The Graeme Clarke Teaching Collection provides an invaluable learning experience

Graeme Clarke in his office 2016, photographed by Stuart Hay

Written by Dr Georgia Pike-Rowney
School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics

Before his passing, Emeritus Professor Graeme Clarke AO FAHA (1934 – 2023) generously donated over 450 fragments and objects as a new hands-on teaching collection to enhance the educational outreach activities of the ANU Classics Museum. The items stem from excavations conducted by Professor Clarke at Jebel Khalid in Syria, a Hellenistic site on the banks of the Euphrates River, undertaken from 1986 until excavations were forced to cease after 2010 due to the Syrian Civil War. 

The objects that make up the teaching collection are those that were approved for removal to Australia by a panel of experts in Syria who examined each item. This process has ensured no items of significance or value left the country.

The items donated by Professor Clarke include ceramics (small vessels, amphora handles, fragments and sherds), metals (weapon heads, small domestic objects, and fragments), stone and plaster (sculptural fragments in marble, tesserae from mosaics), and glass (fragments and small vessels). While the individual items are of little financial value, their educational value is incalculable.

In addition to these items, Professor Clarke has donated site maps from the excavations, which will allow students to learn how to identify the original context of an object on the site. The site drawings are by the late architect Dr Barry Rowney, father-in-law to new Classics Museum Curator Dr Georgia Pike-Rowney. Professor Clarke has also generously donated money to the museum over the years.

Highlights of the hands-on collection include; a Parian marble toe (a fragment of a larger-than-life-size sculpture); a fragment of a child’s ceramic toy horse; a bronze lamp lid in the shape of a crocus flower; and fragments of fine Nabatean pottery.

The hands-on collection has been named in Professor Clarke’s honour, and is housed in a bespoke object-based learning room adjacent to the Classics Museum that will be officially launched later in 2023. The room has been renovated to appropriately house the collection, as well as provide infrastructure and materials for hands-on learning activities, and a collection of reference texts. The official reports of the excavations at Jebel Khalid have been published in seven volumes. Professor Clarke donated the first six volumes, and the seventh volume on metals, recently published in 2023, has been generously purchased for the teaching collection by the Friends of the Classics Museum. 

The renovations have also included upgrades to an adjacent set of museum cases devoted specifically to the display of student curatorial projects, creative responses, and temporary exhibits. These renovations have been generously funded by the Classics Endowment.

The collection has formed a foundation upon which new hands-on educational and outreach programs have been developed. Thanks to Professor Clarke, many new generations will be engaged in the material culture of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds.

The Australian Mission to Jebel Khalid was a joint venture of the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne.

A visit to the Graeme Clarke teaching collection is a great educational experience for students. Book your tour by emailing

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