Professor Simon John Holdaway

MA (Otago), PhD (PENN)

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Head of School


After finishing an MA degree in Anthropology at the University of Otago I moved to the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia graduating with a PhD in 1991. I taught at The University of Auckland for a year in 1992 before taking up a post-doctoral fellowship at La Trobe University in 1993. I subsequently lectured at La Trobe from 1994-1998, returning to The University of Auckland in 1999. I am currently a Professor of Archaeology with adjunct Professorial appointments at Macquarie University (in Environment and Geography) and at the University of York in the UK. In 2018 I was elected as a Corresponding Fellow Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Research | Current

  • Australian, Egyptian, and New Zealand archaeology
  • Stone artefact analysis
  • Archaeological theory

Current research

  1. Piecing together our past: developing technology and skills to reconstruct broken cultural artefacts. Collaboration with Poul Nielsen, Rebecca Phillipps, Mark Gahegan, Joshua Emmitt, Sina Masoud-Ansari and Amir HajiRassouliha. We combine 3D object creation and visualisation with machine learning and expert systems to rapidly record artefacts.

  2. The archaeology of Ahuahu Great Mercury Island, New Zealand. We are investigating Mäori responsiveness and decision making in a changing environment through integrating the archaeological record and the environmental history of Ahuahu Great Mercury Island. The project is a collaboration with Auckland Museum, University of Canterbury, Ngati Hei, and Sir Michael Fay.
  3. Early agriculture in Egypt with colleagues from UCLA and Rijksuniversiteit. I am interested in how mobile people adapted to variable past environments. The Egyptian research deals with people who were just developing agriculture, adapting to fluctuating desert environments in the mid-Holocene but continuing to pursue a mobile lifestyle. Funded by a Marsden Grant 2012-2015.
  4. North of Weipa North survey investigating the archaeological record of far north Queensland, Australia.

Previous projects

  1. Human environmental relationships in the tropical north of Australia. With colleagues from Macquarie University, ANU, University of Waikato and QUT I am investigating the coastal archaeology of the Weipa region in collaboration with Rio Tinto Alcan. We are investigating the large number of shell mounds in the Weipa region studying their construction, chronology and composition. Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant 2011-2014.
  2. The Western New South Wales Archaeological Project (WNSWAP) with Associate Professor Patricia Fanning, Macquarie University, investigating Holocene surface archaeology from a geoarchaeological perspective. We are particularly interested in issues of chronology and the interpretation of long-term human behaviour as well as stone artefact technology.
  3. I have a long term interest in the study of stone artefacts in general with a particular interest in Australia.
  4. I direct a research group with interests in the historic archaeology of Taranaki, New Zealand. In 2004 we excavated the site of Oropuriri, a 19th century Māori village as a contract for Transit NZ.

Postgraduate supervision

Current PhD students

  • Matthew Barrett (The University of Auckland)
  • Kasey Alley (The University of Auckland)

Past PhD students

  • Alex Jorgensen (The University of Auckland, completed 2018) "Stone artefact assemblages and mobility, sedentism and occupation duration : a case study from Northern New Zealand"
  • Josh Emmitt (The University of Auckland, completed 2017) "The Neolithic pottery of Egypt : investigating settlement pattern in middle Holocene northeast Africa with ceramics"
  • Benjamin Davies (The University of Auckland, completed 2016) "Logic and landscapes : simulating surface archaeological record formation in Western New South Wales, Australia"
  • Gerard O’Regan (The University of Auckland, completed 2016) "Wahi tapu and rock art : an intra-site analysis of two southern Māori rock art shelters"
  • Rachel Scott (The University of Auckland, completed 2016) "Palaeoenvironmental change and famine? : diet and health in ancient Egypt"
  • Tessa Bryant (Macquarie University, completed 2014) “Recording archaeological landscapes – the surface Aboriginal record of Western NSW, Australia: Challenges for Cultural Heritage Management”
  • Rebecca Phillipps (University of Auckland, completed) 2012 “Documenting Socio-economic variability in the Egyptian Neolithic through Stone Artefact Analysis”
  • Matthew Douglass (University of Auckland, completed 2010) “The Archaeological Potential of Informal Lithic Technologies”
  • Justin Shiner (University of Auckland, completed 2004) “Place as Occupational History”
  • Mathew Felgate (University of Auckland, completed 2003) “Reading Lapita in Near Oceania”
  • Patricia Fanning (Macquarie University, completed 2002) “Beyond the Divide”
  • Trudy Doelman (La Trobe University, completed 2002) “Time to Quarry”
  • Christina Pavlides (La Trobe University, completed 1999) “The Story of Imbo”

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Furey, L., Phillipps, R., Emmitt, J., McAlister, A., & Holdaway, S. (2020). A large trolling lure shank from Ahuahu Great Mercury Island, New Zealand. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 129 (1), 85-112. 10.15286/jps.129.1.85-112
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Joshua Emmitt
  • Emmitt, J., Allely, K., Davies, B., Hoffman, E., & Holdaway, S. J. (2020). Preliminary archaeological survey and remote-sensing of shell mounds at Kwokkunum, Albatross Bay, Cape York Peninsula, Australia. Queensland Archaeological Research, 23, 9-24. 10.25120/qar.23.2020.3718
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Joshua Emmitt
  • Rezek, Z., Holdaway, S. J., Olszewski, D., Lin, S., Douglass, M., McPherron, S., ... Sandgarthe, D. (2020). Aggregates, formational emergence, and the focus on practice in stone artifactarchaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory10.1007/s10816-020-09445-y
  • Holdaway, S., & Phillipps, R. (2020). Artefact Categories, Artefact Assemblages and Ontological Alterity. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, online first10.1017/S095977432000030X
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rebecca Phillipps
  • Furey, L., Phillipps, R., Emmitt, J., McAlister, A., & Holdaway, S. (2020). A large trolling lure shank from Ahuahu Great Mercury Island, New Zealand. The journal of the Polynesian Society, 129 (1), 85-112. 10.15286/jps.129.1.85-110
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Joshua Emmitt, Rebecca Phillipps
  • Emmitt, J., Phillipps, R., Koopman, A., Barrett, M., Wendrich, W., & Holdaway, S. (2020). Kom W and X Basin: Erosion, Deposition, and the Potential for Village Occupation. African Archaeological Review10.1007/s10437-020-09370-1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Joshua Emmitt, Rebecca Phillipps
  • Holdaway, S. J., Emmitt, J., Phillipps, R., & Masoud-Ansari, S. (2019). A Minimalist Approach to Archaeological Data Management Design. JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL METHOD AND THEORY, 26 (2), 873-893. 10.1007/s10816-018-9399-6
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Joshua Emmitt, Rebecca Phillipps
  • Prebble, M., Anderson, A. J., Augustinus, P. C., Emmitt, J., Fallon, S. J., Furey, L. L., ... Matthews, P. J. (2019). Early tropical crop production in marginal subtropical and temperate Polynesia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences10.1073/pnas.1821732116
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Paul Augustinus, Joshua Emmitt, Alex Jorgensen, Thegn Ladefoged

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 4, Room 403
New Zealand

Social links

Web links