This paper explores the practice of souveniring antiquities by Australian service personnel during the First World War. It argues that souvenir antiquities (both genuine and forged) are an underappreciated class of object, worthy of study in their own right, and seeks to understand how and why service personnel souvenired antiquities. It builds on studies of archaeological discoveries and excavations undertaken during the war, and classical reception during and after the war.

 A significant number of these souvenir antiquities survive today in both public and private hands. Although there are exceptions, such as the Shellal Mosaic, these antiquities are generally unpublished and poorly understood. This paper draws case studies primarily from the Australian War Memorial collection in Canberra, as it houses the most representative public collection of First World War souvenir antiquities in Australia. This includes major pieces such as a Palmyrene bust for a woman named Hagar, collections such as the Maitland Woods mosaic collection, and discrete artefacts including coins, ceramic fragments, and forgeries.

 Three broad questions are used to frame the study and select case study artefacts for inclusion: What types of artefacts were souvenired? How were these artefacts acquired? What role do these artefacts fulfil in the Australian War Memorial collection? Preliminary research suggests souvenir antiquities can be placed into four broad categories: opportunistic souveniring; systematic collecting; gifts; and antiquities used as trench art. A shorter version of this paper was presented at the ASCS 39 Conference at UQ in late January 2018.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity