Geoffrey Clark

Prof Geoffrey Clark


Research activity per year

Personal profile


I have archaeology projects in the Central Pacific (Fiji, Samoa and Tonga), Western Micronesia (Palau and the Mariana Islands), and islands in the Indian Ocean. My interests centre on colonisation theory, particularly the development of methods and approaches able to model the social and environmental conditions of migrant groups after their arrival on uninhabited landscapes. The development and expansion of complex societies in West Polynesia from the study and conservation of monumental architecture and the evidence for long-distance voyaging are currently being examined in a major ARC project investigating the centre of the Tongan maritime chiefdom on Tongatapu.

Career highlights

ARC Future Fellowship (2010-2014), Fellow of the Research School of Asia and the Pacific (2010), Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries London  (2009), ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2001-2004). Discovery and excavation of colonization phase sites in Palau and Fiji. Research on monuments of the Tui Tonga dynasty in the Kingdom of Tonga.

Available student projects

Student Participation: Graduate students are encouraged to participate in archaeological field investigations and analytical research on sites/materials from islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Students from the ANU, Otago University and Gotland University have previously been involved in my excavations in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Palau and Mariana Islands, and they have undertaken research on monumental architecture, faunal remains, pottery identification, interpretation of geophysical and geochemical data and place names. A new project investigating the prehistory of islands in the Indian Ocean has space for suitably qualified students. Contact Dr Geoff Clark ( if you are interested in any of my topics or projects.

Research interests

Analytical expertise: I have expertise in zooarchaeology, the chemical study of artefacts, laser mapping, remote sensing and statistical analysis. Zooarchaeology: My early postgraduate training was in zooarchaeology, and I have analysed and published detailed papers on the osteology of animals that accompanied prehistoric people into Oceania, like, the Pacific dog and the Spiny rat (Clark 1997a,b,c; White et al. 2000) along with standard analyses of prehistoric fish bone, shell fish and mammal remains. Chemical characterisation: During my PhD research I determined the element composition of pot clays with SEM-EDXA and ICPMS (Clark 2000), and more recently analysed the composition of ceramics (Kennett et al. 2004) and stone tools from Pacific archaeological sites (Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Rotuma, Fiji) with XRF, LA-ICP-MS and radiogenic isotopes (Clark 2005; Reepmeyer and Clark In Press). These relatively new geochemical techniques are ground-breaking for archaeology as they have the potential to identify the scale and frequency of prehistoric interaction. Remote sensing: I have extensive experience of geophysical techniques, particularly the use of Cesium Vapour magnetometer and ground penetrating radar, which I have used with a geophysicist to investigate historic sites in Palau and prehistoric sites, especially monumental architecture in Samoa and Tonga (Clark and de Biran 2007; Clark et al. 2008). Geophysics is rarely used in tropical Pacific archaeology, and my studies have been the first large-scale projects to show the utility of remote sensing for investigating monumental sites made in earth or stone. Statistics: I use univariate and multivariate methods of data analysis, particularly hierarchical cluster analysis, multi-dimensional scaling and discriminant function analysis to model and test archaeological data (Clark and Anderson 2001; Clark 2007; Clark and Bedford 2008).

Theoretical frameworks: Colonisation theory is a major focus of my research. Theoretical approaches within this include:

  • Geographic and environmental modelling to examine the effect of island size/resources/accessibility on maritime expansions (Clark et al. 2006; Clark and Bedford 2008);
  • Application of 'Transmission theory' to investigate the social dimensions of prehistoric colonisation in Remote Oceania by identifying how the material culture of migrants was transformed by drift, interaction and innovation (Clark and Murray 2006);
  • Archaeological modelling of colonisation sites/deposits to identify the pattern of archipelago occupation in the Central Pacific, and the importance of 'Gateway communities' when colonists expanded into new landscapes (Clark and Anderson 2001);
  • Secondary colonisation of already occupied terrain by complex societies, which in the case of prehistoric Tonga in the Central Pacific, is related to the development of a highly-centralised and stratified polity that affected distant islands including east Fiji, 'Uvea, Futuna and Samoa during the past 1000 years. Theoretical issues centre on the development of the political system (Clark and Martinsson-Wallin 2007) from the type and sequence of monumental architecture (Clark et al. 2008), landscape toponomy (Clark 2009), and the maritime influence of the chiefdom using geochemical methods.


MA Dist. (Otago), PhD (ANU)


  • QE Geology
  • Sea-level change
  • Marine resources
  • DT Africa
  • Madagascar
  • Indian Ocean
  • Colonisation
  • Megafauna
  • DU Oceania (South Seas)
  • Colonisation
  • Warfare
  • Trade and Exchange
  • State development
  • Monumental architecture
  • Ancient pottery
  • Zooarchaeology

Expertise Areas

  • Archaeological Science
  • Archaeology of New Guinea and Pacific Islands (excl. New Zealand)
  • Colonisation
  • Maritime dispersals
  • Warfare
  • Tattooing
  • Sea-level change
  • Monumental architecture
  • Lidar
  • pXRF
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Isotope Geochemistry


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