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Tom Austen Brown Research

Helping to build our knowledge of Australia’s human past
A passion for the field of archaeology that led to an endowment to support the advancement of archaeological research and teaching at Sydney.

About us

Tom Austen Brown researchers develop research in the field of archaeology, thanks to a generous donation by the late Tom Austen Brown, an avid amateur archaeologist. As a lawyer, his work required him to visit clients living on remote outback properties where he began collecting ancient Aboriginal artefacts. This inspired a passion for prehistory that led him to enrol in an arts degree at the University of Sydney, majoring in archaeology.

Our research

The latest research projects conducted by Tom Austen Brown researchers include:  

Traditions, Transformations and Technology

This ARC-funded project aims to understand the development and spread of technological systems in Aboriginal Australia and the connection between that diffusion process and the major expansion of Pama-Nyungan languages spoken over much of our country. This project will determine the extent and nature of phylogenetic signals in two sets of ancient lithic technologies: those producing artefacts and ground-edged axes. 

Led by Peter Hiscock (CI), Claire Bowern (PI), Russell Gray (PI) and Val Attenbrow (PI). Co-investigators include: Dr Joe Dortch (Northcliffe excavations) and Amy Way (Lake George Excavations). 

Our people

Tom Austen Brown is made up of University of Sydney academics, researchers and affiliates. We welcome the expertise of national and international researchers in our field.  

  • Dr Brit Assmussen
  • Dr Val Attenbrow
  • Dr Ian Gilligan
  • Professor Antonieta Jerardino
  • Associate Professor Lisa Nagaoka
  • Professor Marjorie Sullivan
  • Professor Peter Veth
  • Professor Steven Wolverton



2020 Tom Austen Brown Memorial Lecture

November | Date TBC
Online (Zoom)

Excavating a tropical paradise: The archaeology of Southern Vanuatu

Dr James Flexner
When considering the state of archaeology in the present, it’s easy to believe that everything has been ‘dug to death’ when imagining how much fieldwork has been done over the past century or more. This is far from the case in the Pacific region, where many remote and hard to reach islands have yet to see even limited excavations. In this talk I present the results of four years of archaeological fieldwork among the small islands of southern Vanuatu.

This collaborative project brought together archaeologists from research institutions in Australia, France, and Vanuatu. Starting from a position of relatively little information of even basic site locations or chronologies, particularly for the ‘Polynesian Outliers’ of Futuna and Aniwa, we were able to piece together relatively comprehensive histories of Islander resource use, settlement patterns, and regional interactions for this area over the last 3000 years. I will also consider briefly the potential for future research in the area, as the archaeology of southern Vanuatu still has plenty of secrets to reveal.

Click here to register

Tom Austen Brown Chair in Australian Archaeology

Professor Peter Hiscock