​Archaeology, Museums and What Ancient Figurines Mean

Welcome to Ancient Figurines! Here, people interested in archaeology of the ancient Near East learn and share ideas about the interpretation of ancient human (and sometimes animal!) figurines.

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  • Are you fascinated by the remote past? Always loved history, old things, ancient places?
  • Often wondered how archaeologists do what they do – dig – and how they analyse what they find?
  • Enjoy visiting museums and thinking about the objects held there?

Then you are in the right place.

Ancient Figurines is all about sharing my love of archaeology with you, whether you are a professional archaeologist, or an enthusiastic layperson who has always loved archaeology, enjoys reading about the past, visiting ancient sites and meandering through museums.

Researching the meaning of the Iron Age figurines from Tell Ahmar, a multi-period site on the east bank of the Euphrates River, North Syria resulted in obtaining my PhD from the University of Melbourne in 2001.

After five years of research on 3 continents, I received my doctorate in Near Eastern archaeology from the University of Melbourne. Figurines, Slaves and Soldiers: The Iron Age Figurines from the Euphrates Valley, North Syria is the result of my research into the assemblage of figurines from the North Syrian site of Tell Ahmar.

I am not an academic.  I don’t hold a professorship or even a lectureship at any university.

I’m a qualified teacher, researcher, writer and traveller who loves archaeology, museums and ancient figurines.

I studied archaeology at the University of Melbourne and excavated with university research teams in Turkey and for four seasons in Syria in the 1990s. I’ve also excavated in my home state of Victoria and in Tasmania.  

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Me as a young archaeologist excavating at Tell Ahmar.

Then my career took a little hiatus from archaeology while I worked in the community sector with migrants and refugees and also as a teacher of English as a Second Language in both China and Australia.

But archaeology was never far off the radar!

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​​2013 was an exciting year for me as I rewrote my doctoral thesis for a general reading audience and launched Visible Bodies, Resistant Selves: The 7th Century Figurines from Tell Ahmar at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. The following year I reworked the book for teenagers and published it under the title Figurines, Slaves and Soldiers: The Iron Age Figurines from Tell Ahmar.

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I returned to the field in 2016, excavating at Tell el Hammam in Jordan and taking a course in archaeological photography at Tell Bethsaida, Israel that same year. In September 2017 I participated in a month’s excavation at the Roman city of Sanitja, Island of Menorca.

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Washing pottery at Tell el Hammam, Jordan

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Drawing top plans of an excavation square at Tell Beitsaida

It's nice to have a trowel in my hand again!

  • Perhaps you wish you’d studied archaeology (as you always wanted) but chose something more ‘sensible’ instead? (you wouldn’t be the only one…)
  • Perhaps you’re starting out on your career path and are wondering if archaeology is for you? (do your research, make your decision, don’t let anyone put you off and go for it)
  • Perhaps you’ve wondered what it would be like to take part in an archaeological excavation?
  • Perhaps you enjoy strolling through museum exhibitions and thinking about the objects there and what they might mean?

This is your community.

There’s a focus on ancient figurines, but Ancient Figurines is so much more.

We’ll think about:

  • The archaeology of the Middle Eastern region
  • How archaeological digs work
  • How archaeologists think about the artifacts they find
  • How museums display these objects (particularly figurines) and
  • How the ancient world is presented for you, the general public.

We’ll look at figurines from archaeological excavations across the eastern Mediterranean. I bring you my ideas on what they might mean and critique how they are displayed in museums.

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Cabinet labelled 'Fertility Figurines', in the Eretz-Israel Museum.

 Here are some of my best posts about interpreting figurines:

​I look at figurine interpretation with a critical eye. How figurines are displayed and interpreted in museum displays perpetuates the fertility cult theory. I wonder who makes the decisions about information presented to the museum-going public?

I love to travel and wherever I go I seek out museums. They are my natural habitat! I also write reviews here about how figurines are interpreted in the great archaeological museums around the world.

Join the discussion! I’m keen to talk to you and get a conversation started about how figurines can be interpreted. What do you think?

Send me an email with any comments or questions to victoria@ancientfigurines.com or use this contact form.

Why not get involved in the various conversations happening around the site, by adding your ideas in the comments section below each post.

Join my online community at www.facebook.com/ancientfigurines/

And twitter  @DrVictoria01



Because I believe archaeology is for everyone, I've published my doctoral thesis in two books; one for general readers and another for teenagers.

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Figurines, Slaves and Soldiers has been reworked for a younger readership and is aimed at teenagers.

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