Past research projects

Past Discovery projects

Australian research at Pessinus, sacral city of Cybele, the great mother goddess: myth and reality (2010-2014)

Assoc. Professor Gocha Tsetskhladze

This international multi‑disciplinary project to investigate ancient Pessinus in modern Turkey will enrich the standing of Australia in the world as one of the foremost countries in the study of Anatolian and classical archaeology. It offers an exceptional opportunity for Australian students to learn and experience archaeology in the field alongside their peers and scholars of international reputation from several countries. The multi‑ethnic character of the site will form a good ancient parallel for the diversity of modern‑day Australia. The project will advance Australian‑Turkish cultural contacts and potentially deepen economic relations through encouraging tourism to a new part of Turkey.

The Transformations of Terence: Ancient Drama, New Media, and Contemporary Reception (2011-2013)

Dr K.O. Chong-Gossard and Honorary Professor Bernard J Muir (School of Culture and Communication)

This project examines the history of the illustrated text of the 'Comedies' of the Roman playwright Terence. This material, ranging from the manuscript tradition of the fifth century CE to the Age of Print at the end of the fifteenth century, offers unparallelled evidence for the processes of technological change and the introduction of new media, from papyrus scroll to parchment book to the paper of the mechanical printing press. Our project will study how innovations and changes in these media shaped the understanding and interpretation of the written word, using Terence as a test case. At the same time, this project allows a fresh look at contemporary reception - how the attitudes and prejudices of scholars working at these key periods of change reinterpreted the text, and how these reinterpretations became encoded in the subsequent textual tradition. The two major outcomes for this project will be a monograph, followed by a DVD publication containing images of relevant manuscript pages, together with transcriptions, translations, commentary, and introductory text.

In the Wake of the Sea Peoples, In the Footsteps of Goliath: Excavating the Philistine Site of Tell es-Safi/Gath (2010-2013)

Dr Louise Hitchcock and Professor Aren Maeir

This project will enhance the international reputation of Australian research by bringing it into current scholarly debate on Philistine archaeology, a quickly growing sub-discipline in Mediterranean archaeology. Marginalized in the Bible as decadent, recent research sees the Philistines as a cosmopolitan culture resulting from migration from Cyprus and the Aegean, and interaction with the local Canaanite population. The goals of the project are to:

  • Work in collaboration with the project directory to identify local, regional, and foreign components in the Philistine material at Tell es-Safi/Gath.
  • Compare these features to those at Canaanite, Cypriot, Aegean, and other Philistine sites.
  • Document and analyze continuity and change in the earlier Late Bronze Age (14th - 13th c BCE) and Iron Age I-II (between 1180 and 800 BCE).
  • Consider the formation of Philistine culture as a product of interaction by a limited number of migrants from multiple neighboring regions in the Mediterranean
  • Increase the presence of Australian scholarship in Near Eastern and Aegean archaeology
  • Produce collaborative publications and workshops on the site of Tell es-Safi/Gath with other members of the team

Funding to support up to 5 graduate excavation assistants and 20 undergraduate or graduate student trainees from The University of Melbourne to excavate at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

This project represents a collaboration to excavate the site of Tell es-Safi (Israel), ancient Gath, the largest of five Philistine cities, the biblical home of Goliath. We are documenting new architectural features and finds, and analyzing and interpreting the use of buildings, built features (ie hearths), and associated artifacts (utilitarian and symbolic).

Recent work has uncovered several large deposits of feasting debris and ritual objects, locally made Mycenaean-style pottery, and numerous Aegean-style hearths, one of them dated to the 10th century BCE, by a sealing of the Egyptian Pharaoh Siamoun. Reconstructing the daily lives of the Philistines, is advancing our knowledge of the formulation of Philistine ethnic and cultural identity, believed to be the product of settlement by groups of Sea Peoples. The Sea Peoples are believed to include Mycenaean-Greek and Cypriot refugees that became involved in a cascade effect of destructions across the Mediterranean after the collapse of their civilization at the end of the Bronze Age (1180 BCE). In contrast to biblical accounts of the Philistines, which portray them as corrupt, evil, and decadent, archaeology shows them to be an artistically and technologically advanced culture, who introduced iron working to the region. This is a training excavation, which includes field trips to local sites, and evening lectures on biblical archaeology. Student volunteers at any level and from any discipline are welcome to join us each July. More information on the project can be read in The Australian newspaper online and The University of Melbourne VOICE web page.

Aetiana: Laying Foundations for the Study of the History of Ancient Philosophy Part 2 (2009-2012)

Professor David Runia; Professor Jaap Mansfeld (Utrecht University, Netherlands) and Professor Oliver Primavesi (University of Munich)

Our knowledge of ancient philosophy must be based on transmitted texts. Unfortunately almost all writings of the early Greek philosophers are lost, making us dependent on second-hand reports. An important source of information is the genre of doxography, brief systematically organized accounts of important doctrines attributed to individual philosophers. The project will uncover and produce the text of the most important ancient doxographer, Aetius, based on principles developed in our previous research. The resultant edition will supersede the work of Diels (1879) and be of inestimable value to all scholars working in the field of early Greek philosophy. The grant also includes an APA project on the vocabulary and syntax of doxographical Greek.

Past Linkage projects

Archaeological Conservation: The development of analysis and assessment protocols for adhesives used on archaeological pottery (2008-2012)

Assoc. Professor Robyn Sloggett, Professor Antonio Sagona, Ms Deborah Lau, Dr Petronella Nel

Material conservation aims to preserve the original fabric of cultural material with minimum intervention. Adhesives required to repair archaeological pottery require high standards in performance and formulation. One particular 'conservation grade' adhesive has been used since the 1980s. We identified a formulae variation that occurred thirteen years ago with this product that potentially compromises its performance. There appears to have been no industry awareness of this change, so the product is still used by conservators. Using the University of Melbourne Cypriot pottery collection this research will develop analytical pathways and protocols for adhesive identification, formulation monitoring and performance assessment.