Associate Professor Duncan Wright

Cultural Archaeologist; PhD Monash University; MA ANU; BA University of Wales, Lampeter
Associate Professor
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: (001161) 2 61560529

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
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Culture, Language And History 4501

Research interests

  • Archaeology of ritual and religion
  • The intersections between oral, archaeological and written histories
  • Deep history of Torres Strait Islanders
  • Australian (cultural, First Nation led) archaeology 


I am an Associate Professor and head of archaeology at the Australian National University’s School of Archaeology and Anthropology. My research adopts a partnership approach, collaborating with First Nation communities who seek present-day cultural and economic benefits that can be obtained using archaeological methods.

Currently I have four active projects. ARC funded research traces the wandering pathways of Culture Heroes across Torres Strait. At the request of Goemulgal and Dauareb, we assess initiation grounds in the Mabuiag and Murray islands. 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. A further project assists Elders near Barcaldine establish a new cultural tourism enterprise. Finally, in Czech Republic and Slovakia, a long term project explores the arrival of Homo Sapiens in Europe and subsequent replacement of resident Neanderthal communities. Cave excavations provide clues into the hidden histories behind some of these European ancestors.

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 (contract with the Australian Museum, Sydney)

Collaborators: Amy Way and Wayne Brennan


Waiet: Archaeology of a Torres Strait Islander ritual pathway (DP210102739)

Collaborators: Geoff Clark, Jillian Huntley, Nick Piper


The Human Origins Project in Central Europe (Marilyn Jessop fund)

Collaborators: Ladislav Nejman, Amy Way, Marjorie Sullivan, Phil Hughes, Noemi Beljak Pazinova, Petr Skrdla, Mirek Kralik, Nick Skopal

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 

4) 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 all over the world and many of them are now employment in the cultural heritage industry.


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:  02 April 2023 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers