Szabo profileDr Katherine "Kat" Szabó

Phone:  +61 2 4221 5846

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  • Associate Professor

Professional Profile

My primary area of research is the study of faunal remains, and particularly molluscs, in the archaeological record.  Shell constitutes a major portion of the excavated archaeological record from tropical Asia-Pacific sites, with evidence ranging from midden shell indicating past subsistence practices and environment, to shell used as a raw material for artefacts, to landsnails giving insights into past vegetation patterns and occupational sequences. I have worked with many different research teams on sites spanning the late Pleistocene through until the recent past, from places including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, through various islands in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. In addition to my work on shell I also have an interest in the later (‘Metal Age’) prehistory of Southeast Asia when trade routes, centres and entrepôts constantly combine and recombine fusing the diverse threads that structure modern Southeast Asian cultures.

I am currently the coordinator for EESC309 Dung, Death and Decay: modern scientific methods in archaeology and am on the CAS Executive managing outreach and communication. 

  • Australian Research Council QEII Senior Research Fellow 2009-2014, University of Wollongong
  • British Academy Visiting Research Fellow 2007-2008, University of Cambridge
  • Assistant Professor in Anthropology, University of Guam 2007-2009
  • Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, 2005-2007, Australian National University
  • BA(Hons) First Class, University of Auckland 1999; PhD Australian National University 2005

Research Interests
  • Shell artefacts of the tropical Asia-Pacific region
  • Aquatic resource use in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Taphonomic processes and shell: reading life histories from shell surfaces
  • The Metal Age of Island Southeast Asia 

Current Projects

Current Research Students
  • Brent Koppel (PhD)
  • Claire Perrette (PhD)
  • Judith Amesbury (PhD)
  • Annie Bickford (PhD) – with Lesley Head 

Selected key publications
  • Szabó, K., Cole, F., Lloyd-Smith, L., Barker, G., Piper, P., Cameron, J. and Doherty, C. In press. The 'Metal Age' at the Niah Caves: c. 2000 - 500 Years Ago. Chapter 8 in G. Barker (ed.) Rainforest Foraging and Farming in Island Southeast Asia: the archaeology of the Niah Caves, Sarawak. Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs.
  • Szabó, K. 2012. Terrestrial Hermit Crabs (Anomura: Coenobitidae) as Taphonomic Agents in Circum-Tropical Coastal Sites. Journal of Archaeological Science 39: 931-941.
  • Szabó, K. & Amesbury. J. 2011. Molluscs in a World of Islands: Shellfish-gathering and human dispersals across the tropical island Asia-Pacific region. Quaternary International 239:8-18.
  • Szabó, K. (2010). Shell artefacts and shell-working within the Lapita cultural complex. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 1, 115-127.
  • Szabó, K. (2008). Shell as a Raw Material: Mechanical Properties and Working Techniques. Archaeofauna 17, 125-138.

Searchable Publication List: from 2002

Potential Honours and PhD  topics
  • Aquatic resource use (Pleistocene and/or Holocene) in Island Southeast Asia or the Pacific Islands (hons/PhD)
  • Crustaceans in the archaeological record: approaches to identification, quantification, taphonomy and interpretation (hons/PhD)
  • Artefacts in shell: identification, analysis and interpretation (hons/PhD) 

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Last reviewed: 7 June, 2017