Research Group


Dr Herries with a cast of Homo naledi, which he helped to date.

Dr Andy I.R. Herries: Associate Professor of Palaeoanthropology & Director of the LTU Palaeoscience Laboratories (TAAL/HEkLL)

Dr Herries is currently an Associate Professor in Palaeoanthropology and runs several field schools and excavations focusing on Human Origins. This the Amanzi Springs Acheulian site in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and the Australian Palaeoanthropology and Geoarchaeology Field School at the Drimolen Hominin Site in South Africa. Dr Herries also directs geological work at a number of other sites in South Africa including at Taung, the types site for Australopithecus africanus, and the fossil sites of Haasgat and Bolt’s Farm. In addition he is part of research teams at several other sites in South Africa, as well China, Tanzania, Kenya and Australia.

Dr Herries is  the director of the Palaeoscience Laboratories at LTU, which includes The Australian Archaeomagnetism Laboratory (TAAL) and the Human Evolution and Karst Landscapes Lab (HEkLL). These laboratories conduct archaeological geophysics (archaeomagnetism, palaeomagnetism, environmental magnetism, gradiometry, ground penetrating radar, pXRF) and geoarchaeological analysis (archaeomagnetism, environmental magnetism, petrography, micromorphology). HEkLL is particularly focused on hominin use of past landscapes and migration, while TAAL works on projects ranging from Historical Archaeology (19th C. Melbourne Bricks) to dating early hominins with magnetostratigraphy (~5 Ma). The lab is currently working with a number of labs around the world (UK, NZ, Sweden, Spain) to construct the first comprehensive SE Australian Archaeomagnetic Dating Reference Curve (SEAARC) and to understand past geomagnetic Field behaviour of the Earth in Australia and its region.

Dr Herries was an Australian Research Council Research Fellow for 9 years (2008-2016). Between 2008 and 2012 he had an ARC Australian Research Fellowship working on human origins in Yunnan Province, China. Since then he has continued working in China where he runs the geology component of a project looking at middle Pleistocene sites in Guangxi Province (with Chris Bae, University of Hawaii, and the Gunagxi Museum of Nationalities). From 2012 to 2016 Dr Herries was an ARC Future Fellowship that builds on his 20 years experince working on the archaeology and hominin sites of South Africa (building a new chronological framework to access regional variability in mid-Pleistocene archaeological, palaeoecological and palaeoclimatic data from Africa).

Dr Herries obtained his PhD at the University of Liverpool Geomagnetism Laboratory and Dept. Archaeology in 2003 working on a magnetostratigraphy of South African early hominin palaeocaves with Dr Alf Latham and Prof. John Shaw. He remains an Honorary Research Fellow of the Geomagnetism Laboratory at Liverpool through the School of Environmental Sciences. He has worked in South Africa since 1997 and has a wide ranging background in the excavation of palaeolithic and fossil bearing caves, palaeoanthropology, geoarchaeology, speleology, geochronology, karst geology, archaeological geophysics, & archaeomagentism (inc. Palaeomagnetism, Mineral [Rock] Magnetism & Environmental Magnetism). His work has mainly focused on the dating of South Africa’s hominin sites through the palaeomagnetic analysis of cave sediments and speleothem in conjunction with other dating methods (U-Pb, ESR). He has additionally worked on sites and deposits in the UK, Kenya, Bulgaria, China, Ethiopia, the Galapagos and Australia ranging between the Pliocene and the Holocene. In 2003-2004 he participated in the AARCH (Archaeomagnetic Applications for the Rescue of Cultural Heritage) network of European Laboratories run by Dr Cathy Batt and Prof Don Tarling. He spent his year with Prof. Mary Kovacheva in the geomagnetism laboratory at the Geophysical Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia, Bulgaria working on the Archaeomagnetic Dating of a series of Thracian and Mediaeval ovens. Since 2005 he has lived in Australia and has continued to work on Archaeomagnetic Dating work in Bulgaria, S. Africa and Australia, the magnetostratigraphic dating of African hominin sites and the development of environmental and rock magnetic methods for understanding archaeological cave sites, fire use and stone tool heat treatment. He set up TAAL at LTU in 2011. He is an active caver and climber and has been so since he was 17, participating in caving expeditions all over the world.



Dr Matthemattw Meredith-Williams (Lecturer in Archaeology and GIS)

Matt is a Lecturer in GIS in Archaeology, a new member of the Palaeosciences group and is working with Dr Herries on the ARC Discovery Grant Amanzi Springs project (DP170101139) that is linked through his work on human dispersal out of Africa. His research interests are coastal and landscape archaeology, tied together through GIS. He is involved in a number of other research projects: in the southern Red Sea (investigating both dispersals and Holocene coastal exploitation), Weipa – Cape York (looking at late Holocene coastal exploitation), Neds Corner (palaeoecology and human-environmental interactions) and Sturt National Park – NSW (human-environmental interactions and mobility). Before arriving at La Trobe, Matt undertook a Marie Curie Postdoc at the University of Auckland, which followed on from a postdoc at York, where he also undertook his PhD. Matt is also an experienced geoarchaeologist, studying it at both undergraduate and masters, before being employed as a geoarchaeologist at the Museum of London. Matt currently runs the Honours/Masters Field School at Neds Corner, and is keen to take on students for Honours, Masters and PhD topics ranging from GIS and geoarchaeology to landscapes and palaeoecology



Dr Agathe Lisé-Pronovost (DVCR Research Fellow)agathe

Dr. Agathe Lisé-Pronovost is an oceanographer, sedimentologist and paleomagnetist interested in the magnetic field of the Earth as well as in past climate. She is a postdoctoral researcher at TAAL supported by La Trobe University and Australian Research Council Indigenous Discovery Grant IN170100062.For this project she is using magnetics analysis on lake cores from Tasmania to look at the effect of climate boundary changes on the Southern Westerly Winds. This project aims to produce high quality data on how the Southern Westerly Winds (SWW) respond to largescale changes in climate boundary conditions over multiple glacial-interglacial cycles. Because the SWW are key drivers of Southern Hemisphere climate, Southern Ocean circulation and global carbon dioxide concentrations, it is important to understand how they respond to changes in boundary conditions. Uncertainty about how they do so limits attempts at accurate predictive climate modelling. This project will test conceptual models of SWW dynamics and provide essential boundary conditions for predictive climate models. The project intends to simultaneously build and support a research capacity and global network, and advance Australia’s knowledge and contribution in the area of global climate dynamics.

Formerly she was jointly supported by the Transforming Human Societies Research Focus Area, La Trobe University and the Fonds de recherche du Québec –Nature et technologies (FRQNT). This project used burnt archaeological samples (bricks, pottery, fireplaces, heat retainers) to document past changes in the Earth’s magnetic field and ultimately build the first detailed Archaeomagnetic dating reference curve for SE Australia (South East Australian Archaeomagnetic Reference Curve: SEAARC) If you have burnt material from archaeological sites in the region she would love to hear from you.

Agathe completed her postgraduate studies (MSc and PhD) at the Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski (ISMER) of the Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR) in eastern Canada. During her MSc, she studied marine sediment cores from the western Arctic Ocean. Her MSc work contributed to better understand the Earth magnetic field variability at high northern latitudes during the Holocene. It also revealed high-resolution magnetostratigraphy as a useful dating tool in the sediment of the western Arctic Ocean, where traditional methods are often limited or inapplicable. During her PhD, Agathe studied a long lacustrine sedimentary sequence (ca. 100 meters; 51200 cal BP) from the maar lake Laguna Potrok Aike in southeastern Patagonia (Argentina). Her PhD work contributed to better understand the Earth’s magnetic field in an under-documented region of the Southern Hemisphere. In addition, proxies of aeolian activity (dust and wind intensity) and runoff events were developed using continuous high-resolution rock-magnetic properties, revealing past climate changes in southeastern Patagonia associated with climate changes in Antarctica since 51200 cal BP.


Alice Mora (Transforming Human Societies RFA Research Assistant) 

aliceAlice undertook an MSc in Forensic Science and MSc in Archaeological Science at the University of Parma (Italy). This was followed by a PhD (submitted) in Molecular Archaeology with Dr Colin Smith (at La Trobe University Archaeology) using stable isotopes to look at diet history of pre-Colombian mummies. In 2017 she will join the lab as a research assistant to investigate Australian Aboriginal heat retainer fireplaces using archaeomagnetism as part of an LTU Transforming Human Societies RFA seed grant.



PHD STUDENTSFor current student projects and opportunities see 4-Students page.

Rhiannon caving in S. AfricaRhiannon Stammers: (H1 Honours to PhD2015-17)

Rhiannon got a first class honours with TAAL for her project on an investigation into the heat treatment of silcrete for making stone tools from the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area in New South Wales, Australia; working with Dr Herries & Nicola Stern (LTU Archaeology). She has been accepted into a PhD for 2014 at TAAL and will be working on aspects of the Drimolen hominin bearing site archaeological assemblage in South Africa with Dr Herries, Dr Stern (LTU Archaeology) and Dr Justin Adams (Monash University). Her project will be multi-disciplinary and use a wide range of archaeometric, geophysical and geochemical techniques, including work at the Australian Synchrotron and the University of Melbourne.


Angeline Leece (MA to PhD: 2016-19)

sediba angiAngi completed her undergraduate at the University of Albany: SUNY. After taking part in the 2013 Drimolen field school she undertook a masters researching aspects of the Drimolen Paranthropus fossils with Dr Herries,  Dr Justin Adams (Monash University), Dr Colin Menter (University of Johannesburg) & Dr Jacopo Moggi Cecchi (Università degli Studi di Firenze). She is now expanding this research for her PhD with her previous supervisors as well as Prof David Strait (Washington University in St Louis).


Brian with Karabo

Brian with Karabo

Brian Armstrong (PhD2015-17)

After attending the 2013 field school to Drimolen Brian is conducting a PhD modelling the formational history of the Drimolen hominin site and surrounding modern analogues using GIS and GPR with Dr Herries (TAAL). He has a  background in the commercial archaeology sector in the UK, Ireland and Australia and will be helping to develop the consultancy side of the labs activities.



Tom excavating fossils from Drimolen palaeocave on the 2013 fieldschool

Tom excavating at Drimolen

Tom Mallett (H1 Honours to PhD; 2016-19)

After attending the 2013 Drimolen field school Tom undertook honours in 2014-15 undertaking a palaeomagnetic study of the Drimolen hominin site in South Africa. He is following this with a PhD looking at diagenesis in the South African palaeocave sediments and how this affects various research undertaken on those deposits. This is a multidisciplinary study using Palaeomagnetism, Synchrotron Radiation, XRF, XRD, micro morphology and other methods.


Tara Edwards (PhD: 2016-19)

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-00-46-pmHaving completed an undergraduate degree in 2011 at the University of Newcastle, Tara assumed honours in geology (Palaeoclimate reconstruction from speleothem fabric) under Dr. Silvia Frisia in 2012. After working for a year with the Geoarchaeological Research Group, Tara completed a Masters of Archaeological Science at the Australian National University in 2015 and received a La Trobe University Postgraduate Scholarship to undertake a PhD at The Australian Archaeophysics and Archaeomagnetism Lab (TAAL) under Dr. Andy Herries. Currently funded by an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) Tara is using palaeomagnetic and petrographic analysis to study the Geoarchaeology of Bolt’s Farm Cave System, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa.



Ashleigh Murszewski (PhD; 2016-19)

Ashleigh is undertaking a PhD on cave formation processes in the Malmani dolomite of South Africa.




alexAlex Blackwood (H1 Honours to PhD; 2017-2020)

For his PhD Alex is undertaking excavations and analysis of the newly discovered Middle Stone Age deposits from Amanzi Springs in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. He has also been working on stone tool heat treatment at other South African Middle Stone Age sites such as Pinnacle Point (With Curtis Marean; Arizona State University) and Varsche River (With Teresa Steele and Alex Mackay; University of California and University of Wollongong)





Belle Leslie (Masters 2016-2017)

Belle is undertaking a Masters In Professional Archaeology. Belle’s thesis topic is looking at spatial patterning at the Drimolen Cave site in South Africa.

Isobel Simpson (Honours 2016-17)

Isobel is currently undertaking her honours thesis topic on the magnetostratigraphy of the Makapansgat Limeworks Australopithecus africanus site in South Africa.

Jesse Martin (Honours 2016-17)

Jesse is currently undertaking work on Drimolen hominin material in collaboration with Prof David Strait of the University of Washington in St Louis and Dr Justin Adams at Monash University.

David Crotty (Honours 2016-17)

David is undertaking an honours thesis on legacy data from Hilary Deacon’s Area 1 excavations of the Amanzi Springs Acheulian site in South Africa in the 1960s.

Richard Curtis (Honours 2017)

Richard is undertaking archaeomagnetic studies of a Middle to Later Stone Age cave site in Kenya in collaboration with Ceri Shipton (University of Cambridge, UK).

Coen Wilson (Honours 2017-18)

Coen is undertaking an honours thesis on legacy data from Hilary Deacon’s Area 2 excavations of the Amanzi Springs Acheulian site in South Africa in the 1960s.

Thomas Fallon (Honours 2017)

Tom is undertaking an experimental archaeology study of whether palaeomagnetic analysis can identify heat treatment using Australian silcrete.

Maddie Codling-White (Honours 2016-2017)

Maddie is undertaking an honours study of the micrommamals from the Drimolen Main Quarry and Drimolen Makondo deposits in South Africa in collaboration with Thalassa Matthews of Iziko Museum, Cape Town.



Ada Dinckal (H1 Honours 2016)

Ada undertook a magnetic mineralogical model of the Middle Stone Age site of Pinnacle Point Cave 5-6 in South Africa.

Daniel Juers (H2A Honours 2016)

Dan undertook a palaeomagnetic analysis and dating of the Elandsfontein hominin site in South Africa.

James Donlon (H1 Honours 2015)

James conducted a Neutron Tomographic and Synchrotron Radiation studies on a range of archaeological materials and deposits. He started this research after attending the 2014 AINSE Winter School held at ANSTO.

Emmy Frost (H1 Honours 2015)

Emmy undertook an honours project on subsistence change at a multi-occupation shell midden near Apollo Bay (Victoria, Australia) with Dr Herries, Dr Gillian Garvey (LTU Archaeology) and Dr Ilya Berelov (BIOSIS).

Ruby Tolmer (H2A Honours 2015)

Ruby undertook a conservation honours topic.

Rhiannon Ashton (H1 Honours 2013)

Rhiannon completed her honours in Archaeology at TAAL in 2013 gaining a 1st class degree. She undertook a magnetostratigraphic dating study of the Kilombe Acheulian and fossil bearing deposits in Kenya. In 2014 she will continue to work in the lab, write up her honours thesis for publication and plans to gain experience digging abroad, including the 2014 Drimolen field school, before further study. She is currently working for BIOSIS in the commercial archaeology and heritage sector.



  • Elizabeth Foley (PhD; 2015-2018) Hunter-Gatherer Societies at Lake Mungo during the Last Glacial Maximum
  • Dr Caroline Spry (PhD; 2015) Stone tool analysis at Lake Mungo.


Reading Course Students Past and Present:

Tom Mallet (2013) – Geology and Taphonomy of South African hominin cave sites.

Kirsty Gater (2014) – The Early Stone Age of South Africa

Ada Dinkal (2014) – Geochronology of the Middle Stone Age of South Africa

Jesse Martin (2015 & 2016) – The question of Early Homo/Hominin Anatomy

Richard Curtis (2015 & 2016) – Archaeomagnetism/Environmental Archaeology

Chris Silvester (2015) – Archaeomagnetism

Chris Biagi (2016) – the hominin record of South Africa

Coen Wilson (2016) -the hominin record of South Africa

Thomas Fallon (2016) -The hominin record of South Africa

Charlotte Dawson (2016) – the hominin record of South Africa




FEB 2013: Andreas Nilsson, and Emma Hodgson, Post-doc and PhD Student University of Liverpool Geomagnetism Laboratory, UK.

MARCH-NOV 2013: Narelle Brack (LTU Physics)