Dr Judith Field

Dr Judith Field

Honorary Associate Professor

BA (Syd) 1991

B App Sci Honours (UNSW) 1992

PhD UNSW 1996

School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences

I came to archaeology as a second career and completed my undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Botany at the University of Sydney with postgraduate studies at UNSW.  My early research focussed on the extinction of the Australian megafauna and associated palaeoenvironmental studies.  More recently I have been investigating the role of plants in the dispersal of people across Sahul particularly looking at the starchy economic plants as use-related residues on stone tools. The study of starch microfossils is an emerging and exciting new discipline in archaeology and has the potential to identify the specific plants people were exploiting 10s of thousands of years ago.  Since 2009 I have been working in New Guinea with Professor Glenn Summerhayes from the University of Otago examining the function of stone artefacts and investigating how access to starchy plants may have influenced the movement of people around the landscape; and with Professor Richard Cosgrove (LTU) on the use of starchy plants in prehistory.

I was President of the Australian Archaeological Association from 2004-2005.

Samuels Level 1 Room 108
  • Journal articles | 2021
    Hayes EH; Field JH; Coster ACF; Fullagar R; Matheson C; Florin SA; Nango M; Djandjomerr D; Marwick B; Wallis LA; Smith MA; Clarkson C, 2021, 'Holocene grinding stones at Madjedbebe reveal the processing of starchy plant taxa and animal tissue', Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, vol. 35, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2020.102754
    Journal articles | 2019
    Swift JA; Bunce M; Dortch J; Douglass K; Faith JT; Fellows Yates JA; Field J; Haberle SG; Jacob E; Johnson CN; Lindsey E; Lorenzen ED; Louys J; Miller G; Mychajliw AM; Slon V; Villavicencio NA; Waters MR; Welker F; Wood R; Petraglia M; Boivin N; Roberts P, 2019, 'Micro Methods for Megafauna: Novel Approaches to Late Quaternary Extinctions and Their Contributions to Faunal Conservation in the Anthropocene', BioScience, vol. 69, pp. 877 - 887, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz105
    Journal articles | 2013
    Wroe S; Field JH; Archer M; Grayson DK; Price GJ; Louys J; Faith JT; Webb GE; Davidson I; Mooney SD, 2013, 'Climate change frames debate over the extinction of megafauna in Sahul (Pleistocene australia-new guinea)', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 110, pp. 8777 - 8781, http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1302698110

 I have held 4 Australian Research Council Discovery Grants and  2 ARC Linkage Grants since 1996 including an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship. Other awards have included an ARC Early Career Researcher Initiative Scheme, University of Sydney Sesqui R & D Grants, AINSE AMS Dating Awards and Kimberley Foundation Awards (with R Cosgrove and A. Coster).




My research focus has been on Pleistocene archaeology, the timing and causes of megafaunal extinctions in Australia, colonisation and settlement in New Guinea and the use of starchy plants by people through time. I have undertaken field based research programs at Cuddie Springs in SE Australia, at Budjamulla and the world heritage site of Riversleigh in north west Queensland, the rainforests of Far North Queensland, the Kimberley region and  Tasmania (with Professor Richard Cosgrove) and more recently, the Papua New Guinea highlands (with Professor Glenn Summerhayes and Dr Ben Shaw). The rainforest research investigated the antiquity of rainforest occupation in tropical Australia and the archaeological indicators of toxic starchy plant use (with Professor Richard Cosgrove at LTU).


Specific research interests are directed at functional studies of flaked and ground stone tools which includes identification and characterisation of organic residues on stone tools -from plants, in the form microfossils such as pollen, starch and phytoliths, and from animals through biochemical analyses of blood traces. Other research interests include palaeoenvironmental reconstructions with studies of fossil pollen and microscopic charcoal and phytoltish (with Professor Lisa Kealhofer at Santa Clara U), as well as taphonomic studies of modern and fossil bone.


Primarily, I am interested in how people lived in different environments, how they adapted as climate and environment changed over the long term and how we can best discover and identify the clues left in the archaeological record to better understand these dynamics.