Australian and Pacific Archaeology

Humans have occupied the environmentally diverse Australian continent and Pacific region for approximately 50,000 years. Over that long span of time there have been both large- and small-scale processes of colonization and adaptation to the landscape, as well as introductions of new fauna, invasion by new populations and culture contact with a variety of human groups. All of this has taken place within a complex framework of climatic change. The result is a long history of dynamic change in social, economic and technological systems. The Australian and Pacific Archaeology program explores the diversity of cultural change transformations that have taken place and seeks to understand the mechanism and causes for key shifts in the lives of people in this landscape.

The variety of research, and post-graduate research opportunities, are described in the following Research projects.


Archaeology and Art on Groote Eylandt: This project examines the archaeology of cross-cultural interaction between Indigenous people, Macassans and missionaries in the Groote Eylandt archipelago. It focuses on the ways in which Indigenous artists represented their encounters and engagements with outsiders in the form of paintings in rock shelters and on the changes and continuities in the archaeological record of the late Holocene.

Archaeology of Convict Experiences: This project explores the operations of the Imperial British convict system in Australia with a special emphasis on convicts as a colonising and industrial force. This is a collaborative project with the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority re-examining the archaeological collections and exploring the industrial nature of convict activity on the Tasman Peninsula.

Archaeology of Sydney Research Group: A collaborative research program to develop research programs and resources for the study of the historical archaeology of the Sydney region. The program includes the NSW-Archaeology On-Line grey literature database.

Eastern Sequence Project: A project identifying the nature and directionality of technological changes in the sequence of stone artefact assemblages in Aboriginal sites in the Sydney Basin. The goal is to compare the temporal trends within this region.

Historical Archaeology in the South Alligator River Region, Kakadu National Park: This project is part of the ANU (ARC Linkage project) From Prehistory to History: landscape and cultural change on the South Alligator River, Kakadu National Park directed by Dr Sally Brockwell and Dr Janelle Stevenson. The aim of the project is to document and analyse the sites and landscapes of engagement between Europeans and Indigenous peoples along the South Alligator Rivers. It focuses on the fragile and ephemeral sites that record the ‘fossicking economy’ of buffalo shooting, mining, tourism and pastoralism in this region.

Landscape evolution, environmental change and human occupation history of Lake George: The environmental and human history of Lake George is being investigated through studies of past vegetation and climate changes, lake level fluctuations, groundwater flow, sediment deposition, and archaeological materials.

NSW Maritime Landscapes: A collaborative project to locate and record the fast-vanishing maritime infrastructure and industries of the NSW harbours and waterways, as well as to understand the development and use of these (land)scapes.

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The Quarantine Project: The archaeology and history of quarantine: The Quarantine Project is a collaborative research initiative based around the former Quarantine Station at Sydney’s North Head. Uniting archaeologists, historians and heritage experts, we are documenting the many rock inscriptions and other markings made at the site through its 150 years of operation from 1835 to 1984. There are well over 1000 such inscriptions in the sandstone, each serving as an enduring ‘postcard’ connecting modern visitors to stories from the past. Many of these stories - of people, journeys, diseases and incarceration - will be analysed and shared via our research.


Continuity and Change in the Solomon Islands: Examining the late pre-historic period and early historic period in the Solomon Islands.

Producers and Collectors: Uncovering the Role of Indigenous Agency in the Formation of Museum Collections: The aim of this project is to investigate how indigenous agency might be identified from 19th and 20th century ethnographic museum collections. Collections from Central Province, PNG form the focus of the analysis. A parallel study of Papuan objects offered for in historical auction and sale catalogues extends the contexts is also part of the project. The study takes an archaeological, assemblage-based approach to the analysis of both the museum collections and the text-based material of the catalogues.