Prize-winning essay focuses on ancient figurines

Published 16 April 2009

hamsPauline Hams, whose passion for archaeology led to her graduation from the University of New England earlier this month, has won a prize for a study that has taken her as far as the Museum of Ancient Corinth in Greece.

Ms Hams (pictured here) has been awarded the Charles Ede Essay Prize for 2008. The annual prize is for an essay, by a student at UNE, about – or inspired by – exhibits in UNE’s Museum of Antiquities.

After studying part-time for her Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in archaeology, Ms Hams is now enrolled in UNE’s Graduate Diploma in Humanities program. Her prize-winning essay concerns the mysterious, diminutive female figures known as “phi figurines”, found throughout the Mediterranean region and dating from the second millennium BC, examples of which are included in the UNE collection.

Resembling in shape the Greek letter “phi”, these clay artefacts left by the Mycenaean civilisation have been variously interpreted as votive offerings to an “Earth Mother” goddess, or “divine nurses” protecting the entombed remains of dead children. The examples in the Museum of Antiquities are dated at around 1200 BC.

Ms Hams said that her UNE degree program had given her “the most incredible experience”. She has been studying part-time since 2003, combining study with home and family, overseas travel, and even a full-time job in Bermuda as coordinator for a marine research vessel. She lives with her husband at Invergowrie, where they are setting up a small organic farm.

For the future, she hopes to be able to make some practical application of her archaeological knowledge and skills in the field of Indigenous archaeology.

Her essay won Ms Hams a cheque for $150 and book purchases to the value of $100. John Harris, who chairs the Museum of Antiquities committee and who presented Ms Hams with her award, said the prize was donated annually by the London-based antiquities dealer James Ede in honour of his father Charles Ede, who began the firm’s long association with the museum. The UNE Museum of Antiquities is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Mr Harris and the museum’s Curator, Dr Pat Watters, are calling for entries in the 2009 competition, in which the total value of the prize will be increased from $250 to $500.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Pauline Hams displayed here expands to show John Harris presenting her with the Charles Ede Essay Prize for 2008 in the UNE Museum of Antiquities.