Staff Profile


Career Summary


My academic path began with very tentative footsteps as a mature-aged student during a year of Open Foundation at the University of Newcastle, studying both Ancient History and Visual Arts.  The cross-road at the end of my enabling year caused some dilemma in deciding which avenue to follow, Ancient History or Art? My mind was made up after receiving a particularly high mark for Ancient HIstory and my undergraduate journey began with a Bachelor of Arts.  However, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed studying Latin, Ancient Greek and the classics my love of art never departed and I continued to draw and paint during this time, holding three successful solo exhibiitions. Eventually my paths merged when I wandered over to the Natural History Illustration department for some elective subjects within my BA, undertaking courses in scientific illustration and field studies.  After much deliberation I decided to leave my Ancient History family and undertake my honours year under the banner of Natural History Illustration and travelled to Pella, in Jordan to work as an illustrator on an archaeological dig.  This culminated in a collection of artworks  and a related honours exegesis/dissertation, entitled 'Tabula Recens Antiquae Terrae - A fresh account of an ancient land'.  My time in Jordan also introduced me to the 6000 year old wall paintings from a site near the Dead Sea called Teleilat Ghassul, that were to become the focus of my PhD research project. This four year endeavour successfully merged all of my prior academic training and practical expertise and combined all of my passions - ancient history, archaeology and natural history illustration. In addition to being a fascinating project to work on my PhD also opened up many new paths to explore and I now feel that I'm at the beginning rather than the end of my meandering academic journey.


  • PhD, University of Newcastle, 06/08/2014
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Newcastle, 12/12/2008
  • Bachelor of Natural History Illustration (Honours), University of Newcastle, 11/12/2009


Research keywords

  • Ancient forms of visual communication
  • Art of the Ancient Near East
  • Chalcolithic period in the Southern Levant
  • Contextualisation
  • Frescoes
  • Indigenous rock art
  • Pictorial representations from preliterate cultures
  • Prehistoric Art
  • The history of illustration and early illustrators

Research expertise

My trans-disciplinary academic background in Ancient History, Classical Languages and Natural History Illustration and my volunteer work on archaeological digs in Jordan have resulted in a wide variety of research interests. My recently completed PhD titled 'The contextualisation of the ancient wall paintings from Teleilat Ghassul, Jordan' was a cross-institutional and trans-disciplinary project, combining aspects of ancient history, archaeology and natural history illustration.

Ongoing research interests include the following areas:

• The contextualised history of illustration

• The role of prehistoric art as a mnemonic tool

• Art creation as a ritual process

• Totemic animals in the iconography of ancient Near Eastern art

• The controversial relationship between early visual narratives and linear inscriptions

• The connection between art, religion and social complexity in the Levantine Chalcolithic period.

• Art of the prehistoric Near East

• Australian indigenous rock art

• Illustrators of the Hunter Region, past and present

• Conservation and education through illustration

Early Christian and 'pagan' iconography

Fields of Research

120301Design History And Theory35
210000History And Archaeology35
190102Art History30



  • Member - Near Eastern Archaeological Foundation
  • Member - Guild of Natural Science Illustrators



2010University Medal
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Awarded for high academic achievement


20113MT prize
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Third Prize in the Newcastle University Three Minute Thesis competition
2010Graham Gilchrist Natural History Illustration Prize
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Awarded for the highest mark in honours
2010Australian Postgraduate Award
Australian Government (Australia)
Recognition for high academic achievement and research potential
2009DVC Research Honours Scholarship
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Scholarship in recognition of high academic achievement
2008William Coleborne Memorial Prize in Greek
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Recognition for high academic achievement in Classical Greek
2007Williams Classics Scholarship
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Recognition for high academic achievement in Classical studies
2006Ann Lowry Memorial Prize in Latin
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Recognition by staff members for high academic achievement in Latin
2006James King Memorial Prize in Greek
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Recognition for high academic achievement in Classical Greek
2005Staff Prize in Classical Civilisations
University of Newcastle (Australia)
Recognition by staff members for academic achievement

Research Award.

2010Dorothy Cameron Fellowship
University of Sydney (Australia)
Fellowship grant given to research exploring the role of women in antiquity


I have two main areas of collaboration, reflecting my two primary areas of interest. I'm currently collaborating with archaeologist, Dr. Stephen Bourke, from the University of Sydney and we are exploring the relationship between art, ritual and social complexity in the Chalcolithic period of the Southern Levant. Additionally, I'm collaborating with members of the Natural History Illustration Research Group (NHIRG) from the University of Newcastle and we are working towards a book publication, exhibitions, public art projects and a proposed conference.


Teaching keywords

  • Archaeological Illustration
  • Art History
  • Contextualisation
  • Field work
  • Natural History Illustration
  • Natural History Illustration theory
  • Prehistoric art

Teaching expertise

I currently teach the theoretical component of the Natural History Illustration degree. The 2nd year theoretical course covers the history of illustration, from prehistory to modern times, focusing on the importance of sociocultural contextualisation. The 3rd year theoretical course teaches students how to develop and write creative arts practice research and successfully apply for grants. I have developed the curriculum for both of these courses and conduct lectures, tutorials and seminars in addition to carrying out the marking and assessment.



For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Click on a category title below to expand the list of citations for that specific category.

Journal article (2 outputs)

2014Drabsch B, Bourke S, 'Ritual, art and society in the levantine chalcolithic: The 'processional' wall painting from teleilat ghassul', Antiquity, 88 1081-1098 (2014) [C1]
2014Drabsch BS, Bourke SJ, 'Ritual, Art and Society in the Levantine Chalcolithic: Reconsidering the 'Processional' wall painting from Teleilat Ghassul in Jordan', Antiquity: a quarterly review of archaeology, unknown (2014)

Conference (1 outputs)

2014Drabsch BS, 'A Procession of Chalcolithic Villagers: Reconsidering Hennessy's 'Processional' wall painting from Teleilat Ghassul, Jordan', Proceedings of the 8th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Warsaw (2014)

Grants and Funding

No funding.


Research Supervision

Number of current supervisions0

No Supervisions.


Dr Bernadette Drabsch

PositionsCasual Academic
School of Design Communication and IT
Faculty of Science and Information Technology
The University of Newcastle, Australia
Casual Academic
School of Creative Arts
Faculty of Education and Arts
The University of Newcastle, Australia