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

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Jo McDonald is the Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at UWA. She holds the Rio Tinto Chair in Rock Art Studies.  This is funded by RioTinto’s Conservation Agreement with the Commonwealth for the Dampier Archipelago National Heritage Listed Place. Jo completed an ARC Future Fellowship (2011-2016), which undertook a global comparison of rock art, social and environmental change in two of the great deserts of the world: the Western Desert in Australia and the Great Basin in the USA. She has just completed two projects in the Dampier Archipelago:  Murujuga Dynamics of the Dreaming and Deep History of Sea Country. Her current ARC project is Dating Murujuga’s Dreaming: a multidisciplinary project aimed at direct dating the engravings and stone features, as well as refining the understanding of climate change and chronology through a series of different techniques.
Prior to her current role as Director of CRAR+M, Jo was Managing Director of a leading cultural heritage practice based in Sydney. She has more than 35 years’ experience in managing Indigenous archaeology and has been researching rock art throughout this time.

Roles and responsibilities

Director, Centre for Rock Art Research + Management
Rio Tinto Chair of Rock Art Studies
Deputy Head of School (2019-2021)

2017 UWA Innovation Champion
ARCY2004 Co-Ordinator 2019, 2020, 2021
ARCY2005 Co-ordinator 2012-2020
ARCY3011 Cor-Ordinator 2019, 2020, 2021

Future research

Rock Art of the Pilbara
Kimberley and desert art connections
Pilbara and desert art connections
Great Basin rock art
Rock art of the early Americans and Australians

Funding overview

AIATSIS Grant for dating arid zone rock art 2005 Canning Stock Route ARC Linkage Project (Rock Art and Jukurrpa) 2007-2011
Jo was Principal Investigator and JMcD CHM was a Partner organisation.
ARC Future Fellowship: Arid zone rock art of the Western Desert and Great Basin 2011-2016
Lead Chief Investigator - Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming ARC Linkage Project (2015-2018)
Chief Investigator - Deep History of Sea Country (2015-2018)
Lead Chief Investigator - Dating Murujuga's Dreaming ARC Linkage Project (2020-2025)

Lead Chief Investigator - Desert to the Sea ARC Linkage Project (2022-2027)


Previous positions

Director, Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd
Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Australian National University
Director, Brayshaw McDonald Pty Ltd

Industrial relevance

As a long term cultural heritage practitioner, Jo has good links with Industry and government, and is well versed in the practicalities of heritage management in Australia. This long term experience has seen her involved as an expert witness in Native Title and Land and Environment Court actions, as well as providing advice to government (Stage and Commonwealth) on heritage matters.

Jo currently sits on the Murujuga Stakeholder Reference Group (WA) and the Murujuga Heritage Committee (WA)

Teaching overview

ARCY 2004 - Archaeology of Rock Art Undergraduate course 2012, 2019, 2020, 2021
ARCY 2005 - Rock Art Field school (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
ARCY 3011 - Australian Archaeology 2019, 2020, 2021


Rock art and information exchange;
Gender and rock art;
Arid zone rock art;
The contemporaneity of rock art with other occupation evidence;
Direct-dating rock art;
Rock art and dreaming tracks (Jukurrpa);
Applied rock art research (Native Title arena, National Heritage and World Heritage)


written and colloquial French

Industry keywords

  • Environmental

Research expertise keywords

  • Rock art method and theory
  • Archaeological method and theory
  • Pleistocene archaeology
  • Chronometric dating of pigment art
  • Archaeology of gender
  • The archaeology of Indigenous Australia
  • Hunter-gatherer archaeology
  • Open site archaeology
  • Regional archaeological studies
  • Application of geographical information systems in archaeology
  • Rock art database development
  • Visualization of rock art


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