"History is the study of “present traces of the past”, as historian Judith
Allen once put it. In our Pacific Matildas research project, we are recovering
the hidden traces of the first female archaeologists in the Pacific.
Historians of western science have well documented the “Matilda effect”: how
female scientists were written out of history, with barriers to accessing
education, qualifications and professional roles.
Often, women had to practice science via alternative pathways (such as by
making scientific illustrations). This rendered them invisible in the records
and/or concealed by the “halo effect” – where prominent scientists (typically
older, white men) were credited for the work of less recognised collaborators.
Archaeology, the discipline that uses material remains of the past to trace
human history, has long been associated with the image of a solitary masculine
adventurer rather than a woman with a trowel in hand. The TrowelBlazers
project, for instance, seeks to remedy this by celebrating women
archaeologists, palaeontologists and geologists.
Pacific Matildas focuses on our own region, Oceania, to tell the stories of the
first women in the field, to understand the barriers they faced and highlight
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics