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Biographical entry Meehan, Betty Francis (1933 - )


Bourke, New South Wales, Australia
Anthropologist and Archaeologist
Alternative Names
  • Hiatt, Betty


Betty Meehan is an anthropologist whose research includes ethnohistoric and archaeological information. Her work on Tasmanian Aborigines focussed on their diet and economy, and her studies of their burial practices was the subject of her highly-regarded Masters thesis (1971). In the Northern Territory her research was on subsistence regimes in Arnhem Land communities, particularly role of shellfish. Her field work was done with collaboration from her husband Rhys Jones and the Anbarra people. The resultant book, Shell bed to shell midden (1982) made her internationally famous. Later areas of study included the Upper Daly River in the Northern Territory.



Education - PhD, Australian National University
1977 - 1985
Career position - Research Fellow, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University
Career position - President, Australian Archaeological Association
1985 - 1990
Career position - Anthropologist, Division of Anthropology, Australian Museum
1987 -
Award - Fellow, Australian Academy of the Humanities
1987 - 1994
Career position - Editor, Australian Archaeology
Award - Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for service to education, particularly in the field of Australian prehistory
Career position - Head, Aboriginal Section, Collections Management Division, National Museum of Australia
1991 - 1995
Career position - Director, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Section, Australian Heritage Commission
1995 - 1996
Career position - Honorary Associate, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
2001 -
Award - Life Member, Australian Archaeological Association
Award - Centenary Medal for service to cultural heritage and as a distinguished archaeologist

Published resources


  • Griffiths, Billy, Deep time dreaming: uncovering ancient Australia (Carlton, Vic.: Black Inc., 2018), 376 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Meehan, Betty, 'Irreverent recollections of the making of an anthropologist' in Scholar and sceptic: Australian Aboriginal studies in honour of L. R. Hiatt, Merlan, Francesca, Morton, John and Rumsey, Alan, eds (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1997), pp. 11-27. Details
  • Meehan, Betty, 'The early life of a new chum 1941 - 1969' in Histories of Old Ages: Essays in Honour of Rhys Jones, Anderson, Atholl, Lilley, Ian and O'Connor, Sue, eds (Canberra: Oandanus Books, 2001), pp. 1-15. Details

Journal Articles

  • Bowdler, Sandra and Clune, Genevieve, 'That shadowy band: the role of women in the development of Australian archaeology', Australian Archaeology, 50 (2000), 276-35. Details
  • Oakes, Leonie, Meehan, Betty and Bolton, Lissant, 'Elsie McCarthy (nee Bramell)', Australian Archaeology, 21 (1985), 139-41. Details



  • Meehan, Batty, 'The form, distribution and antiquity of Australian Aboriginal burial practices', 2 vols, MA thesis, 1971. Details

See also

  • Lampert, R. J., 'Trends in Australian prehistoric research', Antiquity, 49 (1970), 197-206. Details
  • Lampert, R. J., 'Trends in Australian prehistoric research', Antiquity, 49 (1975), 197-206. Details

Helen Cohn