Dr Duncan Wright

Studying Australia's Ancient History; PhD Monash University; MA ANU; BA University of Wales, Lampeter
Senior Lecturer
College Arts & 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

  • Archaeology of ritual and religion
  • Archaeology of mythology
  • Australian Aboriginal archaeology (primarily Torres Strait) 
  • Community archaeology - Reawakening histories using ethnoarchaeology


I am a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University’s School of Archaeology and Anthropology with a research interest in mythology. My research adopts a partnership approach, collaborations with Islander and Australian communities who seek to historicise (through archaeology, including rock art) practices and places of social, political and/ or spiritual significance.

Currently I have active projects in Torres Strait, Blue Mountains and Czech Republic. Culture Hero Sagas continue to structure the identities and relationships of Torres Strait Islander communities. At the request of Goemulgal and Meriam, this project exploring the long-term histories of these cultural connections. An additional collaborative project examines the extent to which important sites in the Blue Mountains were damaged during the 2020 bushfires. Our team of Traditional Custodians and academics seek to map and conserve threatened fire hit heritage. Finally, in Czech Republic, a long term project examines the arrival of Homo Sapiens in Europe and subsequent replacement of resident Neanderthal. Excavation of remarkable sites in Moravia has provided remarkable clues that we hope to bolster during upcoming fieldwork into Slovakia.

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.




Mapping fire hit heritage in the Blue Mountains

Collaborators: Amy Way (Australian Museum) and Wayne Brennan


Torres Strait Saga histories: Following in the footsteps of Waiat


The Human Origins Project in Central Europe

Collaborators: L Nejman, Amy Way, Marjorie Sullivan, Phil Hughes, Petr Skrdla, Mirek Kralik

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) Any Torres Strait related archaeology/ history project. Specific examples might be:

  • Study of dugong bone from an initiation site in Western Torres Strait
  • Fish bone and sediment studies relating to the same initiation site
  • Geochemical/ residue testing of artefacts used during the Waiet initiation.

2) Any project relating to the archaeology of ritual and religion e.g.

  • A review of anthropology/ archaeology liteterature relating to ritual pathways and procession in the Australia/ Pacific. 
  • Site specific studies based on your own connections with landowners/ Aboriginal communities

3) Partnership projects (as requested by Traditional Custodians) e.g.

  •  Survey/ excavation of a newly discovered stone axe quary with Ngunnuwal and Ngambri.
  • Cultural tourism initiatives that require assistance - chronologies etc - that archaeologists can provide 

3) Environmental change from a 12000 year old site in the Wellington Range, Arnhem Land: Charcoal/ sediment analysis from Mayarnjarn.

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

5) Environmental change over 70,000 years in the Moravian karst: Microfauna from Pod Hradem Cave, Czech Republic.

Past student projects

Too many to list! I am very proud of my students. They have done amazing research in Torres Strait, Arnhem Land and Czech Republic and bring the experience of working in remote areas into their present employment in the cultural heritage industry (academic and otherwise).


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  04 August 2020 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers