TARL Facilities


TARL incorporates facilities for archaeological research at JCU Townsville, Bebegu Yumba campus, Douglas, and JCU Cairns, Nguma-bada campus, Smithfield.

JCU Archaeology is strongly multidisciplinary with research clusters in three colleges (Arts, Society and Education; Science & Engineering; and Medicine & Dentistry). Archaeological science is strongly supported by the cross-campus JCU Advanced Analytical Centre and eResearch Centre providing access to high-end instrumentation and high-performance computing respectively. Specialist research laboratories include the Tropical Archaeology Research Laboratory (incorporating initial preparation laboratory, sorting laboratory with wet and dry sections, microscopy laboratory and dehumidified store); environmental isotopes laboratory; U-series and cosmogenic dating laboratory; and isotopic clean laboratory.

JCU hosts purpose-built archaeology teaching laboratories on both the Cairns (A4.204) and Townsville campuses. A purpose-built archaeology research laboratory opened in 2012 in The Cairns Institute (D3.021). In Cairns the teaching laboratory is adjacent to a microscopy room (A4.205) and dehumidified storage facility (A4.206). The Cairns campus also hosts a simulated fieldwork site and experimental plot for controlled field experiments.

The Advanced Analytical Centre (AAC) is a central analytical facility servicing JCU research and industry needs across the Cairns and Townsville campuses. The AAC is backed by experienced and professional staff and provides a full range of services from sample preparation through to final analysis and reporting as well as specific, hands-on training in instrument use.

Instrumentation and techniques used in archaeology include:

  • Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) - a Jeol JSM5410LV. This is a tungsten gun (electron source) SEM with secondary electron imaging (SEI), backscatter electron imaging (BEI) and a cathodoluminescence detector (CL). The instrument will work in both high and low vacuum modes.
  • Electron Probe Microanalyser (EPMA or Microprobe) - a Jeol JXA8200 "Superprobe" equipped with 5 wavelength dispersive spectrometers (WDS), each with dual crystals; energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS); tungsten (W) and LaB6 electron gun; backscatter electron imaging (BEI); secondary electron imaging (SEI); cathodoluminescence (CL) - wavelength spectrometer system (XCLent); and high speed, high resolution, large area stage.
  • Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer - a Thermo Scientific DeltaV gas source mass spectrometer, gasbench and elemental analyser interfaces capable of C, H, N, O and H isotope analysis of a wide range of environmental samples including soils, plant and animal tissues, rocks and sediments.
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS) -  two Varian ICP-MS 820 series instruments. Both instruments are configured to be able to be used with either solution-based samples or analysis of solids via laser ablation.
  • Multicollector-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS) - a Finnegan Neptune, high-resolution MC-ICP-MS. It is equipped with 2 different types of detectors. It has 9 moveable Faraday cups, which can simultaneously collect 9 different masses over a static mass range of 12% (e.g. 7Li to 6Li). This measurable mass range is extended to 17% (e.g. 202Hg to 238U) by an array for 4 ion counters that are attached to one of the Faraday cups, allowing the detection of 13 masses. The ion counters are useful for the measurement of very low signal intensities. The instrument used with either solution-based samples or analysis of solids via laser ablation.
  • Elemental Analyser - a Costech EA capable of analysis of environmental samples for C,H,N,O, S abundance via a Thermo Scientific ConFlo IV.
  • Headspace Interface - a Thermo Scientific Gasbench II with cold trap capable of O and C isotope composition analysis of carbonates including samples as little as 10 micrograms, O and H of waters, C of Dissolved Inorganic Carbon and atmospheric samples.
  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer - a Bruker Alpha-T FTIR for characterisation of organic and inorganic materials
  • Hydrogen Pyrolysis Rig - a Strata Engineering instrument capable of analysing biochar (charcoal) content in a wide variety of environmental matrices and extracting biomarker compounds for further characterisation. This is the only unit dedicated to such analyses in Australia and only one of seven worldwide.
  • Wavelength Scanning Cavity Ringdown Spectrometers - one Picarro isotope spectrometer capable of O and H isotope determination of water/water vapour and two instrument capable of C isotope measurement of carbon dioxide.
  • Field environmental monitoring - a range of TROLL-9500, Sc::an Spectro::lyser, Hydrolab and YSI and other logging water quality instrumentation for field deployment in a range of studies. This suite of instruments can also measure particulate and dissolved organic and inorganic carbon.
  • Gas Chromatograph / Mass Spectrometer - a Varian Saturn 3800/2000 GC/MS with additional FID for detection and quantification of a range of hydrocarbons – with autosampler.
  • Gas Chromatography-Liquid Chromatography (GC/LC) - a Varian 1200L. The triple quadrupole MS allows analysis via MS or MS-MS, with the potential for detection in the parts per billion (ppb) range and access to more extensive fragmentation information.
  • X-Ray Powder Diffraction (XRD) - A Siemens D5000 Diffractometer (XRD) theta-2 theta goniometer with a copper anode x-ray tube, fixed slits , monochromator and a forty position sample changer allows phase & mineral identification. DiffracPlus with the search/match option is used to collect and analyse the diffraction data. Quantitative XRD Analysis is performed using either DQUANT or SIROQUANT dependent on the material and standards available.
  • X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) - a Bruker-AXS S4 Pioneer X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer. It has a 108 position sample changer and allows elemental analysis on solid (B - U) and (Na - U) for liquid samples.
  • Portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) - a BrukerTracer III-SD Handheld X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer. Detector: 10 mm2 XFlash® SDD; peltier cooled; typical resolution 145 eV at 100,000 cps. X-ray tube: Rh target; max voltage 40 kV. Vacuum pump attachment. Gas flow chamber for measurement of gases down to Ne.
  • Micromill - a New Wave micromill for micrometer extraction of carbonates and other materials along growth axes for determination of elemental and isotopic composition.
  • Magnetic Susceptibility - a Barrington MS2 - comprises a meter with a range of sensors and probes for measuring the magnetic susceptibility of many types of material including soils, rocks, powders and liquids. The system is suitable for use in the laboratory and in the field.

College of Arts, Society and Education

A Mala X3M Geoscience GPR with a RAMAC XV Monitor, and a 250 MHz and 500 MHz antenna; a RM15 electrical resistivity array by Geoscan Research; a FM256 Fluxgate Gradiometer; and a AX2000 Aquascan magnetometer.

College of Science and Engineering

Advanced Geosciences, Inc. MiniStingᵀᴹ control unit with a Swiftᵀᴹ electrode cable.

TARL houses both fish and mollusc comparative reference collections along with an extensive cast collection.

  • The fish comparative collection contains individuals from 45 families, 84 genera, and 135 species found in the coastal waters of Queensland, which are useful for research in the tropical regions of Australia, Papua New Guinea and the wider Pacific. Read more about the fish reference collection.
  • The extensive mollusc reference collection primarily focuses on northern Australia and southern Papua New Guinea.
  • Our hominid cast collection contains high-quality casts of major human ancestors (e.g. Homo habilisHomo erectusAustralopithecus africanusHomo ergasterAustralopithecus boiseiAustralopithecus africanusKenyanthropus platyopsAustralopithecus afarensisHomo floresiensisHomo neanderthalensisSahelanthropus tchadensisHomo sapiensPan paniscusPan troglodytesSymphalangus (Hylobates) syndactylusGorilla gorillaPongo pygmaeus).
  • We also house a forensic anatomy cast reference collection which includes articulated and disarticulated Homo sapiens skeletons and bones with a variety of wounds. The non-hominid animal cast reference collection includes Phascolarctos cinereusDugong dugonThylacinus cynocephalusSarcophilus harrisiiFelis catus (Felis domesticus), Ornithorhynchus anatinusTachyglossus aculeatus and Pteropus poliocephalus.

College of Medicine and Dentistry Anatomy Laboratory

Reference collection of human skeletons including children and adults showing normal anatomy as well as some pathological conditions.

The JCU Library has an extensive collection of archaeological reference books and monographs as well as subscriptions to a wide variety of key journals. Access to the collection and assistance with research is very ably provided by our archaeology Liaison Librarian Bronwen Forster.