Facts & figures
- #2 in Australia
- #26 in the world
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Facts & figures
Our academics and researchers have a broad range of expertise in archaeological method and theory including key areas of archaeometry, digital technology, archaeozoology, lithics and ceramics analysis.
They conduct fieldwork in regions around the world, including East and Southeast Asia (Angkor in Cambodia), the Caucasus, China, Central Asia (Uzbekistan), the Middle East (Iran, Jordan), Africa and the Mediterranean (Cyprus, Greece, Italy) and Sri Lanka. Our teaching program reflects these regional interests.
Learn how to reconstruct ancient cultures from the material residues of their activities and how to interpret archaeological evidence to influence the present. Gain an understanding of the methods and thinking with which archaeologists interpret past lives. Answer the most crucial questions about prehistoric and historic societies, and experience a far-reaching focus on Australia, the broader Near East and classical Mediterranean societies.
Museum and Heritage Studies will equip you with a contextual understanding of core historical and theoretical developments in museum and heritage studies. You will learn the frameworks for managing collections and sites and develop a practical understanding of the modes of interpretation used in the museum and heritage sector.
The research programs involve independent research work and the preparation of a thesis under the supervision of the director of the program, and other academic staff in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
Our internationally recognised scholars conduct fieldwork all over the world. They also specialise in six broad regional and thematic research programs:
When: 23 October, 6.30pm
Where: Charles Perkins Centre Auditorium, the University of Sydney
Archaeologists have recently uncovered astounding new evidence about political and economic systems in ancient Arslantepe-Malatya (Turkey), in the Upper Euphrates valley. Professor Marcella Frangipane will use this evidence as a case study for important new insights into the birth of early state societies in the greater Mesopotamian world.
This annual lecture is made possible through the generosity of University of Sydney graduate Tom Austen Brown (LLB ’46 BA ’74).
In his early professional life, Tom was a lawyer but had the heart of an archaeologist, often searching for Aboriginal artefacts in the sand dunes and desert flats around Broken Hill, where he lived. Without realising it, he put together one of the most significant – yet unofficial – collections of Aboriginal stone artefacts in Australia. He completed archaeology studies at the University in 1973.
During his life, Tom gave $1.6 million to the University, and on his passing in 2009, left a $6.9 million bequest to the Department of Archaeology. Tom’s bequest has already created the Chair of Australian Archaeology, the first endowed chair of archaeology in the country to include Australia in its brief. There is also the Tom Austen Brown Grants Program for Prehistory.
Tom has helped create a future for Australia’s past.
3 August 2018
Dr Mark Collard, Canada Research Chair and Professor, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Canada
In conjunction with Sydney Ideas
Comparative ethnology is the practice of comparing and contrasting the features of large samples of human societies. Also known as cross-cultural analysis, it has a long association with archaeology. For example, the pioneering archaeologist Augustus Pitt Rivers was also an exponent of comparative ethnology. Similarly, the career-capping book of the most influential archaeologist of the second half of the 20th century, Lewis Binford, is a work of comparative ethnology. However, comparative ethnology has never been considered a key archaeological tool. In this talk, I will argue that it should be. Drawing on my own work and that of colleagues, I will show that there are both theoretical and practical reasons for archaeologists to enthusiastically embrace comparative ethnology. Adding it to the techniques that we expect archaeology undergraduate students to know will enable the discipline to make faster progress with the task of making sense of the patterns in the archaeological record.
11 August 2017
Professor Ian J McNiven, Monash University
There is an old saying in archaeology that if you find something that is behaviourally odd or out-of-the-ordinary then label it ritual. Yet for Australian Indigenous societies, ritual practices, especially those of a socio-religious nature, are anything but out-of-the-ordinary.
Ritual practices are fundamental to how Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders direct their lives and relate to each other, to the spiritual realm, and to the broader world. As such, understanding the nature and long-term development of past rituals and ceremonial practices provides enormous scope for archaeologists to create historical narratives that express human and spiritual agency and intentionality that resonate with Indigenous worldviews.
In this paper, I explore the history of Torres Strait Islander ritual practices over the past 1000 years from an ethnographically informed archaeological perspective. We will start with the materiality of ritual practices as known ethnographically through historical texts, museum objects, and contemporary Islander views. Critically, many ritual practices also involved shrines comprising objects such as shells, bones, artefacts, and stone figures that can be studied archaeologically and radiocarbon dated. Results reveal successive use of shrines expressed through constant additions of objects over hundreds of years.
These chronologies not only define the temporal limits of ethnographically known practices back in time, but also position shrines as historically dynamic and ever-emergent works-in-progress. The ever-changing materiality of shrines was an expression of ritual constancy and historical continuity in the socio-religious lives of Torres Strait Islanders.
8 August 2016
Dr Steve Wolverton, University of North Texas
Archaeologists contribute data and perspectives to conservation biology, restoration ecology and environmental science. Although zooarchaeology, and to a lesser extent archaeobotany, have led the way, what archaeology truly has to offer stems from the unique nature of the discipline. Archaeology is the only field of study that offers a long-term record of human-environmental interactions. There are two major contributions that archaeologists provide conservationists, one philosophical and one empirical. The value of archaeology in environmental conservation is easily demonstrated through exemplary case studies.