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The Australian National University

Dr Duncan Wright

PhD Monash University; MA ANU; BA University of Wales, Lampeter
Senior Lecturer
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: (001161) 2 61258936

Areas of expertise

  • Archaeology 2101
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Archaeology 210101
  • Archaeology Of New Guinea And Pacific Islands (Excl. New Zealand) 210106
  • Archaeology Of Australia (Excl. Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander) 210104

Research interests

  • Australian Aboriginal archaeology (primarily Torres Strait and Arnhem Land)
  • Archaeology of ritual and religion
  • Archaeology of Aboriginal ethnographies/ cosmologies
  • Coastal and island studies 
  • Resurrecting stories using archaeology
  • Human/ environment interactions
  • Archaeology of art
  • Pacific Island archaeology


I am a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University, specialising in Australian Indigenous archaeology. I am committed to making archaeology accessible to Indigenous and non-Indigenous public, showcasing Australia's vibrant past.

To do so I develop partnership projects with descendant communities, tracing the long term history of ancestral sites and stories. Currently we are following the footsteps of Waiet (the bringer of death dances to Torres Strait), excavating sites in western and eastern Torres Strait. I am also working with traditional custodians and colleagues in the Wellington Range region, Arnhem Land. 

Previously I held research positions at Griffith and Monash Universities and completed a PhD at Monash University in 2010. My thesis explored the potential for using archaeology to historicise ethnographically-signficant "villages" in western Torres Strait. Since beginning my studies at Lampeter University (Wales) in 1998, I have participated in a wide variety of projects including excavations of rock shelters and open sites in Western Australia (Hope Downs) and Arnhem Land (Northern Territory), highland Papua New Guinea (Simbai), Palau (Ulong, Angaur), Torres Strait (Mabuyag) and most recently Czech Republic (Blansko). 

Researcher's projects

Current collaborative research includes excavations at a ceremonial site complex in Torres Strait, a Mid-Upper Palaeolithic site in Czech Republic and public archaeology projects in Canberra and on the South Coast. Projects follow a public (community) archaeology paradigm whereby Indigneous and non-Indigenous custodians are brought to the heart of the debate.



2015-ongoing (ARC Discovery, DP160101832)

History Places: Wellington Range rock art in a global context

Collaborators: Paul Taçon, Sally K. May, Liam Brady, Joakim Goldhahn, Ines. Domingo Sanz

2014-ongoing (ARC Linkage, LP140100387)

Establishing the provenance of Torres Strait Islander remains: genetics, craniometrics and isotopes

Collaborators: D. Lambert, J. Olley, M. Westaway, A. Miller, B. Fry, S. Sankarasubramanian, R. Li

2014-2015(ACT Heritage funded)

The Springbank archaeology project (Public Archaeology initiative)

Collaborators: P. Dowling, Canberra Archaeology Society and ANU students 


Archaeology of Sacred (Zogo) in Torres Strait


Hominid occupation of Pod Hradem Cave (Czech Republic) during the mid-upper Palaeolithic

Collaborator: L Nejman

Available student projects

Please contact me if you are interested in HDR research in Australian archaeology. Feel free to approach me about research related to my interests (above). Alternatively, specific projects are:

1) Archaeology of portable art (this might involve review of museum collections to explore regional and temporal change).

2) Local archaeological projects involving Aboriginal Traditional Owners (including survey/ excavation of a newly discovered stone axe quary). 

3) Study of past environment in Wellington Range, Arnhem Land (Australia) using the proxy of excavated charcoal or sediments.

4) Study of past environment in Czech Republic through analysis of micro-fauna from a palaeolithic cave dating back to 70,000 years ago.

5) Archaeology of ritual sites in Australia -  Laidar or aerial photography of Bora grounds 

Past student projects

Changing Places: An Archaeological Study of. Manilakar Country in Western Arnhem Land


Projects and Grants

Grants are drawn from ARIES. To add Projects or Grants please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  28 June 2017 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers