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Revealing the Past, Knowing the Present, and Grounding the Future.

Background and Purposes


The Australian Institute of Archaeology was founded in 1946 as a private organisation to promote the scientific study of the ancient world, especially the period contemporary with the biblical narrative. It had some early success, the University of Sydney began teaching archaeology in 1947 and the University of Melbourne did so in a limited manner soon after. The Institute's own education program has focused on secondary schools and the general public.


To assist in this process the Institute began a significant archaeological library and a noteworthy museum collection comprising artefacts and replicas. Many of the artefacts came by way of division from excavations, partly funded by the Institute, and the replicas came from the great museums of the world.


The Institute was originally based in central Melbourne and conducted its programs at Ancient Times House in Little Bourke Street. When these premises were no longer available it moved to a building leased from La Trobe University at Macleod. From this building the Institute provides some programs for schools and makes its collections and library available to people involved in archaeological research. 

The Institute arranges public lectures, sponsors exhibitions, promotes research and produces occasional publications. It also publishes an annual journal, Buried History, containing papers that utilise the results of archaeological research shedding light on the ancient world for an informed readership.


The Institute was established with a conservative scientific tradition illustrated by such people as William Ramsay and Flinders Petrie. As the scope of archaeology has grown, especially since World War II, so too has the purview of the Institute, but it remains committed to the uncovering of archaeological evidence, the scientific analysis of it and the publication of the results.



The Constitution of the Institute Section 1.8(a) states:

The Principal Purpose for which The Australian Institute of Archaeology is established is to operate as a Public Museum and Public Library within the meaning of section 30-100 of the ITAA 97 and, in so doing:

(i)     to maintain a museum collection for research and teaching;

(ii)    to maintain a library for community and academic research;

(iii)   to act as a steward of archaeological research and fieldwork and to promote, engage in and sponsor these endeavours;

(iv)   to establish and foster a research community that engages in and draws on archaeology as a tool with which to understand cultural development; and

(v)    to facilitate and encourage education in the area of archaeology.


Encompassed  in the Principal Purposes is the focus of the Institute’s founders to give special attention to archaeology as it illuminates the culture and context of the biblical narrative, and to understand archaeology as a scientific discipline involving geology, geophysics, geomatics, material science, chemistry, linguistics, and physical anthropology amongst other scientific fields.

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