$6m bequest for archaeology from former professor and curator

Archaeology professor, curator of the Nicholson Museum for 37 years and founder of the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens, Professor Cambitoglou has bequeathed $6 million to the Institute.

Professor Alexander Cambitoglou AO has left a bequest of approximately $6 million to the University of Sydney, with the funds to support the work of its Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens – a research and educational facility that Professor Cambitoglou created in 1980.

Dr Stavros Paspalas, Director of the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens, said: “Professor Cambitoglou was one of the most influential figures to have shaped the study of Classical antiquity in Australia. The bequest upholds his vision for the Institute to promote Greek and Mediterranean studies in Australia.”

Born in Thessaloniki in 1922, Professor Cambitoglou went on to become the first person of Greek background to be appointed to a university professorship in Australia, as Professor of Classical Archaeology in 1963. In 1991, he became the fourth person to receive the prestigious title, Doctor of the University.

Professor Cambitoglou taught at the University from 1961 through to 1989 and was curator of the Nicholson Museum for 37 years, from 1963 until 2000. In 1980 he established the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens (AAIA).

When founded, the Institute allowed Australia to have its own academic representation in Greece for the first time. It has since become a major force in the growth of Australian participation in Greek archaeology.

The AAIA is a research and educational facility focused on Greek and Mediterranean studies, with an emphasis on archaeological fieldwork. The Institute provides research opportunities, scholarships and fellowships. It offers practical assistance to Australian students and scholars to further their research and share it both nationally and internationally.

Professor Cambitoglou at the excavations of the Early Iron Age settlement of Zagora on the Greek island of Andros in 1971
Professor Cambitoglou at the excavations of the Early Iron Age settlement of Zagora on the Greek island of Andros in 1971.

Dr Papalas said, “This generous gift continues the Institute’s 40-year history of encouraging Australia’s involvement with Greek culture.”

“Alexander Cambitoglou was an individual who inspired others. His commitment and academic rigour alongside his ability to impart the excitement he felt about archaeology ensured that he would make a mark. He was truly committed to Greek studies, with a special focus on antiquity, and worked throughout his life to promote archaeology and ancient history.

“He firmly believed that a global approach to the subject was needed and aimed to bring the findings of his discipline both to Australian students and the wider public. Through sheer dedication and hard work he created a legacy that ensures that Greek studies will thrive in Australia, so bringing his two ’homelands’ together.”

During his life, Professor Cambitoglou also donated his collection of Greek and Roman antiquities to the University, as well as his antique furniture and art collection, including works by Georges Braque, Edgar Degas, Marc Chagall, Russell Drysdale and Brett Whiteley. Many of these gifts are now on display in the Chau Chak Wing Museum.

Professor Alexander Cambitoglou: at the unveiling of the Cambitoglou Amphora in Nicholson Museum in 2018.
Professor Cambitoglou at the unveiling of the Cambitoglou Amphora at the Nicholson Museum.

Professor Paul Donnelly, Deputy Director of the Chau Chak Wing Museum said, “The Nicholson Collection benefitted over four decades from Professor Cambitoglou’s generosity, expertise, and earnest belief in the importance of artefacts to teaching. His influence as an inspiring teacher continues to add to the collection with the recent acquisition (through funds donated in his honour) of a 6th century BCE black-figure amphora made in Athens.”

Professor Cambitoglou was a long-time resident of Darling Point and died, aged 97 in 2019.

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