Past Lectures

2017 October

Dr. Garrick Hitchcock
“The final fate of the La Pérouse Expedition: Wrecked in Northern Australia.”


2017 September

Kellie Youngs
“The Transmission and Innovation of Faience and Glass Technologies from Egypt and the Near East to Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age.”

Paula Phillips
“The Cemetery 1000 Tomb Assemblages from Tell Fara South.”


2017 August

Liz Foley
“Insights into Life at Lake Mungo During the Last Glacial Maximum.”

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


2017 July

Samantha Rowbotham
“Breaking bones: an anthropological analysis of the skeletal trauma resulting from falls.”

Jay Gibson
“Songs of Central Australia Revisited.”


2017 June

Jodie Mitchell
“Early Gold rush Carlton: Recent Excavations in Swanston Street.”


2017 May

Dr. Lynne Kelly
“Indigenous memory methods: Stonehenge and beyond.”


2017 April

Heather Threadgold
“Wurdi Youang: What the Stones Tell us.”


2017 March

Gijs Tol (The University of Melbourne)
“Settlement dynamics in the lower Pontine Plain: the results of recent archaeological fieldwork of the Minor Centres project”.


2016 November

Dr. Varsha Pilbrow (The University of Melbourne):
“An integrative bioarchaeological approach to studying human skeletal remains from Mtskheta, Georgia at a transformative period of European and Asian history (1-7 c AD).”


Thursday 20th October 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.


Thursday 16 October

Peter Mayall – Tracing the Huns from their head shapes

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

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

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.


Thursday, 18 September

Dr Nicola Stern – La Trobe University

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

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.


Thursday, 21 August

Georgia Roberts – La Trobe University

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

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.

Wendy Morrison – La Trobe University

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

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


Thursday, 17 July

Dr Varsha Pilbrow, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience University of Melbourne

Homo erectus, Homo ergaster and the Dmanisi hominids

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 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.


 Thursday, 19 June 2014

Thomas Richards, Research Fellow, Monash Indigenous Centre

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

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.


 Thursday, 15 May 2014

Dr Sylvia Schaffarczyk, AASV member

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

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  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.


 Thursday, 17 April 2014

R (ben) Gunn & Leigh Douglas:

Mystery Stones from the Arnhem Land Plateau

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.


 Thursday, 20 March 2014

Morgan Saletta:

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

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