In 1963, the late Alexander Cambitoglou AO was the first Greek to be appointed professor at an Australian university. A professor in the Department of Classical Archeology at the University of Sydney, he was famous for his dedication and thoroughness in his chosen field, which continued beyond his death in the form of his bequest of 6 million dollars to the Australian Archaeological Institute in Athens (AAIA).
The late professor founded the institute in 1980 to promote research of the highest standards in classical archeology and wider Greek studies. Prominent Australian archaeologists such as Macquarie University Associate Professor Kenneth Sheedy (Director of the Australian Center of Ancient Numismatic Studies) and Professor John K Papadopoulos (Department of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles) have benefited from their experience with the Institute.
“The AAIA is a research and teaching center focused on Greek and Mediterranean studies, with an emphasis on archaeological fieldwork. The Institute offers research opportunities, scholarships and scholarships. It offers practical assistance to Australian students and scholars to continue their research and share it both nationally and internationally, ”the institute director told Neos Kosmos.
Dr Paspalas, who has also benefited from AAIA programs, said the late professor’s legacy would be used to “strengthen AAIA and secure its future.”
“It is very generous (bequest) and the late professor, when devising the bequest, intended to ensure that the AAIA fulfilled its role in promoting research of the highest standards, the educating Australian students and disseminating information to the public, ”said Dr Paspalas.
READ MORE: Alexander Cambitoglou, Australia’s first Greek university professor dies aged 97
“I first knew him as a teacher (at the University of Sydney) in 1981, but I really got to know him in 1984 when he invited me to participate in the excavations of the ‘institute at its Torone site in Halkidiki,’ said Dr Paspalas. .
The archaeological site of Torone, which dates from the Neolithic (3300 BC), was developed by Professor Cambitoglou in the mid-1970s. The site covers various phases of history up to the Ottoman occupation .
“This (being at the Torone site) deepened my understanding of the archaeological process in how we have so much material in the ancient world. But it’s one thing to see this material in books or photographs, but to be there and see it pulled (out of the ground), cleaned up and studied for years – that’s one of the foundations of archeology where it (an artefact) is best studied where it is, which is why the fieldwork is so important, ”said Dr Paspalas
The first archaeological site that Professor Cambitoglou developed was in 1967 in Zagora on the island of Andros – a well-preserved Iron Age settlement dating from around 900 to 700 BC. The AAIA has also facilitated sites on the island of Kythera and Laconia in the southern Peloponnese.
“We believe what AAIA is doing is right, not just for Sydney, but for all of Australia as it represents universities across the country.”
Many students who studied classical archeology went on to work on archaeological sites in Australia.
“Archeology is the study of human societies, so the basic principles are the same, but there are some differences between classical archeology in Greece and archeology in Australia.
“Greece is one of the main players in archeology with a tradition dating back almost two centuries and there is no shortage of material there ranging from the Paleolithic to the beginning of the modern era. There is a lot to learn and new scientific methods being applied, ”said Dr Paspalas.
One example was the work of Dr Matthias Leopold of the University of Western Australia who was conducting geophysical methods (using radar beams) in central Athens what lies below without the need to excavate.
The institute has developed links with the Greek government to facilitate the work of Australians who wish to conduct research in Greece. The members of the institute come from all over Australia.
“Once the pandemic is over, the AAIA will once again bring leading archaeologists from Greece and beyond on tour of Australia for six weeks. This is a flagship role of the institute which also aims to promote Greek culture to Australians and not just to send Australians to Greece.
This intercultural exchange motivated Professor Cambitoglou upon his arrival in Australia in 1960.
“Once in Australia, he made it his mission to strengthen ties between Greece and Australia. He felt he could have a better and freer life here and he felt comfortable. He felt connected to both Greece and Australia.
“He was first class, he applied great vigor to his work and was a strict scholar who expected high standards from everyone. He also placed great importance on engagement with the public, ”said Dr Paspalas.
To find out more about the work of the institute, visit the Website of the Australian Archaeological Institute in Athens.
Professor Alexandre Cambitoglou OA
Professor Alexander Cambitoglou OA was born in 1922 in Thessaloniki. His family ran a successful business enterprise.
He received a good classical education and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Thessoliniki and after WWII he received scholarships to study classical archeology in Britain. He obtained his Master of Arts from the University of Manchester and a PhD from the University of London. His second doctorate was from the University of Oxford. . He specialized in figurative pottery from ancient Greece, particularly from southern Italy, and became a world expert in the field.
In the 1950s, he taught in the United States, first at the University of Mississippi and then at the prestigious Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.
He came to the University of Sydney in 1960 and had a great impact in raising the status of classical archeology. He was also curator of the university’s Nicholson Museum (1963-2001).
READ MORE: University of Sydney Museum needs your help identifying images of missing Greece
Among many notable awards during his career, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1987 for his contributions to archeology and international cultural relations. In 1991, he was named Doctor of the University – the fourth person to receive this honor.
In 1994 he was elected a member of the Academy of Athens. In 1998, he received the Order of the Phoenix.
Professor Cambitoglou donated his collection of Greek and Roman antiquities to the university, as well as his collection of antique furniture and art, including works by Georges Braque, Edgar Degas, Marc Chagall, Russell Drysdale and Brett Whiteley. Many of them are on display at the Chau Chak Wing Museum.
He died at the age of 97, in 2019.