Professor Simon Holdaway

I am professor of archaeology in the Anthropology Dept. University of Auckland.

My fascination with archaeology  began in Form 1 – year 7 in the modern system – with a school project on ‘Early Man’ (it was back in the days of engendered language). I made a clay model of a cave, stole one of my sister’s dolls and painted it in what I thought might be appropriate colours carefully ripping up the doll’s clothes to produce a suitable effect. She never forgave me but the teacher seemed impressed. About the same time I started a school extension program in the Otago Museum – taught by Les Lockerbie. Years later I would discover that Les was one of the founders of modern archaeology in New Zealand but at the time it was the Egyptian mummies and the Greek pottery that fascinated me. My interest in archaeology stayed with me but I didn’t get much opportunity to follow it until university. Here I began to study anthropology quite stunned by the wealth of material on different cultural experiences that was presented. Lectures by the late Prof. Peter Wilson were a highlight. He just talked – not notes, no power points, sitting most often cross legged on a table at the front of the lecture theatre. He told us about social theories for human evolution ranging it seemed across an almost impossible range of topics. My summers quickly developed into times for applying what I had learnt in class. I worked on archaeological excavations in the North Island with University of Auckland archaeologists up the east coast from the Bay of Plenty to the Coromandel. Back in the South I drove an old land-rover around North Otago and South Canterbury excavating for dating samples from numerous ovens.

Simon at Combe-Capelle

My own PhD research investigated the shift in stone artefact technology associated with the transition from Neanderthals to modern humans (thats me at Combe Capelle in the 1980s). I left the US at the beginning of the 1990s and shortly thereafter took up a position at La Trobe University in Melbourne. Here I applied much of what I had learnt working in France working first on cave sites from the southwest of Tasmania and later on more recent sites in the outback of western NSW. My research interests developed from understanding stone technologies to understanding how Aboriginal people dealt with the unpredictability of climate change in the past. Currently I have projects looking at the relationship between humans and environment change in the north of Cape York, Australia and here in the Fayum region of Egypt.  In Cape York I plan to investigate how Aboriginal people dealt with shifts in the abundance of both coastal and inland resources in response to changes in the magnitude of the monsoon. In all my fieldwork and research it is student involvement that I most prize. Getting students into the field turns lectures alive and develops their fascination with the past and present human cultures.

Dr Rebecca Phillipps

I am a Professional Teaching Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Auckland.

Rebecca on Kom W

I received a MA in Ancient History (Egyptology) where I focused on Egyptian language and New Kingdom history.  Before that I completed a BA in Anthropology, Ancient History and Theology.  My interest in field archaeology and science drew me back to Anthropology in 2007, where I began my PhD.  My PhD research focused on human-environment interaction in the Neolithic, particularly human movement during this crucial period of economic change.  I am currently working on GIS and database management for eResearch across multiple projects and lecturing in the department.

Survey in the Fayum

I am really interested in agricultural development and water management in Egypt right from prehistoric times through to present day.  I want to know how people dealt with climate change, ecological constraints and food production in the past, and how they continue to do so.  This can be investigated both on a state level but also on a much smaller scale, say a village or family unit. I hope to expand this research in the near future.  I have worked on the Fayum project since 2004, in addition number of archaeological projects in New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and of course Egypt.

Josh Emmitt

Josh at the Wadi el Rayan

I am a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at The University of Auckland.  I completed my Masters in archaeology last year and have been a part of the Fayum team since 2009. My MA thesis investigated the Neolithic ceramics from Kom W and my PhD research will expand on this. I received my BA in Ancient History (Egyptology) and Anthropology in 2008 and have traveled throughout Egypt. I enjoy photography and am always looking for a new place to visit.

Natasha Phillips

I am a MA candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Auckland.

Natasha in the Fayum

I’ve been a part of the Fayum Project since 2008. After spending 2011 in South Africa, working for the University of the Witwatersrand as a research assistant and GIS specialist in archaeology, I returned to the University of Auckland to complete a Masters in archaeology and to be part of the 2012 team in Egypt. My MA assesses early- to mid-Holocene evidence for human behavioural change in Northeast Africa. The Fayum, along with data collected in previous field seasons is a key case study in this research. My core interests as an archaeologist revolve around understanding past systems of human-environment interaction at multiple spatial and temporal scales and the formation processes involved. Surveying, excavation and the gadgets/equipment we use are my ultimate love interests. Whether I’m digging holes (“gardening”) in my backyard or “shooting lasers” with the Leica Total Station in the middle of the desert I’m in my happy place.

 Tara Copplestone

Tara working on Rapanui

I am a graduate student of the University of Auckland, having just completed my BA (Hons) year. I am a self proclaimed nerd both within archaeological contexts and also in my outside interests-  spending most of my time (when not in the field) on computers and playing with gadgets. For my recent dissertation I constructed a agent-oriented programme which simulated the differential development and maintenance of hierarchy and management strategies within the Hawaiian islands, using individual algorithm parameters to direct this investigation in a bottom-up methodology. I have a passion (some say bizzare love) for data management of data entry, structuring and processing. As mentioned before I also love coding and building programmes and will be looking to do my further post-graduate education as a crossover between programming and archaeology. When not in archaeology mode I spend my time gaming and horse riding.


Matt Barrett

Matt in the field in New Zealand

I am a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Auckland. Originally from England, I moved to Nelson, NZ with my family where I finished high school before completing my BA at Auckland University, majoring in Anthropology and Ancient History. I just finished my BA(Hons) in Archaeology in 2012, focusing on the Fayum for my dissertation. I am going into the field in the Fayum for the first time this year, and plan to continue working on the project for my Masters. I enjoy all things Egyptian and archaeological and of course, following the football!


Samantha Lagos

In 2013 I will be beginning my Masters at the University of Auckland. I completed my Honors dissertation on the concept of the Neolithic Package in southwest Asia and Egypt, so it’s really exciting to finally be here to see some of these things first hand. I’ve been out in the field a wee bit in New Zealand, but this is my first time experiencing archaeology overseas, AND visiting Egypt: double the excitement!


Rachel Scott

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland. My research investigates the diet and health of ancient Egyptians during a period of paleoenvironmental and socio-political change using bioanthropological techniques – looking at their skeletons. Prior to moving to Auckland I began my university career at Canterbury University, Christchurch where I first became interested in anthropology and ancient history. I followed this interest to the University of Otago because archaeology and biological anthropology were on offer. I completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Science degree.  My Masters thesis investigated the skeletal trauma of Pacific Island populations in prehistory so studying the ancient Egyptians has been an interesting and rewarding change as the environment and techniques applied are very different.

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