UWA garners considerable expertise in Indigenous knowledge, archaeology, chemistry (geochemical analysis), anthropology and contemporary Indigenous art (fine arts).
UWA archaeologists are engaged in archaeology and rock art research projects around Australia and abroad.
Researchers have been involved in projects with both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, producing results of international significance.
They have excavated some of Australia’s oldest archaeological sites, undertaken programmes to directly date paintings, analysed the role of symbolic behaviour in human evolution, explored the nature of contact era rock art, investigated rock art as a social information in arid and coastal Australia, collected base line data on rock art and Tjukurrpa from the Canning Stock Route for a plan of management and undertaken the scientific assessments of rock art on the Dampier Archipelago for National Heritage Listing and World Heritage nominations.
UWA archaeologists are also involved in early Upper Palaeolithic art research in central Europe, as well as comparative studies with North America. They are leaders in the development, refinement, and application of digital recording and enhancement techniques of heavily deteriorated rock-paintings and engravings.
Key areas of interest for the School’s staff include:
The geochemical sourcing of ochres used in the production of rock-paintings is an area of expertise at UWA.
Under the leadership of W/Prof John Watling, UWA chemists have become recognised world leaders in this field, and their research has been crucial in documenting locations of ochre sources across the continent.
This understanding has assisted in piecing together how people were interacting in the past. Professor Watling and his team have also received international recognition for their efforts towards eliminating fraud in the Indigenous art world through chemical encoding of the art.
Fine Arts researchers at UWA work closely with some of Australia’s most well-known and influential contemporary Indigenous artists (such as Gordon Bennett) to explore motivations, meanings, and significance behind their work.
A key theme in their internationally recognised research is to critically understand the changing contexts of Indigenous art production.