In the pursuit of excellence in teaching and research, the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science is committed to understanding past and present Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures for the enrichment of the Queensland, Australian and international communities. PERAHU's mission is to promote excellence in rock art, human evolution and place research across Australia and beyond.
Professor Paul S.C. Taçon
PERAHU Director and Chair in Rock Art Research and ARC Australian Laureate Fellow (2016-2021)
Prof Paul S.C. Taçon FAHA FSA is an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow (2016-2021), Chair in Rock Art Research and Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. He also directs Griffith University’s Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU) and leads research themes in the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research and Griffith’s Research Centre of Human Evolution. He has conducted archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork since 1980 and has over 87 months field experience in remote parts of Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, southern Africa, Thailand, the Philippines and the USA.
Prof Taçon co-edited The Archaeology of Rock-art with Dr Christopher Chippindale and has published 235 academic and popular papers on rock art, material culture, colour, cultural evolution and identity. He has made key archaeological discoveries in western Arnhem Land (NT) and Wollemi National Park (NSW) that have been published in journals and also have made world headlines. In 2015, he co-authored a book that outlines a new strategy for the conservation of world rock art. In 2016, Paul Taçon was awarded the Rhys Jones Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Archaeology by the Australian Archaeological Association.
Prof. Paul Taçon's profile pages
Prof. Paul Taçon's research and publications
- Prof Paul S.C. Taçon's publications (PDF 200kb)
- Prof Paul S.C. Taçon's conference papers, films, recent reports, exhibitions (PDF 94k)
- Prof. Paul S.C. Taçon's past research
Dr Maxime Aubert
Associate Professor Maxime Aubert is an archaeologist and geochemist that specializes in the development and application of analytical techniques to key questions in human evolution such as the dating of rock art and hominin fossils. His research has been published in the world’s leading interdisciplinary science journal, Nature.
Rock art dating
Rock art is of global scientific importance and its accurate dating is amongst the most challenging areas of geochronology and archaeology. Associate Professor Aubert is one of the few specialists in the world working on the development and application of cutting-edge rock art dating methods, such as high-resolution uranium-series. The accurate dating of these features provides the archaeological and environmental sciences with new opportunities to investigate the interactions between rock art, material culture, human evolution, migration and environmental changes. In particular, Associate Professor Aubert pioneered the application of uranium-series with multi-collector ICP mass spectrometer to date milligrams of calcium carbonate associated with rock art. His research, as part of collaborative multi-national and multi-disciplinary research programs has led to the oldest rock art dates in various parts of the world. In 2014, Science magazine ranked his discovery (with Dr. Adam Brumm and Indonesian colleagues) of 40,000-year-old cave art on Sulawesi as one of the top 10 most important scientific breakthroughs of that year.
Dating fossil bones and teeth
Until recently, hominid and faunal fossils could only be directly dated by radiocarbon, limiting the range to approximately 40 thousand years. As a consequence, older fossils could not be dated and many important questions in our understanding of human evolution and faunal extinction could not be addressed. Associate Professor Aubert is involved in the development and application of open system uranium-series dating of fossil bones and teeth and collaborates on a number of national and international projects investigating key issues in human evolution and faunal extinction. For example, he directly dated the oldest anatomically modern human (Omo Kibish 1) to a minimum of ~155-187 thousand years ago. He also directly dated (for the first time) the fossils remains of Homo floresiensis nickname the Hobbit. The results demonstrate that the fossils are at least 60 thousand years old and that the previous age estimates of 12-18 thousand years on associated material were incorrect. This suggests that Homo floresiensis did not coexist with Modern human in the region for tens of thousands of years.
- Confirmation of a late middle Pleistocene age for the Omo Kibish 1 cranium by direct uranium-series dating
- Revised stratigraphy and chronology for Homo floresiensis at Liang Bua in Indonesia
Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton
Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton lectures at Griffith University in the areas of Social Enterprise and Journalism, Media and Communication. Dr Foxwell-Norton’s research interests centre on the relationship between culture, communication, community and country. She is keen to explore the ways in which ‘place’ is negotiated in different communities, seeking opportunities to better understand and communicate our contemporary cultural and indeed, environmental condition.
Currently Dr Foxwell-Norton is a chief investigator on an ARC Linkage project, ‘Our people, our pictures, our voices: Community representations of the Queensland land rights struggle, 1966 - 2010’ (with colleagues Associate Professor Susan Forde and Professor Michael Meadows) which will provide an analysis and recorded history of the Queensland land rights struggle from the perspective of community people and activists. It will juxtapose this ‘community perspective’ with that presented by the mainstream news media of the time, and the Indigenous media (newspapers and community radio). She also worked on two national ARC Linkage grants which explored the Australian community media sector.
Dr Foxwell-Norton works as a consultant for Waanyi Nation Aboriginal Corporation - a organisation located in remote NW Queensland – on various social and community development projects. This work has motivated a research interest in Indigenous communities and mining in Australia.
More recently, Dr Foxwell-Norton accepted a consultancy to explore community responses to local development issues which were impacting on her local area – a small coastal community on the far northern coast of NSW. This consultancy complemented previous PhD work on community participation in coastal and marine management. Via this project, she had a direct engagement with the local community and their understandings of their local environment. This project received substantial local media coverage, thus providing an opportunity for to both observe and experience the way in which journalists and the media represent local environmental issues – and the broader politics of representation.
- Dr. Kerrie Foxwell-Norton's staff page - Research and teaching focus in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science
Dr Sally K May
PERAHU Senior Research Fellow
Dr Sally K. May is a Senior Research Fellow with the Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU). As an archaeologist and anthropologist Dr May has worked in many parts of Australia as well as overseas, focusing on two key areas: rock art research and the history of museum collections and collectors. As well as dozens of journal articles, her research has resulted in the book ‘Collecting Cultures: Myth, politics and collaboration in the 1948 Arnhem Land Expedition’ (Altamira, 2009) and three edited volumes: ‘Archaeologies of Art: Time, Place, and Identity’ (Left Coast Press, co-editors I. Domingo Sanz & Danae Fiore, 2008), ‘Macassan History and Heritage: journeys, encounters and influences’ (ANU Press, co-editor M. Clark, 2013), and ‘The Archaeology of Portable Art: southeast Asian, Pacific and Australian Perspectives’ (Routledge, co-editors M. Langley, M. Litster & D. Wright, in press).
Dr May’s rock art research focuses on the cultural and social information that is encoded in rock art and especially the unique information available from the depiction of rock art scenes. Her work combines analyses of (a) the rock art, (b) the archaeological/spatial context, and (c) the ethnographic context, with the aim of developing a more comprehensive understanding of the artists and their communities over time. Alongside this, Dr. May’s work on contact period rock art has led to a better understanding of Indigenous perspectives on contact histories and a stronger international appreciation for its significance as a rare first-hand account of first contact in Australia.
In 2011 Dr May established the Mirarr Gunwarddebim project with the Mirarr people and the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation. The project’s aim was to document, study and promote the cultural value and archaeological significance of rock art sites in Mirarr country, within Kakadu National Park and the Jabiluka Leasehold area of northern Australia. As part of this work, the project team also developed important methodologies for the documentation of rock art which continues to guide rock art research in northern Australia today.
Dr May continues to focus her work on the western Arnhem Land and Kakadu National Park area and also has extensive experience working with local Aboriginal communities on a variety of community projects such as the repatriation of human skeletal remains, oral history programs, language projects, and cultural heritage management planning.
Dr Jillian Huntley
PERAHU Research Fellow
Dr Jillian Huntley is a Research Fellow at PERAHU. She specialises in the scientific analysis of rock art and the shelter/cave environments that house it. To understand how people interacted intentionally with their landscape, and with each other, Jillian applies instruments and methods from materials science to a range of archaeological finds and site fabrics (particularly pigments). Working collaboratively with Indigenous custodians she has co-designed and conducted rock art conservation projects throughout Australia. A field archaeologist with over a decade of industry experience, Jillian’s research blends the physical sciences with archaeological and anthropological approaches. Her inclusive style has seen her complete extensive consultation programs involving a broad spectrum of stakeholders comprising Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal custodians, regulatory agencies, land owners, the managers and staff of scientific facilities and other special interest groups such as philanthropic bodies, bush walkers, historical societies and artists. Jillian’s recent projects have covered diverse geophysical environments from the rugged sandstone escarpments of the Sydney Basin, northwest Kimberley and Arnhem Land, to the BIF gorges of the central Pilbara, and the limestone caves of the Maros kast on Sulawesi, Indonesia.
‘The Blood of the Red Kangaroo’ projectIn late September and early October 2016 PERAHU's Jillian Huntley will be taking part in a research project characterising Weld Range ochre sources in the Muchreson region of Western Australia. Wilgie Mia and Little Wilgie are well known to archaeologists and famed ethohistorically as sources of some of the most widely traded ochre in Australia. With the support of Australian Geographic ‘The Blood of the Red Kangaroo’ will bring together Wajarri Traditional Owners and scientists in a program designed to share knowledge and technical skills. You can follow the Wajarri/UWA/CSIRO/GU team’s progress through regular updates on the project’s Facebook page.
Dr Courtney Nimura
PERAHU Research Fellow
Originally from the USA, Dr Nimura has lived in London and Oxford, UK for the last decade where she specialised in the rock art of Northern and North-Western Europe. She has worked in academic, public and commercial archaeology environments as well as in museums. Most recently she was a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology, Oxford and a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. Prior to that she worked as an intertidal archaeologist for Museum of London Archaeology, where she set up a grant-funded national public programme for recording intertidal and coastal archaeology in England.
Courtney has completed a BFA and MFA in fine art and art history (UCSC; Tufts University/SMFA), an MA at UCL in maritime archaeology, and a PhD in prehistoric archaeology (Reading). She therefore appreciates diversity in her research, which revolves around pre- and proto-historic art, and is particularly interested in looking at the effects of environmental change on art production and the intersections of archaeological and anthropological theory in pre- and proto-historic art studies. She has wide ranging interests that include Bronze Age and Iron Age archaeology in Europe, coastal and intertidal archaeology, and public or community archaeology.
Alongside her work at PERAHU she continues to work in Europe, where she conducts fieldwork in Scandinavia, is the Assistant Editor of the international peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, a Council member of the Prehistoric Society, an Honorary Research Associate at the Institute of Archaeology, Oxford, and a member of Wolfson College, Oxford.
You can follow Dr Nimura's work at: https://griffith.academia.edu/CourtneyNimura
Fiona McKeague is a research assistant with over eight years of experience at three Australian Universities providing dedicated project support, administration and management. She became interested in rock art during her undergraduate degree at Griffith University where she majored in Historical Studies, Indigenous Studies, and Human Behaviour. Her introduction to archaeological field work and rock art surveys came during two field seasons when she volunteered in the Northern Territory under the direction of Prof. Paul Taçon. She went on to gain experience on surveys in Queensland and Tasmania. She has worked with Indigenous peoples on many archaeology projects and through her previous employment as a tutor for the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme.
Fiona is an associate member of the Australian Anthropological Society and has presented her own research in Bushwalking History and Environmental Conservation at conferences in Australia and New Zealand. Her interests range from sustainability and traditional practices, bushwaking, design and art history, and cycle touring.
She was a recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s Performance Award from the Queensland University of Technology in 2012, and the Griffith Award for Academic Excellence in 2007, 2008 & 2009.
Dr Duncan Wright
Dr Duncan Wright is a lecturer at ANU. Previously he was a research fellow at Griffith University specializing in Australian Indigenous archaeology. Duncan’s PhD examined the archaeology of community emergence and development on Mabuiag island in the western Torres Strait. His Masters (ANU) explored the settlement chronology of “rock islands” in Palau, Micronesia.
Since beginning his studies at Lampeter University (Wales) in 1998, Duncan has participated in a wide variety of fieldwork projects including excavations of rock shelters and open sites in Western Australia (Hope Downs), highland Papua New Guinea (Simbai), Palau (Ulong, Angaur), Torres Strait (Mabuiag) and most recently the Palaeolithic/Pleistocene rock-shelter, Pod Hradem in the Czech Republic. In 2011 he completed the first comprehensive English review of archaeological research in West Papua (with Denham, Shine and Donohue) and initiated new research projects in western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory (with May, Denham, Taçon and Shine) and Torres Strait.