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The high-profile University of Otago School of Social Sciences archaeology professor has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal by Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand Patricia Forsythe, in Wellington, for his service to tertiary education and history.
The 66-year-old has lived in New Zealand for nearly 20 years.
Prof Summerhayes is the university’s foundation chairman of anthropology, an honorary professor at both the Australian National University and the University of Queensland, and has worked in archaeology and history for more than 35 years.
During that time he has conducted research on Pacific archaeology, the archaeology of trade and exchange, the development of social complexity, the archaeology of East Asia, archaeometry, cultural heritage management and the archaeology of Papua New Guinea.
He said he had achieved great things in his research since moving to Dunedin, particularly in his work on the historic roots of the languages of Papua New Guinea.
He attributed his success to the staff and facilities at the University of Otago.
"I knew before I came here that Otago archaeology was one of the leading universities in the world — it had the best lab facilities bar none.
"I’m very lucky to be here, very proud that the Australian Government has rewarded me with this, and I think it’s good marks all round."
Asked if he thought the award was an attempt to remind New Zealanders he is actually an Australian, he said probably not.
"I don’t even think it occurred to them.
"I think it was just a kind act by a colleague overseas."
Prof Summerhayes almost has a full alphabet of letters after his name already, including an OL (the Officer of Logohu, awarded for distinguished service to Papua New Guinea), FSA (Fellow of the Society of Antiquities of Great Britain and Ireland), FLS (Fellow of the Linnean Society of London), and an FRAI (Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain).
Now he has an OAM after his name.
"I feel very honoured. It came as a total surprise.
"I feel humbled by it as well."