Benjamin Smith

Professor, BA Newcastle-upon-Tyne, PhD Cantab.

  • The University of Western Australia (M257), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


  • 239 Citations
  • 7 h-Index
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Personal profile


Benjamin W. Smith gained his doctoral degree at Cambridge University, UK, in 1995. The topic of his doctoral research was the rock art of central Africa. From 1997 until 2012 he worked for the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, directing the Rock Art Research Institute from 2000 until 2012. He is now the Professor of World Rock Art in UWA Archaeology; Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education; President of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee for Rock Art.

Roles and responsibilities

He has taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses in: African archaeology; World Rock Art Studies; Archaeological Theory and Method; Heritage and Society.

Funding overview

1. Hermeneutic Approaches to Understanding South African Rock Art (2000-2004) NRF: $270,000
2. Rock Art Rapid Response Team (2000-2005): $540,000
3. Patricia Vinnicombe Project (2000-2004): $40,000
4. National Rock Art Tourism Project (2000-2004): $1,490,000
5. Ringing Rock Digitisation Project (2001-2003): $935,000
6. South African Norway International Collaboration (2002-2004): $285,000
7. Landscape and Environmental Change in Semi Arid Regions of East and Southern Africa (2002-2004): $30,000
8. South African Museum of Rock Art Project (2003-2006): $7,500,000
9. Mozambiquan Rock Art Project (2003-2005): $17,000
10. Andrew W Mellon Foundation Digitisation Project Phase 1 (2004-2007): $900,000
11. Sequencing the Rock Art of South Africa (2005-2006) National Research Foundation: $190,000
12. South Africa – France International Rock Art Collaboration (2007-2010): S495,000
13. Indigenous Knowledge Systems Research Grant (2007-2011): $165,000
14. Andrew W Mellon Foundation Digitisation Project Phase 2 (2008-2012): $900,000
15. African Rock Art World Heritage Project (2009-2011): $90,000
16. UNESCO International Rock Art Archive Working Group (2009-2012): $15,000
17. Makgabeng Community Tourism Project (2010-2011): $150,000
18. South Africa – Mexico – Botswana - Mexico International Rock Art Collaboration (2011-2013): $400,000
19. National Equipment Fund Rock Art Digital Imaging Project: $60,000
20. Rock Art Dating Project – Pilot Phase (2011): $30,000
21. The 4 Sites Rock Art Conservation Project (2011-2013): $30,000
22. Makgabeng Project (2012-2014): $460,000
23. Dating Project (2012-2014): $300,000
24. South Africa – China International Rock Art Collaboration (2012-2014): $15,000 

New and Noteworthy

He was the draftsperson of the South African Transformation Charter for Archaeology in 2008 and the South African National Policy on Archaeology and Palaeontology in 2011.

Previous positions

Director, Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, 2000 to 2012.

President, PanAfrican Archaeological Association, 2010 to 2014.

Treasurer, Australian Archaeological Association, 2013 to 2016.

Current projects

He has run formal bilateral rock art collaborations with Norway, France, Canada, Mexico, China, Mozambique and Botswana.

Teaching overview

He has supervised more than thirty postgraduate students and many have gone on to take up leading jobs in the field and to become prolific publishers.


His major research interests include theory and method in rock art studies, rock art dating, digital archiving in archaeology, rock art and identity, contextual approaches to the interpretation of meaning and motivation in rock art, and the role of rock art in modern societies.


  • Tourism
  • Archaeology
  • Rock Art
  • Africa
  • Heritage
  • Heritage studies
  • African archaeology
  • World rock art studies
  • Archaeological theory and method
  • Rock art dating
  • Digital archiving in archaeology
  • Archaeology of identity
  • Contextual approaches to rock art meaning and motivation
  • Rock art in modern societies
  • Archaeology and identity
  • Archaeology of art and rock art
  • Archaeology of music and ritual
  • Cognitive archaeology
  • Archaeology of culture contact
  • Asian archaeology
  • Ethnography and archaeology
  • Hunter-gatherer archaeology
  • Postcolonial archaeology
  • Public education and archaeology
  • Cultural heritage
  • Cultural heritage management
  • Cultural heritage management and significance assessment
  • Rock art method and theory
  • Rock art identification and recording
  • Historical rock art
  • African rock art
  • Archaeological method and theory
  • Archaeological theory and historiography
  • Archaeotourism
  • Cultural heritage tourism

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Research Output 2004 2018

1 Citation (Scopus)
value system
rock art

Rock-art microbiome: Influences on long term preservation of historic and culturally important engravings

Gleeson, D. B., Leopold, M., Smith, B. & Black, J. L., 1 Jan 2018, In : Microbiology Australia. 39, 1, p. 33-36 4 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Engraving and Engravings
2 Citations (Scopus)

The last hunter-gatherers of China and Africa: a life amongst pastoralists and farmers

Smith, B., 30 Sep 2018, In : Quaternary International. 489, p. 121-129

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

life expectancy

Finding rock art

Smith, B., 2017, Field Manual for African Archaeology. Livingstone Smith, A., Cornelissen, E., Gosselain, O. P. & MacEachern, S. (eds.). 1 ed. Tervuren, Belgium: Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium, Vol. 1. p. 97-99 3 p. (Documents on Social Sciences and Humanities).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapter

Open Access

Projects 2016 2016