(Deceased), 2018-06-11

Dr John Mark Beaton passed away in the early hours of 6 November 2018 at his home in Canberra. At the time of his death, just 10 days past his 74th birthday, John was nearing the end of his 17th year as the Executive Director of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. 

John led a life and made a contribution that bridged hemispheres. He was born in Colorado, and raised and educated in California, where he began his anthropological research and academic career. He also spent many years traversing Australia undertaking excavations and field work, holding academic posts, surfing, and eventually making his home here.

He earned his BA and MA degrees in Anthropology from UCLA. His 1973 MA thesis sought to use the prey choice model in an analysis of changes in the taxonomic composition of coastal California shell middens. This research resulted in the finding that human predation pressure could have predictable, quantitatively structured, archaeologically testable effects on resource availability and consumer choice. Shortly thereafter, he applied for and was awarded a PhD scholarship in Jack Golson’s ANU Prehistory department. His 1977 dissertation, entitled Dangerous Harvest: Investigations in late pre-historic occupation of upland south-east central Queensland, documented the Late Holocene role of cycads in central Queensland economies and linked their exploitation to the development of ceremonial practices both there and more broadly across the tropical north. 

From 1978-83, he held the position of Research Fellow at, what was at the time, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, before returning briefly to ANU until 1985. John spent much of the late 1980’s and 1990’s as an Anthropology Professor at the University of California, Davis before once again returning to Australia in 1997 to Direct the University of California Australia Study Centre in Melbourne. He was appointed Executive Director of the Academy of the Social Sciences in 2001 and held this position until his death. He was much loved by the staff of the Academy and is greatly missed. John was posthumously awarded Fellowship of the Academy in recognition of his contribution to the field of Anthropology and considerable impact on furthering advocacy for the social sciences in his time as Executive Director. 

It is also worth noting that John was a respectable cricketer (especially for an American) and played various formal roles in the ANU Cricket Club, including 16 seasons as Club President, services ultimately recognised with the award of a lifetime honorary membership. He loved baseball and cricket in equal measure, played flamenco guitar, was an excellent woodworker, and enjoyed dogs, guns, Irish whiskey and good company. He used to watch Cops on late-night TV to see if he recognised anyone, and would always put nature documentaries on for the dogs while he cooked dinner. 

He is survived by his former wives, Esther Beaton (nee Horvath) and Susan Beaton (nee Britton), and his two children, Laura and Daniel. For those who encountered John when speaking of his children, he could be nothing by gleeful and proud to tell you about them. He would often refer to them as his “greatest achievement”, and on this, there was never any dispute. In his life John also brought countless creatures into his household, the ever-present hounds but also notably twin yellow-crested cockatoos named Sydney and Adelaide (who now reside at the wildlife park in California) and the occasional turtle. In addition to the human members of his family, John is survived by three “house-wolves” – Walter, Rusty, and Odie (the defacto Academy mascot). They are being well-cared for in his absence.

John had a gift for language, always using exactly the right word for his intention, referencing EB White and New Yorker cartoons often, and was fond of saying “that’s no way to run an airline” or “that dog won’t hunt” if something wasn’t up to scratch. He dispensed infinite “benefit of the doubt” and encouraged others to extend their abilities and confidence. Those who had the pleasure of knowing John are the better for it, and in his children and those students, researchers, cricketers and staff that he mentored - his legacy will be carried on


Thomas, David B. and John Beaton

1968 The Trancas Canyon cemetery site (4-LAn-197): UCLA Archaeological Survey Annual Report, 10:163-174.

Beaton, J. M. and G. L. Walsh

1977 Che-Ka-Ra, Mankind, 11:46-48.

Beaton, John and Rhys Jones

1984 Man in the Late-Quaternary history of Australia. In Wilford, G. E. (ed.) Quaternary Studies in Australia: Future Directions. Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics. Record 1984/14:11-30. Canberra.

Bliege Bird, Rebecca, Bird, Douglas, and John M. Beaton

1995   Children and traditional subsistence on Mer (Murray Island), Torres Strait. Australian Aboriginal Studies 1995 (1) 2-17.

Hugo, Graeme and John Beaton.

2003a An environmentally sustainable Australia. In, Social Science in Australia’s National Research Priorities. Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

Graycar, Adam and John Beaton

2003b. Safeguarding Australia. In, Social Science in Australia’s National Research Priorities. Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.


Beaton, John M.

1972 Exploring hunter-gatherer strategies in differing habitat associations. UCLA Archaeological Survey Annual Report, 12.

1972 Resource utilization: increasing fitness through diversity. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southwestern Anthropological Association, Long Beach, California.

1976 Review of J. Greenway "Down Among the Wild Men." American Anthropologist 78(1):177.

1978 Archaeology and the Great Barrier Reef. Philosophical Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, B. 284:141-147.

1978 Dangerous Harvest. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. The Australian National University.

1978 Carnarvon Gorge Sites. In The Heritage of Australia. Macmillan and Company, Melbourne.

1981 With Thanks. In The Perception of Evolution: Essays Honoring Joseph B. Birdsell. Edited by L. Mai, E. Shanklin and R. Sussman. Anthropology UCLA 7(1 and 2):11-15

1982 Fire and Water: Aspects Australian Aboriginal management of cycads. Archaeology in Oceania 17(1):51-58.

1983 Terrestrial photogrammetry in Australian archaeology. In Australian Field Archaeology. Edited by G. Connah. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Canberra.

1983 Does "Intensification" account for changes in the Holocene archaeological record? Archaeology in Oceania. 18(2):94-97.

1985 Evidence for a coastal occupation time-lag at Princess Charlotte Bay (North Queensland) and implications for coastal colonization and population growth theories for Aboriginal Australia. Archaeology in Oceania 20:1-20.

1985 A method for estimating organic matter content in archaeological sediments. Australian Archaeology 20:28-31.

1986 Up Periscope: Reply to Cribb. Archaeology in Oceania 21(3)75.

1990 The importance of past population for prehistory. In Hunter-Gatherer Demography, Past and Present, edited by B. Meehan and N. G. White. Oceania Monographs. 39:23-40. University of Sydney. Sydney.

1991a Wanderers' Cave and Rainbow Cave; two rockshelters in the Carnarvon Range of central Queensland. Queensland Archaeological Research. 8:3-32.

1991b Colonizing continents: Some problems from Australia and the Americas. In The First Americans, Search and Research, edited by Tom D. Dillehay by David J. Meltzer. CRC Press, Boca Raton.

1991c Archaeological excavations at Cathedral Cave, Queensland. In Queensland Archaeological Research. 8:33-84.

1991d Paleoindian occupation greater than 11,000 years B.P. at Tule Lake, Northern California. Current Research in the Pleistocene. 8:5-7.

1991e Extensification and Intensification in Central California prehistory. Antiquity. 65:946-952.

1993a Intensification in Aboriginal prehistory. In Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia, edited by J. P. White. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Canberra.

1993b Review of D.R. Horton Recovering the Tracks. Archaeology in Oceania 28(2)100-101.

1993c Short review of D.R. Horton Recovering the Tracks. American Anthropologist 95:34.

1994a Review of M. Smith, M. Spriggs and B. Frankhauser "Sahul in Review; Pleistocene archaeology in Australia, New Guinea and Island Melanesia. Antiquity 68(261):893-895.

1994b Seven ways of seeing rock art. Review article. Antiquity 68(258):158-162.

1995 The transition of the coastal fringe. Transitions: Pleistocene to Holocene in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Antiquity 69:798-806.

2000 The Extreme South: Fortysome degrees of separation. Contribution to festschrift volume on Western Pacific prehistory honouring Professor Jim Allen. ANU.