Dylan’s research focuses on the ways that human behaviour has fluctuated over centuries, millennia, and tens of millennia. In particular, his research examines the behavioural and ecological dynamics of human migration around the Pacific and Island Southeast Asia. This research involves undertaking reconnaissance survey and excavation in the islands of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, as well as lithic (stone tool) analysis, geochemical characterisation, and zooarchaeological (animal bone) studies to describe the changing nature of people’s technology, subsistence, and exchange patterns. Dylan’s current project in the Raja Ampat Islands is exploring how the earliest seafarers moved from Asia to the Pacific over 50,000 years ago, and how humans transformed their new island ecologies by translocating animals, altering the composition of the rainforest, and foraging for different plants and animals. Developing on this, the project seeks to untangle how these deep histories have set the scene for people’s environmental practices in the present, and how indigenous conservation might therefore play out in the future.
Dylan completed a BA at the University of Otago, double majoring in anthropology and classical studies. His BA Honours and MA theses, written at the same university, were completed under the supervision of Glenn Summerhayes and Anne Ford. These studies combined archaeological and anthropological methods to analyse stone tool making and pottery manufacture around Papua New Guinea. Following this, he worked as Research Coordinator at Southern Pacific Archaeological Research, directing excavations around Aotearoa New Zealand. This research was completed alongside Richard Walter and Karen Greig and involved examining the earliest stone tools made by Māori settlers, the nature of early urbanisation amongst European colonists, and the first overseas Chinese communities that contributed to the increasingly multicultural face of the southern Pacific. Moving to Britain in 2017, Dylan completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge, supervised by Cyprian Broodbank and Graeme Barker, and funded by Gates Cambridge. This research examined the earliest human dispersals from Asia into Oceania and included exploratory surveys, excavations, and zooarchaeological analyses in the Raja Ampat Islands of West Papua, Indonesia. He was Junior Research Fellow at St John’s College, Oxford, from 2021–2023 and joined St Hugh’s in October 2023.
For further information about Dylan, see https://www.arch.ox.ac.uk/people/dr-dylan-gaffney-0