At the end of 2014 I went to my first ever archaeological conference, and it was great! So many people tell you how boring these things are but when it is about something you love then it shouldn’t bore you. As I packed my bags and drove to Cairns with my friend, I was excited (apart from the trauma of seeing a horse with a very broken leg) about being involved in something important.

The 2014 AAA/ASHA (Australia Archaeological Association and Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology) Conference was themed Culture, Climate, Change: Archaeology in the Tropics.

This topic was chosen because of the rich and diverse archaeological and natural heritage found in the tropics. Discoveries such as Homo floresiensis, seafaring Lapita people, and the discovery of the tropics as a key zone controlling global climate, have changed the understanding archaeologists had of the long-term human occupation of the tropics.

Tully 1It was held at The Pullman Cairns International Hotel and I must say their service was amazing. Apart from the hotel being absolutely incredible just to look at, their food was absolutely to die for – compliments to the many chefs, Pullman! The fact that they were brave enough to host a bunch on rowdy archaeologists say it all. You can check out my full review of the Pullman International in my next post.


There were several highlights of the conference including the daily flagship sessions, the workshops, the social functions, the tours, and the food. I was surprised at the amount of sessions there were – too many interesting things to choose from! It was hard to make up my mind initially about what to check out. Some of the sponsors and guests had stalls for us to peruse the latest technologies and publications, this was a definite plus, mainly because I love drones. And there was a drone.

So what did I get up to?

Social Functions

Welcome Dinner

Pool Bar

The Welcome Dinner was the first thing on the agenda. It was held at the Pullman’s absolutely beautiful pool bar on the third floor of the hotel (seen in the above picture). This time was set out to “break the ice” I suppose – and there was free food which was, again, delicious! Being my first conference, and only knowing the people from my university I spent the night learning Lao from an incredible young woman accompanying one of my lecturers. Needless to say, I have forgetten everything, except sabaidi (hello).

Meet the Graduates Evening

This was the one I was looking forward to! A chance for recent graduates to mingle with potential employers – I even went on the wait list to get in. I am sorry to say that this particular night was a little disappointing. Noone was looking to hire those of us from Queensland, AND only sponsors could attend. This meant there were limited companies there to talk to, the rest were universities with information about post-graduate degrees. I did, however, appreciate the time each of these people took to talk to us and answer our questions, and the fact that they accepted our resumes nonetheless. Again, food was included, however my coeliac friend was also disappointed as the only gluten free option was exactly the same as the night before (and also the following night at the TARL/JCU Christmas party). Unfortunately, the highlight of the evening was getting a whole bunch of free stuff. I am not sure how many times this evening has been organised, but I do hope it is improved for the next lot of graduates coming through..

Career Workshop

Kingsford LoungeOver the course of the three days there were many opportunities to attend career workshops from maritime or museum archaeology, to historical archaeology or stone artefacts. These sessions had to be booked in advance as there were limited places. I chose the geophysics workshop as this is one of my main interests. It was held over lunch in a casual setting. We sat around a round table – in the Kingsford Lounge at the Pullman – and had a relaxed discussion about our interests and goals. Kelsey Lowe was the wonderful person who spent her lunch talking with us and answering our questions about careers in geophysics. She was very helpful and gave us a lot of valuable information. I definitely recommend attending one of these workshops whilst at the conference.


Flagship Sessions

These were held on each morning from 8-10am. The three topics included Australian Palaeoanthropology 100 Years After Talgai, Archaeologies of Unfree, and Big Questions in Tropical Asia-Pacific Prehistory and Challenges for Archaeological Science. These sessions were held in the Grand Ballroom and included many many interesting and groundbreaking presentations of research.

Parallel Sessions

Conf Room

The sessions included a variety of tropical topics from Australia to South-East Asia to Africa. I went to a lot of different sessions including 50 Years of Tropical Archaeology in North Queensland, Archaeology and Palaeoecology of Northern Australia’s Wet Tropics, From Deep Prehistory to the Vietnam War in Tropical Southeast Asia, Recent Archaeological Research in Africa, Exploring Zooarchaeological Research within Australasia, Archaeology History and Cultural Heritage of the Great Barrier Reef Province, and The Environmental Context for Human Settlement and Occupation of Australia. Each of these sessions were as interesting and eye-opening as the next. The entire experience made it easier for me to find interests that I want to pursue in my own research.

Poster Session

This was my session. My poster, based on my honours thesis, was about sourcing the stone used to make the marble bangles found at Ban Non Wat, Thailand. There were so many amazing posters presented and it made mine feel slightly inferior. We had to stand for 2 hours on the last afternoon and answer any questions any readers of the posters had. As I am extremely anxious in situations like this I had a slight break down, which included me crying in the girls bathroom and texting my friend to come and rescue me (still very grateful for that :)). However, I have learned my lesson for next time and decided presenting is much less nerve racking.

Poster Session

Overall I had a great first experience and recommend anyone in Australia who has recently graduated or still studying archaeology to attend as it will open up your mind to a whole new realm of possibilities.

Stay tuned for our upcoming post on the Historical Day Tour & The Pullman Cairns review.


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