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The work of pioneering Australian historian Beryl Rawson reveals that ancient Roman family culture – from the celebration of new life, divorce, remarriage and funerary customs – has a lot in common with our lives today.

What links a once-maligned 19th-century French explorer, the humble platypus and Darwin’s theory of evolution? Thanks to groundbreaking work from Australian researchers, we now have a better understanding of the role that Australia and its unique flora and fauna played in the development of cultural and scientific understanding of our world.

How exactly did the Protestant Reformation – one of the last millennium’s defining moments, that splintered Western Christianity and paved the way for individualism, scepticism, civil rights, capitalism and modern democracy – gain currency among Europe’s common people? It all came down to satirical images and chats at the pub.

Critics of same-sex unions often cite references to homosexuality in the New Testament to support their standpoints, but what were the people of antiquity really saying – in their world, and in their terms – about sexuality? Researcher William Loader conducted painstaking textual, theological and ethical analysis of every religious text from his chosen period, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocrypha, the Septuagint and the writings of Philo of Alexandria and Josephus to find out.

Kings and chieftains, pagan gods and goddesses, saints and apostles. The rich tradition of Skaldic poetry – which originated in Norway in the ninth century – has all this and more. Now, thanks to a large-scale international collaboration initiated and led by Australian researchers, the entire collection of surviving skaldic poetry will be available to be read and appreciated around the world.

One can only imagine what Emma Woodhouse would have thought of her carefully chosen words being run through a computer – but by doing just that, an Australian scholar pioneered a new field of literary studies, making it possible to identify authors of anonymous books, date written works, detect plagiarism and chart the evolution of a writer’s style.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.