Researcher Profile: Ian Moffat

I thought I’d make my first researcher profile an introduction to me and my research interests.

I’m interested broadly in applying techniques such as geophysics, geochemistry and sedimentology to archaeological sites. My research is strongly field focused and takes place around Australia and internationally.

I’m currently a PhD candidate within the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University doing research on applying strontium isotope geochemistry as a means of tracing human migrations in the Levant supervised by Professor Rainer Grun. Basically, I’m creating a map of the ratio of strontium 86 to strontium 87 in soil, rock and plant samples from the principal geological provinces in Israel. The analysis of this material is being undertaken in such a way as to try to mimic the strontium that might be taken up in biological systems.

Previous research has shown that the strontium isotope ratio in teeth reflects the ratio of where a person was born, provided that they ate local plants and animals and drank local water. I will be applying this by analysing teeth and bone from archaeological sites such as Amud, Tabun, Qefzah, Kebara, Skhul and Sefunim and attempting to match the strontium ratio of the teeth to a specific part of Israel based on the soil, rock or plant samples. Hopefully, this will provide some indication of where these individuals sampled grew up and hence how far they may have travelled in their lifetime

I also hold an adjunct appointment within the Department of Archaeology at Flinders University where I teach a masters subject in archaeological geophysics and do collaborative research in geophysics and sedimentology and their applications to archaeological sites. This includes projects in South Australia and in north-west Queensland with Dr Lynley Wallis using geophysical techniques on sites of interest to Australian indigenous archaeology including rock shelters, hearths, middens and burials which most recently has been published in the journals Antiquity and Australian Archaeology.

I am currently leading a project investigating the potential of geophysical techniques to locate historic graves in differing geological environments. This project involves undertaking geophysical survey with instruments such as GPR, mag, EMI and DC resistivity in a variety of cemeteries of various ages in different geographic locations in an attempt to develop robust survey methodology that is responsive to site conditions.

This work involves many collaborators from different institutions including Dr Lynley Wallis and Louise Holt from Flinders University, Alice Beale from the Western Australian Museum, Dr Nigel Chang and Steven Hall from the Department of Archaeology, Anthropology and Sociology at James Cook University and Denise Schuman from the Norwood History Centre at the City of Norwood Payneham and St Peters as well as community groups including the Battunga Lions Club, the Charters Towers Host Lion Club and the combined Newland and Yilki church councils.

I also work with maritime archaeologist Jason Raupp on developing geophysical survey methodologies for littoral maritime archaeological sites. This work is ongoing but the most recently been published in the Technical Briefs in Historical Archaeology online series concerns a possible wreck at Port Elliot, South Australia.

I have also worked on a number of other interesting sites including Lake Mungo, Ban Non Wat, the Darling River, Lake Eyre, Kangaroo Island, Stuart Bay, the Tasman Penninsula and on the south coast of Papua New Guinea.

Prior to beginning my PhD I was Communications and Business Manager with Ecophyte Technologies one of Australia’s premier high resolution geophysical survey companies. My undergraduate degrees were a Bachelor of Arts in History and English and a Bachelor of Sciences (with honours) in Earth Sciences at the University of Queensland. My honours research entitled “Holocene Evolution of the Offshore Burdekin Delta” supervised by Professor Chris Fielding (now at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln).


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