Dr Alison Crowther has secured an Australian Research Council 2020 Future Fellowship, worth over A$840,000.

Dr Crowther’s four-year fellowship will investigate how cross-cultural interaction transformed peoples, societies and environments in the Indian Ocean over the last 1000 years.

She will apply a multi-analytical archaeological science approach to trace the movement of people, plants, animals, goods and practices to Madagascar and the Comoros.

Dr Crowther will then be able to critically assess evidence of early long-distance contacts between Southeast Asia and Africa, particularly in relation to the early settlement of Madagascar by people from Indonesia.

“It’s a significant project that will enhance Australia’s capacity for archaeological science and deliver significant social and cultural benefits” Dr Alison Crowther said.

“The project will shed light on the history of the diverse but interconnected Indo-Pacific world” she said.

"The artefacts that people left behind, that they accidently burnt or threw out like leftover scraps of food or pottery, will help us to solve what has been a very long-standing mystery in the history of the Indian Ocean” she said.

“How, when and why people from island Southeast Asia sailed across the Indian Ocean to settle in the islands of East Africa has captured the imaginations of scholars and the public for decades.”

“What really interests me in studying the archaeology of the Western Indian Ocean is understanding early processes of ‘globalisation’ — how trade, exchange, and migration brought people, ideas and things from vastly different regions of the world into contact with one another over thousands of years ago."

“The Indian Ocean has been a superhighway for the mass movements of people and goods—from slaves, spices and silk, to religion, invasive species, and diseases—for over 2000 years.”

“I think these questions have a great deal of relevance today to appreciating how complex connectivity in the past as well as the present has helped shaped cultural diversity in the modern world, including our own multi-cultural identity in Australia.”

In 2020, the ARC awarded 100 Future Fellowships, after receiving 690 applications. This resulted in an overall success rate of 14.5% for funding commencing in 2020.

Dr Alison Crowther is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Social Science at The University of Queensland.

Future Fellowships provide a four-year fellowship to outstanding Australian mid-career researchers to undertake high-quality research in areas of national and international benefit.

In addition to the fellowship, A$60,000 of non-salary funding per annum may be used for personnel, equipment, travel and field research costs related to the study.

Dr Crowther’s previous work in eastern Africa has used novel archaeological science methods including the analysis of ancient plant remains, palaeogenetics, and geochemical sourcing to give new insights into the movement of people, plants, animals, goods and practices in the ancient Indian Ocean.

In 2019, Dr Crowther won a highly competitive UQ Major Equipment and Infrastructure grant to use High-Definition Multi-Scalar Technologies to make Archaeological, Cultural Heritage and Environmental discoveries, and has been recognised for her research excellence and leadership through the award of a 2018 UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award.

Dr Alison Crowther

Senior Research Fellow
School of Social Science

View Alison's UQ Researcher profile