- Position Title: Chair in Rock Art Research, Professor and Director of PERAHU
- School/Department/Centre: School of Humanities
- Group: AEL
- Campus: Gold Coast
- Commencement Date: 14 March 2011
- Position Title: Professor
- School/Department/Centre: School of Humanities (formerly Arts)
- Group: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (formerly Arts)
- Campus: Gold Coast
- Commencement Date: 14 February 2005
- Position Title: Principal Research Scientist
- Organisation: Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW
- Commencement Date: 1 July 1999
- End Date: 14 January 2005
- Position Title: Senior Research Scientist
- Organisation: Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW
- Commencement Date: 1 July 1996
- End Date: 30 June 1999
- Position Title: Research Scientist
- Organisation: Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW
- Commencement Date: 1 July 1993
- End Date: 30 June 1996
- Position Title: Scientific Officer
- Organisation: Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW
- Commencement Date: 15 January 1991
- End Date: 30 June 1993
- Position Title: Associate Professor
- Organisation: Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
- Commencement Date: 1 July 1989
- End Date: 31 August 1990
- Name of Qualification: Certificate in Research Higher Degree Supervision
- Institution: Griffith University
- Year Awarded: 2005
- Name of Qualification: PhD
- Institution: Australian National University, Australia
- Year Awarded: 1990
- Name of Qualification: MA
- Institution: Trent University, Canada
- Year Awarded: 1984
- Name of Qualification: BA (Hons)
- Institution: University of Waterloo
- Year Awarded: 1980
- Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities
- Institution: Australian academy of the Humanities
- Year Awarded: 2010 (November)
- Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London
- Institution: Society of Antiquaries of London
- Year Awarded: 2009
- Australian National University Research Fellowship, Research School of Humanities and the Arts
- Year Awarded: 2009-2011
- Honorary Professor (one of the first two foreigners to receive the honour)
- Institution: Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Kunming, China
- Year Awarded: 2008
- Australian National University Research Fellowship, Department of Archaeology & Natural History
- Year Awarded: 2004-2008
- Premier Bob Carr announces results of the Landscape of Blue Mountains rock-art research and Eagle’s Reach rock art research in State Parliament on 2 July 2003.
- Kimberley Aboriginal Community award for contribution to knowledge of Aboriginal culture
- Institution: Kimberley Aboriginal Community
- Year Awarded: 2002
- Premier’s Public Sector Wards, Significant Improvement to Delivery
- Institution: New South Wales Government (Premier’s Office)
- Year Awarded: 1997
- Organisation: Australian Rock Art Research Association
- Position Held: Vice-President (July 2000 – August 2009); Member since 1984
- Organisation: Australian Archaeological Association
- Position Held: Member since 1985
- Organisation: Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association
- Position Held: Member since 1990
- Organisation: World Archaeological Congress
- Position Held: Member since 1986
- Organisation: Centre for Archaeological Research, Australian National University
- Position Held: Member since 2006
- Organisation: Centre for Public Culture and Ideas, Griffith University
- Position Held: Member 2005-2010
- Organisation: Griffith Centre for Cultural Research, Griffith University
- Position Held: Member 2010
Griffith University, Australia 2005-2011
My current employment at Griffith University consists of a research position. However I do some teaching/guest lecturing in other people’s courses and developed the following:
- 2214HUM (2014ART) Rock Art in the 21st Century (2006 onward) (Undergraduate level)
- 7014HUM (7014ART) Rock Art in the 21st Century (2006 onward) (Masters level)
- 2214ART/7014ART (2014ART/7014ART) Rock Art in the 21st Century
Australia has about 125,000 individual rock-art sites and another several hundred thousand are scattered across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and Pacific Islands. Together these sites contain millions of images of individual or group identity, most of which were made since about 30,000 years ago. As paintings, drawings, engravings, prints, stencils and beeswax designs, rock-art has captured Western imagination since at least the late 1800s. Today new discoveries are trumpeted in academic journals and on the front pages of newspapers and magazines on a regular basis and rigorous methods have been developed to study rock art. In this course students are introduced to world rock-art and many of the major art bodies of Australia.
I have taught university courses at York University, Ontario, Canada (1984; 1990-91) Trent University, Ontario Canada (1990-91) and Durham College, Ontario Canada (1990-91). Courses included Introductory Anthropology (year 1), Cultural Anthropology (year 2), Arctic Archaeology (year 1), Art and Archaeology of the Americas (year 3).
Malaysia November 2008
Convened an intensive course on rock art in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the University of Nottingham Malaysia and Universiti Sains Malaysia (with Mokhtar Saidin, George Nash and Sally K. May). The aim of the course is to introduce students to world rock-art and the landscapes in which they are placed. Particular interest will be the way we interact with our shared palaeoart heritage; to illustrate its connection and relevance to contemporary art and culture; to introduce the protocols and ethics of studying art produced by other cultures; and to develop a range of research and presentation skills. An overriding aim to emphasise the key role creativity plays in everyone’s lives, including those of the students themselves.
India February 2009
Taught one week intensive rock art field methods course for Indian PhD students, Kurnool area art sites, south India.
Malaysia, Thailand and Australia 2010
May to August 2010 I mentored RHD students Atthasit Sukkham (Silpakorn U., Bangkok), Noel Hildalgo Tan (Universiti Sains Malaysia) and Rachel Hoerman (U. Hawaii) in the field in all three countries.
Cambodia and Thailand 2011
In February 2011, I provided a week of training for 10 Cambodian archaeologists in Siem Reap and at Kulen Mountain Cambodia (lectures and on site). In May 2011, I provided 2 weeks training for 22 archaeologists from across SE Asia in Bangkok and at various rock art sites in northeast Thailand (lectures and on site). Noel Hildalgo Tan (ANU), Rachel Hoerman (U. Hawaii) and Cybele McNeil (Griffith) were also mentored in Thailand during the course.
In November 2011, I conducted 5 days of training for 40 Yunnan cultural heritage officers and students in with Zhongdian, Yunnan, China and at sites near Luodji.
Grants/Sponsorship since 2004
- SSHRC (Canada): Rock-art research task group: an international opportunity for the implementation of a new scientific network for the documentation, preservation and ethical management of world rock-art. D. Arsenault, L.Turgeon, M. Aubert, P.S.C. Taçon and S. Lemaitre. $74,997 (Canadian)
- Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute: the Landscape of Blue Mountains Rock-Art. P.S.C. Taçon. $1,933.
- Kunbarllanjnja Community Government Council: Picturing Change and the Gunbalanya Oral Histories Project. S. May and P.S.C. Taçon. $44,272.
- Arnhem Shire Council: Picturing Change and the Gunbalanya Oral Histories Project. S. May and P.S.C. Taçon. $46,228.
- SSHRC (Canada): Rock-art research task group: an international opportunity for the implementation of a new scientific network for the documentation, preservation and ethical management of world rock-art. D. Arsenault, L.Turgeon, M. Aubert, P.S.C. Taçon and S. Lemaitre. $25,000 (Canadian).
- Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute: the Landscape of Blue Mountains Rock-Art. P.S.C. Taçon. $2,500.
- ARC Discovery DP0877463. Picturing Change: 21st Century Perspectives on Recent Australian Rock Art, especially that from the European Contact Period. P.S.C. Taçon, J. Ross A.G. Paterson and S.K. May. Griffith University. $565,000 received for 2008-2011 = 155K, 150K, 150K, 110K.
- ARC Discovery DP0877603. The Late Pleistocene Peopling of East Asia and Associated Climate-Environment History. D. Curnoe, P.S.C. Taçon, S. Mooney, D. Penny, J. Xueping, R. Pan, D. Fink and A. Herries. University of New South Wales. $894,000 received for 2008-2012 = 168K, 189K, 182K, 188K, 167K.
- Griffith University Infrastructure Grant. Infrastructure to undertake Major Interdisciplinary e-research projects employing digital technologies. A. Bennett, P. Turnbull, S. Stockwell and P.S.C. Taçon. $98,000.
- Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC), NSW Government. The Landscape of Blue Mountains Rock-Art. P.S.C. Taçon, W. Brennan and M. Kelleher. DECC. $5,000 helicopter flights.
- Pinpoint Pty Ltd. The landscape of Blue Mountains Rock-Art. P.S.C. Taçon. $4,290 helicopter flights.
- Hardie Holdings Sponsorship. The Landscape of Blue Mountains Rock-Art. P.S.C. Taçon, W. Brennan and M. Kelleher. Griffith University. $36,950.
- Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute (BMWHI) Sponsorship. The Landscape of Blue Mountains Rock-Art. P.S.C. Taçon, W. Brennan and M. Kelleher. BMWHI. 2006: $6,000 for helicopter flights.
- ARC Discovery DP0450837. Asia’s First People: The Role of East Asia in Human Evolution during the past Half Million Years. A. Thorne, P.S.C. Taçon, G. Hope, M. Smith, C. Pardoe and D. Curnoe. Australian National University. Amount received 2004-2006 = 50K, 50K, 50K.
- National Geographic Research and Exploration Grant. The Landscape of Blue Mountains Rock-Art. P.S.C. Taçon, W. Brennan, M. Kelleher, S. Hooper, D. Pross and E. Gallard. Australian Museum. $US17, 500(AUS $25,000).
Many other grants from 1985 to 2003, including ARC, SSHRC (Canada), Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (1986), Australian Museum, Ian Potter Foundation, Society of Antiquities (UK).
I have had extensive media involvement (radio, television, newspaper, magazine and film) since 1983 but with most since 1992. Television and film includes Ancient Mysteries, Beyond 2000, Catalyst, 7:30 Report, Quantum, @Discovery (Science), The Midday Show, the Today Show, Totally Wild, the documentary Out of Asia and various news broadcasts. Magazines include National Geographic, New Scientist, The Bulletin and Time. I have been on the ABC’s Science Show on many occasions and was the inaugural speaker of the award winning Science in the Pub, launched February 1998.
The past few years have seen continued extensive media involvement (radio, television, newspaper, magazine and film), promoting Australian Museum and then Griffith-based research and commenting on the work of colleagues outside the elsewhere. Recent television and film includes appearances on ABC News (numerous times including June 2010), Burke’s Backyard, Channel 7, 9 and 10 News, 7:30 Report, SBS News and a US weather station. Several articles on my research, some quite lengthy, have appeared in The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times, The Independent (UK) and other newspapers around the globe. New Scientist and other science magazines have also profiled my recent research results, as has Australian Heritage (2008) and Current World Archaeology (2008). I conduct dozens of radio interviews each year with stations across Australia, the BBC and North American radio networks.
A paper by myself and Adelaide-based archaeologist Colin Pardoe published in the Autumn 2002 edition of Nature Australia called ‘Dog’s make us human’ received widespread national and international media coverage and promotion on Burke’s Backyard. A paper by myself and Christopher Chippindale (Cambridge University) on depictions of animal-headed creatures and other composite creatures published in Norway in November also received much national and international attention. Both papers focus on human relationships with animals, since the dawn of modern humans to the present. Results were published in hundreds of newspapers and on websites worldwide, gaining much publicity for the Museum in the process.
In July 2003, The Right Honourable Bob Carr, the Premier of New South Wales, made the first public statement about the first results from the Landscape of Blue Mountains Rock-Art Project, in a speech in parliament. Among other things, he said ‘rarely are sites of this importance discovered within such a close range of a major city’, adding that it was one of the most significant rock-art discoveries in the Sydney region in half a century. This was immediately followed by a media conference at which the Premier and I answered questions from the print, radio and television media. This resulted in the story quickly spreading around the world by television, radio, newspapers, magazines and websites. It is estimated over 8 million Australians heard about it and there were reports in major publications across North America, Europe and Asia, as well as parts of South America and Africa. My research partners and I undertook interviews for the following six months. Importantly, the local Aboriginal community was pleased with the outcome and had approved the release of information prior to the Premier’s speech. As Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council Chairperson, Dave Pross, said the site is important because ‘it shows our traditional practices, where we were. We’re just trying to get the history of it and look after it’. Our rock-art research was voted one of the top 100 Science stories of 2003 by Discover magazine.
In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 research discoveries from Wollemi National Park were again in newspapers, radio reports and headline television news broadcasts across Australia.
On 20-21 September, 2008, new research in the Wellington Range area of western Arnhem Land featured on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, as well as over two pages of their News Review section. This was followed by television and radio reports, as well as articles in the UK’s Independent, National Geographic and elsewhere. Archaeology magazine voted our research one of the top ten stories of 2008.
In June and July 2010 there was extensive news coverage on two publications that resulted from the Wellington Range research. Archaeology magazine features this research in a major article and on the cover of their January/February 2011 edition, as well as online with 5 videos at
On 31 May 2011, I launched a rock art awareness and fund-raising campaign with actor Jack Thompson in Sydney. This led to over 30 media interviews for Thompson and over 75 for myself. Besides extensive radio and television (e.g. ABC News, SBS News, SKY News, NITV News, Living Black) coverage across Australia there were newspaper reports in The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The National Times, The Canberra Times, The New Zealand Herald, The Manly Daily, The Pilbara Echo and The Independent (UK).
Indigenous collaboration and liaison
I have over 30 years experience collaborating with Indigenous peoples across Australia, the Pacific, Canada and elsewhere. In the mid-1980s I lived at an Aboriginal outstation in Kakadu National Park for 15 months. For my first research field trip after joining the Australian Museum in 1991 I acquired external funding for an Aboriginal research assistant -- this inspired her to obtain a university degree. I have conducted research in remote and urban Aboriginal Australian communities since 1981. Each year since joining the Museum, I spend 3-8 weeks working in remote north Australian Aboriginal communities. In 1993 and 1994 I established a rock-art recording program in central Arnhem Land that is maintained by the community today. I have published widely on Indigenous issues, with the full participation and consent of relevant Indigenous individuals and communities. I was on the Indigenous Australians project team, heading up research into the exhibition's content, among other things. I work with Indigenous peoples and/or deal with Indigenous issues on a daily basis. Research is consistently collaborative in nature, with Indigenous peoples involved in every stage as research partners. A number of my joint-authored publications include Aboriginal co-authors.
I have liaised with Aboriginal people in 23 Northern Territory, 2 Queensland, 1 Western Australian and 10 New South Wales communities on a variety of museum and research issues since 1985. I have also been involved with the repatriation of skeletal material and discussions about secret/sacred material. I have also worked with or liaised with Indigenous peoples of North America, a range of Pacific Island Nations and parts of East Asia.
In 2004 I was invited to attend the first International Forum on Indigenous Mapping, 12-14 March, in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, accompanying Maarth Maralngurra and Otto Campion-Bulmanyia from western and central Arnhem Land.
- Took Drake Management course in October 1994. Member of the Australian Museum Middle Management team since 1995.
- Acting Head of Anthropology at the Australian Museum from mid-November 1995 to 6 October 1996, as well as for 3 months earlier in 1995 and several times for 2-4 weeks since. This involved the supervision of 14 staff, 2 ARC Research Fellows, students and volunteers.
- Supervised 6 staff researching the Indigenous Australians exhibition/semi-permanent gallery in 1995-97.
- Head of the People and Place Research Centre from 1 December 1995 to 30 November 2003 (two four-year terms). This involved initiating numerous new collaborative research projects and overseeing their development through to completion and publication. Organising meetings and functions, reporting on Centre staff activities and submitting grant applications for Research Centre fellows were also among the many duties.
- Chaired the Selection Committee that made the Australian Museum’s most recent Research Scientist appointment.
- Extensive research project management, supervising junior colleagues, students, trainees, volunteers and others.
- Extensive multiple budget management.
- Supervised Aboriginal cultural resource management trainees in western Arnhem Land (1991, 1992), central Arnhem Land (1993, 1994), northwest Queensland (2002) and Wollemi National Park (2003).
I undertake research based consultancies for the Australian Museum, as well as reviewing some undertaken by Australian Museum Business Services staff. Some of the larger consultancies include:
- assessing the University of Sydney Macleay Museum secret/sacred collection (1991);
- an archaeological and ethnographic record of rock engravings in Roma Gorge, N.T. (1992);
- an archaeological and ethnographic record of Mann River Region rock-art sites, with a skills training component for Aboriginal people (1993, 1994);
- a review of archaeological investigations into areas considered for Sydney’s second airport (1997);
- recording/assessment of rock-art sites in the Somersby Industrial Estate, NSW (2001);
- recording/assessment of rock-art sites in Mosman Council Area, NSW (2003).
Since joining Griffith University I have contributed to a consultancy managed by the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute and advised Electric Pictures on a three part documentary, broadcast 2008.
Acting as a referee
I have acted as a referee for papers submitted to Antiquity, Archaeology in Oceania,
Australian Aboriginal Studies, Australian Archaeology, Before Farming, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Journal of Archaeological Research, Records of the Australian Museum, Rock Art Research, World Archaeology and other journals. I was appointed to the editorial board of Before Farming in 2002. I have refereed various book chapters written by overseas colleagues and co-edited books published in 1994, 1998 and 2003. I regularly referee grant applications submitted to national funding bodies in Australia, Canada, UK and the USA, such as ARC, SSHRC, McDonald Institute, Fulbright.
Since being appointed to the Australian Museum in 1991 I have presented research seminars at the Australian Museum, Australian National University, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Australian Catholic University, Griffith University, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Wollongong, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, B.C., Canada), Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada), University of British Columbia (Vancouver, B.C., Canada), Northern Territory University, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, the Australian Nature and Conservation Agency, University of Tromso, University of Witwatersrand (Johannesburg), University of Botswana (Gabarone), University of Yangon (Myanmar), University Sains Malaysia (Penang) and other institutions. I average six public talks per year and have given ten talks to The Australian Museum Society.
I specialise in archaeological and ethnographic photography, having published thousands of images in books, magazines, newspapers, exhibitions, on-line and as posters. I regularly receive dozens of requests for images from people all over the world. Sensitive images are only published with Aboriginal consent.
- Government Bodies, International Agencies: Sirius Global Animal Organization
Position Held: UN representative (New York)
- Journal Editorial Boards
- Before Farming (since 2002)
- Time and Mind (since 2007)
- Human Origins Research (since 2010)