Curator of the Cast Gallery and Lecturer in Classical Archaeology

Milena Melfi

Milena Melfi

Lecturer in Classical Archaeology, Faculty of Classics
and New College
Curator of the Cast Gallery

Dr Milena Melfi | Faculty of Classics (
Milena Melfi | New College (
Beyond the Borders: the history and archaeology of northern Greece

Milena Melfi (0000-0002-4531-0227) (


Research summary

My research focuses on in the archaeology of Greece, with a special interest for the Hellenistic and early Roman period. I am particularly interested in periods and areas of cultural change and transformation, and in the ways historical phenomena affected the material record.

I have written books on the sanctuaries and cult of Asklepios and on the sanctuaries of Hellenistic Greece and I am currently working on the archaeology of Epiros and those regions of northern Greece, traditionally considered untouched by the world of the classical Greek polis.

As a curator of casts, I have been trying to use and promote casts as historical and cultural objects in their own right, rather than mere copies of distant originals, as traditionally conceived in academia. Plaster casts have provided over the years an invaluable opportunity for the dissemination and appropriation of visual culture and, as all museum objects, are inextricably connected to purposely created cultural narratives. 

As a field archaeologist, since the early 2000s I have been involved in the archaeology of Epiros: from 2008 to 2016 I worked in the joint Italian-Albanian-UK excavations at the site of Hadrianopolis (Albania), and from 2019 I have been running my own excavation project at the site of ‘Dobra/Levadhja’ (Albania). From 2016  I have also been co-directing the excavations at the ‘Plutonium’ or ‘Temple of Pluto’ at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli (Rome).


Milena Melfi is a Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at the Faculty of Classics and the Curator of the Cast Gallery at the Ashmolean Museum. From 2008 she has also been a Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at New College.

She received her education in Classics in Italy, at Universities of Pisa and Messina. Prior to coming to Oxford she was a Fellow of the Italian (SAIA) and British (BSA) Schools of Archaeology in Athens, of the American Academy in Rome and of the Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard University.

She arrived at the Ashmolean in 2004, where she has been looking after the collection of casts of Greek and Roman sculptures and co-curated two main cast exhibitions: ‘Gods in Colour. Coloured Sculpture in Classical Antiquity’ (2014) and ‘Antinous: boy made god’ (2018/19).

Featured publications


  • 2018 Antinous: boy made god. Catalogue of the exhibition, with R.R.R. Smith, F. Gigante and J. Lenaghan (Oxford-Ashmolean)
  • 2016 Hellenistic Sanctuaries: between Greece and Rome, ed. with O. Bobou (Oxford-OUP)
  • 2015 Gods in Colour. Catalogue of the Exhibition in the Cast Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford Jan–Jul 2015), with R. R. R. Smith (Oxford-Ashmolean)
  • 2007 I Santuari di Asclepio in Grecia  (Rome)
  • 2007 Il Santuario di Asclepio a Lebena (Athens)

Recent journal articles

  • 2021 Gorrini, M.E., Melfi, M., Montali, G., Schettino, A., ‘Il progetto Plutonium di Villa Adriana: Prime considerazioni a margine del nuovo rilievo e prospettive di ricerca’, in G.E. Cinque et al (eds), Adventus Hadriani (Rome), pp. 571-589.
  • 2020 Martens, B.A., Melfi, M., A Colossal Cult Statue Group from Dobër, Albania: Visual Narratives of East and West in the Countryside of Butrint, American Journal of Archaeology 124, 4, pp. 575-606.
  • 2020 Gorrini, M.E., Melfi, M., Montali, G., Tivoli, Hadrian's villa: the Plutonium project, Papers of the British School at Rome, 88, pp. 362-364. 
  • 2019 Boila, P., Conyers, L., Ghezzi, A., Gorrini, M.E., Melfi, M., Pierantoni, P.P., Tassi, L., Vigliotti, L., Reconstruction of a Segment of the UNESCO World Heritage Hadrian’s Villa Tunnel Network by Integrated GPR, Magnetic–Paleomagnetic, and Electric Resistivity Prospections, Remote Sensing, 11, 15, p. 1739.
  • 2019 A cast, a bird and a queen (?) in C. Draycott, R. Raja, W. Wootton (eds), Visual Histories of the Classical World. Essays in Honour of R.R.R. Smith (Brepols), pp. 110-116.
  • 2019 Sanctuaries and the Hellenistic polis: an architectural approach in D. Leão, D. Rodríguez Pérez, R. Morais (eds), There and back again: Greek art in motion. Essays in honour of Sir John Boardman on his 90th birthday (BAR, Oxford), pp. 14-22.