Skip to main content
Ayers Rock
Centres and institutes_

Tom Austen Brown Research

Helping to build our knowledge of Australia’s human past
A passion for the field of archaeology that led to an endowment to support the advancement of archaeological research and teaching at Sydney.

About us

Tom Austen Brown researchers develop research in the field of archaeology, thanks to a generous donation by the late Tom Austen Brown, an avid amateur archaeologist. As a lawyer, his work required him to visit clients living on remote outback properties where he began collecting ancient Aboriginal artefacts. This inspired a passion for prehistory that led him to enrol in an arts degree at the University of Sydney, majoring in archaeology.

Our research

The latest research projects conducted by Tom Austen Brown researchers include:  

Traditions, Transformations and Technology

This ARC-funded project aims to understand the development and spread of technological systems in Aboriginal Australia and the connection between that diffusion process and the major expansion of Pama-Nyungan languages spoken over much of our country. This project will determine the extent and nature of phylogenetic signals in two sets of ancient lithic technologies: those producing artefacts and ground-edged axes. 

Led by Peter Hiscock (CI), Claire Bowern (PI), Russell Gray (PI) and Val Attenbrow (PI). Co-investigators include: Dr Joe Dortch (Northcliffe excavations) and Amy Way (Lake George Excavations). 

Our people

Tom Austen Brown is made up of University of Sydney academics, researchers and affiliates. We welcome the expertise of national and international researchers in our field.  

  • Dr Brit Assmussen
  • Dr Val Attenbrow
  • Dr Ian Gilligan
  • Professor Antonieta Jerardino
  • Associate Professor Lisa Nagaoka
  • Professor Marjorie Sullivan
  • Professor Peter Veth
  • Professor Steven Wolverton


From the desert to the sea: symbolic transformations in the human journey in Australia’s north- west

Jo McDonald
Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at the University of Western Australia

Click here for more information


The find of the century for archaeology? Comparative ethnology and archaeology

3 August 2018  

Visit our Sydney Ideas event site for more information and to register.


Sentient seascapes: the archaeology of ritual engagements with the marine realm

11 August 

Professor Ian McNiven explored the history of Torres Strait Islander ritual practices over the past 1000 years from an ethnographically-informed archaeological perspective.


Environmental Conservation and Archaeology

8 August  

Dr Steven Wolverton from the University of North Texas discusses how archaeologists contribute data and perspectives to conservation biology, restoration ecology and environmental science. 

Tom Austen Brown Chair in Australian Archaeology

Professor Peter Hiscock