Professor Chris Clarkson

ARC Future Fellow

School of Social Science
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+61 7 336 53235


My archaeological research is mainly directed at understanding past human behaviour through the study of stone artefacts. I have current research projects in Australia, India, Africa and France that all seek to further develop our understanding of Palaeolithic human behaviour, settlement and subsistence via the study of lithic technology.

I completed my undergraduate and Honours degrees in archaeology in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology (now the School of Social Science) at the University of Queensland in 1995. In 2004 I received my PhD in the School of Anthropology and Archaeology at the Australian National University on the topic of long-term technological change in Wardaman Country, Northern Territory. I then undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of Cambridge. In 2005 I returned to the School of Social Science to begin a second Postdoctoral Fellowship looking at Palaeolithic core technologies between Africa and Australia. I also began work with Dr Peter Hiscockon an ARC Discovery grant to investigate the technological and cognitive capabilities of Neanderthals in SW France. I have since worked on ARC and British funded projects investigating the effects of the Toba Super Erruption on hominin populations in India, and the dispersal of modern humans from Africa to Australia. I am now a senior lecturer in the School of Social Science and teach introductory archaeology, ancient technoloiges, Honours and Australian archaeology.

Research Interests

  • Searching for Traces of the Southern Dispersal: Environmental and Historical Research on the Evolution of Human Diversity in Sou
    This project investigates the ecological, biological and technological underpinning of a hypothesized early dispersal of modern humans out of Africa and along a southern coastal route to south Asia Australo-Melanesia around 60-80,000 years ago. The project evaluates evidence in the lithic, fossil, and genetic record for such an early exodus of modern humans from Africa. The project is based at the University of Cambridge and involves developing new techniques for tracking continuity and change in lithic technologies, modelling sea level change and likely corridors for human dispersals. Extensive fieldwork is also being undertaken in the Kurnool district in southern India where a rich Palaeolithic record has been found in association with buried volcanic ash from the Sumatran Toba eruption of ~74,000 years ago.
  • Technological Change and Assemblage Variability in Wardaman Country, Northern Territory
    This project furthers my PhD research into the strategic organisation of lithic technology on the edge of the semi-arid zone in northern Australia. The project explores the optimal design and assembly of technical systems in relation to resource structuring and changing levels of risk and mobility. Applying these concepts to the explanation of assemblage variability in Wardaman Country offers new insight into the reasons for Holocene technological change in this region. Six stratified rockshelters and over 300 open sites have so far been studied in the region. The results have important implications for our understanding of Northern Australian prehistory, including the potential causes of broadly similar technological changes across large regions of the top end, the timing of increased inter-regional contact and the spread of new technologies, as well as the importance of tracking historical continuity as a means of understanding social processes connected to regional technological change.
  • Technological Change and Pleistocene Arid Adaptations in the Kimberleys
    This project is undertaken in collaboration with Dr Sue O�Connor (ANU), and documents the timing and nature of occupation of the Carpenter�s Gap 2 rockshelter in the Kimberleys, WA. My own contribution to this project centres on the description and analysis of the stone artefacts from the site.
  • Regional Assemblage Variation in Southern NSW and Northern Victoria
    This project involves ongoing research into the nature and variability of lithic technology on the south coast, hinterland and highlands of NSW and northern Victoria. The stone artefact assemblages from a number of sites have so far been analysed in detail, including at Gerroa, Lake Coila, Dolphin Pt, Wombeyan Caves in the Blue Mountains, Sandon Pt, McCue Midden in Botany Bay, the Boardwalk site in Newcastle, the �Lagoon Restaurant� site in Wollongong, and on the Bogong High Plains in northern Victoria.
  • A Reappraisal of Western Mousterian Tools from Australian Perspectives
    Intense debates in human evolution surround Neanderthals in France, where archaeological deposits provide abundant evidence of their lives. Were Neanderthals complex cultural beings comparable to ourselves, or did they possess less complex cultures? This question has often been addressed through analysis of Neanderthal, or �Mousterian� stone tools. Previous studies follow a tradition of dividing tools into types such as �scrapers� or �points�. This study employs non-type based Australian perspectives, incorporating new analytical techniques to re-describe Mousterian tools, review what they tell us of Neanderthal capabilities, and evaluate conventional type-based systems of analysis.


  • Bachelor of Arts, The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Australian National University


  • Bradshaw, Corey J. A., Norman, Kasih, Ulm, Sean, Williams, Alan N., Clarkson, Chris, Chadœuf, Joël, Lin, Sam C., Jacobs, Zenobia, Roberts, Richard G., Bird, Michael I., Weyrich, Laura S., Haberle, Simon G., O’Connor, Sue, Llamas, Bastien, Cohen, Tim J., Friedrich, Tobias, Veth, Peter, Leavesley, Matthew and Saltré, Frédérik (2021). Stochastic models support rapid peopling of Late Pleistocene Sahul. Nature Communications, 12 (1) 2440, 1-11. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21551-3

  • Florin, S. Anna, Roberts, Patrick, Marwick, Ben, Patton, Nicholas R., Shulmeister, James, Lovelock, Catherine E., Barry, Linda A., Hua, Quan, Nango, May, Djandjomerr, Djaykuk, Fullagar, Richard, Wallis, Lynley A., Fairbairn, Andrew S. and Clarkson, Chris (2021). Pandanus nutshell generates a palaeoprecipitation record for human occupation at Madjedbebe, northern Australia. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 5 (3), 295-303. doi: 10.1038/s41559-020-01379-8

  • Mildwaters, John and Clarkson, Chris (2020). An experimental assessment of the grinding characteristics of some native seeds used by Aboriginal Australians. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 30 102127, 102127. doi: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.102127

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Available Projects

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Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.