Living the Dream: 27 Years of Fieldwork in the Egyptian Sahara

Gillian Bowen

Public Lecture
Tuesday, 24 October 2017, 6:30-7:45
Forum Theatre, Arts West 153 North Wing, The University of Melbourne

This is a story of living the dream; achieving what I once considered impossible. By telling my story, I hope to inspire not only young academics, but also students of all ages, particularly those who feel disillusioned and that a fulfilling career is out of reach. From an early age I was fascinated by the ancient world and dreamed of working in that field. In 1980, thanks to Whitlam’s free access to higher education, I joined numerous other mature-age students and began to study Ancient History at Monash University. Following my Honours year, a fortuitous meeting with Colin Hope and a subsequent invitation to join his archaeological team in Egypt’s Dakhleh Oasis, led to the fulfilment of a life-long passion: excavating in Egypt. It also provided me with an ideal PhD topic. In this talk I look at the highlights of my research in Dakhleh Oasis, which focuses upon the early Christian monuments of the region.It includes an introduction to the ancient village of Kellis which was abandoned at the end of the 4th century and preserves some of the earliest surviving churches as well as a wealth of evidence of everyday life. I will also look at our interaction with the local communities and the men we rely on to undertake the hard excavation work.

Gillian is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Centre for Ancient Cultures at Monash University. Her areas of research specialisation are Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, and early Christianity. Each year she undertakes archaeological field work at the site of Ismant el- Kharab, ancient Kellis, in the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt, where she focuses upon the early Christian monuments. She is also the numismatist for the Dakhleh Oasis Project.

To register visit:

For further information please contact Emily Forster:

This lecture is co-hosted by the Australasian Women in Ancient World Studies (AWAWS) Melbourne Chapter. This lecture is also part of the public lecture program of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS) at the University of Melbourne.


Hellenic Museum Summer School (January 2018)

Spend a week this summer at Melbourne’s Hellenic Museum, learning about the fascinating and thought-provoking world of the ancient Greeks. The Hellenic Museum Summer School offers a series of informative, relaxed and entertaining short courses over one week in January. The courses are taught by Dr Christopher Gribbin (who previously ran the University of Melbourne’s Classics Summer School) and cover:
– Socrates: His Life and Times
– Love and Relationships in Ancient Greece
– Understanding Greek Theatre Like an Ancient Greek
– An Introduction to Classical Mythology
Classes run from 8-12 January 2018. Anyone is welcome!
For more details, go to

The Invention of Sin

Professor David Konstan

Public Lecture
Wednesday, 8 November, 2017, 6:15
Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A, The University of Melbourne

What if English lacked the word “sin,” with its religious connotations and Judeo-Christian heritage, and had only words like “fault,” “error,” “crime” and the like? For this is the precisely case with the ancient Greek word ‘hamartia’ – a perfectly common term meaning “fault” (as in Aristotle’s famous “tragic flaw”), but which, when it appears in English translations of the Bible, is almost invariably rendered as “sin.” Is there something in the Biblical context that justifies the use of a special word in English? How do we know that ‘hamartia’ should be translated differently in pagan and Judeo-Christian contexts? In his talk, David Konstan addresses the question of when, how, and whether error and wrongdoing acquired the specific sense that we associate with the word “sin.”

David Konstan is Professor of Classics at New York University. Among his publications are Greek Comedy and Ideology (Oxford, 1995); Friendship in the Classical World (Cambridge, 1997); Pity Transformed (London, 2001); The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature (Toronto, 2006); “A Life Worthy of the Gods”: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus (Las Vegas, 2008); Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea (Cambridge, 2010); and Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea (Oxford, 2014). He is a past president of the American Philological Association (now the Society for Classical Studies), and a vice president of the Bristol Institute of Greece, Rome & the Classical Tradition. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an honorary fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

This lecture is part of the public lecture program of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS) at the University of Melbourne.

To register your attendance at this free public lecture, go to

For further information please contact Emily Forster:

The Interpretation and Excavation of Iron Age Israel: A Brief Discussion of the Impacts and Effects of the Biblical Narrative on Modern Archaeological Practice

A paper by Connor Trouw, University of Melbourne, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 16 October in Theatre C, Old Arts.

For several decades the issue of interpretation has been at the forefront of archaeological discourse, with many academics now accepting that material evidence cannot be seen as passively awaiting classification, but rather having an agency and voice all its own.  From this perspective, the 19th-century notion of grand campaigns undertaken to uncover proof of mythical kings and conquests has been replaced by a need to view these legends within the context of a past reality, with modern excavations helping scholars better understand contemporary written sources rather than the other way around.  Unfortunately, this is not a view that is universally applied, particularly when the written sources are religious in nature.  The focus of this lecture will be a discussion of one such instance, that being Iron Age archaeology in Israel, an area of research that continues to cause debate amongst academics worldwide.  Essentially, by examining two opposing methodological approaches, one secular, the other non-secular, it is the aim of this talk to highlight the need for archaeologists to approach material evidence with an open mind and accept that they inevitably apply prejudices to any conclusions they may reach.  In addition, this lecture will also discuss why Biblical Archaeology as a field of research has regained momentum in recent years, the effects such an approach has upon public perceptions of Israeli archaeology and the impact such an approach has had upon research within the wider Levantine region.

Persistence and Existence: The Survival of Assyria and Assyrian Identity Beyond 612 BC

A paper by Nicholas Al-Jeloo, University of Melbourne, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 9 October in Theatre C, Old Arts.

Whereas traditional scholarly consensus has come to rule out the persistence of Assyrian identity beyond the fall of their empire in 609 BC, evidence suggesting the contrary has been surfacing in the last two decades, gaining popularity among researchers. Depictions in reliefs of people identified as Assyrians, as well as textual mentions of a satrapy of Assyria, are found throughout the Achaemenid period in both Persian and Greek sources. This continues through the Hellenistic period and, by the Parthian period, we begin to observe the emergence of client kingdoms where the ancient Mesopotamian gods including Ashur, the head of the Assyrian pantheon, are still worshipped. With the ascendance of Christianity in Mesopotamia during Sassanian rule, there are a number of shifts which occur in regards to the Assyrian identity. This paper will briefly discuss the evidence for a survival of Assyrian identity in the textual and archaeological record leading to the late antique period, as well as the shifting of this identity to Syriac Christianity, as also illustrated in contemporaneous Syriac texts. It will also deal with the survival of an Assyrian territorial identity, both within the context of a Syriac Christian archdiocese, as well as that of the provincial administration of the Sassanian Empire. Significantly, the paper will draw upon evidence from a variety of late antique and early Islamic sources that support a continued sense of Assyrian cultural and territorial identity among inhabitants of northern Mesopotamia, thereby contributing to scholarship supportive of notions of Assyrian survival and continuity.

Tacitus’ Wonders

Conference at Victoria University of Wellington, 27-29 August 2018.

First call for papers.

Readers have been attracted to the remarkable and wondrous, the admirable and the uncanny in Tacitus. But in order to appreciate what is mirum or novum, we also need to understand the apparently mundane material between the monstra. Tacitus famously derides the praises of new public buildings as a topic more worthy of the daily gazette than illustres annales (A. 13.31.1); his own criteria for selection, however, and his own judgments on what is worthy of note, have often differed in interesting ways from the preoccupations of his readers.

Abstracts (250 words) are invited on the topic of Tacitus’ wonders.

Submissions on comparative material are very much welcome.

Reflection is invited on the consequences of different methods of dividing or reconciling historical events and historiographical representation, e.g. Woodman (1993), O’Gorman (2001), Haynes (2003), and Sailor (2008). In preparing abstracts, it will be helpful to consider the challenge extended by Dench (in Feldherr, 2009), the ‘awkward question’ of whether the much admired Tacitean text ‘represents anything other than itself’. Papers treating the Classical tradition, reception and history of scholarship are welcome.

Please send abstracts to James McNamara at Victoria University of Wellington ( by Friday 26 January 2018.

Prof. Arthur Pomeroy
Dr. James McNamara

Classics Programme
School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies
Victoria University of Wellington
New Zealand

Separating the Sheep from the Goats: Animals in Human Communities from the Roman Empire to the Early Middle Ages

A paper by Tamara Lewit, University of Melbourne, for the Ancient World Seminar at 1:00 on Monday 2 October in Theatre C, Old Arts.

Animals have received little attention in the mainstream historiography of the Roman Empire and the Early Middle Ages. Yet animals were fundamental to these (as to other) human societies, forming an essential part of the complex human interactions with the environment through farming, exploitation of uncultivated areas, industries and trade, allocation of resources, symbolism and material culture. This paper will focus on some recent findings of archaeozoology which can inform our understanding of the vital roles which animals played in the Roman Empire and the Early Middle Ages. Particular attention will be paid to the processes of change and transition between these two periods.