Through archaeology we are discovering the human past

We lead archaeological field research programs and specialist analyses in Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and around the globe. Our research is aimed at gaining a new understanding of our evolutionary beginnings and a long-term perspective on the human experience.

We employ diverse and innovative interdisciplinary approaches that include archaeological excavation, experimental archaeology, analysis of lithic and organic technologies, site formation processes, and rock art research.

Head

Professor Adam Brumm

ARCHE member

Dr Michelle Langley, Dr Jayne Wilkins

PhD candidates

Basran Burhan, Tessa Dux, Eva Martellotta, Marcela Ortega Rincon, David McGahan, Kim Newman, Yinika Perston

INSPIRING NEW FINDINGS

While much is known about how humans emerged and diversified, breakthrough findings regularly reveal new unrecognized complexities.

For example, in Indonesia, we have: uncovered the earliest archaeological evidence for the presence of hominins on two key Wallacean islands, Flores and Sulawesi, thus expanding our knowledge of when archaic humans first crossed east of the 'Wallace Line'; unearthed the oldest known hominin fossils on Flores, throwing new light on the evolution of Homo floresiensis; and revealed the existence of 40,000-year-old cave paintings in Sulawesi and Borneo, suggesting the world's oldest rock art may be in Southeast Asia rather than ice age Europe as long supposed.

In Australia, complex organic technologies are now known to date back to before 46,000-years-ago, while in Southeast Asia shell beads and fishhooks are changing the way we think about human migration.

In southern Africa, archaeological excavations at new sites in the Kalahari Basin are helping resolve debates about human origins and early human-environment interaction.

FIELD WORK

ARCHE-led fieldwork projects now underway in Southeast Asia and Africa are aimed at yielding data that will fill crucial gaps in our knowledge of this increasingly complicated history of human evolution and diversity. It seems likely, given the remarkable findings of the past decade, that many more surprises await us.

Current grants

2017–2020 Australian Research Council DECRA, $358,752

Australia's Living Technologies: Bone Tools from First Peoples to Contact

This project aims to study Indigenous Australian technologies made from animal bone and tooth to provide insights into pre-contact Australia and the development of human ingenuity. The project will use modern analytical techniques to examine Australia’s ancient bone tool industry, and apply use-wear techniques to deduce the cognitive, social and technological processes behind their manufacture and use.

Investigator: Dr Michelle Langley

2016–2020 Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, $833,000

Extinct hominins and early humans on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi

This project aims to research the archaic hominins of Sulawesi and discover when and why they became extinct. Recent discoveries of ancient stone tools on Sulawesi show an archaic and as-yet unidentified hominin species inhabited this remote Indonesian island before modern humans arrived around 50,000 years ago. This project will search for the earliest traces of habitation, attempt to uncover the Sulawesi hominins’ fossil record and look for evidence of hominin-modern human interaction on this island. This project is expected to illuminate a previously unknown chapter in the human story.

Investigator: Associate Professor Adam Brumm

2019–2021 Australian Research Council DECRA, $410,175

The environment and human origins in the Kalahari, South Africa

South Africa has a rich archaeological record documenting the origins of our species. However, current research is biased toward coastal rockshelter sites. As a consequence, conflicting hypotheses about the role of environmental change in the emergence of modern humans has not been adequately tested. This project expands the narrative of modern human origins away from the coast to investigate the distribution and success of early modern humans in the deep interior of the country. Through the excavation and dating of newly discovered deposits at Ga-Mohana Hill North Rockshelter, cutting-edge archaeological materials analysis, and local studies of palaeohydrology, this study will generate a new record of early human-environment interaction.

Investigator: Dr Jayne Wilkins

Grant details

See all of ARCHE’s past and current grants

Relevant publications

Our publications

See all of ARCHE’s recent publications