Major Archaeological research projects

The Collective Biography of Archaeology in the Pacific - A Hidden History (CBAP)

Professor Matthew Spriggs

ARC Laureate Project 2015 - 2020

In histories of world archaeology the Pacific and Island Southeast Asia are essentially absent. This project seeks to create a new sub-field within Pacific archaeology: the serious study of its history from its beginnings in the speculations of early European and American explorers on the origins of Pacific peoples, to its growth spurt and professionalisation following World War II. The Laureate project has as a long-term vision to establish the ANU as the world centre for the study of the history of Pacific, Southeast Asian and Australian archaeology, and as a major centre for the history of archaeology more generally.

The role of Taiwan in the creation of Southeast Asian peoples and cultures, 3500 BC to AD 500

Peter Bellwood, Hsiao-chun Hung and Marc Oxenham

Funded by Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, Taipei, 2007 to 2010

This project, undertaken in collaboration with the National Museum of the Philippines and Academia Sinica in Tapei, is focused on Taiwan and the adjacent islands of the northern Philippines. It combines archaeology, geochemistry and bioarchaeology in an interdisciplinary comparative investigation of the cultural and economic developments in these regions, from the appearance of farming societies around 3000 BC down to the trading interactions of the first millennium AD. 


History in Their Bones Archaeological Project, Cambodia

Dougald O'Reilly, Louise Shewan (USyd), Kate Domett (James Cook), Nancy Beavan et al.

ARC Discovery Grant 2008-2011

Fieldwork commenced in December in 2009 for the Australian Research Council Discovery Project led by Dr Dougald O’Reilly, History in Their Bones: A diachronic, bio-archaeological study of diet, mobility and social organization in Cambodia.  As part of the aim to examine physical and isotopic variability in skeletal remains through time, the team directed investigation to two sites namely Phum Sophy in NW Cambodia and the burial Jar site Phnom Pel (Chi Phat) in the Cardamom Mountains, SW of Phnom Penh.


Paddy to Pura: The Origins of Angkor Archaeological Project

Dougald O'Reilly, Louise Shewan (USyd), Charles Higham (Otago), Kate Domett (James Cook) et al.

ARC Discovery Project 2011-2013

The principal aim of the project is to examine emerging sociopolitical complexity in Cambodia and Thailand prior to the rise of the Angkorian state. For the first time, archaeological research is being undertaken on a regional scale using a diachronic approach investigating sites from the mid-1st millennium BCE to the late 1st millennium CE. Employing a suite of advanced archaeological technologies, the research will result in answers to the enduring questions regarding the rise of complex society in Southeast Asia.


First farmers and their descendants: the origins of the peoples and cultures of Northern Southeast Asia (Philippines, Vietnam, Hainan and Taiwan) between 4000 BC and AD 500

Peter BellwoodMarc Oxenham, and Janelle Stevenson (RSPAS)

ARC Discovery grant 2007-2010

This project is in collaboration with the National Museum of the Philippines, the Institute of Archaeology in Hanoi, and the Center for Archaeological Studies in Ho Chi Minh City. It combines archaeology, bioanthropology and palaeoecology in an interdisciplinary comparative investigation of the cultural and economic developments in these regions, from the appearance of farming societies around 3000 BC down to the trading interactions of the first millennium AD. We intend to illuminate issues of agricultural origin, population movement, relations with China and later India, and the widespread tentacles of interaction traceable through the utilisation of jade ornaments of Taiwan and Vietnam origin.


A study of ancient jade trading networks in southern China and Southeast Asia

Hsiao-chun Hung and Peter Bellwood

ARC Discovery grant 2009-2011.

This project will examine the sources, manufacturing technology and trade networks involving jade (nephrite) in Neolithic and Bronze/Iron Age southern China and Southeast Asia. Between 3000 BC and AD 500, societies throughout the region, particularly in southern China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, the Philippines and East Malaysia, were actively involved in the acquisition and use of jade. As in central and northern China, this hard and imperishable stone was clearly of a value similar to that of gold in later times, and these developing complex societies used jade to underpin their systems of status and intergroup communication, at a date prior to the arrival of strong cultural influences from India and Han Dynasty China. 


Solving the riddle of Pacific settlement: The archaeology of an Early Lapita Cemetery and Village Site at Teouma, Vanuatu

Professor Matthew Spriggs
National Geographic Society Grant

Continues work funded by the Pacific Biological Foundation Grant in 2005 Archaeological Investigation of the Lapita Site of Teouma

Two complete Lapita pots have been excavated at Teouma in 2006. As with the pots found at the site in 2004 and 2005. These were found in association with the burials of the earliest people to reach Vanuatu some 3000 years ago. A total of 49 burials have now been found.

For more information about this project visit: Vanuatu Cultural Centre


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