Professor Jo McDonald
Started at UWA: 2012
Archaeologist and international rock art specialist
By understanding how people have communicated with each other through time, and how symbolic behaviour allows people to mediate their behaviour through non-verbal communication, we can perceive many things about human responses to changing environment and social change.Professor Jo McDonald
Professor Jo McDonald is an archaeologist and rock art researcher who describes herself as ‘lucky enough to work on some of the most amazing rock art in the world’.
After growing up on Sydney’s southern beaches, Professor McDonald was fascinated to discover during her undergraduate studies that Sydney’s bush was full of rock art.
She went on to study rock art depictions of kangaroo’s feet for her honour’s degree, subsequently excavating decorated shelters to contextualise the Sydney regional rock art production for her PhD. She now works on rock art in the Western Desert, Pilbara and Great Basin (United States), discovering the context of its production through time.
Professor McDonald loves the intensity of fieldwork in the Australian arid zone and relishes the opportunity to collaborate with Aboriginal communities on their country, building strong research and community ties. This commitment was recognised in 2017 when Professor McDonald was the face of UWA Research Week.
She teaches the Rock Art Field Unit and believes the best thing about teaching is watching people discover knowledge about themselves and the world.
- BA (Hons) (USyd)
- PhD (ANU)
- Director, Centre for Rock Art Research + Management
- Chair, Australia ICOMOS National Scientific Committee on Rock Art Australia (NSCRAA)
- Rio Tinto Chair in Rock Art Studies
- ARC Future Fellowship
- Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming - ARC Linkage Project
- Deep History of Sea Country – ARC Discovery Project
Where art meets industry
Some of this rock art, or petroglyphs, may demonstrate the first use of this arid landscape by people arriving over 45,000 years ago, when these hills were more than 100 km from the coast.Read more
Breaking new ground in ancient land
Director of The University of Western Australia’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, Professor Jo McDonald is shedding light on some of Australia’s most ancient settlements and earliest symbolic behaviour.Read more
Archaeology is the study of past human societies through their material remains, the things people leave behind.
School of Social Sciences
The School of Social Sciences looks at understanding the human experience and exploring how and why society works.
Geography is the study of the Earth's landscapes, peoples, places and environments.