Histories of Archaeology Conference

Join the Histories of Archaeology conference online, 23–25 November 2021. 

The event is hosted by the team from the Australian Research Council Laureate Project Collective Biography of Archaeology in the Pacific (CBAP), which was led by Professor Matthew Spriggs from 2015-2020. The conference was postponed from March 2020, marking the conclusion of the CBAP project, but we are delighted to finally bring speakers and audience together.

The conference explores new ideas on the history of archaeology worldwide. Invited keynote speakers include Margarita Díaz-Andreu, Oscar Moro-Abadia, Lynette Russell, Tim Murray, Dave Johnstone, and Nathan Schlanger. The event explores the following themes: History of archaeology, archaeological theory and method; Objects and archives: history of archaeology through collections research; History of archaeology in the Pacific and Australia; Women in archaeology and the archaeology of gender; and, Indigenous agency and individuals in the history of archaeology.

We will also be launching an edited volume connected with a series of CBAP linked international museum exhibitions collectively titled Uncovering Pacific Pasts: Histories of Archaeology in Oceania. These exhibitions took place at approximately 40 museums and cultural institutions worldwide.

With many thanks to:

  • The Gender Institute (Australian National University)
  • The Australian-French Association for Research and Innovation Inc.
  • The Australian Research Council
  • ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • The Australian National University

Keynote speakers

Keynote 1— The whole and the parts: the need for new syntheses in the history of archaeology

Oscar Moro Abadía (Memorial University, Canada)

Since the publication of the second edition of Bruce Trigger’s A History of Archaeological Thought in 2006, historians of archaeology have produced a negligible number of syntheses on the history of their discipline. This scarcity contrasts with the increasing number of scholarly works on more regionally and temporally restricted contexts. In this keynote, I argue for a critical historiography that incorporates recent theoretical developments in archaeology within broader historical syntheses. This requirement is particularly pressing in the case of archaeology, a science that has profoundly changed in the last two decades. Rather than presenting the parameters of a new synthesis, I show problems in recent developments in archaeological research, including the impacts of Indigenous knowledges in archaeological research, the ethical turn in archaeology, and the increasing theoretical and methodological fragmentation. I argue that these developments need to be incorporated into new disciplinary syntheses and, more importantly, they need to reorient how we write the histories of archeology.

Keynote 2 — André Leroi-Gourhan in the Pacific: disciplinary tensions between ethnology, archaeology and museology

Nathan Schlanger (École nationale des chartes, France)

The two years spent by French ethnologist and technologist André Leroi-Gourhan (1911–1986) in Japan just before the Second World War were of decisive influence for the rest of his career, providing much material for his books on technological classification (1943, 1945) as well as his doctoral thesis on ‘Archéologie du pacifique Nord’ (1946). This case study, illustrated with rich archival textual and iconographic sources, will serve to address a key issue in the history of archaeology—that of the benefits, consequences and even pitfalls of interdisciplinarity. With museum practices of the 1930s looming in the background, the idea that ‘archaeology is but the ethnology of the past’, springing as it did from humanist theoretical concerns, proved nonetheless to have also less welcome repercussions—on which there are lessons for us to learn to draw.

Keynote 3 — Re-engendering archaeology: past, present and future

Margarita Díaz-Andreu (ICREA and University of Barcelona, Spain)

The introduction of gender in archaeology forty years ago has led to some significant changes over the years. These changes refer to the way researchers think about the past, how they construct their own disciplinary history and how they perceive archaeological practice should take place. Despite these transformations, many challenges lie ahead. In this keynote lecture the main steps towards the situation we have today and the challenges for the future will be traced contextualizing it in two major frameworks. The first will be the socio-political context of the archaeological profession and the second will refer to the debates on the theoretical agenda within the discipline. Examples of good practice from different parts of the world will be highlighted.

Keynote 4 — Mr Miles, Mr Oldfield and Professor Huxley:  Early thoughts on the origins of the Australians

Tim Murray (University of Melbourne)

This paper flows from research for the first chapter of a new survey: An Archaeology of Australia that is being written by Ian Lilley and myself for the Cambridge World Archaeology series. I note in passing that this book will attempt to discuss the archaeology of Australia from first settlement in the Pleistocene until the 2000s for the first time as a continuous narrative, so a discussion of the historiography of this enterprise is central to our exposition. The core of my approach is described in Murray, T. (2021). ‘Building a new global history of archaeology: a current research project’. Academia Letters, Article 1959. https://doi.org/10.20935/AL1959.  My goal in this paper is to examine the development during the 19th century of arguments (and sources of information/inspiration) about the history of Aboriginal Australia.

Keynote 5 — An Untold Story: Early Aboriginal Involvement in the Development of Australian Archaeology, c.1830-1960

Lynette Russell (Monash University) & Matthew Spriggs (The Australian National University/Vanuatu Cultural Centre)

Despite the general view among archaeologists that Indigenous Australian involvement in archaeology in Australia only began in the 1960s, there is in fact considerable evidence of their active involvement in archaeological practice in a range of roles going back to at least the 1830s. This has remained an almost entirely untold story. We are not just talking about Aboriginal participation as guides to sites or in participating in excavations (important though these roles are) but suggest that Indigenous intellectual property has been critical in all stages of the development of Australian archaeology to the present. Serious gaps are being identified in the ways the history of Australian archaeology has been presented and this untold story of Aboriginal involvement is one such that our current ARC Strategic Research Initiative project is investigating. The claim is not that archaeologists and First Nations people worked together on an equal basis on the project of constructing Australian archaeology; clearly, they did not. The aim is instead to recognise that much of our knowledge of Australia's past has come directly or indirectly from the active involvement of Aboriginal people and that some acknowledgement of this needs to be made. This realization will have significant implications for how the discipline is taught and practiced, and for public appreciation of the role of Indigenous Australians in shaping the nation’s history.

Keynote 6 — Australia’s Indigenous archaeologists: a history of our journey

Dave Johnston (Founding Chair, Australian Indigenous Archaeologists Association; Director, Aboriginal Archaeologists Australia; Director Boonwurrung Land and Sea Corporation; PhD Candidate (Indigenous Archaeologies) ANU)

Australia’s Indigenous Archaeologists have been academically qualified and growing in number since the late 1980s. While the majority of us are not represented as employees in Australian University Archaeology Departments, we have been busy working on Indigenous Community heritage projects and engaged in the consultancy industry. We have also actively been listening and consulting with our communities and addressing important heritage-based themes that they have raised. The older members of our Australian Indigenous Archaeologists’ Association (AIAA) have also long lobbied and promoted what we felt was important to contribute to a more ethical Australian Archaeological discipline. This paper presents a history by Dave Johnston, Founding Chair of the AIAA, highlighting some of our journeys and our work over the last four decades.


Register now

Conference registration is free. However, attendees must book for this online event here

If no longer able to attend, we kindly ask that registrations are cancelled through Eventbrite as online numbers are capped.

Conference program

Download the conference programme.


Download conference abstracts.


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Updated:  20 August 2019/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications