Austen Brown Professor of Australian Archaeology at the University of Sydney, having previously held a position in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University. Hiscock is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Museum.
Hiscock specialises in ancient technology and has worked in France and Southern Africa on hominid artefacts. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. His research includes work in lithic technology, archaeology of prehistoric Aborigines in Australia, global dispersion of modern humans and the study of Neanderthal people.
In addition to his work on lithic technology in Australia, Hiscock has contributed to a reinterpretation of the Prehistory of Australia. His work on colonization and setllement, with Lynley Wallace, created the 'Desert Transformation' model, which proposed that about 50,000 years ago human colonisists dispersed across much of the Australian continent at a time when the deserts were less harsh than today. These early settlers then gradually adapted to the onset of harsher environments that occurred after approximately 35,000 years ago.
His work with Patrick Faulkner also led to a reconsideration of the large Anadara granosa shell mounds of northern Australia. Hiscock was funded with Dr Alex Mackay for an Australian Research Council Post-doctoral Fellowship project titled ‘Technology and behavioural evolution in late Pleistocene Africa, Europe and Australia’ (DP1092445) worth more than A$400,000 in 2010. The aim of this project was to focus on excavations in Africa, making comparisons with other areas of the world including Australia.
His major contribution to Australian prehistory has been a new synthesis of the subject, in a book titled Archaeology of Ancient Australia. In that volume he advanced the view that there was little evidence for directional change in the prehistory of Australia and that the archaeological evidence was better seen as documenting a long series of adaptive changes, perhaps operating in multiple directions, rather than progress towards 'intensification' in the recent past (as espoused by archaeologists such as Harry Lourandos. This view was founded on a strong negative critique of the value of ethnography in the construction of narratives about the deep prehistoric past, arguing that ethnographic analogy had often imposed images of the lifestyle of recent Australian Aborigines on the different lives of their distant ancestors. Brian Fagan has suggested that in doing so Hiscock has attacked the tyranny of the ethnographic record that has dogged Australian archaeology for generations. In this he has disputed views of archaeologists such as Josephine Flood who considers ethnographic information can help understand prehistoric behavior.
Hiscock's argument also emphasized the likely failure of much of the Pleistocene archaeological record to preserve, arguing that the apparent simplicity of early eras resulted partly from the poverty of the archaeological evidence. Interpreting the available archaeological and genetic evidence from these view points Hiscock presented a novel narrative of Australian prehistory, in which population sizes fluctuated through time in response to environmental productivity, the physical characteristics of people varied as climate and gene flows altered, and the economic, social, and ideological systems adjusted to accommodate and incorporate the circumstances of each time period.
Hiscock received the John Mulvaney Book Award in 2008 from the Australian Archaeological Association for his publication The Archaeology of Ancient Australia, which was acclaimed for its way of dealing "with the archaeological data as free-standing, and the long duree as the basic structure, suitable for the dating methods and accumulative and taphonomic process of most of the Australian record. He also was awarded a Doctor of Science (DSc) honorary degree at the Australian National University.
- Hiscock, P. 2008 Archaeology of Ancient Australia. Routledge: London.
- Hiscock, P. and V. Attenbrow 2005 Australia's Eastern Regional Sequence revisited: Technology and change at Capertee 3. British Archaeological Reports. International Monograph Series 1397. Oxford: Archaeopress.
- Veth,P., M. Smith and P. Hiscock 2005 Desert Peoples: archaeological perspectives. Blackwell.
Articles and chapters
- Hiscock, P. and C. Clarkson 2009 The reality of reduction experiments and the GIUR: reply to Eren and Sampson. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:1576-1581.
- Hiscock, P, A. Turq, J-P. Faivre and L. Bourguignon. 2009 Quina procurement and tool production. pp. 232–246 in. B. Adams and B.S. Blades (eds) Lithic Materials and Paleolithic Societies Wiley-Blackwell
- Hiscock, P. 2009 Reduction, recycling and raw material Procurement in Western Arnhem Land. pp. 78–94 in. B. Adams and B.S. Blades (eds) Lithic Materials and Paleolithic Societies Wiley-Blackwell
- Hiscock, P. and C. Clarkson 2008 The construction of morphological diversity: a study of Mousterian implement retouching at Combe Grenal. pp. 106–135 in. W. Andrefsky (ed.) Lithic Technology Cambridge University Press.
- Mercieca, A. and Hiscock, P. 2008 Experimental insights into alternative strategies of lithic heat treatment. Journal of Archaeological Science 35:2634–2639.
- Hiscock, P. and C. Clarkson 2007 Retouched notches at Combe Grenal (France) and the Reduction Hypothesis. American Antiquity 72: 176-190.
- Hiscock, P. 2007 Looking the other way. A materialist/technological approach to classifying tools and implements, cores and retouched flakes. In S. McPherron (ed.) Tools versus Cores? Alternative approaches to Stone Tool Analysis. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 198–222.
- Hiscock, P. 2007 Australian point and core reduction viewed through refitting. In M. de Bie and U.Schurman (eds) Fitting Rocks. Lithic refitting examined. British Archaeological Reports. International Monograph Series 1596. Oxford: Archaeopress. pp. 105–118.
- Hiscock, P. 2006 Blunt and to the Point: Changing technological strategies in Holocene Australia. pp. 69–95 in I. Lilley (ed.) Archaeology in Oceania: Australia and the Pacific Islands. Blackwell.
- Hiscock, P. 2006 Process or planning?: depicting and understanding the variability in Australian core reduction. In S. Ulm (eds) An archaeological life: papers in honour of Jay Hall. University of Queensland. pp. 99–108.
- Hiscock, P. and P. Faulkner 2006 Dating the dreaming? Creation of myths and rituals for mounds along the northern Australian coastline. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 16:209-22.
- Hiscock, P. and S. O’Connor 2006 An Australian perspective on modern behaviour and artefact assemblages, Before Farming, online version 2006/1 article 5.
- Hiscock, P. and C. Clarkson 2005 Experimental evaluation of Kuhn's Geometric Index of Reduction and the flat-flake problem. Journal of Archaeological Science 32:1015-1022.
- Hiscock, P. and V. Attenbrow 2005 Reduction continuums and tool use. In Clarkson, C. and L. Lamb (eds) Rocking the Boat: Recent Australian Approaches to Lithic Reduction, Use and Classification. British Archaeological Reports. International Monograph Series 1408. Oxford: Archaeopress.
- Hiscock, P. and C. Clarkson 2005 Measuring artefact reduction: an examination of Kuhn's Geometric Index of Reduction. In Clarkson, C. and L. Lamb (eds) Rocking the Boat: Recent Australian Approaches to Lithic Reduction, Use and Classification. British Archaeological Reports. International Monograph Series 1408. Oxford: Archaeopress.
- Hiscock, P. 2005 Reverse knapping in the Antipodes: The spatial implications of alternate approaches to knapping. In Xavier Terradas (editor) L'outillage lithique en contextes ethnoarchéologiques / Lithic Toolkits in Ethnoarchaeological Contexts. Acts of the XIVth UISPP Congress, University of Liège, Belgium, 2–8 September 2001, Colloque/Symposium 1.4. British Archaeological Reports. International Monograph Series, S1370. Oxford: Archaeopress. pp. 35–39.
- Bellwood, P. and P. Hiscock 2005 Australia and the Austronesians. In C. Scarre (editor) The human past. World prehistory and the development of human societies. Thames and Hudson. pp. 264–305.
- Hiscock, P. 2005 Artefacts on Aru: evaluating the technological sequences. In S, O’Connor, M. Spriggs, and P. Veth (eds.) The Archaeology of the Aru Islands, Eastern Indonesia. Terra Australis 22, Australian National University, Canberra. pp. 205–234.
- Hiscock, P. and S. O’Connor 2005 Arid paradises or dangerous landscapes. A review of explanations for Paleolithic assemblage change in arid Australia and Africa. In P. Veth, M. Smith and P. Hiscock (eds) Desert Peoples: Archaeological perspectives. Blackwell. pp. 58–77.
- Hiscock, P. and L. Wallis 2005 Pleistocene settlement of deserts from an Australian perspective. In P. Veth, M. Smith and P. Hiscock (eds) Desert Peoples: archaeological perspectives. Blackwell. pp. 34–57.
- Hiscock, P. 2004 Slippery and Billy: intention, selection and equifinality in lithic artefacts. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 14:71-77.
- Hiscock, P. and V. Attenbrow 2003 Early Australian implement variation: a reduction model. Journal of Archaeological Science 30: 239-249.
- Hiscock, P. 2002 Pattern and context in the Holocene proliferation of backed artefacts in Australia. In Robert G. Elston and Steven L. Kuhn (eds) Thinking Small: Global Perspectives on Microlithization. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association (AP3A) number 12. pp. 163–177.
- Hiscock, P. 2002 Quantifying the size of artefact assemblages. Journal of Archaeological Science 29:251-258.
- Hiscock, P. 2001 Sizing up prehistory: sample size and composition of artefact assemblages. Australian Aboriginal Studies 2001/1:48-62.
- Hiscock, P. and V. Attenbrow 1998 Early Holocene Backed Artefacts from Australia. Archaeology in Oceania 33:49-63.
- Hiscock, P. 1996 Transformations of Upper Palaeolithic implements in the Dabba industry from Haua Fteah (Libya). Antiquity 70:657-664.
- Hiscock, P. 1996 The New Age of alternative archaeology of Australia. Archaeology in Oceania 31:152-164.
- Hiscock, P. 1996 Mobility and technology in the Kakadu coastal wetlands. Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association 15:151-157.
- Hiscock, P. 1994 Technological responses to risk in Holocene Australia. Journal of World Prehistory 8:267-292.
- The University of Sydney "Major gifts lead to exciting new professorial appointments" http://wordvine.sydney.edu.au/app/webroot/files/117/919/#!body_section_2_2
- Amazon, Books by Peter Hiscock
- Hiscock, Peter and Lynley Wallis (2005). Pleistocene settlement of deserts from an Australian perspective. In P. Veth, M. Smith and P. Hiscock (eds) Desert Peoples: archaeological perspectives. Blackwell. Pp. 34-57.
- Hiscock, P. and P. Faulkner (2006) Dating the dreaming? Creation of myths and rituals for mounds along the northern Australian coastline. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 16:209-22.
- 'Peter Hiscock awarded new ARC funding Australian National University
- Hiscock, Peter. (2008). Archaeology of Ancient Australia. Routledge: London. ISBN 0-415-33811-5
- Fagan, Brian (2008) Book review: Archaeology of Ancient Australia by Peter Hiscock. Australian Archaeology 66: 69-70
- Fran Molloy, 'Ancient Australia not written in stone'ABC News in Science
- http://antiquity.ac.uk/reviews/brumm.html Review of Archaeology of Ancient Australia, Antiquity Volume 082 Issue 317 September 2008
- Australian Archaeological Association, Awards
- Prof. Hiscock's web page
- Eastern Sequence Project
- Fagan, Brian (2008)Book review: Archaeology of Ancient Australia by Peter Hiscock. Australian Archaeology 66: 69-70