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Department of Archaeology



2016— MA (Anthropology) University of Otago, New Zealand

2013— BA Hons (I) (Anthropology) University of Otago, New Zealand

2012— BA (Classical Studies and Anthropology) University of Otago, New Zealand


My PhD research examines how different Pleistocene and Holocene populations adapted to small rainforested islands on the equator. My fieldwork is taking place in the Raja Ampat islands at the boundary of Wallacea and New Guinea. Here, archaeological survey and excavation is revealing insights into long-term population histories of the Asia-Pacific region, including the dynamics of trade and exchange, subsistence behaviours, technological change, and migration.

Previously, I have worked in coastal and highland Papua New Guinea, and in New Zealand, with a focus on material culture studies and geochemical analysis.


Key publications: 

Gaffney, D., Summerhayes, G.R., Szabo, K., Koppel, B. 2019. The emergence of shell valuable exchange in the New Guinea Highlands. American Anthropologist, 121 (1): 30-47.

Roberts, P., Gaffney, D., Lee-Thorp, J., Summerhayes, G.R., 2017. Persistent tropical foraging in the highlands of terminal Pleistocene/Holocene New Guinea. Nature: Ecology and Evolution, 1 (0044).

Gaffney, D., Summerhayes, G.R., Ford, A., Scott, J., Denham, T., Field, J., Dickinson, W.R. 2015. Earliest pottery on New Guinea mainland reveals Austronesian influences in highland environments 3000 years ago. PLOS ONE 10(9): e0134497.

Gaffney, D., Ford, A., Summerhayes, G.R. 2015. Crossing the Pleistocene–Holocene transition in the New Guinea Highlands: Evidence from the lithic assemblage of Kiowa rockshelter. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 39: 223-246.

Other publications: 

Gaffney, D. in press for 2020. Pleistocene water crossings and adaptive flexibility within the Homo genus. Journal of Archaeological Research.

Wu, P., Walter, R., Gaffney, D., Gong, Y., Palin, M,. Reid, M. 2020. Identifying nineteenth century Trans-Pacific production and trade: A geochemical and stylistic study of Chinese opium pipe bowls from southern New Zealand. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 31: 102362.

Gaffney, D., Summerhayes, G.R., Mennis, M. 2019. A Lapita presence on Arop/Long Island, Vitiaz Strait, Papua New Guinea? In Bedford, S. and Spriggs, M. (eds.) Debating Lapita: Distribution, Chronology, Society, and Subsistence. Terra Australis 52. ANU Press: Canberra.

Summerhayes, G.R., Leavesley, M., Szabo, Gaffney, D. 2019 Kamgot at the lagoon's edge: site position and resource use. In Bedford, S. and Spriggs, M. (eds.) Debating Lapita: Distribution, Chronology, Society, and Subsistence. Terra Australis 52. ANU Press: Canberra.

Gaffney, D., Tanudirjo, D. 2019. Sago oven pottery production in the Raja Ampat Islands, far western Melanesia. Journal of Pacific Archaeology.

Gaffney, D. 2019. Technological process in Pre-colonial Melanesia. In Flexner, J. and Leclerc, M. (eds.) Archaeologies of Island Melanesia: Current Approaches to Landscapes, Exchange, and Practice. Terra Australis 51. ANU Press: Canberra. pp. 191-210.

Gaffney, D., Summerhayes, G.R. 2019. Coastal mobility and lithic supply lines in northeast New Guinea. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 11 (6): 2849-2878.

Gaffney, D. 2018. Maintenance and mutability amongst specialist potters on the northeast coast of New Guinea. Cambridge Archaeological Journal,  28 (2): 181-204.

Gaffney, D., Summerhayes, G.R., Miamba, K. 2018. An archaeological survey of inland Madang, northeast Papua New Guinea. Archaeology in New Zealand 61(3): 12-26.

Gaffney, D., Summerhayes, G.R., Mennis, M., Beni, T., Cook, A., Field, J., Jacobsen, G., Allen, F., Buckley, H., Mandui, H. 2018. Archaeological investigations into the origins of Bel trading groups around the Madang coast, northeast New Guinea. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 13 (4): 501-530

Gaffney, D, Summerhayes, G.R., 2017. An Archaeology of Madang. University of Otago Working Papers in Anthropology, 5. Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago: Dunedin, NZ. ISBN: 978-0-9922626-4-8.

Summerhayes, G.R., Field, J., Shaw, B., Gaffney, D. 2017. The archaeology of forest exploitation and change in the tropics during the Pleistocene: the case of Northern Sahul (Pleistocene New Guinea). Quaternary International, 448: 14-30.

Gaffney, D., Ford, A., Summerhayes, G.R. 2016. Sue Bulmer’s legacy in highland New Guinea: a reexamination of the Bulmer Collection and future directions. Archaeology in Oceania, 51 (1): 23-32.

Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

Job Titles

PhD student in Archaeology

General Info

Available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Artefact Analysis & Technology
Archaeological Theory
Field Methods
Environmental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, and Landscape studies

Contact Details

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Department of Archaeology
Downing Street


Science, Technology and Innovation
Material Culture
Human Evolutionary Studies
Geographical areas: 
Oceania and the Pacific
Southeast Asia
Periods of interest: 
Other Prehistory