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Ancient times come to life in UQ exhibit Study in Stone

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Ancient Greece and Rome have come to the University of Queensland in a fascinating new exhibition of tombstones at the RD Milns Antiquities Museum.

But unlike many other exhibitions focusing on these ancient times, A Study in Stone: The History of Epigraphy brings back to life the stories of ordinary, working class people through the monuments they made to their loved ones.

Senior museum officer James Donaldson said 12 inscriptions had been brought together, which was believed to be the largest collection of ancient inscriptions in Australian history.

“In this case most of the pieces are covers for burial niches where a cremation would take place,” he said.

“They have little inscriptions, which are quite nice, mostly from the Roman Imperial period.

“There’s not very many of them intact today.”


Mr Donaldson said anyone interested in the lives of ordinary people in the first to fourth centuries should visit the exhibition.

“These are all ordinary people, these aren’t the upper classes, these are the working classes,” he said.

“There is one for a man who died in Sicily about 1800 years ago who was 70 years old, so there’s a full range of stories of ordinary people, the real people in antiquity.”

Among the more interesting stories told in the exhibition, Mr Donaldson said, was that of an eight-year-old girl named Vitalinis, whose parents established a memorial featuring Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting, following her death.  

There is another memorial to a 25-year-old slave named Secundio, whose sister, also a slave, set it up for him.

“There’s a nice story there of a brother and sister who were both salves in a particular household,” he said.

A Study in Stone: The History of Epigraphy is on display at the RD Milns Antiquities Museum until mid 2015.

Entry is free.

For further details, go to www.uq.edu.au/antiquities