Ancient Cultures Research Centre

Ancient Cultures Research Centre

Ancient Cultures Research Centre

We undertake collaborative research on cross-cultural interaction in ancient cultures from Western Europe to China. Concentrating not only on the history of the societies concerned, but on the languages they used, we place a special focus on the close study of physical artefacts from antiquity.

The research of the Ancient Cultures Research Centre (ACRC) includes:

  • The Mediterranean and Ancient Near East, from the Mesopotamian civilizations to late antiquity,
  • Egyptian society from the Pre-Dynastic to Coptic periods,
  • the Silk Road to China.

Our projects concentrate on times and places in which different cultural groups interacted closely – such as Graeco-Roman Egypt and the late antique/early medieval Silk Road.

Intercultural studies of this kind fall outside the scope of single disciplines and the restricted research areas of most ancient history departments – but the ACRC makes it possible through the range of expertise and specialties we provide.

The ACRC was formed from two long-standing and internationally recognised centres:

It incorporates these centres’ focus on archaeological fieldwork in Egypt and the close study of ancient Graeco-Roman and early Judeo-Christian documentary evidence.

The ACRC draws its members from the Department of Ancient History, Department of International Studies, Department of Environmental Sciences.

Our research

We focus on transcultural forces across ancient Eurasian societies, through the material and cultural study of artefacts created for written and visual communication.

Our research connects the ancient world to the modern world.

Methodology and research goal


The centre concentrates on two methodological and interpretative approaches:

  1. The Text as Artefact examines how texts are themselves cultural artefacts that tell stories about their producers and users.
  2. Art, Architecture, and the Artisan combines archaeological expertise with scientific techniques to better understand the cultural contacts and ideologies that lie behind the creation of the visual record.

Our methodological focus is on the direct examination and analysis of the ancient record itself in conjunction with the development and application of new geophysical and geochemical techniques to analyse the remains of ancient cultures.

Research goal

Our primary research goal is to clarify the processes by which cultural evolution occurred in the ancient world by forming inter-disciplinary teams to investigate cross-cultural interactions.

Evidence and research techniques

The evidence we examine includes:

  • texts (inscriptions, papyri, and manuscripts)
  • art
  • architecture
  • artefacts (especially ceramics)
  • coins.

The techniques we use include:


ACRC members lead or participate in excavations, surveys, or recording missions at various sites across the Mediterranean, studying aspects of the art, sculpture, urbanism, temple, funerary and monastic architecture.


Macquarie has performed papyrological research since the early 1970s under a variety of research programs. The Museum of Ancient Cultures holds the largest collection of papyri, parchment and ostraca in the Southern Hemisphere. The Macquarie Papyri Research and Development Committee oversees ongoing work publishing the collection.


ACRC members and associates work on graffiti and dipinti (the traditional distinction between inscribed and painted text respectively) at a number of Mediterranean sites.

Frontier technologies

Centre members undertake projects using the latest technologies and scientific models to analyse ancient artefacts. They also seek new collaborations with researchers in other fields studying the ancient world.


ACRC members carry out projects using the evidence of ancient coins. In addition, several other projects take place within the framework of the Australian Centre for Numismatic Studies.

Geographical research areas


The study of ancient Egypt from the Predynastic to Early Islamic period is a central part of ACRC's research program. ACRC researchers lead excavations at 5 sites in Egypt, including Predynastic tombs and temples, Old and New Kingdom tombs and Coptic monasteries.

China and the Silk Road

Projects in this field explore modes of communication within and between cultures in this region, the establishment of religious and philosophical thought in China, and the transmission and assimilation of foreign ideas by Chinese society.

Greece and Rome

ACRC researchers address the transformation of the Late Roman and Byzantine world into the medieval and early modern period, the Hellenistic world and the Greek language.

There are also excavation and survey projects that examine the natural and built landscape of Italy and Rome, and Greece and the Aegean.

Early Christianity and Judaism

ACRC members research the early Christian and Jewish world within the context of the Graeco-Roman world across a range of projects.

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