On Thursday 6 March Dr Jeff Brownrigg (Adjunct Professor of Cultural Heritage at UC and Sen. Research Fellow at the ANU, with a doctorate in music, literature and philosophy) gave us a broad-ranging presentation on the rich cultural heritage of Southern Italy before focussing on ancient pottery uncovered in the area as testimony to the various foreign dominations and influences in the area.
He also highlighted the figure of Professor Dale Trendall (1909-1995), an Australian who became an international authority in ancient pottery and who assisted many museums in the selection of appropriate pieces for their collections, including those held at the ANU. Trendall, an accomplished administrator of classics and a specialist in red-figured vases dating back to the 5th century BC, categorised the Vatican Museum holdings and as a result was awarded a papal knighthood. He wrote extensively on the red-figured vases found in Apulia, Campania, Lucania and Sicily. Jeff is writing a biography of this little-known yet eminent Australian.
With a view to providing a useful context for the presentation of images of ancient pottery, Jeff gave us a brief history and geography lesson to highlight the role played by S. Italy, especially Sicily, in the ancient world. Commercially and militarily, Sicily was seen as the centre of S. Europe, with fertile land due partly to the volcanic ashes of Etna. The Greeks settled there in the 8th century BC and lasted till the 3rd century BC when they were replaced by the Romans until the fall of the Empire in the 5th century. The Byzantine Empire was then in control until the 7th century when Sicily became an Islamic state before the arrival of the Normans in the 11th century. Some history of domination!
Members present at the talk found the presentation on the ancient pottery and its historical context quite interesting and put many questions to Jeff before the evening was wrapped up.