Dr Martin Polkinghorne

Lecturer in Archaeology

College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

place Humanities Building (260)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

Martin Polkinghorne is a Lecturer in Archaeology at Flinders University.

He completed his PhD at The University of Sydney focussing on the people and technology that made the temples of Angkor. Between 2011 and 2014 he led an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery project on pre-modern craft economies in Cambodia. This initiative discovered the first historic bronze foundry known in Southeast Asia and continues to excavate at Angkor.

Martin leads the ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) project New Light on Cambodia’s Dark Age: The capitals of Cambodia after Angkor (1350 – 1750). This project is conducted the first archaeological investigations of Cambodia's Early Modern Period capitals on the banks of the Tonle Sap arterial rivers. Research of Cambodia during a time of quickening international trade is retrieving this period from a perceived Dark Age, and revealing critical linkages between the celebrated Angkorian past and the present-day.

In a complementary research program, Martin is a Chief Investigator of the ARC funded Greater Angkor Project's Urbanism after Angkor (14th - 18th century CE): re-defining Collapse. The Greater Angkor Project is changing Cambodian history after the demise of Angkor, from depictions of defeat and loss toward recognition of adaptation and renewal.

Martin is Director of the University of Sydney Angkor Research Facility in Siem Reap, an Honorary Research Fellow of the Asian Studies Program, The University of Sydney, and a Member of the Advisory Board of Friends of Khmer Culture Incorporated.

  • Doctor of Philosophy (The University of Sydney)
  • Bachelor of Arts, First Class Honours, Archaeology (Flinders University)
  • Bachelor of Arts (The University of Adelaide)
  • Bachelor of Business, Labour Relations (The University of South Australia)
Honours, awards and grants

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) Award: After Angkor: 14C chronologies from Longvek, the 16th and 17th century CE capital of Cambodia (AP11038).

Australian Research Council Discovery Project: Urbanism after Angkor (14th - 18th century CE): re-defining Collapse (DP170102574).

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellow - Long Term (L16507, Host: Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties)

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) Award: Characterising an elemental fingerprint for 15th – 17th CE century kiln complexes in northern and central Thailand by neutron activation analysis (AP11925).

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) Award: Sisatchanalai, Sukhothai and Maenam Noi: Characterisation and exchange of 15th – 17th CE century stoneware sherds from northern and central Thailand by Neutron Activation Analysis (10306).

Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award: New light on Cambodia’s Dark Age (DE150100756).

Honorary Research Fellow - Asian Studies Program, University of Sydney.

The Terrence and Lynette Fern Cité Internationale des Arts Residency Fellowship 2015.

Australian Research Council Discovery Grant: The Ateliers of Angkor (DP110101968).

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) / Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) Research Award: A 14C chronology of sculpture production sites at Angkor, Cambodia (ALNGRA13009).

National Geographic Society/ Waitt Grants Program 2011.

Australian Government Endeavour Research Fellowship 2009.

Research interests

The focus of Martin's early career research are the production systems of pre-modern Asia, specifically at Angkor. During his Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship (APD, DP110101968) he discovered and excavated the first bronze workshop known in historic Southeast Asia. Additionally, he excavated a centre of sandstone manufacturing to understand how the Angkorian temples and sculptures were made.

Martin holds a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, New Light on Cambodia’s Dark Age: The capitals of Cambodia after Angkor (1350 – 1750) (DE150100756). While the decline of Angkor is among the most significant events in the history of Southeast Asia, there is little known about the settlements that followed. This project is leading archaeology at Cambodia's Early Modern Capitals during a time of great expansion in international trade to retrieve the period from a perceived Dark Age, and reveal critical linkages between the celebrated Angkorian past and the present day. Research is responding to an urgent need to conduct excavation of sites at risk of urban and industrial development.

Recognising the emergence of new urban forms after the demise of Angkor challenges the global “Collapse of Civilisation” trope, and is the objective of the Australian Research Council Discovery Project Urbanism after Angkor (14th-18th century CE): re-defining Collapse (DP170102574, Admin Org: The University of Sydney). This project proposes that continuity, renewal, variety and adaptation are as apparent in Cambodia’s Early Modern Period as loss and failure. As a Chief Investigator, Martin and his collaborators continue long-standing multi-disciplinary investagations at Angkor and are conducting excavations at the Early Modern Period capitals on the banks of the Mekong and Tonle Sap arterial rivers.

Supervisory Interests:

  • Archaeology of Southeast Asia
  • Angkor
  • Archaeometry
  • Archaeology of the Early Modern Period
  • Politcal Economy and Archaeology
Topic lecturer
ARCH1002 From the Palaeolithic to Pompeii: An Exploration of World Archaeology
ARCH1001 Introduction to Archaeology
ARCH1006 Sex, Death and Ritual in the Ancient World
ARCH2106 Archaeological Field Methods
Higher degree by research supervision
Principal supervisor: Archaeology (2)
Associate supervisor: Archaeology (2)
Further information

Recent Media Coverage

Polkinghorne, M. "Angkor replicated: how Cambodian workshops produce fake masterpieces, and get away with it". The Conversation.

Lotha, L. "The little-known history of Cambodia’s ‘dark age’". Southeast Asia Globe.

Sassoon, A. "Long thought to have been Cambodia’s capital during a ‘dark age’, digs are unearthing Longvek’s place as a centre of global trade". Phnom Penh Post.

Peddie, C. "Digging into Cambodia's bright past". The Advertiser.

Sassoon, A. "Team digs into Cambodia's 'dark ages". Phnom Penh Post.

Sullivan, N. "Unearthing Angkorian secrets from an ancient workshop". Phnom Penh Post.

Massive Bronze Workshop Found near Angkor Thom”. Archaeology Magazine.

Crane, B. “Digging for where the gods were constructed” Phnom Penh Post.

Harmsen, P. “Lys I den morke tid (Light in the dark age). Weekendvisen. #4, p. 7.

Rollet, C. “Discoveries at former capital could change old perceptions”. Phnom Penh Post.

Cambodia’s Other Great Capital”. Archaeology Magazine.

Twitter: @dr_marpol

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