School of Social Sciences


While our primary research areas are Australia, our staff work on projects in North America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Research Expertise

Aboriginal Archaeology

Australia's long and on-going Aboriginal history holds vital information about human identity, adaptability and resilience. We use culturally appropriate and cutting edge analysis in collaboration with Aboriginal partners in the Pilbara, Kimberley, and the South-West to add to our research knowledge and to help create sustainable heritage futures.

Contact Archaeology

The history of Australia over recent centuries requires research into the archaeology of encounters with Europeans, Makassans and other visitors examining emerging cross-cultural identities, shared histories, colonisation and dispossession.

Forensic Archaeology

Archaeology is a theoretically and methodologically-informed process, each stage of which can yield fascinating information about the human past. Close forensic analysis of the many types of archaeological evidence reveals details about human life from 'big picture' questions such as "What makes us human?" to specific detail such as the last use of a stone tool. Collaboration with the Centre for Forensic Anthropology extends this work to the human body.

Heritage Studies

All peoples create group and personal identity through shared heritage and UWA researcher focus on tangible heritage such as built and symbolic places, sites and artefacts as well as intangible heritage that embraces the transmission of song, dance, folklore and origin narratives.

Historic & Maritime Archaeology

The archaeology of Australian settler societies can be documented in the fields of Maritime, Historic and Contact Archaeology and the study of visual cultures. Our researchers are exploring the themes of discovery, trade expansion and colonisation as well as cross-cultural encounters with Indigenous peoples.

Quaternary Studies & Archaeology

Humans have shaped and adapted to the last two million years of Earth history – the Quaternary period. UWA researchers are leaders in the development and application of archaeobotany, geoarchaeology and zooarchaeology, helping understand our past, present and future relationships with the natural world.

Rock Art

Symbolic behaviour includes the production of rock art, material culture and personal ornamentation defining what it is to be human. Researchers are exploring over 40,000 years of culture contact and identity using informed and innovative scientific approaches.

Theoretical Archaeology

This field deals with foundational aspects of archaeological interpretation and inquiry and the appropriateness of different methods and theories. An important element is an engagement with interdisciplinary aspects of archaeology between the humanities and the social and natural sciences.

Our Research Projects and Grants

Coastal Connections


Al Paterson

This ARC Future Fellowship with partners WA Museum, State Library of WA and the British Museum focuses on the Northwest of Australia particularly the dynamic history of visitors and colonization prior to the twentieth century.

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Collecting the West

Lead Chief Investigator:

Al Paterson

This ARC Linkage project with partners Deakin University, WA Museum, State Library of WA, Art Gallery of WA, and the British Museum, is the first to examine the State's history of collecting from pre-colonial to modern times, at a local, national and international scale.

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Kimberley Visions

Lead Chief Investigator:

Peter Veth

This ARC Linkage Project, working with the Balanggarrra Aboriginal Corporation and linkage partners Kimberley Foundation Australia, WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Management, Dunkeld Pastoral, Monash University and the University of Melbourne. This five year project (2016-2021) addresses the role of art in managing social and environmental change over the last 50,000 years.

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Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming

Lead Chief Investigator:

Jo McDonald

This 3-year ARC Linkage Project with Rio Tinto and Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation will investigate the archaeological and cultural context of rock art production in the Dampier Archipelago. The three-year project is revealing new dates for Aboriginal occupation, identifying previously unrecorded petroglyphs and stone structures, and working with Murujuga traditional owners on this highly significant cultural landscape.

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