promoting cultural heritage and conservation

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Hidden Jewels: Roman Forum

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One of the great things about living in Rome is that you frequently discover something new in a nook or cranny of the city that you think you know inside and out. A good example is the Roman Forum, a place I’ve visited dozens of times over the past 20 years. I first started visiting the Forum before the fencing was erected around all of the monuments. You could walk all over the Basilica Julia, pound the Augustan pavement of the square, and admire the blobs of melted bronze on the floor of the Basilica Aemilia, possibly the remains of coins knocked to the ground during Alaric’s sack of Rome in AD 410. There was also that golden period, between 1998 and 2008, when the Forum was open to the public for free all day long, acting as just another way to get from Via dei Fori Imperiali to the Colosseum valley.

So I thought I’d seen everything, including—thanks to my position at AIRC—many special structures and ongoing excavations closed to the public. A couple of weeks ago I was surprised to learn, while reading a recent book about the Forum, that the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda, which occupies the Temple of the Deified Antoninus and Faustina, is open to the public, but for only two hours a week (Thursdays 9-11). After kicking myself for never having thought to investigate that possibility, I visited the church on the next Thursday and was received by a very formal but friendly gentleman from a bygone era who gave me a rapid tour of the artistic treasures housed in the church (as well as an earful about its increasing isolation in the archaeological zone) and then turned me loose at the old doorway facing out onto the Forum, now a balcony floating about 25 feet above the ancient levels. Although the view is obscured by the columns of the porch, the experience is nevertheless a feast for the eyes, offering a fresh and fascinating perspective on the temple itself, the Forum, and the Palatine hill. In Rome, fortune really does favor the bold. And the curious.

~Hidden Jewels is a monthly series by Albert Prieto, AIRC Associate Director of Archaeology, as he investigates the hidden secrets of Rome that are right in front of us. albert[at]romanculture.org

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Mortar and Murder: Looking Back at the 2013 Dig #archaeology

As we seek relief from Rome’s sweltering triple-digit (F) temperatures, it’s a good time to look back at six weeks of fun, hard work, and intensive learning. Here are a few things that struck me, in my capacity as Project Coordinator, about the experience.

Low injury rate. During the course of a typical season we see a handful of cuts or scrapes that require on-site medical attention, as well as a lot of first-week blisters that exhaust the supply of band-aids in no time. This year we had only one cut, thankfully, and not even one band-aid was used.

Plot twists. We started out assuming that the Roman mausoleum in Area B was, at some point after the end of antiquity, transformed into a baptistery, which was subsequently re-worked to accommodate six tombs in the Middle Ages; two bodies were duly found in one of these tombs in the fall exploratory campaign. In the summer not even one additional burial was found in the tombs, while a series of burials was revealed just below the ground surface around the edge of the mausoleum. Proof that, in archaeology, assumptions are made to be modified and abandoned.

Gastronomic adventures. This year everyone looked forward to lunch, which was prepared and served at La Fraschetta del Borgo in Ostia Antica, a stone’s throw from the site. Solideo and the staff served up 23 tasty and abundant lunches, catering to all dietary needs, including prosciutto with cantaloupe, cold cuts and cheese, rigatoni all’ammatriciana, frittata (omelette), pizza, sausage with chicory, and chicken cacciatore with potatoes. The daily dose of gelato was especially popular.

Language lessons. Every edition of AIRC’s Summer Archaeological Field School involves bilingual staff, so you can always hear both Italian and English spoken on-site. This year’s Babel had a particular feel to it. There was the lilting British accent of our Welsh topography intern, Tim Penn. There was archaeologist Larisa (“Larry”) Criscenti’s elegant and studied English. There were the participants’ gung-ho attempts to learn Italian from field director Michele Raddi’s colorful diction. My favorite moment was the attempt to explain to our Italian colleagues the subtle acoustic distinction between “mortar” and “murder.” Two very different concepts, but both very useful in a Roman archaeology field school.
- A.P.

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Ostia Antica Press Conference/Invito Stampa

MINISTERO DEI BENI E DELLE ATTIVITA’ CULTURALI E DEL TURISMO SOPRINTENDENZA SPECIALE PER I BENI ARCHEOLOGICI DI ROMA

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La Soprintendenza speciale per i beni archeologici di Roma, con l’American Institute for Roman Culture, presenta i risultati delle più recenti ricerche effettuate nel Suburbium di Ostia antica. L’appuntamento con gli archeologi e con gli studenti di archeologia di 14 università del Nord America è fissato per venerdì 19, alle ore 10.00, all’angolo fra via dei Romagnoli e via della Stazione di Ostia antica (v. mappa).

Please join the Superintendency, along with the American Institute for Roman Culture, in the presentation of the findings of the most recent research of the Suburbium of Ostia Antica on Friday July 19 at 10 am. The conference will be held at our dig Parco dei Ravennati in Ostia Antica, via dei Romagnoli and via della Stazione di Ostia antica, see maps below. (more…)


Life in the Trenches: Week 3 at the Dig

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Though this past week was only four days to accommodate a (well-deserved) three-day weekend, we jumped into work, comfortable with our designated roles and team coordination. We also welcomed a new team member, Julia Elsey, AIRC archaeology field school veteran and an unofficial Finds Coordinator. As an artifact intern, I work with Julia to clean, document, and organize our finds from this and the past dig seasons. Julia provided our team with a valuable lesson on marble types, (more…)


We dig Rome: AIRC on Youtube

We dig Rome and we like sharing it, so in 2009 we created an AIRC account on Youtube:  WeDigRome where we upload AIRC-produced filmettes about our programs (inluding our summer excavation and full-immersion Latin) and our documentary projects such as Fasti Online and upcoming Digging History.

Our latest videos are Unlisted 2013: Conversation for Conservation, our annual cultural heritage conference.  If you were not able to attend the conference, take a look in our recently uploaded videos where we feature each Unlisted2013 speaker.


What’s in an Archaeologist’s bag?

archaeology gear APSo what exactly does a field archaeologist look like?

For most people, the term “archaeologist” conjures up the image of a stubbly man wearing a button-down shirt with pockets, chinos, a leather jacket, a wide-brimmed hat, a saddle-bag, a bull-whip, and a holster with revolver.

I’ve been working as a field archaeologist in Italy for going on 20 years now, and my appearance has never corresponded to that image—except for the stubble, which I proudly wear most days, and not out of vanity, but because my facial hair grows very slowly. I confess to having a broad-brimmed hat, a gag gift from a friend, but it’s too heavy to wear in the Mediterranean heat. Forget about a leather jacket. The pistol and bull-whip, as instruments for maintaining discipline among the crew, have been replaced by the threat of a low grade and/or no letter of recommendation for grad school.

What does a typical contemporary field archaeologist working under the Mediterranean summer sun look like? My outfit, which is pretty typical, includes:

  • A slightly tattered polo shirt, symbol of my tortured relationship with bourgeois social conventions, which I respect and despise simultaneously (an attitude I call “archaeo chic”)
  • Cargo pants, which allow me to carry truly ridiculous amounts of stuff on my person
  • Sandals, which keep my feet from smelling any worse than they really need to
  • Reinforced work boots, which keep my toes from getting any more crushed than they really need to be
  • A backpack, symbol of my lifelong dedication to scholarly pursuits (or my inability to grow up and get a real job, depending on one’s point of view)

Curious about the cargos?

  • Loose change for buying coffee during the day (I don’t make brilliant discoveries without caffeine)
  • Chewing gum with xylitol (I don’t make brilliant discoveries when distracted by food particles in my mouth or bad breath)
  • A packet of heavy-duty tissues (I don’t make brilliant discoveries with a stuffed up nose)
  • Polarized Ray-Ban sunglasses (I don’t make brilliant discoveries in blinding sunlight)
  • The key to the lock on the equipment shed (no one makes brilliant discoveries—or any discoveries, period—without access to tools)
  • Two cell phones: an iPhone 3GS that keeps me connected to the world (and my sanity), and a bare-bones model that keeps me connected to colleagues and students (and rings continuously…)
  • A mini Swiss Army Knife, for defense against irate colleagues and students

Double-strapping the backpack:

  • Clipboard with pen
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Baseball cap
  • Trowel
  • Cut-proof work gloves
  • Reserve pen
  • Bottle of non-aspirin painkillers
  • Asthma inhaler
  • Hand-sanitizing lotion
  • Reserve packet of heavy-duty tissues
  • Digital camera for capturing what used to be known as “Kodak moments”
  • Pocket flashlight for exploring the many underground spaces of Ostia Antica

Possible addition to next year’s gear list: a hip-flask. I suspect that I might make more brilliant discoveries with one. At the least, I won’t notice the phone ringing so much…

~A.P.


Make History with us: Kickstarter and Gladiator Tomb iPetition Update

Happy New Year!  2013 has already started to ring in fierce! With forty-eight hours left in our Kickstarter campaign “Digging History”, we are proud to share the news that we have 63 backers and have surpassed our target goal.  In fact, we are more than pleased (does “jumping up and down” give you a good idea?) with the amount of support we have had over the past four weeks- donations from every level and inspiring group of people spreading the word about our Kickstarter campaign on the streets and through the airwaves.  Reaching our goal of $10,000 in three weeks, and then surpassing it (we have now raised over $12,000), is a wonderful feeling!  Our feeling is that making history happens by the community, and as we move forward to outlining and organizing the production of Digging History, we look forward to acknowledging you- our supporters and donors.

What comes next?  Well, before we can really roll up our sleeves, we have a couple of days left to continue to raise funds.  We are pushing hard and reaching out (and asking readers those of you who have already donated) to do the same.   More funding will allow us to produce more (and that’s the true goal), to create a fun, accessible hub online that will truly serve to excite and teach K-12, colllege, professional, and the public at large about Rome.  Along with donating, another way to support our projects is also by spreading the word about what we do– in particular, our ipetition: Save the Gladiator Tomb– the quick update is that we have over 3000 signatures as we steadfastly approach our goal of 5000.  Please keep get your friends, friends of friends and acquaintances to sign.  Thank you to the following for their great mentions of these two projects:  Katie Parla of Parla Food, Unamericanaaroma.com, Italiannotebook.com, CNN and Ben Wedeman, Fathom Away and Russell Crowe.

~Darius Arya, Executive Director

dar[at]romanculture.org

Kickstarter


That’s a Wrap: Living Latin videos on YouTube

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Salve! We wanted to share a peek into our Summer 2012′s “Living Latin, Living History in Rome” summer program led by Prof. Nancy Llewellyn of Wyoming Catholic College.  Nancy, an expert in spoken Latin practice and pedagogy, brought students in and out of Rome in an almost completely spoken Latin environment, and she was kind of enough to enjoy a bit of educational paparazzi.

The following links are for two videos produced by AIRC. T his summer, we followed Nancy and class — and had a great time, of course!  We hope  you do as well, and continue to spread the word[s] on living Latin.

  1. Overview of the program experience, showing the on-site readings, guest lectures, classroom exercises, and excursions that make this program unique and a must for any student who wants to understand Latin at the deepest level.
  2. Interview with Prof. Llewellyn in which she explains how she became involved with spoken Latin and why learning to speak the language is so important for anyone who works extensively with it.


Summer Lovin’ happened so fast

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This is the last week of the Summer Field School at Ostia Antica Tor Boacciana. We can’t believe how fast time has flown as we document the past.  Here is a sampling of beautiful amazing photos taken on site by Selma Amzi, 2012 Field School Photography Intern.  Please take a look at our Flickr collection while on site, as well Facebook.




Dig Rome: Ostia Antica 2012 has begun!

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They have arrived! Ostia Antica Summer 2012 Excavation group is ready to get dirty!  This week, we will be visiting several sites and monuments in Rome so please take a look at our twitter feeds: @AIRomanculture and @SaveRome (as well as instagram), and hashtags:  #digrome #ostiaantica12. 

 Half of our OstiaAntica 12 students taking a stroll in the Roman Forum.


Autobus Zen

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“I can be moving or I can be still
But still is still moving to me”.
-Willie Nelson, The Tao of Willie

The upside of having to take the bus is that you have plenty of time, every day, to retreat to the sanctuary of your mind. Of course, it’s really great to have a car to drive because you have much more control over your schedule and movements around town. It’s fun to blast whatever music you want to hear—a different listening experience than when you’re using headphones. The downside to having that control, however, is the acceptance of responsibility that driving entails, whereas you could just climb on the bus and drift into the wonderful world of your imaginings. Leave the driving to Mr. or Ms. Driver, and enjoy your responsibility-free transportation experience! (As long as you have a validated ticket.)

Many people read on the bus but I can only read on trains or the metro without getting seasick. Whatever! You can read later. Use bus time as ZEN time. Countless societies value the practice of meditation, prayer, contemplation, the emptying of oneself, etc. Call it what you will, but it is GREAT to space out and it is GREAT to really give your life and relationships a good ponder. The bus is the perfect place for this, especially if you snagged a seat. Autobus zen is excellent because you are profoundly multitasking…you are physically getting where you need to go. You are doing your part to reduce Rome’s street congestion and carbon emissions. You are ALSO advancing yourself mentally by contemplating your life-path, daydreaming to give your brain a break, thinking positive thoughts about your friends and family, listening to music, inventing plausible business ventures, listing what you need from the grocery store, and admiring the beauty of what you’re seeing outside the window. As the wise and beloved Willie wrote in reference to making the most of bus-travelin’ time, don’t forget the options of contemplation and meditation as you are racking up the miles.

Bus-taking will indeed strengthen you as a person, if you so let it. As a pedestrian in Rome, you cannot depend on a system of efficiency and reliability. No, ATAC (Rome’s public trans) will bestow upon you a gift far greater: that of learning to accept and even embrace chaos. One you’re accustomed to transportation mishaps, you will find yourself taking a more serene approach to addressing unanticipated annoyances and problems. Slogging along on the bus in heavy traffic after waiting 30 minutes for it to arrive will help you recognize when it is worthwhile to fret, and when you just need to throw your hands up to the heavens and let it all go. Imagine that you’ve put all your anger and frustration into a red balloon, and release it into the sky. Spin in a circle and toss imaginary stardust over your right shoulder. It’s all good.

(Just don’t be late for class, or they’ll cane you.)

J.K.

~Julia Elsey, three-peat field school participant, former AIRC intern and programs assistant, voice of Saverome blog in Spring and Summer 2011, and transport philosopher.


Freeze Frame: The Spanish Steps

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The first post in the Freeze Frame series where Rome is captured through the lens of our students.
The Spanish Steps are truly a sight to see when visiting Rome.  Italians, as well as visitors of all nationalities, can be found lounging there, but not eating as this is (not so strictly) prohibited. The steps look down on the Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Square), home to the Fontana della Barcaccia, an excellent place for people watching.  On a Saturday afternoon crowds gather to watch the street performers and meander along Via Condotti, the adjacent street lined with designer shops and the famous Babington’s Tea Room. It has become an iconic destination and a necessity for any visit to Rome.

Visitors seem completely unaware of the Steps’ rich history and their original purpose. The steps were constructed in the 1720s to connect the Spanish Embassy to the Trinita dei Monti church. The steps were built with the intent of creating a link between the church and Rome, but has since become a tourist attraction instead of a religious destination. As stated earlier the area around the steps, which was originally built to showcase the church, has now been transformed into a major metropolitan area of Rome.Much like the rest of the Europe, the Steps have adapted to the contemporary times.

As one walks through Rome, you stumble upon iconic sites from ancient civilizations. Several of these sites have been repurposed for modern use.  In some cases, you can go see what is left of the glorious Roman Empire. But in the case of the Scalinata, you can go to see the Rome of today. Though the Spanish Steps are not ancient, they have molded themselves into Italy’s rich cultural history.
~by Stepanie Stoops, Northeastern University, NEURome12
Can’t get enough? Follow our students through Rome via Twitter hashtag #NEURome12 and the occasional #NEURome2012.

Living History in Rome day by day

Take a peek into the mind blog of AIRC Executive Director Darius Arya  as he writes about
Living History in Rome day by day.


Life in the Trenches: Romesick

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Potential student excavators beware! If you go with AIRC to dig in Ostia, you WILL feel “Romesick” as soon as you leave!

I participated in AIRC’s Ostia field school two summers ago, and my time in Rome still affects who I am today. I now conduct my discipline of art history/archaeology as well as my life differently because of having learned and lived in this unique environment.

Ostia Antica is a fantastic site to excavate. It seems like it is always a work in progress, with other field schools and preservation projects occurring at the same time as AIRC’s dig. As an excavator, you are part of the process that creates and shapes how tourists and historians will perceive Ostia. Every time you sink your pickaxe or shovel into the ground, you are technically determining how the future will understand the ancient past!! Every day it felt so satisfying to walk back to the train station with everyone, covered in dirt from a hard day’s work and thinking about what laid in store for us tomorrow.

By the end of the six weeks, I loved all of the amazing friendships I made and how much I learned about myself. I still keep in touch with the other USC students who went on the dig with me, as well as many of the non-USC students too. I got to know and learn from Professor John Pollini and the AIRC staffers, and they all have been incredible mentors and teachers to me. I loved the independence and confidence I gained from living in Rome, being able to wander around on the weekends and late afternoons casually exploring the city. I really felt that I knew Rome like a local, like it had always been my home.

Even after two years, my time in Ostia with AIRC continues to aid my eagerness to learn. I went on another dig this past summer, and it was great to already have some excavation knowledge (and impress the field school’s staff with it!!). I could immediately participate in more complicated activities like field surveying and artifact conservation because AIRC gave me a great foundation in proper excavating, preserving, and cataloging techniques. They provided a well-rounded introduction to field archaeology that expanded my future opportunities.

If you aren’t scared of getting dirty, actively shaping Roman history, and living abroad for a summer, then AIRC’s Ostia field school will be a fantastic experience! My time in Rome changed me, and since then I have truly looked at life and the ancient past in a different and exciting way.

~ Alexandria Yen, SAFS ’10, will receive her B.A. in Archaeology and Art History from the University of Southern Californiain 2012


Life in the Trenches: An Augustan Experience

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If my summer digging with AIRC in Ostia were a Roman Emperor, it would have to be Augustus. Not only was it the best summer ever, but it was also a time of personal and academic growth, development, and expansion.

I had worked for a few seasons on a dig near my hometown in New England, and, as an archaeology major, had always dreamed of working in Rome and gaining experience in Mediterranean field archaeology. In terms of skill building, I couldn’t have asked for more. While we spent most of our time digging, there was plenty of time spent getting acquainted with the ins and outs of artifact washing and cataloging, archaeological drawing, wall profiles, and surveying with a Total Station. In short, it was a complete field experience. My favorite times were spent swinging a pickaxe like I had a vendetta against the topsoil, but I am grateful for getting to develop my skills in other areas of fieldwork.

There’s nowhere else to dig quite like OstiaWhile still part of Rome, it’s quiet and idyllic; like digging in your neighborhood park (if your neighborhood were 2,000 years old and had a forum built by Tiberius). Since Ostia is often overlooked by tourists, it will feel like it’s your own. For all that, it’s only a 25 minute train ride from the center of Rome. Living right in the centro storico was an unbelievable experience, and I would happily spend my evenings and weekends exploring the little stone-paved streets and parks, or even traveling further afield throughout Lazio. To live in such a city, even for a summer, will challenge and excite you every day.

Ultimately, a field school is only as a good as the people who are part of it. There is so much to learn from the combined knowledge and years of experience of the AIRC staff—even if that means being repeatedly told “No Jonathan, that’s just another pretty rock.” I was surprised to find that many of the other students were not Archaeology or Classics majors, but quickly saw that just about everyone shared my enthusiasm for the subject matter and the work we were doing. We bonded right away, cooking together in our apartments and trying to figure out who was the sweatiest and filthiest on the train ride home. My trenchmates and I are still in touch.

When you sign up for the AIRC’s field school in Ostia, , you are signing up for more than archaeological skills and experience. You will leave with new friends and a unique experience under your belt that will give you a new way of looking at the world. I certainly came out the better for it. As Augustus himself said:

Ostia archaeologatorem marmoreum relinquit, quem geekum latericium accepit.

~ Jonathan Migliori, SAFS ‘10, is graduate of Brown University 2011 and will receive his M.A. from Durham University in 2012.


#DigRome Part 2: Field school tweet up

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With our upcoming Summer Archaeological Field School (June 18 to July 29), we hosted an excavation/life in Rome tweet last Wednesday March 28th AIRC, so that past and present SAFS participants could talk about what goes on a dig, what to expect and what not to expect.   For those who were unable to meet up, we will be hosting a second #DigRome tweet-up on Wednesday, April 4, at 5pm EST/ 2pm PCT.   Here’s your opportunity to ask questions about our excavations and learn what’s its like to live in Rome for the summer

When:  Wednesday, April 4 at 5-6 PM EST (2-3 PM PST, 11-12 AM in Rome, 8-9 AM in Sydney)

Host:  American Institute for Roman Culture

Where:   Twitter: Search for hashtag #digrome

How:   Check out our customized TweetGrid to send tweets. (You will need to bookmark the  tweetgrid page and login with your Twitter account when ready to tweet.) Follow the #digrome hashtag,  guest host Julia Elsey on @AIRC_Guest and @AIRomanculture. Or load your Twitter page and search for #DigRome for the 60 minutes of the event.

Participate:  Send us questions/comments in advance so that we can feature them. During the tweetup, get chatty and make sure to use the hashtag #DigRome in your tweets so everyone can see your question, answer, contribution, etc.

Not on Twitter?: You can still use the TweetGrid to follow the conversation. Though you will not be able to contribute to the discussion, you can follow all commentary.

For more information, please contact:  @AIRomanculture, email:  info@romanculture.org

Photo by mashable, and yes, everyone on the dig looks like that.


Life in the Trenches: Top tips when in Rome…

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AIRC 2011 alum Dustin Thomas offers his tips on how to have the best time in and out of the trenches:

  1. Explore! How often is it that you get to roam (no pun intended!) outside of your home country, much less in the Eternal City of Rome itself? There was certainly a lot that I got to see, learn, taste, and smell just by walking up the street, and I can definitely say that even after six whole weeks of “exploring” I am by no means done.
  2. When you’re digging, roll up your sleeves! A farmer’s tan is no joke, and it certainly is not sexy when you might decide to spend a Saturday afternoon at the beach. That being said, use sunscreen!!! I have a dark complexion, but I got burnt at least two times because I missed a spot or two with the sunscreen.
  3. Don’t pass up the opportunity for a late night experiencing some Roman nightlife…BUT don’t complain too loudly when early the next morning you’re struggling to get to the bus heading to the dig site. Balance is key, and there is a lot to experience with your classmates, especially since you should take the opportunity to better acquaint yourselves with people you might not be trench mates with. We used the weekends or even just the afternoons after a long hot day to grab a gelato and a gin and tonic at the local bar-tabacchi or a sultry smoke at the hookah bar later in the evening.
  4. Get your fitness on! Some of you out there who will be heading to field school this summer are undoubtedly very conscientious of your fitness. Digging is a very physically demanding activity, but sometimes I felt like I wasn’t getting a balanced enough workout, and who can forget the days in finds lab? My solution, like many of my classmates, was either to go for a run or just do some daily calisthenics. They got me energized to embrace the rest of the afternoon and evening, when I would otherwise be exhausted and sleep the day away.

Photos from Big Old Goofy WorldCoach G LifeChangingFitness, EventsinRome, Erica Firpo


Do you dig Rome? Field School TweetUp #DigRome

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In honor of its upcoming Summer Archaeological Field School (June 18 to July 29), on Wednesday March 28th AIRC will host a tweetup for past and present SAFS participants. This is our way of allowing the seasoned veterans of past editions to pass on their hard-won knowledge and wisdom to the next generation of aspiring Roman archaeologists – or just razz them. Multiple SAFS veteran and citizen of Rome honoris caussa Julia Elsey will be our special guest tweeter as @AIRC_Guest.  It’s a great opportunity to ask questions about our excavations in Ostia Antica and Palatine Hill,  and learn what’s its like to live in Rome for the summer.

When:  Wednesday, March 28 at 6-7 PM EST (3-4 PM PST, 12-1 AM in Rome, 9-10 AM in Sydney)

Host:  American Institute for Roman Culture

Where:   Twitter: Search for hashtag #digrome

How:   Check out our customized TweetGrid to send tweets. (You will need to bookmark the  tweetgrid page and login with your Twitter account when ready to tweet.) Follow the #digrome hashtag,  guest host Julia on @AIRC_Guest and @AIRomanculture. Or load your Twitter page and search for #DigRome for the 60 minutes of the event.

Participate:  Send us questions/comments in advance so that we can feature them. During the tweetup, get chatty and make sure to use the hashtag #DigRome in your tweets so everyone can see your question, answer, contribution, etc.

Not on Twitter?: You can still use the TweetGrid to follow the conversation. Though you will not be able to contribute to the discussion, you can follow all commentary.

For more information, please contact:  @AIRomanculture, email:  info@romanculture.org


Life in the Trenches: Looking Back

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I can’t believe it’s close to a year since I was living in Rome. It feels like yesterday when I was making friends to last a lifetime, tasting the freshness of food I’ll never find here at home, and digging up places that the ancients called home. Most of all, while I was touring the city, I constantly felt like I was really walking in the footsteps of human civilization’s greatest thinkers, leaders, artists, soldiers, and entertainers.

If you’re anything like me, you’re enamored by ancient Rome. As a student aspiring to make a career out of Roman Archaeology, I’ve fallen in love with the prospect of investigating and learning about arguably humanity’s greatest civilization. It was a dream for me to actually go to Rome and dig in Italy. I had been on a field school before, but I was in for the experience of a lifetime. I was ready for adventure.

I arrived in Rome not quite knowing what to expect, but as soon as I landed I was practically overwhelmed with a completely new culture and a new way of life that would certainly take some getting used to. I was definitely nervous about who I was going to be living with and, more importantly, who I was going to be slaving in the hot Italian sun at the dig site with. (I won’t lie, I did a little Facebook-stalking to find out about my dig-mates before getting to Italy.)

It turned out that I was going to be spending a lot of the next six weeks with people that had almost the exact same interests as me, and not just with career aspirations or academic focus. Who would’ve thought?- Romies actually turn out to be very similar! Rome became a second home for me, and before long the rest of the AIRC students along with myself were talking about coming back.

So it is with a nostalgic heart that I conclude this entry. I wish everyone the best of luck in getting to Rome and the time of their lives while they’re there. I know I had mine –  the dig was definitely a learning experience, especially since I was trained in American archaeology to start– and hope everyone’s experience tops it.

~ Dustin Thomas is an Archaeology senior at Lycoming College. He reflects on Summer 2011′s archaeological field school for Life in the Trenches.


Archaeology, Academics and Social Media

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Last week, I woke up to find that AIRC’s twitter account @AIRomanculture has surpassed 500 followers.  In an era where celebutantes, actors, sports heroes and gun-toting-fathers rack in thousands a day, 500 followers (in a few months) is merely a blink of the eye.  It’s not really even a number.  But for us, its a big deal.  Why?  Aren’t  archaeologists, classicists, latinists and any book-toting academics stereotypically nose-deep in text all the time?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Take a glimpse at my archaeo-academic desktop on any  morning.

Facebook, twitter, wordpress blog, Dr. Arya’s instagram.  These are a few of my favorite things.

My mornings mean connecting and researching in a world that used to be a bit hard enter into, if you aren’t on campus or at a conference. Reaching 500 followers means we are doing our our job to promote cultural heritage–  in other words, getting the word out there, keeping up a continuous dialog and searching out/collaborating with/introducing new people.  My world of colleagues and better yet friends has exploded out of Rome and into your computer. I may not know what you look like, but I know what you like and I like what you’re talking about.

Social Media is an incredible and relentless asset for the AIRC.  We’ve connected with former students, professors and professionals to find out what they are doing and where they are going, we help in keeping issues current (protecting Greece’s cultural heritage) and we’ve connected with people interested in many of our interests from our academic projects in archaeology, communications and Latin (just take a look at “Latin Tweet Ups”, Pipiatio Latina: aka a lot of people “speaking” Latin on twitter)– to our personal interests such as sustainability in Rome, how Ancient Rome appears in pop culture, gastrotourism, sci-fi literature and art crimes.

So yes, we’ve jumped head first into a kind of contemporary archaeology where history is happening instantaneously.  To be honest, I can’t keep up with everything we are “supposed” to be doing or not doing.  @Airomanculture has committed the twitter faux pas of following more than our number of followers, but I am pretty sure that we are truly reading everyone we are following– and that their tweets are great.  And yes, we do enjoy retweeting information because there are a lot of great people out there on Twitter and Facebook (and I guess Pinterest now) who are sharing great information? Does that make us less personable? I don’t know and I hope not.    What I do know is that all of this is good for us, for any academic who may be shy (like me) or not have the time, money, resources, connections, patience to stumble across something new, useful and otherwise mind-blowing.   And here’s an update: thanks to Twitter, signatures to stop the proposed landfill next to Villa Adriana,aka Protect Hadrian’s Villa petition, will hopefully surpass 2000 as of March 12, 2012.  Sign if you haven’t!

What do you think?


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Popular Archaeology Magazine and Ostia Antica

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Popular Archaeology Excited is barely how we can describe what it feels like to see Ostia Antica field school excavation featured in Popular Archaeology! This is great news for us, and complements the AIRC video mention by Barbara Ireland in her “In Ostia Antica” travel article for the New York Times, December 25, 2011.

Ecstatic! Jumping for joy! Archaeo-high fives!! (No trowel, that would be dangerous).


Dig Rome: Palatine Hill

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Want to know how we ring in a Happy New Year 2012?  We get our hands dirty in history and want you to help!  For the first time ever, AIRC is offering a second Summer Archaeological Field School to complement its new project at Ostia Antica.   We will be teaming up with Rome’s oldest and most prestigious university La Sapienza to offer the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dig in one of the most historic spots in the city, the Palatine Hill.

Location:  NE Corner overlooking the Colosseum, along via Sacra between the arches of Titus and Constantine.

History soundbite:  The Palatine is where the Romans thought their city was founded, way back in 753 BC. (more…)


Podcasting Culture in Rome

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On November 26, at American University of Rome and British School in Rome-hosted conference “Our Future’s Past“, I was pleased to participate and present with my AIRC colleague Alberto Prieto . We spoke on the final day of the 3-day conservation/ cultural heritage conference where topics addressed included various aspects of technology and innovation. (more…)

Live and Dig in Rome: Ostia Antica Project

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Less than six months until our Summer 2012 dig kicks off!  AIRC’s new archaeological investigation at Ostia Antica is going to be an incredible educational and scientific adventure for many reasons.

First and foremost, the site is the perfect question mark: a large structure that has never been investigated or integrated into the general plan and understanding of Ostia Antica, ancient Rome’s first port and an amazing site rich with history. (more…)


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