NEAF Board

Prof. Alison V.G. Betts (Acting Director)

Prof. Alison V.G. Betts

Teaching staff
Teaching and research interests: I am interested in the archaeology and history of nomadic peoples. This research theme has led me down a wide variety of paths including the prehistory of the North Arabian steppe, rock art, hunting traps and water harvesting systems, the origins of nomadic pastoralism in the Near East, nomad-state relations, the Bronze Age of Central Asia and the early development of the Zoroastrian faith.


Dr John Tidmarsh (President)

Dr John Tidmarsh

Teaching and research interests: John Tidmarsh is an Endocrinologist in Private Practice and Visiting Endocrinologist at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital. He was previously Tutor and then Part-Time Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sydney and is currently President of the Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation of that University. He is a Co-Director of the University of Sydney’s excavations at Pella in Jordan and is also part of the ANU/University of Melbourne excavations at Jebel Khalid in Syria. He has previously excavated in Greece and Cyprus. His main areas of interest are the archaeology of Alexander the Great’s conquests and the Hellenistic Period in the Near East and Asia and it was in this area that he was awarded his PhD. He has led a number of tours for the Art Gallery of NSW to Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Greece as well as tours to Turkey and Iran for University of Sydney’s Centre for Continuing Education and Academy Travel.


Dr Stephen Bourke (Treasurer)

Dr Stephen Bourke

Research associate/adjunct
Teaching and research interests: Stephen is a Near Eastern archaeologist and has worked on numerous international archaeological projects since 1980. He currently directs Sydney University excavations at Pella in Jordan, and has done so since 1992. The most recent field season occurred in early 2013. Previously he led four seasons of renewed excavations at Chalcolithic Teleilat Ghassul, Jordan, between 1994-99. His interests centre on the Neolithic beginnings of urban life through to the end of the pre-Classical Iron Age in the Levant (ca. 6500-300 BC). He has written or contributed to over 50 publications. Current research projects include work arising out of ongoing excavations at Pella, mainly centring on the massive Fortress temple complex, under excavation since 1994. He is completing a monograph on Sydney University work at Chalcolithic Teleilat Ghassul and working on another based on his Doctoral work on British excavations at Tell Nebi Mend, ancient Qadesh on the Orontes. Connected with this earlier work, he is now researching the Second Millennium BC settlement history of the Homs region for the University of Durham's central Syrian Homs regional Survey. Stephen is NEAF's Treasurer.


Dr Wendy Reade (Vice President)

Dr Wendy Reade

Teaching staff, Administrative staff
Teaching and research interests: I have degrees in Archaeology and Conservation of Cultural Materials and combine this background with a passion for promoting scientific analysis of archaeological materials and objects. I teach the unit ARNE 2601 Egyptian Archaeology. I am an archaeological conservator with wide experience in the Middle East, having worked on excavations in Bahrain, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey and Syria. My PhD investigated ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian glass, in particular the evolution of technology from the earliest glass of the Bronze Age through the innovation and continuity seen in the ensuing Iron Age. I am Vice-President of the Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation at the University.


Ben Churcher

Ben Churcher

Teaching and research interests: Ben Churcher is a life member of NEAF, the editor of the Bulletin of the Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation and a NEAF tour leader. Ben's involvement with NEAF coincided with his participation at the University of Sydney's excavations at Pella in Jordan where he presently holds the position of Field Director. Ben's duties at Pella began in 1983 and include excavation, photography and on-site administration. From the early 1990s Ben has been both the editor of NEAF's Bulletin and a tour leader who has taken NEAF members to destinations as diverse as China, Mexico, Morocco, Mali, Iran, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Jordan. As well as his involvement with the Pella project and NEAF, Ben is the director of Astarte Resources (www.astarte.com.au), a company that produces and distributes educational resources primarily focusing on history and archaeology. Additionally, Ben is involved with cultural heritage management in Australia and has participated on many Indigenous heritage surveys and excavations. Ben also works in desk-top publishing; preparing publications emanating from the Pella Project and other Australian archaeological projects working in the Near East. Ben enjoys travel to remote corners of the world, is fascinated by all aspects of history and is particularly interested in Islamic culture. Ben is married to Rachel Jackson (head illustrator for the Pella Project) and they have two children, Isabel and Lucas.


Dr Ross Burns

Dr Ross Burns

Teaching and research interests: Ross was a career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs for 37 years. In that time he had a range of overseas postings and served as Ambassador to several Middle Eastern countries.

Since his retirement in 2003, Ross retains a keen interest in all aspects of the Middle East, not least its history and archaeology: the subjects that first drew his attention to the region at Sydney University in the early 1960s where he combined archaeology (Near Eastern) with history. He recently completed a doctorate at Macquarie University and has published two books on the history and monuments of Syria (Monuments of Syria, I B Tauris, London, third edition 2009; and on Damascus: Damascus; A History, Routledge, London 2005). He hopes to publish soon his thesis as a book and to follow up his earlier works with companion volumes on Lebanon and a history of Aleppo. His website www.monumentsofsyria.com contains a rich store of photos of archaeological sites in Syria.


Ms Maree Browne

Ms Maree Browne

Teaching and research interests: Maree is past president of NEAF and has been on the Council since its inception. She studied Archaeology at the University of Sydney and has worked on a number of sites, principally at the University of Sydney’s site at Pella in Jordan. In the past her main area of research was in the archaeology of the ancient environment and its effect on the disease patterns in the ancient populations, particularly Egypt. This research into the environment has led to a great interest in water usage and gardens through time. She lectures in The History of Landscape Architecture in the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of NSW.


Dr Paul Donnelly

Dr Paul Donnelly

Teaching and research interests: Dr Paul Donnelly is a curator in the design and society department at the Powerhouse Museum. His more than twenty years at the Museum have seen his responsibilities meander to embrace Australian ceramics and glass, antiquities of Europe and the Mediterranean region, numismatics, and 20th century furniture. While a broad range, he nevertheless sees vigour and many positives in the diversity of media and depth of historical range over which his research and responsibilities span. This breadth has been useful when he has acted Principal Curator Collections & Access over the last couple of years.

Paul graduated with a BA (Hons) in archaeology from the University of Sydney, an MA in Public History from the University of Technology of Sydney, and a PhD from Sydney University which focused on Chocolate-on-White ware pottery from the Middle to Late Bronze-Age southern Levant. Since 1988 Paul has been a member of the Sydney University Expedition to Pella in Jordan and in 2012 he involved the Powerhouse in the revived and on-going Zagora excavations on Andros. Paul is an Honorary Research Associate of the Department of Archaeology and represents the Powerhouse Museum on the AAIA Council.


Dr Kate da Costa

Dr Kate da Costa

Teaching and research interests: Kate held an ARC research fellowship and grant from 2006 – 2010 to study the Roman Borders of Arabia and Palaestina (BAP), involving field work in northwest Jordan. This followed from undergraduate and doctoral interests working at Pella (University of Sydney), Umm Qais (various German projects) and Deir Ain Abata (British Museum). Kate taught two courses during her fellowship - Greek Cities and Sanctuaries/Ancient Mediterranean Lives and a new course, The Archaeology of the Roman East. Kate has a longstanding interest in the relationship of indigenous cultures with foreign political controllers. Kate is currently developing a new project, based on sites found during the Borders of Arabia and Palaestina project - Underground 'Ajloun, focussing on sites in northern Jordan containing underground houses.