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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

A multidisciplinary trip back through time

Published: 25 May 2016
Expedition to Australia

University of Southampton researcher Kiki Kuijjer embarked on a week-long field expedition to Australia in April this year, to learn about the archaeological and geological history of the country’s southeastern region.

As a PhD student based at the University’s multidisciplinary Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute (SMMI), Kiki’s research draws on both oceanography and maritime archaeology. Specifically, she studies the effects of winds and currents on seafaring during the earliest migration of people to Australasia, around 50,000 years ago.

Kiki therefore jumped at an invitation from Professor Eelco Rohling and Professor Patrick De Deckker of the Australian National University (ANU), to join an excursion to her study area, alongside postgraduate students and researchers from the ANU’s Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES). Professor Rohling is also Professor of Ocean and Climate Change with the University of Southampton.

“By going on this trip, not only did I get the chance to see my study region first-hand for the first time, but I also got to visit some of the oldest archaeological sites in Australia,” says Kiki.

“I learnt about the geological history of the areas I visited, and met a diverse group of researchers, including geologists, archaeologists and oceanographers. The excursion also helped me to better understand the history of Aboriginal people in Australia, which is of great importance for my research.”

The group learnt about volcanic landscapes in western Victoria, and the geological history of the historic fishing port of Robe and the Coorong National Park. They visited the Aboriginal heritage site Moyjil/Point Ritchie; archaeological remains found here are known to be at least 35,000 years old, but could be up to 80,000 years old, and give important insights into the lives of the people that inhabited this area.

They also visited two World Heritage sites: the Naracoorte Caves in South Australia – which contain an extensive fossil record spanning at least 500,000 years – and the Willandra Lakes Region in New South Wales. This region contains a relict lake system, which gives a well-preserved geological record of Pleistocene landscapes, as well as archaeological evidence for human occupation dating back to over 40,000 years ago.

“The excursion was of great importance for me, and I would like to express my sincere thanks to the SMMI and the Leverhulme Trust, without whom my travels would not have been possible,” says Kiki.

Kiki began her PhD in October 2015, alongside an intake of five other PhD students funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The SMMI will welcome more Leverhulme-funded students in October 2016.


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