2021 Conference Keynote | Digital Archaeology and the Transformation of Rock Art Research


Dr Melissa Marshall (Nulungu Research Institute, University of Notre Dame Australia)


Thursday 16 September (click here to register for the conference)


Integration of digital technologies into archaeological practice in recent decades has resulted in transformation of analytical mechanisms and the subsequent articulation of results. Shifting from an exception to an expectation, digital archaeologies are now embedded within the discipline. Whether within the frame of research or consulting, the utilisation of relevant technologies is consistently applied, from Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), surveying, remote sensing and photogrammetry to the increased use of drones, 3D imagery and relational culturally-based databases.

Rock art research has been no exception and this presentation will reflect on the changing nature of the discipline over the course of the past three decades. The empirical characteristics and flexibility of applications has facilitated increased use by researchers and Indigenous communities alike. Aiding with accessibility to raw data, outputs and outcomes alike, the nature of digital archaeologies adhering to Indigenous and Decolonising Methodologies is likely to play a role of vital importance to address systemic issues associated with data sovereignty. Reflecting on my own journey and the increasing integration of technologies in applied community-based research, unexpected opportunities continue to emerge to influence and shape these endeavours for generations to come.


Melissa Marshall is an archaeologist, GIS technician and researcher based at the Nulungu Research Institute, the University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA), Broome Campus. With a focus on rock art research, conservation and management, she has worked extensively across northern Australia for more than 20 years with Traditional Owners and Indigenous ranger teams, specialising in cultural heritage management. This culminated in her successful completion of her doctoral research through the Australian National University (ANU) in 2020, investigating current rock art conservation and management techniques through a decolonising lens as applied in the north of the country.

Based in the Kimberley region for close to two decades, Mel joined Nulungu as a Collaborative Research Network (CRN) Researcher in 2015 before transitioning to Research Fellow in 2017 and Acting Manager of Nulungu since 2020. She currently undertakes projects throughout the Kimberley region and in the Northern Territory, including western Arnhem Land and Kakadu National Park. Working with local stakeholders, the focus of the community-based applied research programs which are primarily related to cultural heritage management, archaeological and rock art research collaborating with Working on Country Indigenous ranger teams. Building on research conducted through her doctoral studies and working with regional peak Aboriginal organisations including the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC), Mel’s work is framed by Decolonising and Indigenous Methodologies. Through her experience of 15 years living on a remote Kimberley Aboriginal community with her Nyikina family (who have Karajarri, Bunuba and Ngarinyin connections), Mel has also developed research interests in Aboriginal land tenure and sustainability of remote Indigenous communities; in addition to the advancement of archaeological pedagogy through her role as Co-Chair of the Australian National Committee of Archaeology Teaching and Learning (ANCATL) with the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA).

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