At the limit: 14C dating the Aboriginal occupation of Australia

Opportunity with funding
Closing date No closing date


DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

SupervisorAprof Fiona Petchey

About this opportunity

We are seeking expressions of interest from potential Ph.D. candidates to investigate the chemical composition and properties of pyrogenic carbon (“charcoal”) dating close to the upper limit of radiocarbon (14C) measurement (20,000 to ~50,000 years BP).

Over the last decade, there has been an increased number of Australian sites with evidence of human activities dating > 45,000 years BP. The likelihood of the early settlement of the Australian deserts raises questions about the drivers and expansion rates. The accuracy of any 14C date depends on the effective separation and purification of autochthonous carbon. This project will expand the quality assurance parameters currently available by assessing a range of chemical characterisation methodologies to investigate potential sources of contamination that affect the 14C analysis. This Ph.D. is part of a larger Australian Research Council-funded project led by Prof. Peter Veth (University of Western Australia) exploring the settlement of the Western Australian desert.

The candidate will be based at the University of Waikato, and the project will involve periods of intensive laboratory work and data processing of samples sourced from stored archaeological collections and ongoing fieldwork. The candidate will also work closely with Dr. Nathan Jankowski at the OSL laboratory at the University of Wollongong.

Interested applicants should discuss this opportunity with A/Prof Fiona Petchey ( The successful applicant should be eligible to enrol at the University of Waikato (please check PhD enrolment requirements).


The general Higher Degrees admission criteria apply.

This vacancy has additional eligibility criteria:

  • Candidates should a minimum grade point average of A.
  • A background in chemistry or environmental science.
  • Be highly motivated, curious, and innovative and have strong communication and teamwork skills.

The application process


Applications will be open until the position is filled.

How to apply

If you are interested in this vacancy, please email the supervisor. Please include evidence that you meet the eligibility criteria for this vacancy.


The supervisor will let you know whether they have shortlisted you for this vacancy and will advise you of next steps.


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If you have any questions about the process, you can contact the School of Graduate Research.

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