Dr Craig Barker

Teaching Mediterranean archaeology in Australian classrooms

The Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney is Australia’s largest Old World archaeological museum with over 30,000 artefacts from ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures; ranging from Egyptian mummies to Roman sculpture. The education program is designed to enable visiting K-12 students to comprehend ancient societies through the critical analysis of material culture.

A hands-on artefact workshop led by a trained archaeologist or ancient historian, teaches visiting students the processes of archaeological investigation; from the construction of theoretical models of interpretation through to basic observation and recording techniques. The Nicholson Museum and other Australian collections of antiquities scattered around the country enable Australian student access to materials from cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, as well as other global societies of the past. Australian students are often geographically isolated from this material culture. While there has been quite rightly, an increased appreciation of Australian archaeological investigation within the curriculum, a fundamental knowledge of archaeological techniques, methodologies and practices are necessary for students to develop a critical understanding of the role of Australian contributions to the discipline of archaeology, both at home and abroad.

Unlike students in Europe who can easily make fieldtrips to archaeological sites or museums, Australian students are often limited by their direct access to and therefore engagement with Mediterranean archaeological practices, even if it is conducted by Australian universities.

This paper will present the teaching methodology of the Nicholson Museum’s Education program and provide some practical information on how educators and students may access information about archaeological practices and investigations in the Middle East and Mediterranean; from websites and blogs, online museum collections and archaeological news sources, student-focused tours and television documentaries. It will explore ways archaeology of the region can be brought into the classroom, in order to give students a more holistic understanding of these ancient cultures.

Nicholson Museum University of Sydney (NSW)


Craig is Manager of Education and Public Programs for Sydney University Museums including the Nicholson Museum and Macleay Museum. Craig graduated with a PhD in Classical Archaeology from the University of Sydney in 2005. He has extensive fieldwork experience from Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and Australia, and is co-Director of the University of Sydney’s archaeological excavations at the ancient theatre site of Nea Paphos in Cyprus. Craig has presented at academic conferences in Australia, Greece, Cyprus, the USA and the UK. Passionate about archaeological education, he has taught several thousand school students who have visited the Nicholson Museum and participated in numerous HSC Study Days, teacher training sessions and delivered numerous public lectures for adult and school students on various archaeological and ancient history subjects. Craig has published extensively in both academic and popular formats on the Hellenistic wine trade, theatre architecture, Greek ceramics and perceptions of archaeology in popular culture. He is the co-author of the book Fabrika: an ancient theatre of Paphos, and is a regular guest on ABC radio and appeared on SBS’s AD/BC quiz program in 2010.