Dr Judith Field
Senior Research Associate
Field of Research: 
Indigenous archaeology of Australia and New Guinea, Megafauna
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 8753

Room 513, D26 Building
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Research & Current Projects

I am currently undertaking an ARC funded project with Professor Glenn Summerhayes (University of Otago) researching plant use through time in the highlands of New Guinea.  Looking at plant microfossils such as starch and phytoliths (in collaboration with Professor Lisa Kealhofer, Santa Clara University) from cultural sediments and use-related residues from stone tools we are looking at the way plants have been used through time from initial colonisation through to the Holocene.

Megafaunal extinctions has also been an active focus over the last 20 years through research at the Cuddie Springs site. While excavation of the lake floor has ceased, the analysis and publication of material continues.

 Research in the Media

BBC News, Climate 'key to beasts' demise'

Nature, Treasure trove of fossils foind Down Under

ABC News, New Evidence suggests megafauna no match for humans


ABC News, Megafauna collapse led to mega changes

PHYSORG, Hunters, not climate change, killed giant beasts 40,000 years ago


Research Students

Sindy Luu (Masters candidate) – Investigating Holocene Plant Use and Settlement Patterns in Holocene Highland New Guinea.

Simon Wyatt-Spratt, (Honours candidate) – Context and Cortext at Cuddie Springs: stone artefact manufacture at use during the Pleistocene. (with Dr Martin Gibbs University of Sydney)




Judith Field in central excavation trench at Cuddie Springs, 2001. (Photo B. McCall) 

The mandible of a Diprotodon optatum and the tarsometatarsus of a Genyornis newtoni with a flaked stone artefact wedged between them at the Cuddie Springs site. (Photo J. Field)

Starch grains from the Black Walnut (Endiandra palmerstonii), a toxic starchy nut exploited by people in the North Queensland rainforest during the Late Holocene. (Photo J Field)



Field, J., Wroe, S., Trueman, C.N., Garvey, J., Wyatt-Spratt, S. 2011. Looking for the Archaeological Signature in Australian megafaunal extinctions. Quaternary International (doi.10.1016/j.quaint.2011.04.013)

Field, J.,and Wroe, S. 2012. Aridity, Faunal Adapatations and the Australian Late Pleistocene Faunal Extinctions. World Archaeology

Letnic, M., Story, P., Story, G., Field, J., Brown, O., Dickman, C. 2011. Resource Pulses, Switching trophic control, and the dynamics of desert small-mammal assemblages in arid Australia: test of a conceptual model. Journal of Mammalogy, 92(6):1210-1222.

Garvey, J., Cochrane, B., Field, J., Boney, C. 2011. Modern emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) butchery, economic utility and analogues for the Australian archaeological record.Environmental Archaeology16 (2), 97-112.

Garvey, J., Field, J., 2011 Recent studies in Australian palaeoecology and zooarchaeology: a volume in honour of the late Su Solomon. Environmental Archaeology 16 (2), 79-81.

Cosgrove, R., Field, J., Garvey, J., Brenner-Coltrain, J., Goede, A., Charles, B., Wroe, S., Pike-Tay, A., Grun, R., Aubert, M., Lees, W and O’Connell, J. 2010 Overdone overkill - the archaeological perspective on Tasmanian megafaunal extinctions.Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (10), 2486-2503.

Field J. 2010. Comment on Holliday and Meltzer “The 12.9-ka ET Impact Hypothesis and North American Paleoindians. Current Anthropology 51 (5), 575-606.” (page 589).

Fillios, M., Field, J., Charles, B. 2010. Investigating human and megafauna co-occurrence in Australian prehistory: mode and causality in fossil accumulations at Cuddie Springs. Quaternary International 211,123-143.

Liu, L., Field, J., Fullagar, R., Bestel, S., Zhao, C., Chen, X., Yu, J. 2010Functional Analysis of Grinding Stones from an Early Holocene Site at Donghulin, North China.Journal of Archaeological Science30 (10), 2630-2639.

Liu, L., Field, J., Fullagar, R., Bestel, S., Chen, X., Ma, X. (2010) What did grinding stones grind? New light on Early Neolithic subsistence economy in the Middle Yellow River Valley, China.  Antiquity 84 (325), 816-833.

Summerhayes, G., Leavesley, M., Mandui, H., Fairbairn, A., Field, J., Fullagar, R., Ford. A. 2010. Refocusing the boundaries: Human adaptation and use of plants in highland New Guinea from 49-44,000 years ago. Science 330, 78-81.

Liu, L., Field, J., Weisskopf, A., Webb, J., Jiang, L., Wang, H., Chen, X. 2010.The exploitation of acorn and rice in early Holocene Lower Yangzi River, China. Acta Anthropologica Sinica, 29, 317-336.

Denham, T., Atchison, J., Austin, J., Bestel, S., Bowdery, D., Crowther, A., Dolby, N., Fairbairn, A.; Field, J., Kennedy, A., Lentfer, C., Matheson, C., Nugent, S., Parr, J., Prebble, M., Robertson, G., Specht, J., Torrence, R., Barton, H., Fullagar, R., Haberle, S., Horrocks, M., Lewis, T., Matthews, P. 2009. Archaeobotany in Australia and New Guinea: practice, potential and prospects. Australian Archaeology 68, 1-10.

Field, J.,Cosgrove, R., Fullagar, R., & Lance, B. 2009. Survival of starch residues on grinding stones in private collections: a study of morahs from the tropical rainforests of NE Queensland. (In: M. Haslam & G. Robertson (eds) Archaeological Science Under A Microscope: Papers in Honour of Tom Loy) Terra Australis 30 Chapter 17, pp. 218-228.

Fullagar, R., Macdonald, J., Field, J., Donlon, D. 2009. Deadly weapons: backed microliths from Narrabeen.  (In: M. Haslam & G. Robertson (eds) Archaeological Science Under A Microscope: Papers in Honour of Tom Loy) Terra Australis 30 Chapter 19, pp. 249

Fullagar, R., Field, J., & Kealhofer, L. 2008. Grinding stones and seeds of change: starch and phytoliths as evidence of plant food processing In Y. M. Rowan and J. R. Ebeling (Editors) New Approaches to Old Stones: Recent Studies of Ground Stone Artifacts.  Equinox Publishing P/L. Pp. 159-172.

Field, J.,Fillios, M., Wroe, S. 2008., Chronological overlap between humans and megafauna in Sahul (Pleistocene Australia–New Guinea): A review of the evidence,Earth-Science Reviews, 89, 97-115.

Trueman, C.N., Palmer, M.R., Field,J., Privat, K., Ludgate, N., Chavagnac, V, Eberth D.A., Cifelli, R., Rogers, R.R. 2008. Comparing rates of recrystallisation and the potential for preservation of biomolecules from the distribution of trace elements in fossil bones. C. R. Palevol 7, 145–158.

Trueman, C.N., Privat, K., Field,J. 2008. Why do crystallinity values fail to predict the extent of diagenetic alteration of bone mineral? Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 266, 160–167.

Wroe, S. & Field J. 2007. Reply to comment by Brook et al. Would the Australian megafauna have become extinct if humans had never colonized the continent?Quaternary Science Reviews 26, 565-567.

Cosgrove, R. & Field, J. & Ferrier, A., 2007. The Archaeology of Australia’s Tropical Rainforests. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 251, 150-173.

McDonald, J., Donlon, D., Field, J., Fullagar, R., Coltrain, J. & Mitchell, P. 2007. The first,  archaeological evidence for death by spearing in Australia. Antiquity81: 877-885

Field, J.& Privat, K. 2007. Faunal Remains: Blood Residue Analysis. MS 35. Encyclopaedia of Archaeology, D. Pearsall (ed) Elsevier, Oxford. Vol 2.927-931

Field, J. 2007. Analysis of Botanical Remains: Starch Grain Analysis. MS 297.Encyclopedia of Archaeology, D. Pearsall (ed). Elsevier, Oxford. Vol 3, 2078-2082.

Field, J. 2007 Geographic Overview: Australia MS 30. Encyclopaedia of Archaeology, D. Pearsall (ed) Elsevier, Oxford Vol. 3, 1699-1711.

Field, J.2006. Reference Collections for Starch Studies (Chapter 6).  In R. Torrence and H. Barton (eds.) Ancient Starch Analysis Left Coast Press, California.  Pp. 95-113 ISBN 1-59874-018-0

Field, J. & Gott, B. 2006. Case Study: Compiling a reference collection for identification of starch from Pleistocene grinding stones (for Chapter 6).  In R. Torrence and H. Barton (eds.) Ancient Starch Analysis Left Coast Press, California. Pp. 105-106, ISBN 1-59874-018-0

Field, J., Fullagar, R., Gott, B. & Kealhofer, L. 2006. Case Study: Starch Seeds and Megafaunal Extinction at Cuddie Springs (for Chapter 9). In R. Torrence and H. Barton (eds.) Ancient Starch Analysis Left Coast Press, California. Pp. 190-191, ISBN 1-59874-018-0

Fullagar, R., Field, J., Denham, T. & Lentfer, C. 2006. Early and mid Holocene processing of taro (Colocasia esculenta) and yam (Dioscorea sp.) at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Journal of Archaeological Science 33, 595-614.

Wroe, S., Field, J. & Grayson, D. 2006. Megafaunal extinctions: climate, humans and assumptions. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 21, 51-52.

Brown, O.J.F., Field, J. & Letnic, M. 2006. Variation in the taphonomic effect of scavengers in semi-arid NSW linked to rainfall and the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 16, 165-176.

Field, J.2006. Trampling the Pleistocene: does taphonomy matter at Cuddie Springs? Australian Archaeology 63, 9-20.

Wroe, S. & Field, J. 2006. A review of the evidence for a human role in the extinction of Australian Megafauna and an alternative explanation. Quaternary Science Reviews 25,2692-2703.

Trueman, C.N.G., Field, J.H., Dortch, J., Charles, B. & Wroe, S. 2005. Prolonged co-existence of humans and megafauna in Pleistocene Australia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 102 (23),8383-8385.

Slack, M., Fullagar, R., Border, A., Diamond, J. & Field J. 2005. Late HoloceneOccupation at Bunnengalla 1, Musselbrook Creek, northwest Queensland. Australian Archaeology 60, 54-57.

Field, J. 2004.The archaeology of Late Pleistocene faunal extinctions in Australia: a view from Cuddie Springs. In T. Murray (eds)Archaeology from Australia. Australian Scholarly Publishing Ltd, Melbourne. (ISBN 1 74097 063 2) Pp.18-35.

Wroe, S., Field, J., Fullagar, R. & Jermiin, L. 2004. Megafaunal extinction in the Late Quaternary and the global overkill hypothesis. Alcheringa 28, 291-332.

Coltrain, J.B., Field, J., Cosgrove, R. & O’Connell, J.F. 2004. Stable isotope and protein analyses of Genyornis remains from Cuddie Springs: Implications for site chronology and the timing of megafaunal extinction. Archaeology in Oceania. 39(1) 50-51.

Slack, M., Fullagar, R., Field, J., Border, A. 2004. New Pleistocene dates for backed artefact technology in Australia. Archaeology in Oceania 39, 131-137.

Denham, T., Haberle, S.G., Lentfer, C., Fullagar, R., Field, J., Porch, N., Therin, M., Winsborough, B. & Golson, J. 2003. Multi-disciplinary evidence for the origins of agriculture from 6950-6440 Cal BP at Kuk Swamp in the highlands of New Guinea.Science 389, 189-193.

Field, J.,Fullagar, R., Dortch, J., Dutkiewicz, A. & Gordon, P. 2003. Sandstone quarries and grinding stone manufacture: survey and excavation at Yambacoona Hill in south-eastern Australia. Australian Archaeology 5646-47.

Field, J. & Fullagar, R.2001.Archaeology and Australian Megafauna. Science 294, 5540.

Field, J.,Fullagar, R., & Lord, G. 2001. A large area archaeological excavation at Cuddie Springs. Antiquity, 75: 696-702.

Field, J.,Dodson, J. & Prosser, I. 2002. A Late Pleistocene vegetation history from the Australian semi-arid zone.  Quaternary Science Reviews. 21 (8-9): 1005-1019

Wroe, S., Field, J. & Fullagar, R. 2002. Lost Giants. Nature Australia 27 (5), 54-61.

Field, J., Barker, J., Barker, R., Coffey, E., Coffey, L., Crawford, E., Darcy, L., Fields, E., Lord, G., Steadman, B. & Colley, S.2000.‘Coming Back’-Aborigines and Archaeologists at Cuddie Springs. Public Archaeology, 1:35-48.

Field, J.& Dodson, J. 1999. Late Pleistocene megafauna and human occupation at Cuddie Springs, southeastern Australia. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 65, 275-301.

Field, J. 1999. The Role of Taphonomy in the Identification of Site Function at Cuddie Springs.  In M.-J. Mountain (ed.) Taphonomy ’95. Proceedings of the 1995 Taphonomy Symposium. ANU Canberra. Pp.51-54.

Field, J.1999. Investigating human/megafauna interactions in Australia: evidence from the Cuddie Springs site. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement No. 57, pp. 398-399.