Exploring shipwrecks near and far

Exploring Kublai Khan’s 1288AD invasion fleet and investigating colonial era shipwrecks off Australia – Flinders University’s Adjunct Associate Professor Mark Staniforth has enjoyed a long and fascinating career in maritime archaeology, history and heritage.

Over a 46-year career as a practicing archaeologist, Associate Professor Mark Staniforth (GradCertTertEd ’98, PhD(EHLT) ’99) has participated in diving archaeology excavations on significant shipwrecks such as Pandora, William Salthouse, Clarence, Batavia and Sydney Cove. In the process he has increased the knowledge of maritime history, colonial trade, shipbuilding, shipwreck conservation practice, and the immigrant experience.

While working as curator at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney he had higher degree studies in his sights, choosing Flinders as the best University to complete his PhD.

“Flinders University was one of the few universities that taught and conducted research in historical archaeology,” says Associate Professor Mark Staniforth. “It was an eclectic, accepting and interesting university with highly respected archaeologists, including Vincent Megaw – a renaissance man and an outstanding scholar and the person who has inspired me the most in my academic life.”

While undertaking his PhD, Associate Professor Staniforth became a lecturer in Historical Archaeology at Flinders University before he established the first Maritime Archaeology Program at any Australian University here at Flinders University, which he convened from 1997 to 2010.

Associate Professor Staniforth is a professional member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and an expert member of two International Scientific Committees. He has served on the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA), including three years as Chair – the first Australian to do so. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA) and has played a significant role in the establishment and development of five maritime archaeology programs across Australia and Vietnam.

Retired since 2010, Associate Professor Staniforth’s lifelong involvement in maritime archaeology continues through a range of projects including the Star of Greece shipwreck off Port Willunga, the MaP Fund, and the Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project.

“My wife Dr Paddy O’Toole and I established the MAP Fund which has supported maritime archaeology students at Flinders and early career professionals to attend conferences, conduct research and recently has funded a student from Indonesia to study a Master of Maritime Archaeology at Flinders,” says Associate Professor Staniforth.

“Archaeology, history and heritage have been a vocation for me – I have been doing it since I was first involved as a 17-year-old in Western Australia and unless, or until, my health gives out I will continue to be active in archaeology, history and heritage till I die.”

Adjunct Associate Professor Mark Staniforth was awarded a 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award for his distinguished contribution and commitment to the investigation, protection, promotion and pedagogy of maritime archaeology, history and heritage in Australia and Southeast Asia. Read more about the Flinders University Alumni Awards


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