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Personal profile


Chris Urwin is a research fellow at Monash University and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage. He conducts archaeological and museum-based research with Indigenous communities in Australia and the Pacific. He researches how people build places through time, and how personal and community histories are constructed when artefacts are collected and exchanged.

Urwin has held a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) and worked as archaeology curator in the First Peoples department at Museums Victoria (Melbourne). He continues to work with colleagues in museum institutions as a Research Associate of the Smithsonian and Museums Victoria.

Chris completed his PhD at Monash University in 2019, for which he worked with two villages in Orokolo Bay on Papua New Guinea's south coast to document oral traditions and establish radiocarbon chronologies for their ancestral sites. This research has helped improve our understanding of the history of exchange and social change on PNG's south coast. His current research project investigates the archaeology of Makassan (Indonesian) voyaging to Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria. 

Chris enjoys communicating archaeology and anthropology for a popular audience. Online magazine articles stemming from Chris' research can be found here: 

For interviews/discussions of Chris' research in the media see: 

Research interests

Chris' research interests include:

  • Indigenous voyaging & exchange in the tropical north (Arafura and Coral seas)
  • museum collections of Pacific canoes & navigation technology 
  • how people build and remember their ancestral places through time
  • the application of Bayesian chronological models in archaeology

His research has been funded by the Smithsonian Institution, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE), the Australian Archaeological Association.

In 2021 he was awarded a publication subsidy by the Australian Academy of the Humanities to support his book "Building and Remembering: An Archaeology of Place-Making on Papua New Guinea's South Coast" with the University of Hawaii Press.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

External positions

Research Associate, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

10 May 2022 → …

Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution

14 Jan 202113 Jan 2022

Research Associate, Museums Board of Victoria (trading as Museum of Victoria)

18 Feb 2020 → …

Research area keywords

  • Memory studies
  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Museum Collections

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or