Archaeologist Pamela Watson has spent nearly 40 years excavating Jordan. On Wednesday evening, she will discuss how art and society changed when Christianity took over from 'paganism' in the sixth century.
Dr Watson, adjunct associate professor in archaeology at the University of New England, will deliver ADFAS (Australian Decorative & Fine Arts Societies) Armidale's June lecture at TAS Hoskins Centre.
Her hour-long talk focuses on painted pottery at the sites of Jerash, the best preserved Roman ruins outside Italy, and Pella, occupied for 8000 years.
"It's a mix of what happened in the cultural and spiritual world at that time: very dynamic and evolving," Dr Watson said.
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Some of the vessels show Classical influence: Greek inscriptions talk about the Olympian gods; while others have Christian imagery and references to Bible stories.
Pella, Dr Watson said, is an incredibly interesting site; "it covers just about everything you ever wanted to know!"
It has been continuously occupied since Neolithic times - and it is rare to find people living in the same place and building on top of each other for eight millennia. It flourished as one of ten Roman client cities, and as a trading centre under the Byzantine empire and Umayyad caliphate. The surrounding landscape contains prehistoric material that goes back half a million years, hundreds of thousands of years before Homo sapiens evolved in Africa.
The Roman ruins at Jerash are truly impressive, Dr Watson said. "You can walk along colonnaded streets, and see temples and theatres." Many of the buildings are still standing, including chariot-racing hippodromes and a triumphal arch to commemorate a visit of the emperor Hadrian, one of history's great travellers.
Dr Watson came to Jordan by chance. When studying at the University of Sydney, her professor had a project at Pella. She went there as a student, and ended up as co-director. Later, she worked on an international project at Jerash, and was Associate Director of the British Institute in Amman. She has also worked at Petra, the Nabataean "rose-red city, half as old as time", famous in popular culture from Agatha Christie and Indiana Jones.
This is one of ten lectures Armidale ADFAS hosts this year. They are, chairman Libby Davis and treasurer Stephen Gow said, on a diverse range of subjects, from Van Gogh and Gauguin, American impressionism, and Blenheim Palace to the Chinese emperor Qianlong and the violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Six of the talks are by British lecturers on circuit; four from Australians, including local author Sophie Masson, who recently spoke about writing for children.
The Australian Decorative & Fine Arts Societies are associated with the British National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies. The Armidale society is one of the oldest in the country, founded a year before the main society. It celebrated its 30th birthday last year; actress Marilynne Paspaley delivered the pearl anniversary lecture.
After Dr Watson's lecture, ADFAS Armidale and Armidale Central Rotary will present their Young Arts Grants, which help school and university students pursue careers in the arts.
The New England Conservatorium of Music will receive $3000 to support their chamber music in small and remote schools program.
TAS Hoskins Centre will hold the region's inaugural New England Theatresports Schools Challenge in August; this improv theatre event includes a two-day workshop open to all high school students in New England. Before August, young New Englanders had to go to Newcastle for improv. It receives $2000.
Two talented youngsters will also receive grants of $1500 each to further their ambitions. Kira Dooner will head to Sydney to study with an opera singer. Jonathan Bruhl, viola player and singer, will receive the 2019 Tertiary Music Award; he is already enrolled at the NSW Conservatorium of Music.
Dr Watson's lecture may whet locals' appetite for travel; she will lead a 15-day tour to Jordan next year, organised by ADFAS Travel and local travel company Geotours. More details on the night.
"An Archaeologist in Jordan: Discovering local images of Late Antique society in broken pottery", TAS Hoskins Centre, Wednesday, June 12, 6pm. Tickets: $25; students: $5. Book online: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=467341.