Histories of Archaeology Conference

Histories of Archaeology - CBAP 2020 Conference - Home

Important notice: Conference cancellation

Owing to the issues surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we have had to cancel this conference. We are currently working on rescheduling it for a later date, please get in touch with admin.cbap@anu.edu.au if you have any further questions.


On 23–27 March 2020 the ‘Collective Biography of Archaeology in the Pacific’ (CBAP) Australian Research Council Laureate Project, led by Professor Matthew Spriggs, will be hosting the Histories of Archaeology conference at The Australian National University in Canberra, airing new ideas on the history of archaeology worldwide. Invited keynote speakers include Margarita Díaz-Andreu, Stephanie Moser, Oscar Moro-Abadia, Tim Murray and Nathan Schlanger. The conference concludes the CBAP Project and launches the CBAP linked international museum exhibitions under the title of Uncovering Pacific Pasts: Histories of Archaeology in Oceania, which will take place at approximately 40 museums and cultural institutions worldwide.

Themes for the conference include: 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.

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— 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 2 — 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 3 — A special kind of alchemy: archaeology, museums and reception

Stephanie Moser (University of Southampton, England)

The acquisition of major collections of antiquities in the nineteenth century by museums around the world had a profound effect on the development of archaeology as a discipline. A significant impact of this phase of imperial collecting was the promotion of research on substantive bodies of ancient material culture by an emerging community of specialists. Less recognised in histories of archaeology, but of critical importance in the formation of the discipline, was the extent to which the presentation and reception of such collections of antiquities contributed to defining the aims and aspirations of archaeology. In this talk I will discuss how the display of major collections of antiquities and audience engagement with these installations informed ideas about ancient cultures and archaeology as a subject. Specifically, I will present the results of research on the exhibition and reception of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the British Museum in the second half of the nineteenth century, demonstrating how both were intimately connected to the development of archaeology and Egyptology in Britain. I will conclude with a case study from my current project on archaeology and museum reception, which examines the extraordinary impact of museum objects in realms beyond the museum. Here I will discuss how the history of archaeology was entwined with key developments in the creative arts in Victorian Britain, particularly design.

Keynote 4 — 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 5 — Archaeological theory and the history of Australian archaeology

Tim Murray (La Trobe University, Melbourne)

This keynote focuses on exploring intersections between an inquiry into the history of archaeology in Australia, and a more general exploration of the nature and purpose of archaeological theory. My ultimate purpose is to discuss the role of archaeological theory in the evolving practice of archaeology in Australia and elsewhere over the past 200 years. The goal of such discussions is to begin to sketch the broad outlines of a philosophy of archaeology and the nature of its contributions to society.

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 Foundation (Melbourne) and Coordinator-Indigenous Engagement and PhD Candidate Australian National University, Canberra)

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 three decades.


Conference Registration

The registration fee covers the full cost of conference attendance, including a welcome reception on 23 March and morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea from 24–26 March 2020 ***

Please see the early bird and standard rates below. The early bird cut off is 1 March 2020 and registration closes on 15 March 2020.

Conference Dinner

Update: We apologise for any inconvenience caused. We have had to relocate the conference dinner to Spicy Ginger Cuisine, which is located at 25 Childers Street. We will reimburse the difference for those who have paid for the dinner at University House. Please contact admin.cbap@anu.edu.au, if you have any further questions.  The conference dinner ticket includes a full banquet menu with soft drinks included. BYO alcohol or purchase at the restaurant.



Price (inc. GST)

Early Bird Registration (Before 1 March 2020)

Conference Registration


Student and Concession Conference Registration


Registration (After 1 March 2020)

Conference Registration


Student and Concession Conference Registration


Other Items

Conference Dinner ***



*** Please send any special dietary requirements to admin.cbap@anu.edu.au

Register now

Registration and conference dinner tickets are available for purchase:

Register now

Date: 6.00pm to 8.00pm Wednesday 25 March 2020
Location: Centre for China in the World Auditorium, Fellows Lane, Australian National University, Acton, ACT 2601
Speaker: Professor Matthew Spriggs, ARC Laureate Fellow & Professor of Archaeology at The ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Hosted and funded by the School of Culture, History and Language, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, in conjunction with the Canberra Archaeological Society.

The Jack Golson Lecture is a public lecture series held to mark the contribution of Jack Golson to the discipline of archaeology and to ANU. Registration is required.

The lecture will be followed by refreshments.

Has the question of the origins of Pacific peoples now been solved?

New results from ancient DNA, archaeology and linguistics

With two major ancient DNA (aDNA) papers on Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga published in 2018 and more to follow as well as related studies of aDNA from Southeast Asia, there is a real pattern emerging of ancient genomic variation across the Pacific Islands. Meanwhile Bill Wilson at the University of Hawaii Hilo has published radical new ideas about the settlement of Eastern Polynesia based on linguistic analysis. Our archaeological dates for the settlement of the Pacific, particularly Eastern Polynesia, remain controversial but again there are signs that the true ages of settlement are becoming clearer. It certainly seems that a lasting synthesis about settlement and migration within the Pacific derived from the three disciplines is within our grasp. But are we there yet?


Matthew Spriggs is an ARC Laureate Fellow & Professor of Archaeology at The ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences. He has made major contributions in the archaeology of Asia and the Pacific and has carried out archaeological research in Indonesia, East Timor, New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Hawaii. Read more about Matthew and his research here

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