Archive for the 'News' Category

Richard Miles reviews Tom Holland’s In the Shadow of the Sword

Richard Miles has reviewed best-seller Tom Holland’s new book, In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World, for the Financial Times. The author of Rubicon (2004) and Persian Fire (2006) has released another non-fiction workthis time on what Miles calls the ‘thorny issue of the origins of Islam’. Miles writes of the book:

It is difficult not to be bedazzled by a cast that includes ulcerated Christian holy men, Zoroastrian priests obsessed with dental hygiene, demonic emperors, barbarians with self-inflicted cranial deformities, perfumed Persian monarchs and Arab ambassadors stinking of camel.

Read Richard’s full Financial Times review, ‘Faith that moved mountains

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Classics and Ancient History students sweep the board in Australasian Society for Classical Studies prizes

The Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney warmly congratulates its students, who have won all three of the undergraduate prizes awarded by the Australasian Society for Classical Studies, and announced at its annual meeting in February 2012.

This follows a similar clean sweep in last year’s competitions by students from Classics and Ancient History and from the Department of Archaeology.

First prize winners were:

  • Australian essay competition prize: Brennan Nicholson, on “Punctuating Interruption; Interrupting Punctuation: An Investigation of the Interruption at Iliad 1.292”
  • Greek translation prize: Christian Katsikaros
  • Latin translation prize: Thomas Marr

In addition, Thomas Wilson was highly commended in both the Greek and Latin translation competitions, and Nicola Bodill in Latin translation.
The highly prestigious essay competition has been running annually since 1990. Entries come from undergraduates at all levels at universities throughout Australia, and essays cover a very wide range of topics on the archaeology, history, languages and literature of the ancient world. In many cases, winning essays have been published, and winners have gone on to establish successful academic careers.
The translation competitions were established in 1997 and are open each year to senior-level undergraduates in both Australia and New Zealand. In a single week, students across the two countries translate previously unseen passages of Greek and Latin literature, which may come from any Classical author.
February 2012

HARN Patron Michael Kirby speaks on animal rights

The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, former Justice of the High Court of Australia, is the Patron of HARN: Human Animal Research Network, a research network coordinated by Dr Fiona Probyn-Rapsey from SOPHI’s Department of Gender and Cultural Studies.

In a recent interview on ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program, Michael Kirby spoke about the announcement of his role as Patron of Voiceless: The Animal protection Institute.

He said that animal protection is an idea whose ‘time has come’ and that at Universities this is ‘a very big issue amongst young people… more people are thinking about this now’. He pointed out that ‘corporatisation of animal killing needs to be reconciled to the fact that animals are sentient beings and they suffer pain and fear’. HARN: Human Animal Research Network, is delighted to have The Hon Michael Kirby as its Patron.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Download the podcast of Michael Kirby’s interview
Fiona Probyn-Rapsey fiona.probyn-rapsey@sydney.edu.au
HARN website

Archaeology: Emeritus Professor Richard Wright receives Order of Australia and Department receives significant bequest

By Dr Ted Robinson

Richard Wright, former member of the Department of Archaeology, made a Member of the Order of Australia, and the Department of Archaeology receives $6.9 million dollar bequest from former student Tom Austen Brown

Richard Wright

When Richard Wright was asked, some 20 years ago why he was retiring early as Professor of Prehistory at the University of Sydney, he is alleged to have replied “to get some work done”. If true, he certainly followed through on the claim, since he has published prolifically since retirement and added new areas of expertise to an already impressive collection.

Richard arrived in Sydney in the early 1960s, having studied at Cambridge University. Already an expert in Palaeoanthropology, he soon became a major player in the emerging field of Australian prehistory. An early focus on stone tools has had, more than 40 years later, an unexpected and extremely positive effect on the field in Sydney. In the late 1960’s, the National Parks and Wildlife Service got wind of a Broken Hill solicitor—Tom Austen Brown—who had amassed a huge collection of aboriginal artefacts, many of them collected on trips to consult with outback clients.

Richard was sent to review the collection, and spoke at length with Brown about the importance of studying such material in its archaeological context. To everyone’s surprise, the Brown turned up in Sydney shortly afterwards to enrol in Prehistory, and he completed an Honours degree four years later. The experience clearly affected him greatly: when his will was recently read, half of his substantial estate was left to the University of Sydney for the support of Prehistory. As Dr Ted Robinson, Chair of the Department of Archaeology says:

The Tom Austen Brown Chair will be the first endowed Professorship of Australian Archaeology in the country, and Richard Wright’s influence clearly deserves much of the credit for it.

In the 1970s Richard moved strongly into the field of early human evolution, and began teaching practical courses on evolution and human bones. He was an excellent teacher, whose students revelled in the great detail and rigour he always brought to his courses, which invariably involved a significant practical component. He developed a set of statistical tools, first for the analysis of human skulls and then for other large datasets. Those of us fortunate enough to be taught statistics by him recall those very early days of computing in which Richard was obliged to write all of his own code, and develop many of his own algorithms. These programs, grouped into a package called MV-ARCH, are still widely used in Archaeology, and have some functions which are much more powerful than those of the big commercial statistical packages.

An excellent scholar, efficient and practical and a very modest and self-effacing person, Richard’s talents were recognised through a Professorship and, increasingly, administrative duties. One wonders if he didn’t retire from the University since he knew that the clamour for him to leave behind teaching and research and take on an purely administrative role in the Faculty would soon become deafening. At his core, he is an extremely passionate archaeologist.

His career took another turn immediately upon retirement, when the Federal Attorney General invited him to join the excavation of a World War II era mass grave in Ukraine, something for which he was perfectly suited through his expertise in wetland archaeology and human osteology. It is this work, which he continued at Srebrenica (Bosnia) and in the mass graves of World War I Australian troops at Fromelles (France) that has seen Richard Wright honoured as a member of the Order of Australia in the recent Queen’s Birthday honours. Richard regularly lectured at the University of Sydney about his work on these gruesome excavations, although he had to be careful what he said since many of the matters were still before the courts. He has been obliged to give detailed evidence at a number of trials.

One fears for the well-being of people who have to do this sort of work. We have generally refrained from asking him about his experiences since Richard is a very private man. One would guess that he started the work out of professional interest but has stuck with it for many years out of a sense of moral duty. He explains something of the personal toll of the work in his chapter “How to do forensic archaeology under the auspices of the United Nations and other large organizations” from the recent Handbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology (2009), where he discusses how to best protect the psyches of people working in his team.

The Department of Archaeology is delighted by the honour awarded to Richard Wright – especially his ex-colleagues, his ex-students and the many other people at the University of Sydney who have been helped by him since his retirement from the University.

SOPHI students top in Australasian Society for Classical Studies prizes

The Department of Classics and Ancient History and the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sydney warmly congratulate their students, who have won all three of the undergraduate prizes awarded by the Australasian Society for Classical Studies, and announced at its annual meeting in January 2011. First prize winners were:

Essay competition prize: Harrison Jones, on “Oikist cults at Cyrene, Delos and Eretria”
Greek translation prize: Paul Touyz
Latin translation prize: Nicholas Olson

The highly prestigious essay competition has been running annually since 1990. Entries come from undergraduates at all levels at universities throughout Australia, and essays cover a very wide range of topics on the archaeology, history, languages and literature of the ancient world. In many cases, winning essays have been published, and winners have gone on to establish successful academic careers.

The translation competitions were established in 1997 and are open each year to senior-level undergraduates in Australia and New Zealand. In a single week, students across the two countries translate previously unseen passages of Greek and Latin literature, which may come from any Classical author. Achieving a fluent and idiomatic translation in strict exam conditions, without use of a dictionary, is a challenging task!

February 2011

Key Thinkers – Herodotus And The Discovery Of History

Towards the end of the fifth century BC Herodotus wrote his Histories, a work in which he sought to explain why the Greeks had won the Persian Wars. The Histories are widely credited for pioneering the Western tradition of historiography – already Cicero called Herodotus “the father of history”. But what is original about Herodotus’ Histories is not so much what he wrote about – after all Homer had already focused his narrative on a great war – but how he wrote about it. Herodotus blended history and literature, political, cultural, and military history, ethnography, geography, zoology, linguistics and religion (to name just a few interests of this highly versatile author) in a unique and sophisticated fashion. In bringing these different strands of knowledge together Herodotus’ Histories reflect the cultural and intellectual milieu of ancient Greece during the late fifth century BC when different areas of human life became subject to critical inquiry.

When: 27 October 2010
Where: Lecture Theatre 101, Sydney Law School Building, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus
Free event. No booking required.

NEAF Lecture: Temple, Town and Tombs

Dr Stephen Bourke

The University of Sydney’s NEAF-sponsored excavations at Pella in Jordan have been in the field for 30 years. This lecture will highlight some of the more memorable discoveries spanning the last 10000 years of settled life at Pella. We will touch on the first evidence of settlement at Wadi Hammeh around 12000 years ago, before moving to the main tell to begin the story of settlement in and around the ancient city. The first settled villages of the Sixth and Fifth Millennia give way to the brick and stone fortified city of the Fourth Millennium Early Bronze Age, visible both on the main mound and on nearby Tell Husn. Urban life progresses through the Middle and Late Bronze Ages of the Second Millennium BCE, first as an independent city-state of Pihil, and then as one small part of the Egyptian New Kingdom Empire. Temples, palaces and rich tombs feature in this first highpoint of urban life. The post-Imperial Iron Age has turned up recent surprises bearing on the rise of the Biblical nation states, before the coming of the Greeks under Alexander gave birth to Hellenistic Pella. Roman Pella is represented by bathhouses and theatres of the Imperial age, before the Christian conversion graced Pella with its magnificent cathedral churches and a fortress atop Husn. Islamic Pella follows on from Byzantine Christianity with hardly a break, and extensive domestic dwellings, a mosque and caravanserai testify to the continuing vigour of settled life. Ottoman Tabaqat Fahl completes the picture of upwards of 10000 years of human history on one site.

Wednesday 3 November 2010
6.30-8.30 pm
General Lecture Theatre 1 Main Quad

Price: $20 Non Members, Members $15 and Student members $5
All welcome


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