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Archaeology Head of Programme

ContactTim Thomas_large

Room 2N8
Tel +64 3 479 5213

Research interests

Archaeology and historical anthropology of Oceania; The archaeology of colonisation; Socio-cultural landscapes; Archaeological theory; Cross-cultural contact in Oceania; Material culture studies.



I work on the archaeology of the Pacific Islands, exploring the long-term patterns of human social and cultural relationships. Broadly my research focuses on how, why, and when people colonised the Pacific. I explore colonisation as an ongoing process, involving changing human-environment relationships, sociotechnical innovation, and the production of meaningful cultural landscapes. These dimensions can be studied at different scales - from long-term histories of voyaging and migration, to the localised politics and meaning of place. My work is often interdisciplinary and uses multiple sources of data, including archaeological evidence, oral history, and archival records.

For the past 15 years I have worked on field projects based in the New Georgia region of the Solomon Islands. In particular I have worked on the material culture and cultural landscapes of Roviana, Rendova and Tetepare, gathering data to reconstruct the history of these islands and their place in wider Solomon Islands prehistory. On Tetepare I have worked with an indigenous conservation association (Tetepare Descendants' Association) to conduct archaeological and palaeoenvironmental surveys. During my archaeological research in the Solomon Islands I have worked on linking the material remains of the past with early ethnographic and photographic records as well as oral histories. A recent project has involved the study and repatriation of early ethnographic photographs of people and places on the island of Simbo.

I also do fieldwork in New Zealand, and have active research projects in central Otago looking at how both early Maori and early Europeans explored and colonised the rugged interior of the South Island.


Thomas, T. (2023). [Review of the book Building and remembering: An archaeology of place-making on Papua New Guinea's south coast]. Australian Archaeology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/03122417.2023.2213543

Ford, A., Walter, R., & Thomas, T. (2022). Fragile shores: Addressing coastal erosion on archaeological sites in Otago. Proceedings of the New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA) Annual Conference. (pp. 8-9). Retrieved from

Thomas, T., McStay, A., Sheppard, P., & Summerhayes, G. (2021). Interaction and isolation in New Georgia: Insights from the Nabo Point ceramic assemblage, Tetepare. Archaeology in Oceania, 56(1), 45-64. doi: 10.1002/arco.5221

Thomas, T. (2021). Pacific colonisation as process and practice. In T. Thomas (Ed.), Theory in the Pacific, the Pacific in theory: Archaeological perspectives. (pp. 145-179). London, UK: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9780203730973

Thomas, T. (2021). Theory in the Pacific, and the Pacific in theory. In T. Thomas (Ed.), Theory in the Pacific, the Pacific in theory: Archaeological perspectives. (pp. 1-36). London, UK: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9780203730973

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