I recently had the pleasure of visiting the world-renowned archaeology group here at Flinders University. Their teaching program specialises in the archaeology of Indigenous peoples, maritime cultures, underwater sites, ancient studies and cultural heritage management. They have extensive field teaching and research locations that span the globe from South Australia to South-East Asia, Africa, the Middle East and more – all supported by their extensive ARC funding successes.
Their research areas are supported by cutting-edge technologies that help bring the past to life. In the labs I was able to see Aboriginal artefacts up to 15,000 years old as well as the new scanning electronic microscope where some of our PhD students were analysing remnants of a Neanderthal cooking hearth found in Siberia.
Other high-tech lab equipment is able to create 3D models of ancient rock art and detect latent images no longer visible to the naked eye. I also tried, albeit somewhat clumsily, to navigate digital models of archaeological sites in virtual reality.
It was fascinating to see how these innovative technologies are helping researchers and students piece together our past and bring their research to a broader audience, including work on animal teeth from the palaeolithic era that examines their chemical composition to provide evidence of changes in environmental conditions and hunting technology at the time.
I also heard about our new specialised scientific diving program here at Flinders that enhances the capabilities of our maritime archaeology team as well as training the next generation of scientific divers.
It is little surprise that COVID-19 has severely impacted field work and international collaborations, but there has still been a high volume of research with samples continuing to move around the world to labs and other subject matter experts.
As a scientist by training, it is always great to be able to visit labs, talk with students and researchers and see how technology is changing to bring our vision for world leading research and innovative contemporary education to life.