Classics and Archaeology Virtual Museum

The Cypriot Collection

The Cypriot Collection comprises 382 objects. One major set of 139 objects derives from what became known as the Melbourne Cyprus Expedition, and 241 were purchased in 1987 from the Institute of Archaeology with University Equipment funds. One object is part of the Chaldjian Collection and another belongs to the Vizard Antiquities collection.

Full Catalogue

A full catalogue of the Cypriot antiquities in the University’s Classics and Archaeology Collection, located at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, 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.

Melbourne Cyprus Expedition

In 1937 Jessie Webb sought Arts Faculty funds to sponsor James Stewart's excavations in Cyprus, on the understanding that the University would receive samples of any pottery uncovered.

Arts Faculty minutes 20 April 1937 (page 296):

Miss Webb made application that £50 sterling should be voted to Mr J Stewart, an Adelaide and Cambridge graduate excavating in Cyprus, who had undertaken, if he received that support, to forward to the University examples of all pottery uncovered by him. This request had, subject to ratification by the Faculty, been approved by the University Finance Committee, it being suggested that the amount might be made available from the Sutton Fund or from the Arts Apparatus account. Professor Scutt pointed out that, as Trustee of the Sutton Fund, he was unable to make such a grant and could only purchase pottery actually submitted for sale. [Scutt suggested approving the grant provided funds could be found other than from the Sutton Fund, but an amendment by Gunn was carried referring the request to Professorial Board.]

It is not known if her application at this time was successful. Nothing is known of the connection between Stewart and Webb - perhaps Seltman at Cambridge may be a link.

Professor James Rivers Barrington Stewart (1913-1962), first Edwin Cuthbert Hall Professor of Middle Eastern Archaeology at the University of Sydney, excavated in Cyprus in 1955-6 (Ayia Paraskevi, Vasilia) and 1960-1 (Lapatsa, Palealona). Professor Harold Hunt, formerly of Sydney, was appointed to the chair at Melbourne in 1954 and was or became a close friend of the Stewarts. In the following year Melbourne University sponsored Stewart's work, and its name was added to the title of the Expedition. In a lecture on 28 October 1999 R Merrillees reported that the University of Melbourne made several contributions in the order of £100 each to the Expedition in the years following its agreement to sponsor, and that other contributions were made by Stewart himself and others (including people from Bathurst). Professor Hunt had planned to join Stewart for three months in 1958 but the season was cancelled because of the political situation in Cyprus.

It may have been around this time also that the nine objects from Pano Dhikomo were received. Peter Connor thought that they might have been received in around 1956, and it was with this accession number that they were accessioned in 1993. They are mentioned in the 1971 Catalogue (MUV 23-27) but were not not included on the 1958 typed list of the Classics Collection.

Stewart was appointed to the chair at Sydney University in 1960 but died in 1962. The Universities of Sydney and Melbourne formed joint committee to advise on the funds and the future of the Expedition. Mrs Eve Stewart took responsibility for the finds in 1965, the University of Melbourne turned over to her the balance of the Expedition account in 1966, and the joint committee was dissolved.

Mrs Stewart later enjoyed the collaborated of Professor Basil Hennessy (who succeeded Stewart) in cleaning and repairing the finds and arranging for them to be distributed. The arrangements were not completed until 1972. Many institutions (see below) were to receive groups of objects in consideration for their support, and some groups were to be set aside for sale to pay the costs of publishing the finds. With Eve Stewart's approval, Hennessy proposed (letter to Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, 9 Dec 1971) that Melbourne University get Palealona Tomb 10, Ayia Paraskevi Tomb 13 and Lapatsa Tomb 7A+B.

Hennessy arranged to bring a car-load of vases down to Melbourne in October 1972: "Dr J B Hennessy will be bringing, by car, the Melbourne University share of the pots on October 1" (G W Clarke, 18 August 1972, Dept files). In a letter dated 16 October 1972 Hennessy mentions that they were busy working on the rest of Lapatsa Tomb 4 and also Palealona Tomb 4 (which seems to have been substituted for Lapatsa Tomb 7A+B). He adds: "I will get the account for the $800, for the former, to you within the next couple of weeks." Thus, Lapatsa Tomb 4 was purchased for $800 ($400 from the Arts Faculty Research Contingency Fund, as noted in a letter of 2 October 1972, and $400 from a special distribution of the Research Standing Committee, in statement dated 24/10/72 and annotated by G W Clarke). Lapatsa Tomb 4 was indeed one of the groups which Hennessy had proposed "to offer for late contributions".

There was a presentation and acceptance ceremony with the Chancellor on 2 October, at a public lecture by Hennessy (Staff news). In a subsequent letter dated 9 October 1972, Hennessy mentions that his three days in Melbourne "were three of the happiest days I have spent for some time", and that he had managed to build up another nice piece from Palealona Tomb 4 and that this and the other pieces form other tombs still owed should reach Melbourne by Christmas.

Palealona Tomb 4 (plus cupboard = 4C, now Tomb 12) was presented by Professor Basil Hennessy at the ceremony in 1972 and displayed immediately (Staff News). Melbourne also got Palealona Tomb 10 and Ayia Paraskevi Tomb 13, as well as purchasing Lapatsa Tomb 4. A list of the items actually delivered at the time has not turned up.

A special cabinet was constructed in Room 632 of the Medley Building, where the finds were displayed until the Department was relocated in 1998.

No real work was done on the objects because in 1972, before they were delivered, it was believed that they had already been catalogued. In fact, the excavation report for Ayia Paraskevi did not appear until 1988 (details below), and John Burke has been collaborating with Kathryn Eriksson to finalize the reports on Palealona and Lapatsa, which are close to publication. Kathryn Eriksson inspected our collection for this purpose, and has helped considerably in repairing broken vessels and establishing the full extent of the collection. Dr Eriksson has brought down from Sydney some 30 objects that were not delivered in 1972. She has also assisted in 'discovering' a number of vases reassembled from heaps of sherds in preparing the collection to be photographed for the Virtual Museum, and 'rediscovering' two bronzes that had been assigned to the MU series. A number of pieces inaccurately accessioned for an exhibition in 1988 and have now been re-accessioned with 1972 numbers.

Site Tomb Objects Missing


Tomb 4



Tomb 4




Tomb 10



Tomb 12



Ayia Paraskevi

Tomb 13


Pano Dhikomo




Not identified




Stewart's interest in Cyprus was not restricted to archaeology, and he did not see the Expedition in narrow terms. The Melbourne Cyprus Expedition published two books:

The Coinage of Tiberius in Cyprus. Michael Grant. Publication no. 1, University of Melbourne Cyprus Expedition. (Melbourne, 1957). Ill., 6 pages.

The Chronicle of George Boustronios, 1456-1489. Translated by R.M. Dawkins. University of Melbourne Cyprus Expedition Publication no. 2, Melbourne, 1964. xiii + 84 pp. Price 40s.

The second publication, thought to be ready in 1960, was seen through the press by Harold Hunt and Eve Stewart. Both works were printed by Melbourne University Press and distributed through its Bookworm. Income from the sale of these two publications continued long after the Melbourne Cyprus Expedition was notionally wound up when Mrs Stewart took responsibility in 1965. There was $345 in this account on 14 October 1977. A small note in G W Clarke's hand indicates that $200 of this was spent on 3.3.78 on a terracotta horseman (MU 38) and $80 on 21.4.78 on 3 Roman coins (R73=1978.0120, R74=1978.0121 and R75=1978.0122).

The other institutions included in Hennessy's list of proposed recipients of finds from the excavations in 1955-56 at Ayia Paraskevi and Vasilia and in 1961 at Lapatsa and Palealona are the universities of Sydney, New England, Tasmania, Western Australia, Birmingham, Missouri; Canterbury University College, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Florida, the Antikmuseet in Sweden, the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, the Otago Museum, and the Australian National University in Canberra. According to the same document, the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia retained one tomb group from each site. A change between what was proposed and what was received has already been noted in the case of the University of Melbourne, and the Classics Museum at the Australian National University appears not include anything from these four sites, so it is not impossible that the actual distribution diverged in other respects from what was proposed.

Institute of Archaeology

In 1987 Professor Osborne and Dr Sagona secured major equipment funds to purchase 239 Cypriot antiquities from the Australian Institute of Archaeology. Many objects came from sites excavated by Stewart in 1937-8 and after the war from 1956 to 1961, from sites such as Vounous, Stephania, Ayios Iakovos, Ayia Eirini, Alonia, Kipolistia. Also included in the purchase were a number of vessels from the Penha Collection. A selection was inventoried and exhibited in 1988, along with some of the earlier Cyprus Expedition objects, at the Westpac Gallery. The Exhibition Catalogue "Images of the Ancient World", edited by Antonio Sagona and Jenny Zimmer, gives brief descriptions of 91 of the recent purchases; four are illustrated in colour, five in black and white.

The Gallery database entries were entered by students from the exhibition catalogue and the IA accession register in 1993, following guidelines laid down by Annette Welkamp in December 1992.

Sally Salter has been preparing catalogue descriptions of some of the unpublished 1987 purchases.

Some publications related to the sites from which the Cypriot collection comes:

James Stewart, 'The tomb of the seafarer at Karmi in Cyprus', Opuscula Atheniensia IV (Skrifter Utgivna av Svenska Institutet I Athen, 4û, VIII) 197-204, C W K Gleerup, Lund 1963. Includes obituary by Cambitoglou, and short bibliography. Stewart talks of the long range plan to study the Bronze Age on the North coast of Cyprus, and in 1961 the excavations concentrated on the area of Karmi Village. "The excavations, which took place under the aegis of the University of Melbourne,..." (but others contributed). Work conducted on two sites: Lapatsa, and Palealona, this publication concentrates on Palealona Tomb 11B. Map references given. Plan of cemetery plates, inventory of tomb offerings.

Alexander Cambitoglou, Cypriot Collection, Nicholson Museum (3rd edition), Sydney University 1989. Lists objects from Ayios Epiktetos, Erimi, Ayia Paraskevi, Vasilia, Vounous, Rizokarpaso, Stephania, and other sites; good map of Cyprus excavations and chronology etc.

Judy Birmingham, ed., The Cypriot Bronze Age: Some recent Australian contributions to the prehistory of Cyprus, Australian Studies in Archaeology no. 1 1973, Sydney 1974. Has good maps and discussion of the context of the excavations and their significance.

Ayia Paraskevi and Vasilia. Excavations by J.R.B. Stewart. By J.B. Hennessy, K.O. Eriksson, I.C. Kehrberg, Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology vol. LXXXII, Paul Astoms Forlag, Goteberg 1988.

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