Dr Mike MorleyDr Mike Morley 

PhD Geoarchaeology, University of Manchester. 2003–2007
MSc Quaternary Science, Royal Holloway University. 2001–2002
BSc Archaeological Science (First Class), University of Sheffield, UK. 1997–2000

Phone: +61 (0)2 4221 5385

  • Research Fellow

Professional profile

I am a geoarchaeologist and archaeological scientist with particular interests in reconstructing ancient landscapes and archaeological site environments. I study landscape dynamics at a wide range of scales, from broad-scale geomorphology and catchment dynamics, to archaeological site formation processes, stratigraphy and micromorphology. 

I have worked extensively in Europe, North and South Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, focussing primarily on Palaeolithic sequences preserved in caves and rockshelters, but with broad research interests that cover a range of environments including coastal, alluvial, desert and karst landscapes. My concern is with linking archaeological sites to ‘external’ geomorphological records that can be used to tie-in archaeological sequences with catchment dynamics. This can provide a direct link between humans (hominins) and the landscapes they inhabit, directly investigating the degree and directionality of human-environment interactions. 

I am particularly interested in hominin evolution, dispersal and colonisation, and I have worked on a number of sites relevant to the evolution of our species, situated at various points along ‘Out of Africa’ dispersal routes, including MSA sites in southern Africa, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites in Sudan and the Arabian Peninsula, Palaeolithic sites in the Balkans, and Late Pleistocene sites in SE Asia. I am also working at the two key sites that have recently yielded evidence for archaic humans, Denisova Cave in Siberia (the ‘Denisovans’) and Liang Bua, Flores (H. floresiensis). 

I have worked in both academic and commercial (archaeological consultancy) environments for the past two decades. I am currently a Research Fellow at the Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS), University of Wollongong (UOW), working as part of a team on an ARC Laureate project headed by Prof Bert Roberts. 

  • Research Fellow, University of Wollongong. 2014 ongoing
  • Senior Research Fellow and Consultancy Manager, Oxford Brookes University, UK. 2008–2014
  • Senior Geoarchaeologist, Museum of London Archaeology Service, UK. 2000–2008 (intermittent)
  • PhD Geoarchaeology, University of Manchester. 2003–2007
  • MSc Quaternary Science, Royal Holloway University. 2001–2002
  • BSc Archaeological Science (First Class), University of Sheffield, UK. 1997–2000

Research Interests
  • Sediments, stratigraphy and microstratigraphy
  • Archaeological caves and rockshelters
  • Archaeological site formation processes
  • Middle and Late Pleistocene hominin dispersals
  • Human-environment interactions
  • Fluvial, coastal and montane geomorphology and landscape dynamics
  • Tephrochronology
Current projects
  • I am currently geoarchaeologist at CAS working on an ARC Laureate Project concerning Late Pleistocene hominin dispersals into and out of Asia. We are investigating a transect of sites from Denisova Cave in the north (Siberia), through sites in SE Asia including Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia), to the tropical north of Australia. Using innovative geoarchaeological, geochronological and archaeo-chemical techniques we are studying the timing, route and environmental context to hominin dispersals into and out of the region in the Late Pleistocene.
  • I am geoarchaeologist on the Trang An project, Northern Vietnam, working with a team from the University of Cambridge (UK). We have been investigating the subsistence strategies adopted by modern human populations inhabiting three cave sites in the tropical north of the country. The geoarchaeological work focuses on formation processes at the three sites, and the environmental backdrop of the Late Pleistocene and Holocene archaeology. 
  • I conduct geoarchaeological research in Lesotho, southern Africa, with two projects from the University of Oxford (UK), and The University of Michigan (US). I am working on a project in the lowlands of Lesotho (Metolong Dam) where we are examining two sandstone rockshelters that contain very rich archaeological assemblages. I am also working as part of a team on a project in the highlands of Lesotho, investigating a series of rockshelters and the adaptation strategies adopted by hominins occupying these montane environments.
Current research students
  • Conor Mcadams
  • Rykene Sander-Ward
  • Cassandra Venn (Termite mounds and OSL dating)
Selected key publications
  • Morley, M.W. & Goldberg, P. (Eds.) (2017). Geoarchaeology in the humid tropics: practice, problems, prospects. Special Issue: Journal of Archaeological Science. Volume 77.
  • Morley, M.W. & Goldberg, P. (2017). Geoarchaeology in the Humid Tropics: A Global Perspective. Journal of Archaeological Science 77: 1–9.
  • Morley, M.W. (2017). The Geoarchaeology of Hominin Dispersals to and from Tropical Southeast Asia: A Review and Prognosis for the Future. Journal of Archaeological Science 77: 78–93.
  • Stewart, B.A., Parker, A.G., Dewar, G., Morley, M.W., & Allott, L.F. (2016). Follow the Senqu: Maloti-Drakensberg Paleoenvironments and Implications for Early Human Dispersals into Mountain Systems. In Jones, S. & Stewart, B.A. (Eds.), Africa from MIS 6-2 (pp. 247-271). Springer Netherlands.
  • Morley, M.W., Goldberg, P., Sutikna, T., Tocheri, M.W., Prinsloo, L.C., Jatmiko, Saptomo, E.W., Wasisto, S., & Roberts, R.G. (2016). Initial micromorphological results from Liang Bua, Flores (Indonesia): site formation processes and hominin activities at the type locality of Homo floresiensis. Journal of Archaeological Science 77: 125–142.
  • Rabett, R., Stimpson, C., Ludgate, N., Hill, E., Hunt, C., Ceron, J., Farr, L., Morley, M.W., Reynolds, T., Zukswert, H., Simpson, D., Nyiri, B., Verhoeven, M., Appleby, J., Meneely, J., Bennett, N., Dong, N‐N., Lloyd‐Smith, L., Hawkes, J. Blyth, A., Nguyêń Cao Tâń. (2016). Tropical limestone forest resilience and late Pleistocene foraging during MIS-2 in the Tràng An massif, Vietnam. Quaternary International, in press.
  • Osypiński, P., Morley, M.W., Osypińska, M., Kotarba-Morley. (2016). Terminal Pleistocene habitation structures and riverine palaeoenvironments of the Middle Nile Valley: evidence from the settlement site Affad 23, Sudan. Antiquity, 90 (352): 894–913.
  • Sutikna, T., Tocheri, M. W., Morwood, M. J., Saptomo, E. W., Jatmiko, Due, R. A., Wasisto, S., Westaway, K. E., Aubert, M., Li, B., Zhao, J.-x., Storey, M., Alloway, B. V., Morley, M. W., Meijer, H. J. M., van den Bergh, G. D., Grün, R., Dosseto, A., Brumm, A., Jungers, W. L., Roberts, R. G. (2016). Revised stratigraphy and chronology for Homo floresiensis at Liang Bua in Indonesia. Nature. 532: 366–369.
  • Y.H. Hilbert, V.I. Usik, C.S. Galletti, M.W. Morley, A. Parton, L. Clark-Balzan, J.-L. Schwenninger, L.P. Linnenlucke, R.G. Roberts, Z. Jacobs and J.I. Rose. (2016). Archaeological evidence for indigenous human occupation of Southern Arabia at the Pleistocene/Holocene transition: The case of al-Hatab in Dhofar, Southern Oman, Paleorient, 31-49.
  • Hilbert, Y.H., Parton, A., Morley, M.W., Linnenlucke, L.P., Jacobs, Z., Clark-Balzan, L., Roberts, R.G., Galetti, C., Schwenninger, J-L., & Rose, J.I. (2015). Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene archaeology and stratigraphy of the southern Nejd, Oman. Quaternary International, 382, 250-263.
  • Rink W.J., Mercier N, Mihailović D, Morley M.W., Thompson JW, and Roksandic, M. (2013) New Radiometric Ages for the BH-1 Hominin: Implications for Understanding the Role of the Balkans in Middle Pleistocene Human Evolution. PLoS ONE 8(2): e54608. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054608 
  • Stewart, B.A., Dewar, G.I., Morley, M.W., Inglis, R., Wheeler, M., Jacobs, Z. and Roberts, R.G. (2012). Afromontane foragers of the late Pleistocene: Site formation, chronology and occupational pulsing at Melikane Rockshelter, Lesotho. Quaternary International 270: 40 – 60. doi/10.1016/j.quaint.2011.11.028
  • Rose, J.I., Usik, V.I., Marks, A.E., Hilbert, Y.H., Geiling, J-M., Galetti, C.S., Parton, A., Morley, M.W., Černý, V., and Roberts, R.G. (2011). The Nubian Complex of Dhofar, Oman and implications for early modern human occupation of southern Arabia. PLoS ONE. doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0028239.
  • Morley, M.W. and Woodward, J.C. (2011). The Campanian-Ignimbrite (Y5) tephra at Crvena Stijena Rockshelter, Montenegro. Quaternary Research 75: 683-696. doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2011.02.005
  • Roksandic, M., Mihailović, D., Mercier, N., Dimitrijević, V., Morley, M.W., Rakočević, Z., Babb, J., Silcox, M., and Guibert, P. (2011). A human mandible (BH-1) from the Pleistocene deposits of Mala Balanica cave (Sićevo Gorge, Niš, Serbia). Journal of Human Evolution 61: 186-196.doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.03.003
  • Rabett, R., Appleby, J., Blyth, A., Farr, L., Gallou, A, Griffiths, T., Hawkes, J., Marcus, D., Marlow, L., Morley, M., Penkman, K., Reynolds, T., Stimpson, C., Cao Tâń, N., and Van Son, N. (2011). Investigation of A Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene Inland Shell Midden from Tràng An, Northern Vietnam. Quaternary International 239: 153-169. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2010.01.025

Potential honours and PhD projects
  • Micromorphology and geoarchaeology of cave and rockshelter sequences in humid tropical environments
  • Using FTIR and Raman spectroscopy with micromorphological analyses to study the depositional and post-depositional histories of archaeological sediments
  • Quaternary landscape dynamics and environmental change: implications for hominin populations and the peopling of Asia
  • River system behaviour in response to Quaternary climate change and implications for hominin use of valley floor environments and riverine resources

I am also happy for potential students to submit their own project proposals to me as long as they link into my research interests and we can explore ways to develop a topic together.


Last reviewed: 5 July, 2017