Past Lectures

November 16, 2017. 

Investigating the role of native animals in Australian archaeology

By Dr Jillian Garvey 

Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University.

Little is known about how animals were used in past Aboriginal diets, or how they were hunted, butchered and cooked. Due to this lack of information archaeologists have had to reply on international zooarchaeological studies. However, these are mainly based on placental ungulates such as sheep and reindeer, making the results difficult to apply to Australia’s unique fauna. New research on modern butchery and the nutritional value, as well as the ethnography and contemporary use of native animals is being combined to establish baseline information to help understand archaeological faunal assemblages, as well as the potential role of native animals in the modern Australian diet.  

Dr Jillian Garvey is an ARC DECRA Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and History at La Trobe University. She researches Australian Indigenous archaeology with current projects investigating human occupation and subsistence during the late Quaternary in northwest Victoria and Tasmania. With formal training in zoology and archaeology, Jillian specialises in zooarchaeology – the role of animals in the archaeological record.  

October 19, 2017. 

The Final Fate of the La Pérouse Expedition: Wrecked in Northern Australia?

Presented by Dr Garrick Hitchcock,
School of Culture, History and Language; Australian National University

The final fate of the French expedition led by Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse, has been a source of intrigue and fascination ever since the frigates L’Astrolabe and La Boussole sailed out of Australia’s Botany Bay on 10 March 1788, vanishing, it seemed, into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Forty years later it was discovered that both ships had been dashed on the fringing reef of Vanikoro, in the Santa Cruz Group, Solomon Islands, during a violent storm. According to Vanikoro oral history, after approximately six months the survivors departed the island in a two-masted vessel constructed from wreckage of L’Astrolabe and timber hewn from the forest. They were never seen again. This paper reports the rediscovery of a newspaper article and letter, which point to the possibility that the La Pérouse expedition ended finally in northern Australia.

Dr Garrick Hitchcock is a Melbourne-based anthropologist specialising in New Guinea and Torres Strait. He is Director, Arafura Consulting and Honorary Senior Lecturer in the School of Culture, History and Language at The Australian National University. An article by Dr Hitchcock, exploring the final fate of the La Pérouse expedition, has been published in The Journal of Pacific History.

October 21, 2017. 

The Cemetery 1000 Tomb Assemblages from Tell Fara South

Presented by Paula Phillips

PhD Candidate, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne

The site of Tell Fara South in the southern Levant was excavated over two seasons (1928-1930), by Flinders Petrie on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Egypt, uncovering material in settlement and tomb contexts, dating from the Middle Bronze Age to the Roman Period. The Cemetery 1000 is one of two cemeteries at the site dated to the Middle Bronze Period (roughly 2000-1570BCE) in the Eastern Mediterranean, contemporary with the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Periods in Egypt. The topic of this talk is a brief introduction to current research into the tomb assemblages from this cemetery, aimed at verifying and ideally refining their dating, and then placing the cemetery in its correct chronological context with regard to the states of the Eastern Mediterranean at the time (Egypt, Cyprus, Crete, Anatolia, Syria, Mesopotamia and the Levant). The latter is particularly important given the period currently remains poorly understood in many places.

Paula Phillips is a second year PhD student in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne, under the supervision of Dr Andrew Jamieson and Dr Louise Hitchcock. The topic of her research is a re-examination of Middle Bronze Age tomb assemblages from the Cemetery 1000 at Tell Fara South in the southern Levant, originally excavated by Sir Flinders Petrie on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Egypt from 1928-1930. Prior to the University of Melbourne, Paula completed a BA with Honours at Monash University under the supervision of Dr Colin Hope. This project looked at scarab seals and associated pottery from Egypt’s Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period, contemporary with the Middle Bronze Period in the Levant. The focus of both projects is a better understanding of the events and interactions that characterize this crucial part of history in the Eastern Mediterranean (approximately 2000-1575BCE).

The Transmission and Innovation of Faience and Glass Technologies from Egypt and the Near East to Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age

Presented by Kellie Youngs

PhD Candidate, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne

Society in Cyprus during the Protohistoric Bronze Age (1750/1700-1100/1050 BCE) went through significant and rapid changes, many of which are imperfectly understood. Building on an agro-pastoral economic base, Cypriots extended their society into a more industrial, town-centred, way of life that was more stratified, and international in outlook (Webb, 2005). Scholars emphasise the development of the copper industry as the major contributing factor to the accelerated growth of the Cypriot economy, as it was ushered into the prominent and extensive system of international trade in the eastern Mediterranean (Knapp, 2013, p. 416). However, many interrelated questions of identity remain, particularly regarding the formation of social, political, and economic entities, as well as migration, integration, materiality, and connectivity. To illuminate these processes of change, it is my intention to survey the import, manufacture, and use of two luxury materials, glass, and faience, in Cyprus during the Late Bronze Age to provide a material context for the examination of power relations.

Archaeologist and graduate researcher at the University of Melbourne, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies.
Research interests: Technological innovation and logistics in the ancient Eastern Mediterranean, the relationships between people and landscape, and the archaeology of conflict and commemoration. Methodologies include spatial analyses, and the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to model logistical links between urban environs and landscape, and address archaeological questions. Fieldwork undertaken in Australia and Cyprus.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Louise Hitchcock and Dr Andrew Jamieson
In the past year, also worked on two projects at the University of Melbourne under the guidance of Dr James Harvey Kim On Chong-Gossard:

1) Classics and Archaeology Thesis Digitisation Project
2) Classics and Archaeology Library Project (relocating the library into its new Arts West home).

Prior to graduate research:
– Monash Arts Honours in Archaeology
– Monash Bachelor Business in Manufacturing Management
– Twenty years’ experience as a Business Management Professional, working as an independent entrepreneur and in corporate management roles in the manufacturing, logistics, training, and retail sectors.

August 17, 2017. 

Maritime cultural landscapes of the ‘middle ground’: The development of the Pākehā shipbuilding industry in pre-colonial New Zealand (1792-1840)

Presented by Matthew Carter

PhD Candidate, Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University

Between 1792 and 1840 at least 22 sailing ships were built in 11 different shipbuilding yards around New Zealand. Located on the edge of the Tasman Frontier, these yards manufactured the largest and most complex machines of the period while also operating as hubs of entanglement between Pākehā and Māori. As part of ongoing PhD research, this presentation will combine the archaeological and historical evidence of this industry to explore the motives, strategies and products of these shipwrights providing unique insights into pre-colonial society in this formative period of New Zealand’s past.

Matt Carter is currently completing his PhD at La Trobe University under Professor Susan Lawrence investigating the archaeology of innovation and entanglement in the pre-colonial shipbuilding industry in New Zealand. Prior to this, he worked as a consultant archaeologist on diverse projects such as earthquake archaeology in Christchurch, New Zealand, mapping underwater World War II plane and ship wrecks in Darwin Harbour, and searching for submerged Mesolithic settlements (c. 10500-8500BP) off the coast of Qatar. In 2007, he completed a Graduate Diploma in Maritime Archaeology through Flinders University and graduated with an MA in Anthropology in 2011 from Otago University. In 2009, he received the Our World-Underwater Australasian Rolex Scholarship – the first New Zealander, and maritime archaeologist, to receive this prestigious award. Matt is a Vice-President of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA), the New Zealand representative on the International Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH), as well as a member of the Explorers Club. Most recently, Matt was a specialist presenter on the television series ‘Coast: New Zealand’, a spin-off from the BBC-produced UK series ‘Coast’. 

Insights into Life at Lake Mungo During the Last Glacial Maximum

Presented by Elizabeth Foley

PhD Candidate, Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University

The aim of my research is to build a detailed picture of what life was like on the shores of Lake Mungo during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). During this period, lake levels fluctuated between low and high but regionally, conditions were extremely cold and arid. Highly detailed palaeoenvironmental information coupled with a high resolution, landscape record of archaeological material make the lunette of Lake Mungo an ideal place to investigate the lifeways of the people who successfully endured the LGM. The research draws on multiple strands of evidence, including analyses of stone, bone and shell tools, and faunal remains from hearths. The integration of these data sets will provide insights into aspects of people’s diet, technology and subsistence strategies.

Elizabeth (Liz) is a third-year PhD student at La Trobe University. She has been granted the privilege of working at Lake Mungo by the three Traditional Tribal Groups, the Mutthi Mutthi, Ngyiampaa and Pakaantji/Barkindji. She completed her Honours degree in Archaeology at La Trobe University in 2011, and has experience working on Aboriginal sites and artefact assemblages from NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

July 20, 2017. 

Songs of Central Australia Revisited

Presented by Jay Gibson 

PhD Candidate, Monash Indigenous Centre, Monash University Melbourne, Australia

T.G.H. Strehlow’s research on song and ritual in Central Australia stands as one of the most detailed studies of its type ever made in Australia. Succumbing to terrible hubris however, Strehlow cast himself as the only worthy ‘heir’ to these traditions and remained blinkered to the possibility of their ongoing relevance to Central Australian Aboriginal people. In this paper, I describe the process of re-examining Strehlow’s recordings of song and ceremony in collaboration with contemporary Arrernte and Anmatyerr men over a number of years. Included in these discussions were men across three generations, including some of those who acted as informants to Strehlow in the 1960s, those that witnessed him at work in their communities, and younger men who have come to this material for the first time. Recasting Strehlow’s collection as a co-production, actively made with informants who responded dynamically and creatively to their unequal relationships with ethnographers, I argue for greater emphasis on the dialogical and relational properties inherent in ethnographic research. I also describe Anmatyerr people’s extensive contemporary knowledge of this material, as well as the ongoing use of song and ritual in these communities today.

Jason Gibson is an anthropologist and historian specialising in the intercultural histories and ethnography of Central Australia. He has worked with both the Strehlow Research Centre and the Melbourne Museum on the repatriation of men’s ceremonial objects as well as the return of film and audio recordings to Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Jason has also taught in Indigenous Studies at the Monash Indigenous Centre (Monash University) and coordinated a major Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project concerning the works of seminal anthropologists Baldwin Spencer and Francis Gillen with the Australian National University. He is currently engaged in another ARC concerning the nineteenth century Australian anthropologists A.W. Howitt and Lorimer Fison, as well as the publication of Strehlow’s ‘Land of Altjira’.

Breaking bones: an anthropological analysis of the skeletal trauma resulting from falls

Presented by Samantha Rowbotham

PhD Candidate, Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University

Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury and death worldwide. Each fall constitutes its own distinct low-energy vertical deceleration event which often results in blunt force trauma (BFT) to the skeleton. How the BFT from a fall manifests in the skeleton however, is currently poorly researched and thus poorly understood by forensic anthropologists. Subsequently, when forensic anthropologists examine skeletal remains with BFT and they do not know the circumstances surrounding the death of that person, it remains difficult for them to interpret if a fall was or was not involved in causing that BFT. To augment this deficit, this doctoral research is investigating what, if any, are the skeletal fracture patterns and fracture morphologies that result from three of the most common types of fatal falls: low free falls (≤ 3m), high free falls (˂3m) and falls involving stairs. To investigate the skeletal trauma resulting from these three types of falls, two unique Victorian resources were used for data collection; the National Coronial Information System (NCIS) database and the post-mortem computed tomography (PMCT) database at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine. Skeletal trauma was analysed using the full-body PMCT scans of individuals who were known to have died from these falls. This trauma was then contextualized to the variables that are known to influence how an individual falls, as recorded in the NCIS. A number of distinct fracture patterns and fracture morphologies were found to be associated with these particular types of falls. Results of this research will assist forensic anthropologists with their interpretations of the mechanism of BFT when they are investigating the circumstances of death for human skeletal remains in medico-legal contexts. 

Samantha is a doctoral candidate in forensic anthropology with the Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University. She has completed a Bachelor of Arts (Archaeology) with the University of Queensland in 2010 and a Master of Archaeological Science (Research) (First Class Honors) with the Australian National University in 2012. Since 2009 she has been involved with archaeological excavations, osteology research, bioarchaeology teaching projects and forensic anthropology casework in Asia, Europe, Central America and Australia.

June 15, 2017. 

Early Gold rush Carlton – Recent Excavations in Swanston Street

Presented by Jodie Mitchell

Director of Alpha Archaeology Pty Ltd

Melbourne heritage consultancy Alpha Archaeology has recently completed a large archaeological excavation on the corner of Swanston and Queensberry Streets, Carlton. This is part of the highly significant historical site of the Former Carlton United Brewery complex, containing numerous terrace shops and dwellings, prior to their demolition as the CUB expanded over the decades. Uncovered were some wonderfully intact remnants of Melbourne’s early Gold rush period, when Carlton was first established in 1852, including some great unexpected finds. Jodie Mitchell, Director of Alpha Archaeology, will present the findings from the dig and our understanding of this multi-phase site so far, including some of the very interesting artefacts currently being analysed.

Jodie Mitchell is a qualified archaeologist and has been the Director of Alpha Archaeology Pty Ltd since 2004.  She has extensive archaeological experience working on many and varied projects throughout Australia. She has also worked on archaeological projects overseas in Thailand and Georgia, excavating burial sites and analysing the skeletal remains.

May 18, 2017. 

Indigenous memory methods: Stonehenge and beyond

Presented by Dr Lynne Kelly

Without writing, indigenous elders memorised a vast amount of factual information on which both physical and cultural survival depended; knowledge of thousands of animals and plants, astronomical charts, vast navigation networks, genealogies, geography and geology. How did they remember so much and does this explain the purpose of ancient monuments including Stonehenge, Easter  Island and the Nasca Lines? Can we use these memory methods in contemporary life?

This lecture will focus on the transmission of scientific and practical knowledge among small-scale oral cultures across the world, drawing on Australian Aboriginal, Native American, African and Pacific cultures. The lecture will explain the exact mechanisms used and why this explains the use of many enigmatic monuments around the world.

Dr Lynne Kelly is an Honorary Research Associate at LaTrobe University. Her research focusses on the way non-literate cultures memorise vast amounts of pragmatic information and the implications for archaeology and education. Her most recent books are Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies (Cambridge University Press 2015) and The Memory Code (Allen & Unwin  2016)

April 20, 2017. 

Wurdi Youang: What the Stones Tell us

Presented by Heather Threadgold

Aboriginal stone arrangements in Australia are rarely found intact.  A study of fifteen stone sites show us that while many known sites reside in regional landscapes across Australia’s lands and waters, it is the sites on the peri-urban fringes of Australia’s metropolitan cities that are causing considerable angst to Aboriginal custodians, and debates by land use planners and developers as to how to accommodate such sites in sprawl. Three such sites — Wurdi Youang, Sunbury Earth Rings and Gummingurru – have common factors that allow an understanding of Indigenous culture, the positioning of the sites and three layers of landscape: ancient, indigenous Country’s, and European created and envisaged landscape.  All three sites impinge upon farmlands and are under threat by urban sprawl. Land use planning reactions to this issue have primarily involved adaptation; a process whereby Aboriginal custodians, heritage and community groups and governments work together to create a new layered landscape of meaning that incorporates culture, community, a space, and seeks to protect/preserve/conserve the site as an artefact in time. This contrasts with comprehending its cultural meaning and role, its contribution to Indigenous cultural values, and how it sits in the process of culture establishment and continuity

Heather Threadgold is an anthropologist living in Geelong.  Her research is split between cultural anthropology: Indigenous living space, stone arrangements and two distinct genres of monuments and street art culture. For the past 13 years she has been researching Wathaurong (Wadda Wurrung)Living Space in Victoria, highlighting the meanings of stone arrangements and stone monuments as tools in defining landscape, seasonal movement, burial sites and meeting places.

March 16, 2017. 

Settlement dynamics in the lower Pontine Plain: the results of recent archaeological fieldwork of the Minor Centres project. 

Presented by Gijs Tol 

Lecturer, School of History and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne

This paper discusses the results of recent landscape archaeological fieldwork in the Pontine Plain (Lazio, Central Italy), carried out within the framework of the Minor Centres project. This former wetland, situated ca. 50 kilometres south of Rome, has generally been considered unsuitable for large-scale habitation before Mussolini’s ambitious land reclamations of the 1930’s. However, the adoption of an integrated approach, comprising field walking, geophysical prospections and coring on and around the road stations of Forum Appii and Ad Medias are starting to reveal the much deeper history of the area. The obtained results indicate a waxing and waning of human occupation strongly interlinked with changing environmental conditions. The area appears to have been of particular importance during Rome’s early expansionist phase, when it became colonized as part of a well-planned operation comprising major infrastructural- and reclamation works.

Gijs Tol is Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at the University of Melbourne. He specializes in the archaeology and material culture of Roman Central Italy and has published studies on Landscape Archaeology, the Roman economy, Roman colonization, and craft production. Currently he is the co-director of two international research projects: the Minor Centres-project that aims to investigate the role of secondary centres in the Roman economy by performing fieldwork on a number of road stations along the Via Appia, and the Marzuolo Archaeological Project that studies the Roman-period craft site of Marzuolo in southern Tuscany (Italy).

November 17, 2016. 

An Integrative Bioarchaeological Approach to Studying Human Skeletal Remains from Mtskheta, Georgia at a Transformative Period of European & Asian History (1-7c AD).

Presented by Dr Varsha Pilbrow

Lecturer, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, The University of Melbourne

The first to seventh centuries was a period of major political and cultural upheaval in Europe and Asia. The fall of the Roman and Sasanian empires, the start of the Migration Period, the incursion of Eurasian steppic nomads such as the Huns into Europe and the rise of Christianity are some of the transformational events that took place during this time. The people from the Caucasian kingdom of Iberia, based in Mtskheta in Georgia, experienced these events first-hand as a result of their crossroads location between Africa, Asia and Europe. Their legacy is preserved in their skeletal remains available abundantly in several cemeteries in Mtskheta. Who were these people? How was their biology, culture and life-history affected by surrounding events? How much of this legacy is evident in present-day Georgia? My research group has been addressing these questions through a corroborative strategy that melds traditional and new morphological approaches of physical anthropology with chemical and genetic approaches. I will present the current state of our knowledge.

Dr Varsha Pilbrow is a physical anthropologist researching palaeoanthropology, with a focus on the dentition of fossil and living apes. Her research has taken her to fossil hominin localities in Tanzania and Kenya. 


October 20, 2016.

There will be two presentations at the October lecture.

Palaeodemographic studies at the hominin-bearing palaeocave site of Drimolen, South Africa. 

Presented by Angeline Leece

Palaeodemographic studies play an important role in the interpretation of extinct hominin species.

All demographic studies are based on the concept of life-histories. Inspection of life-history characteristics provides information about the chronology and synchrony of growth, maturation, and aging milestones (i.e. age at weaning, age at first reproduction, interbirth interval, etc.).

Examining these landmarks can help broaden our understanding of the behaviour of extinct taxa. A palaeodemographic interpretation of both the Paranthropus robustus and early Homo populations within the Drimolen assemblage was established and used to hypothesis as to the accumulation processes of the material. It was found that the Drimolen P. robustus demographic profile most closely resembled that of a carnivore accumulation while the Drimolen early Homo demographic profile most closely resembled that of a natural mortality accumulation.

Angeline Leece completed her Bachelors of Anthropology Honours under the guidance of leading hominin researcher Professor David Strait. After having investigated the phylogeny of Australopithecus sediba at New York’s SUNY Albany, Angeline moved to Australia to undertake her Masters research into Paranthropus robustus at La Trobe University. Angeline has worked at a number of early hominin sites in the South African UNESCO Cradle of Humankind and was lead author for the announcement and description of the first hominin remains from the site of Haasgat. Angeline’s PhD research will focus on the adaptive, biomechanical, and phylogenetic implications of early hominin dentition.

Paleopathologies of Egyptian mummy head investigated using non-invasive imaging techniques

Presented by Stacey Gorski

A remarkable find of ancient Egyptian mummified head in the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology at the University of Melbourne has led to an on-going multidisciplinary project involving non-destructive scanning and three-dimensional printing in order to develop a biological profile and report on the pathology of the individual, which will be the focus of this talk. An artistic facial reconstruction of the individual was also undertaken by a forensic sculptor. Using cranial morphological criteria and other forensic techniques, the sex and approximate age of the individual has been determined. Several pathologies were apparent from the CT-scans, and appear to be population-specific in line with certain maladies that the ancient Egyptians were known to suffer from. The presentation will also go on to discuss future directions of the research being undertaken and what other information we hope to gain by conducting these analyses.

Stacey Gorski has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from Bond University on the Gold Coast and moved to Melbourne in 2015 to pursue a Master of Biomedical Science degree based in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at the University of Melbourne. She hopes to continue research in the fields of forensic anthropology and physical anthropology.


October 16, 2014.

Tracing the Huns from their head shapes

Presented by Dr Peter Mayall
University of Melbourne

Peter has been researching intentional cranial modification in Eurasia during the migration period (4th-6th century AD) particularly looking at the role of the Huns and the archaeological evidence from burial sites.

For the past few years Peter has been involved in the excavation of a burial site in the Republic of Georgia and laser scanning modified skulls at various places in Europe. He is a retired Obstetrician Gynaecologist now a PhD student

Diet and Social Diversity during the 2nd-5th Century at Samtavro Cemetery, Republic of Georgia

Presented by Natalie Langowski
University of Melbourne

Natalie, a Master’s student, is using molecular techniques to study the diets of the Iberian population buried at Samtavro Cemetery, Georgia. These burials are dated to the Iberian Kingdom, and exhibit significant cultural diversity in their burial customs, with at least four different burial types currently recognised.

An examination of diet directly from the bones excavated from Samtavro has provided further evidence for the co-existence of two or more distinct cultures within the Iberian population. They differed in both burial customs and their day-to-day dietary practices.


September 18, 2014. 

Traces in the sand: a history of human settlement at Lake Mungo, Willandra Lakes, south-eastern Australia

Presented by Dr Nicola Stern
Lecturer, La Trobe University

Lake Mungo came to the attention of the international research community during the 1970s following the discovery of were then, and still are, some of the oldest well-dated traces of human activity in Australia, including the oldest known ritual human burials. However, these are only a few of the thousands of traces of past human activity preserved in the 33-km lunette bounding the eastern margin of Lake Mungo. These activity traces span the entire known history of human settlement on the Australian continent and are preserved in sediments that reflect the hydrological conditions that prevailed in the adjacent lake at the time they accumulated.  As a result, the archaeological traces preserved in the Mungo lunette present an unparalleled opportunity to investigate the changing pattern of life on the edge of the continent’s arid core as environmental conditions fluctuated over the past 45,000 years. The first systematic survey of these activity traces and their geological context began in 2009. This presentation describes how information about past activities and environments is being collected and provides new insights into the history of human settlement in the Willandra Lakes.

Dr Nicola Stern teaches in the Archaeology Program at La Trobe University and leads an inter-disciplinary research project in the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area, in close collaboration with Elders from the Mutthi Mutthi, Ngyiampaa and Pakaantji/Barkindji tribes. She completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney and a Ph.D in Palaeolithic Archaeology at Harvard University and worked on the earliest archaeological traces in Africa and rock shelters in south-west Tasmania before taking up an invitation to help develop a new generation of research in the Willandra.


August 21, 2014.

Assessing season of site use in the archaeological record: a case study in the multidisciplinary approach.

Presented by Georgia Roberts
La Trobe University

Assessing seasonality within the archaeological record is notoriously difficult, particularly within Australia where seasonal variation is quite limited. One exception is southwestern Tasmania, which also contains remarkably well preserved assemblages of animal remains, ranging in age from 35,000 to 11,500 years. These archaeological collections are dominated by Bennett’s wallaby and the Tasmanian Common wombat, representing the two species most predated by Aboriginal people in this region at the end of the Pleistocene. This study investigates the season/s in which these sites were being used by identifying the seasonal isotopic curve (associated within rainfall) preserved within wombat dental enamel.

Investigations into hunter-gatherer subsistence strategies during Pleistocene climatic flux have led to the development of a model of highly mobile populations utilising resources on a seasonal basis. Georgia’s PhD research aims to investigate this trend through assessing patterns of seasonal resource exploitation of Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis, the Tasmanian Common wombat, by Australian Aboriginal people in Tasmanian archaeological sites. Seasonality of wombat hunting is being investigated by undertaking high-resolution sequential stable isotope analysis on tooth enamel of Common wombats found throughout the archaeological sequences ranging in age from approximately 35,000 BP to 11,500 BP in order to identify season of death. Comparisons between season of death for Bennett’s wallaby, the major prey species, and Common wombats, will be undertaken, in order to assess the contribution of the Common wombat in the subsistence strategies evident at the sites.


Georgia Roberts is in the second year of her PhD at La Trobe University, based in the Molecular Archaeology Lab. Georgia undertook her undergraduate degrees at the Australian National University in Canberra (BSc – Palaeoenvironments and Marine Geoscience and BA [Hons] – Archaeology and Biological Anthropology), completing a Master of Archaeological Science in 2012.

Making home:  An archaeology of early colonial family farming at Gembrook, south-eastern Victoria

Presented by Wendy Morrison
La Trobe University

Silverwells is a family farm established in 1874 by one of the first selectors to settle in the Gembrook area of the Port Phillip-Westernport Bay region of south-eastern Victoria. For thirty years Silverwells was the nucleus of an embryonic settlement, providing a lifeline to scattered mining settlements and a venue for expressions of community celebration and cohesion. The original buildings and many of their contents remain on the property, and are the subject of my research. They represent a physical manifestation of an ancient process humans have been involved in for much of their history: emigration and inhabitation. They also offer a rare opportunity to investigate the initial formation of an early colonial community, created in relative isolation and through the efforts of the settlers themselves.

Emigration-immigration is an intensely emotional experience. For selectors it involved relinquishing land, family, friends and community with little or no chance of return. They then had to establish themselves in a different place that would nurture their family through successive generations. My research focuses on this process to consider a fundamental and primal question: how did a first generation settler family create home in a foreign landscape?

Wendy studied archaeology at La Trobe University, winning a number of university awards including the Deans Honours Award and the First Year Sociology Prize. In her third year she was awarded an International Network of Universities (INU) scholarship to study at Leicester University in the UK for three months, and on completion of her degree she was granted an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) to undertake a doctorate. Her research interests are strongly focused on Australian historical archaeology, and her doctoral research investigates the process of early colonial settlement and community creation at the family farm of an early settler at Gembrook, in South-eastern Victoria


July 17, 2014.

Homo erectus, Homo ergaster and the Dmanisi hominids

Presented by Dr Varsha Pilbrow

Lecturer, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, University of Melbourne

Homo erectus was first described by Eugene Dubois in the 1890, from Java, Indonesia and subsequently recognized throughout Asia by its robust cranial morphology. Similar hominin fossils from Africa were more gracile and several 100,000 years earlier than the Asian forms, leading to the belief that these were the ancestral human forms that migrated out of Africa and spread through the world. Hominin fossils from Dmanisi in Georgia began to emerge around 100years after Dubois’ discovery and in the last twenty years have changed our understanding of our earliest human ancestors. How the Dmanisi hominins fit with H. ergaster and H.erectus and how they have changed our perceptions of our evolutionary ancestry will be the focus of the talk.

Dr Varsha Pilbrow is a physical anthropologist researching palaeoanthropology, with a focus on the dentition of fossil and living apes. Her research has taken her to fossil hominin localities in Tanzania and Kenya. She is currently involved in a skeletal biology project in the republic of Georgia and with Professor Tony Sagona organised the recent visit to the University of Melbourne of Professor David Lordkipanidze.


 June 19, 2014.

Transegalitarian Aboriginal Societies of Southwest Victoria —  A 12,000 Year Perspective

Presented by Thomas Richards

Research Fellow, Monash Indigenous Centre

Ongoing international debate regarding complexity in Southwest Victorian Aboriginal societies concerns unresolved issues surrounding the validity of the 19th century ethnographic record and the archaeological evidence for complexity in the pre-contact period. SW Victorian Aboriginal societies are critically re-examined with the aid of substantial new empirical data and by exploring the ethnographic and archaeological records through the theoretical lens of transegalitarian socio-cultural complexity. Data from shell middens in the Cape Duquesne study area are used to develop a 12,000 year long coastal archaeological sequence to identify the appearance and nature of transegalitarian features. The direct historical approach is employed at the Lake Condah Outlet study area to investigate the archaeological manifestation of an ethnohistorically chronicled Aboriginal eel fishery. Detailed archaeological mapping and recording of the still extant 19th century cultural features forms the basis for modelling the functioning of this system at varying lake levels, thus highlighting the culture-based fishery form of eel aquaculture. Transegalitarian traits in the ethnographic record of SW Victoria are identified and an assessment of the level of transegalitarian complexity discussed for several key variables, including population density, sedentism, land and resource ownership, production of economic surplus, leadership and government, marriage, polygyny and moieties, and meetings. Finally, the appearance of transegalitarian features SW Victoria is considered in chronological sequence.

Tom is an archaeologist who has been involved in research, consulting, government heritage regulation and teaching in Canada, Guatemala, Britain, Australia and Papua New Guinea. Tom has over 50 publications, most recently in journals such as Australian Archaeology, Journal of Field Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Australian Aboriginal Studies and World Archaeology.

Tom is a Research Fellow with the Monash Indigenous Centre, co-directing research on the remains of newly discovered Lapita settlements excavated recently at Caution Bay near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The Smithsonian Institution is publishing a nine volume series of monographs, “Caution Bay Studies in Archaeology,” on the results of this research and the first volume, co-edited by Tom has recently been completed and sent to the publishers.

Tom has long been a practitioner of community archaeology. Early research in partnership with First Nations people involved investigation of the emergence of sedentary pithouse villages on the Plateau of British Columbia. More recently Tom has worked closely with Traditional Owners on the study of transegalitarian Aboriginal societies in southwest Victoria.


 May 15, 2014.

A Rara Avis: FE Williams, the Government Anthropologist of Papua and the Papuan Official Collection

Presented by Dr Sylvia Schaffarczyk, AASV member

FE Williams, the Government Anthropologist of the Territory of Papua from 1922-43 is well known for his ethnographic writing and photography. These aspects of his life have been covered in some detail (Young and Clark 2001, Griffiths 1977) , and are still undergoing scrutiny (Bell 2006), while his collecting has not. While Williams himself saw collecting as a perfunctory part of his duties as Government Anthropologist, his contributions to the Papuan Official Collection (POC), include some of the best provenanced material in the collection and form an unusual sub-set within what is otherwise a rather haphazard official collection. The POC is held at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra (NMA), and its acquisition spans most of the 32 year administration of the Territory of Papua by Sir Hubert Murray. This paper will consider the contribution by Williams to the Papuan Official Collection and the impact his professional training had on the acquisition of objects for the collection and in the Territory. I first gave a version of this paper as a PhD student at the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies (AAAPS) conference at ANU in 2006. The paper was published in 2007, as a chapter in Cochrane, S  & Quanchi, M, Eds. Hunting the collectors: Pacific collections in Australian museums, art galleries and archives. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom, republished as an ebook in 2012.


April 17, 2014.

Mystery Stones from the Arnhem Land Plateau

Presented by R (ben) Gunn & Leigh Douglas

One of the unusual features repeatedly found on the Arnhem Land Plateau are small stone tablets propped up and chocked to make them prominent. No Jawoyn people can offer any interpretation of these features and there is no consistency in their formal properties

Similar raised slabs were reported by Love from the Kimberley region; their meanings ranging from signifying sacred places or features to documenting where a person killed a kangaroo.

The well-illustrated presentation will offer the extent of our knowledge of these Arnhem Land stones and their archaeological context.

For the past eight years ‘ben’ and Leigh have been recording Jawoyn rock art and other sites and features across Jawoyn lands. ben has been recording rock art for over thirty years throughout Australia and internationally. Leigh has been photographing rock art for the past ten years.


March 20, 2014.

The Archaeoastronomy of the Megaliths of Arles: cosmology and monumental architecture in the European Neolithic

Presented by Morgan Saletta

Morgan Saletta will present his archaeoastronomical study of the megalithic hypogées of Arles (The Arles/Fontvieille monuments) which were probably built between 3500 BC and3000 BC. Four of these large subterranean monuments were oriented toward the setting sun on the equinoxes while the largest, the Grotte de Cordes was oriented toward the winter solstice so as to be illuminated at seasonally important periods of the year for ritual, ceremonial and cosmologically symbolic purposes. This illumination phenomenon, which Morgan is the first to have documented, is very similar to the well-known winter solstice illumination of Newgrange in Ireland and Maeshowe in Scotland. Morgan will discuss how his research and discoveries contribute to and engage with longstanding debates in archaeology concerning the origin, diffusion and meaning of megaliths and other monuments in Neolithic Europe and in the recognition of these monuments from a world heritage perspective.

Morgan was educated in the U.S and France, earning Master’s degrees in Anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and in Museum and Heritage Studies at the Muséum National d’Histoire National (Paris) before becoming a doctoral candidate in the History and Philosophy of Science at Melbourne University. An American by birth, he may have left his heart in his native San Francisco but now calls Melbourne home.

2013 September

Marcia Nugent (University of Melbourne)
“Botanic Motifs of the Bronze Age Cycladic Islands: Identity, Belief, Ritual and Trade”

Antonio Gonzalez (University of Melbourne)
“Rethinking heritage. Landscape iconoclasm in the Burrup Peninsula (Western Australia)”

2013 August

Rebekah Kurpiel (LaTrobe University)

“Where did it all come from?: A study of stone sources in the Lake Mungo region, southwest New South Wales”

Claudia A. Garcia-Solis (LaTrobe University)
“Behind the Stucco: Technology and Artifices in the Maya City of Calakmul”

2013 July

Michael Lever (Andrew Long and Associates)
“Neither Bombs nor Butter –V. Gordon Childe and the Life Archaeological”

2013 June

Genevieve Grieves, Amanda Reynolds and Rosemary Wrench (Museum Victoria)
“First Peoples: coming soon … ” First Peoples is an exciting new exhibition opening in 2013 at the Bunjilaka Cultural Centre in the Melbourne Museum.

2013 May

Dr Liam M. Brady and Assoc Prof John Bradley (Monash University)
“Images of Relatedness”: patterning, cultural contexts and agency in Yanyuwa rock art, SW Gulf of Carpentaria

2013 April

Dr Phillip Edwards (La Trobe University):
“The History of Archaeological Excavation: what did Wheeler really know?”

2013 March

Associate Professor Richard Cosgrove (La Trobe University)
“Fire, people and climate change in the Wet Tropics bioregion, north Queensland”

2012 November

(AGM) Dr Colin Hope, “The Death-Pits of Ur”.

2012 October

Johanna Petkov (Monash University)
Child and Infant Burials in New Kingdom Egypt

Daniel James (Monash University)
The Painted Past – the rock-art of the Little Barra rockshelter, Jawoyn country, Arnhem Land

2012 September

Caroline Tully (University of Melbourne)
A Little World Made Cunningly: Glyptic Images of Tree Cult in the Late Bronze Age Aegean

Aleksandra Michalewicz (University of Melbourne)
Roman and late Antique mortuary ritual at the Samtavro Cemetery of Caucasian Iberia

2012 August

Meredith Filihia (La Trobe University)
Aspects of Indigenous Technological Change and Adaptation: an Archaeology of Culture Contact

Anthony Bagshaw (La Trobe University)
Tasmanian Pottery and the Jam Trade 1848-1855

2012 July

Ajda Vrbic (Alpha Archaeology)
Archaeology and Folklore tradition of Salek Valley Slovenia

2012 June

Michael Lever (Andrew Long and Associates)
Why chamber pots don’t have lids – Melbourne, Miasma and Material Culture.

2012 May

Prof Antonio Sagona (University of Melbourne)
Unlocking Gallipoli: New perspectives on the history and archaeology of the ANZAC battlefield.

2012 April

Dr Heather Jackson (University of Melbourne)
The terracotta people of Jebel Khalid on the Euphrates

2012 March

Dr Beth Gott, (Monash University)
Aboriginal plant use and the importance of management