Classics and Archaeology Classics and Archaeology Collection

Exhibitions

Exhibitions are organised in the Classics and Archaeology Gallery in the Ian Potter Museum of Art.

 

Current Exhibition

Current Exhibition: Secret Lives, Forgotten Stories: Highlights from Heritage Victoria’s Archaeological Collection

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 16 April to 12 October 2014

Presented in partnership with Heritage Victoria, Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure

Curator: Andrew Jamieson

This exhibition features highlights from the archaeological collection of Heritage Victoria. The field of historical archaeology has developed and matured over the last 20 years and for the first time it is now possible to see the evolving story of Victoria's settlement and development reflected in its archaeology.

Excavations in Victoria have uncovered significant archaeological remains and relics. Objects from the failed 1803 settlement site near Sorrento are perhaps the oldest historical artefacts ever found in Victoria; these will be on display alongside artefacts from the Eureka historic precinct that relate to the Victorian goldfields and the gold rush. Chinese gaming tokens and ceramic jars reflect the activity at a Bendigo kiln site and market garden in the 1880s and an assortment of small finds from the home of a seamstress at Cohen Place in the CBD shed light on life in early Melbourne.

Fine porcelain and other prestigious items found in the ruins of Viewbank homestead on the banks of the Yarra near Heidelberg provide an insight into the way of life of Melbourne’s developing upper class. More recent discoveries at the former Pentridge prison include artefacts associated with Ned Kelly, one of the most notorious of all Australians. The exhibition will also include items recovered from two unique Victorian shipwrecks: the Cheviot and the City of Launceston.

 

Past Exhibitions

Jericho to Jerusalem

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 23 October 2013 to 6 April 2014

The Classics and Archaeology Collection at the University of Melbourne includes an important collection of Bronze and Iron Age pottery from the excavations of Dame Kathleen Kenyon (1906–1978) at Jericho and Jerusalem. Kathleen Kenyon was arguably the most influential woman archaeologist of the twentieth century. Kenyon made particularly significant contributions in the field of excavation techniques and ceramic methodology.

Kathleen Kenyon is best known for her excavations at Jericho and Jerusalem. Through these in particular, she helped to train a generation of archaeologists, including Australian scholar Basil Hennessey, who went on to become a professor of Near Eastern archaeology at the University of Sydney. In the 1950s, the University of Melbourne received a small Middle Bronze Age pottery corpus from Tomb A136 at Jericho and a portion of a large Iron Age (II) deposit from Cave 1 in Jerusalem, excavated by Kenyon from 1952 to 1954 and 1961 to 1967 respectively. This exhibition presents over 100 remarkable early ceramics from these famous excavations and tells the story of Kathleen Kenyon’s contribution to archaeology.

The John Hugh Sutton Collection

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 17 April to 13 October 2013

An antiquities collection established in 1925 in memory of John Hugh Sutton, an outstanding Classics student and resident of Trinity College.

Ceramic Art of Ancient Cyprus

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 21 April to 14 October 2012

The University of Melbourne has one of the most important collections of Cypriot antiquities in Australia. The collection is representative of the human history of this strategically important island and includes a wide range of Bronze and Iron Age artefacts that were brought to Australia by the late Professor JR Stewart from the 1930s until the early 1960s.

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and is renowned as the island of Aphrodite. The exhibition featured significant ceramic assemblages recovered from Bronze Age tombs at Vounous from 1937 to 1938 and the Bronze Age cemeteries at Karmi in 1961.

The exhibition was a collaboration between Dr Andrew Jamieson, Classics curator at the Ian Potter Museum of Art and Dr Jennifer Webb and Professor David Frankel, both from the Archaeology Program, La Trobe University.

Treasures: Antiquities from Melbourne Private Collections

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 22 October to 15 April 2012

For those with an interest and appreciation of past civilisations, antiquities are objects of great enchantment. Private collections of antiquities began when the first European travellers visited the ancient sites in Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Near East, where they legally acquired the majority of artefacts according to the laws of the day. The subsequent dissolution of these European collections created the majority of the objects circulating in the antiquities market today.

Melbourne is fortunate to have a number of important private collections of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern objects. Treasures featured a selection of these rare artefacts, many of which were publicly displayed for the first time. Not only do these intricately crafted works reveal fascinating insights into the history and society of the time, but they also reveal the passions and motivations of collectors.

Casts and copies: Ancient and Classical Reproductions

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 16 April to 16 October 2011

Most of the objects in this exhibition were acquired by the Classics and Middle Eastern Studies departments of the University of Melbourne in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s to enhance teaching and research. Many of the certified casts were obtained from the prestigious international institutions which housed the originals, including the Louvre, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Remarkable in their own right, key works include the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, the Mesha Stele and the Acropolis kore.

The exhibition includes significant plaster casts of Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek and Roman originals that date from the 4th millennium BCE to the 2nd century CE.

See: Katrina Raymond, 'Reproducing the ancient world', Voice, vol. 7, no. 4, 10 April-8 May 2011, p. 7.

Ancient Coins: Heads and Tales from Antique Lands

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 26 October 2010 to 10 April 2011

This exhibition featured selected coins from the empires of the Greco-Roman world and the regions beyond. Symbols and standards, Greek gods and goddesses, Roman emperors and politicians, Parthian kings and Sassanian rulers, heroes and mythological creatures dominate the iconography of ancient drachmas, denarii and darics. The heads of Athena and Apollo, Alexander and Augustus, Christ and Constantine, Diocletian and Domitian, Herakles and Hadrian, Juno and Jupiter, Minerva and Mercury, Pegasus and Pan, Venus and Vespasian and Trajan and Zeus feature on many of the ancient coins in this exhibition, revealing fascinating tales from antique lands.

See: Katrina Raymond, 'Heads and tales from antique lands', Voice, vol. 6, no. 11, 8 November-12 December 2010, p.7.

Devotion and Ritual

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 17 April 2010 to 17 October 2010

The terms 'devotion' and 'ritual' evoke practices that are followed piously, in a prescribed order, often involving the performance of rites or ceremonies that are regularly and routinely observed. In the ancient and tribal worlds, devotional and ritualistic acts are remarkably varied and complex. Within different regions, societies developed specific mythologies and belief systems unique to that locality. Different groups produced devotional objects - some for ritual use - that are the hallmarks of their cultures and civilisations. The objects in this exhibition speak not of one codified or universal belief system, but of many different customs and traditions. Selected artefacts from the Mediterranean, African, Meso-American and Oceanic regions represent unique examples of relics associated with ceremonial practices, belief systems and sacred customs of the ancient and tribal worlds.

Texts and Textiles

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 16 October 2009 to 11 April 2010

Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mesopotamian clay tablets, ancient Greek papyrus, fragments of woven linen Pharaonic tunics and woollen Coptic shawls feature in this exhibition that explores how texts and textiles were produced and used in antiquity. Highlights include papyrus fragments from a book by Thucydides found at Oxyrhyncus, faience shawabti figurines inscribed with lines of hieroglyphs known as Spell Six of the Book of the Dead and part of a Coptic tunic (or possible wall hanging) made from linen and wool with elaborate embroidered patterns. This exhibition offers a view into the lives of elite as well as average citizens from the great river valleys of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations through the texts and textiles that they read and wore.

Selected Artefacts from the David and Marion Adams Collection

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 16 April 2009 to 11 October 2009

Professor Marion Adams (1932–1995) enjoyed a long and distinguished academic career in the field of German literature at the University of Melbourne. She was dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1988 to 1993 — a milestone in the history of the University of Melbourne, as she was the first women to hold this office. Among her many interests was an enthusiasm for collecting objects from antiquity. During her lifetime Marion acquired an impressive art collection including works from Greece and Rome, Egypt and the Near East, Africa, India, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Following her untimely death on 6 January 1995, Marion's husband David Adams continued to add to the collection in memory of his wife and as a legacy of their shared interest in the cultures of the past.

Greek Vases

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 20 September 2008 to 5 April 2009


Some of the most important pottery producing centres of the Greek world are represented in the University of Melbourne Classics and Archaeology Collection: Athens, Corinth, east Greece and south Italy. This important collection covers the period from the thirteenth to the fourth centuries BCE and is one of the most highly regarded collections of classical antiquities in  Australia.

Australian Archaeologists at Pella

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 10 April to 14 September 2008

This exhibition looks at the ancient city of Pella in the North Jordan Valley and tells the story of technology, trade and daily life over many centuries. It also describes the significant discoveries Australian archaeologists have made in Jordan for over fifty years. Excavations have revealed Pella as one of the most important ancient cities in Jordan, with a pattern of continuous human settlement stretching back to Neolithic times (c. 6500 BCE). Objects in the exhibition are drawn from the National Gallery of Australia’s collection, currently on long-term loan to the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum, augmented by artefacts held in the University of Melbourne's Classics and Archaeology Collection.

Cypriot Antiquities

Ian Potter Museum of Art, 5 September 2007 to 16 March 2008

The University’s Cypriot Collection is representative of the human history on this strategically important island and includes a wide range of Bronze and Iron Age artefacts that were brought to Australia by the late Professor JR Stewart from the 1930s until the early 1960s. The exhibition was based on and coincided with the publication of a catalogue on Cypriot antiquities by Sally Salter (Pan Macmillan).

A full catalogue of the Cypriot antiquities in the Classics and Archaeology Collection is now available. Written by Sally Salter, a long-time researcher of this important collection, the book is generously illustrated and available from the publisher or the University Bookroom. The objects date from the early Bronze Age (c. 2500 BCE), through middle and late Bronze Age and all phases of the Iron Age and Hellenistic times to the Roman era (c. 200 CE). They are principally pottery items, including some very handsome painted jugs, amphorae and bowls from the much-admired Cypriot geometric and archaic periods.

Discovering Egypt

31 March to 26 August 2007

The Egyptians are one of the most fascinating peoples of the ancient world. This exhibition in the Ian Potter Museum includes artefacts drawn from University of Melbourne and Queen's College collections.

Illuminations: Middle Eastern Manuscripts

2 September 2006 to 26 March 2007
Persian manuscript detail Intricate hand embossing, gold inlays and exquisite colourful illuminations of plants and animals feature in these irreplaceable texts dating from the 1500s. These treasured manuscripts, from the Special Collection of the Baillieu Library detail plans and pilgrimages, Sufi poems and ancient prayers, astrological insights and weaponry.

Persian manuscript (detail) Quaran (Part 22) Surah ah-Ahzab (Surah 33)
23x15.7 cm
Special Collections

The Ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece and Rome:
Selected Works from the Classics and Archaeology Collection

25 February to 27 August 2006
The University of Melbourne’s Classics and Archaeology Collection began in 1901 and is one of the oldest and most important collections of antiquities in Australia. Many of the 2500 items in the collection come from, or reflect the cultural traditions of, the ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece and Rome. This exhibition featured objects that relate to death and ritual from the Predynastic and Pharaonic periods in Egypt, and a range of objects from the Near East, including ivories from Nimrud, stamp seals from Amman, and inscribed bricks from Elam. The exhibition also included a selection of Roman glass vessels, bronze weapons from Luristan and artefacts from Greece. A corpus of Near Eastern animal and human figurines that may have served cultic or religious functions and a typology of ancient lamps spanning the Bronze, Iron, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Medieval periods are also featured.

This exhibition, demonstrating the diversity of material represented in the Classics and Archaeology Collection, is one in a series of focus exhibitions curated by RE Ross Trust Curator Andrew Jamieson that will present key items, some of which have never been seen before, from this important and unique collection.

Early Writing in Egypt and Mesopotamia

August 2005 to February 2006
Early Writing

This exhibition on Early Writing included artefacts from the Classics and Archaeology Collection, complemented by items on loan from the Australian Institute of Archaeology, Melbourne. The selected objects demonstrate the diversity of materials used for early writing in Egypt and Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq ), and the range of uses for which writing was employed. The exhibition was initiated by Associate Professor Antonio Sagona, Head of the School of Art History , Cinema, Classics and Archaeology, and developed by Christopher J Davey, Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology.

An exhibition catalogue is available: C. Davey, Early Writing, Melbourne, 2004.

Cover - Early Writing exhibition catalogue (eds.) Bala Starr and Joanna Bosse. Melbourne, 2003

 

For information about exhibitions contact the R E Ross Curator, Dr Andrew Jamieson,
on telephone (03) 8344 3403 or email asj@ unimelb.edu.au.

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