Iain Davidson

iain-davidsonRole in the Project

As one of the Chief Investigators with expertise in the northwest Queensland study area, Iain will be involved in the reconnaissance and preliminary assessment of field sites in that study area, participate in the archaeological excavations, help train Aboriginal field officers in archaeological techniques, and carry out some oral history interviews. Iain will also contribute to the preparation of outcomes of the project.

Why He’s Excited About the Project

When Iain arrived at UNE, there was a lot of talk about the Myall Creek Massacre. Later he wrote a piece about New England and realised it could be defined geographically by the massacre sites that surround it. When Iain began to work in NW Queensland, one of the Aboriginal people who became my friend and mentor, when asked which site he wanted us to look at, took us to the grave of Molvo. Molvo was the pastoralist whose death at the hands of Aboriginal people led to the involvement of the NMP and the massacres of Yulluna, Kalkadoon and Mitakoodi people in NW Queensland. His grandmother survived the massacre, and his grandfather had the name of the man who led the NMP in Boulia. As he was dying, that same man kept remembering that he wanted to take me to the massacre sites. And when we returned to Molvo’s grave he said “And they piled all the bodies together and burned them.” Iain wants to honour his memory through this project.

His Background

Iain came to Australia in 1974 with a background in hunter-gatherer archaeology and an interest in faunal analysis. He stayed and taught at UNE gradually developing more interest in rock art, lithic studies, cultural heritage and public communication of archaeology. Iain worked at UNE until 2008 when he retired and was awarded the Visiting Chair in Australian Studies at Harvard. In retirement he continues to engage in the interests he developed at UNE.


  • PhD, Cambridge University (1981)


  • Australian Archaeological Association
  • Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities


  • Davidson, I. 1981 Late Palaeolithic Economy in Eastern Spain. Unpublished PhD thesis, Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge University, Cambridge.

Select Publications

    • Davidson, I. 2014 It’s the thought that counts: unpacking the “package” of behaviour of the first people of Sahul and its adjacent islands. In M. Porr and R. Dennell (eds), East of Africa. Southern Asia, Australia and Human Origins, pp.243-256. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
    • Davidson, I. 2013 Peopling the last new worlds: the first colonisation of Sahul and the Americas. Quaternary International 285:1-29.
    • Veth, P., N. Stern, J. McDonald, J. Balme and I. Davidson 2011 The role of information exchange in the colonisation of Sahul. In R. Whallon, W.A. Lovis and R.K. Hitchcock (eds), Information and its Role in Hunter-Gatherer Bands, pp.203-220. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press.
    • Davidson, I. 2010 The colonization of Australia and its adjacent islands and the evolution of modern cognition. Current Anthropology 51(s1):s177-s189.
    • Balme, J., I. Davidson, J. McDonald, N. Stern and P. Veth 2009 Symbolic behaviour and the peopling of the southern arc route to Australia. Quaternary International 202(1-2):59-68.
    • Davidson, I. 2008 Ethnological studies and archaeology of North West Central Queensland. In R. McDougall and I. Davidson (eds), The Roth Family, Anthropology and Colonial Administration, pp.121-132. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.
    • McDougall, R. and I. Davidson (eds) 2008 The Roth Family, Anthropology and Colonial Administration. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.
    • Ross, J. and I. Davidson 2006 Rock art and ritual: an archaeological analysis of rock art in arid Central Australia. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 13(4):305-341.
    • Davidson, I., N.D.J. Cook, M. Fischer, M. Ridges, J. Ross and S.A. Sutton 2005 Archaeology in another country: exchange and symbols in North West Central Queensland. In I. Macfarlane, M.-J. Mountain and R. Paton (eds), Many Exchanges: Archaeology, History, Community and the Work of Isabel McBryde, pp.101-128. Aboriginal History Monographs 11. Canberra: Aboriginal History Inc.
    • Davidson, I., I. Tarragó and T. Sullivan 2004 Market forces. In V. Donovan and C. Wall (eds), Making Connections: A Journey along Central Australian Aboriginal Trading Routes, pp.12-23. Brisbane: Arts Queensland.
    • Davidson, I. 2001 The requirements for human colonisation of Australia. In I. Metcalfe, J.M.B.Smith, M.Morwood and I. Davidson (eds), Faunal and Floral Migration and Evolution in SE Asia-Australia, pp.399-408. Lisse, Netherlands: Swets and Zeitlinger.
    • Noble, W. and I. Davidson 1996 Human Evolution, Language and Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Winchester, H.P., I. Davidson and D.R. O’Brien 1996 Historical graffiti in northern Australia: evidence of European settlement and society in the Selwyn Range of northwest Queensland. Australian Archaeology 43:1-7.
    • Davidson, I. 1995 Paintings, power and the past: can there ever be an ethnoarchaeology of art? Current Anthropology 36(5):889-892.
    • Davidson, I., C. Lovell-Jones and R. Bancroft (eds) 1995 Archaeologists and Aborigines Working Together. Armidale: University of New England Press.
    • Sullivan, T. and I. Davidson 1995 Archaeology in north west Queensland. In I. Davidson, C. Lovell-Jones and R. Bancroft (eds), Archaeologists and Aborigines Working Together, pp.33-35. Armidale,: University of New England Press.
    • Davidson, I., S.A. Sutton and S.J. Gale 1993 The human occupation of Cuckadoo I Rockshelter, northwest central Queensland. In M.A. Smith, B. Fankhauser and M. Spriggs (eds), Sahul in Review: Pleistocene Archaeology in Australia, New Guinea and Island Melanesia, pp.164-172. Canberra: The Australian National University.
    • Davidson, I. 1992 Archaeologists and Aborigines. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 2(2):247-258.
    • Davidson, I. and W. Noble 1992 Why the first colonisation of the Australian region is the earliest evidence of modern human behaviour. Archaeology in Oceania 27:135-142.
    • Cook, N.D.J., I. Davidson and S.A. Sutton 1990 Why are so many ancient rock paintings red? Australian Aboriginal Studies 1990 (1):30-32.
    • Davidson, I. 1990 Prehistoric Australian demography. In B. Meehan and N. White (eds), Hunter-Gatherer Demography: Past and Present, pp.41-58. Sydney: Oceania Monographs.
    • Cook, N.D.J., I. Davidson and S.A. Sutton 1989 Seeing red in Queensland. Nature 342:487.
    • Davidson, I. 1988 The naming of parts: ethnography and the interpretation of Australian prehistory. In B. Meehan and R. Jones (eds), Archaeology with ethnography: An Australian perspective, pp.17-32. Canberra: Dept Prehistory, ANU.
    • Davidson, I. 1983 On the edge of the Simpson: recent additions to understanding of prehistoric artefact distributions in arid Australia. Australian Archaeology 17:27-37.

Select Unpublished Reports

  • Davidson , I. and J. Huntley 2014 Multi-User Rail Loading Facility, Cloncurry. Cultural Heritage Assessment of the Impact Footprint. Unpublished report prepared for Xstrata Copper.
  • Davidson, I. and H. Arthurson 2012 International Cultural Heritage Management Benchmarking Project: Pilot Project Report. Unpublished report prepared for Woodside Energy Ltd.
  • Jiménez Izarraraz, A. and I. Davidson 2011 A Paper Discussing Options for the Interpretation of Rock Art at Deep Gorge, Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia. Unpublished report prepared for Rio Tinto.
  • Davidson, I. 2005 Report on Fieldwork for Osborne, Little Sandy Creek. Unpublished report prepared for the Heritage Futures Research Centre, University of New England.
  • Davidson, I., R. Cliff and T. Sullivan 1991 Burke River Pipeline.  A Survey of the Impact on Archaeological Sites. Unpublished report prepared for the Cyprus Gold Australia Corporation.

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