Shortly before I left to study abroad here in Rome, I found myself having to constantly answer the same question over and over from my friends and family in the States: “Why are you going to Rome?” And then, all the rest: “Do you know anyone there?” “But it’s so chaotic!” “Do you speak the language?” The idea of going abroad to study in Rome can throw people into a sort of tailspin with its overwhelming mass of past and present, big and small. Loud, louder, and loudest.
Rome is a city that draws people in from all over the world most likely for its treasure trove of charming contradictions: ancient history and contemporary life, loud streets and quiet churches, urban chaos and green parks, and espresso-fueled days followed by afternoon naps and four-hour Sunday lunches. And it is a one-of-a-kind outdoor and living museum that is irresistible– whether for its amazing ancient history and cultural heritage, or its an intangible quality of life here where you are always offered to try just one more flavor of their gelato or stay just a few minutes longer to chat over your cappuccino at the bar. It is that very je ne sais quoi that makes those of us who come for a week, a summer and a semester want to stay a life time.
Fifteen non-stop weeks in Rome. Living in the city, making each neighborhood your classroom while studying with faculty at the top of their field who also eat, breathe and live what they teach ~these are what help to define our AIRC semester abroad program. And then Rome, the city eternal, colors and highlights the rest quite easily. Think of Rome as the background and stage for our program, which caters courses in history, art history, classics, communications and journalism, among others. In fact, long ago, a professor once told me that living in Rome is like being in a play and that the moment you leave your house, you step out onto the stage and take part in a never-ending act.
Are you ready for your role?
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
- Baseball cap
- 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…
Reblogged from Executive Director Darius Arya’s blog DariusAryaDigs:
Please join me in voicing your concern for saving the Gladiator’s Tomb, a unique cultural heritage site that runs the risk of being reburied permanently for lack of funding. Together with the AIRC, I am hoping to get 5,000 signatures on the iPetition to save the Gladiator’s Tomb.
In 2008, on the Via Flaminia in the northern part of contemporary Rome, archaeologist found an impressive marble mausoleum, among other noteworthy tombs, along a well-preserved section of ancient road. The press was quick to call this particular tomb “Tomb of the Gladiator” since the tomb itself was comissioned by and for Marcus Nonius Macrinus, an prominent general under the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Macrinus’ life was paralleled in the Oscar-winning film Gladiator (2000, Ridley Scott) with the general-then-gladiator character Maximus magnificently played by Russell Crowe. Upon its discovery and nickname, the world responded enthusiastically because of its relationship with the larger-than-life Maximus, who represented so much of Rome and created such enthusiasm for ancient Roman culture, as well as the overwhelmingly important historic, architectural, and epigraphical qualities of the site itself.
Over the past decade and a half of living and working in Rome, I have been fortunate to visit the site on numerous occasions, and I am constantly struck by the enormity of the site-13,000 square meters in area, almost three American football fields. It is beautiful– both historically and physically. I think anyone that comes to the site cannot help but have an immediate connection to the past. I am also in awe of the amount of mud that buried site thus preserving it (45 feet in height)- it gives you an idea of both what the archaeologists had to overcome but also how much lucky they were to even find it.
The superintendency’s recent (and almost abrupt) decision to rebury the site for preservation is laudable in that they want to preserve the site. However, the historical importance of the site merits further attention and excavation, not simply covering up. We have too much to lose here. If we have to pick and choose, this is one worth fighting for. Please join me in signing and sharing this iPetition now.
Over the past year, we’ve had our ear to the ground and one eye on the open, academic road as we are very interested in navigating the trails of online educational sites. They are hot topics with even hotter names like Coursera, Udacity, Stanford and MIT. Add Smarthistory/KhanAcademy to the list and you’ll find us literally digging through time with Smarthistory.org’s executive editors Steven Zucker and Beth Harris.
Smarthistory is a “not-for-profit, multi-media web-book designed as a dynamic enhancement for the traditional art history textbook”. Are we looking to replace print? No, just increase the volume of discussion. Or as John Berger once said, “the ways of seeing.” Enjoy our first collaboration: Digging through Time, and keep an eye out for more!
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.
“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.)
~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.
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.
What would Rome be without its meandering gladiators (not to mention their creative centurion cousins) and thought-provoking graffiti? In April, the Comune di Rome tried to answer at least part of the question with a city-sponsored clean up. What followed was war.
Just like the gladiators, Pipiatio Latina wants a free-for-all dialogue on Rome’s gladiators and graffiti . . . in Latin, of course!
When: Wednesday, May 9 at 6 pm EST
Where: Twitter – Search for hashtag #LTNL (primary) and #LatinTweetUp
How: Check out our customized TweetGrid to send tweets (You will need to bookmark LTNL tweet grid page and login with your twitter account when ready to tweet.) Follow the aforementioned hashtags and @AIRomanculture. (You can also put your acount name in place of @AIRomanculture). Or load your Twitter page and search for #TweetLatin and #LatinTweetup for the 60 minutes of the event.
Participate: Send us questions/comments in advance so we can feature them in the #LatinTweetup. During the tweet up, get chatty and make sure to use hashtags #LatinTweetup or #tweetlatin within your Tweet 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.
Graffiti photo: Mr.Jennings
AIRC 2011 alum Dustin Thomas offers his tips on how to have the best time in and out of the trenches:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
We are proud to publish Professor Bernard Frischer‘s op-ed piece on Protecting Hadrian’s Villa, an i-petition created by Frischer and sponsored by the American Institute for Roman Culture. In less than a week, we have generated more than 2000 signatures, and are at 3650 signatures and counting.
Rome has long used a garbage dump at a place called Malagrotta. In June 2011, the EU Commission ordered Malagrotta closed because of various violations of EU environmental regulations. Since then the Region of Lazio (the governmental unit in charge of Rome’s waste disposal) has been trying to find a new site. In September 2011, just two months before it fell from power, the Berlusconi government appointed Prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro to be Extraordinary Commissioner of Waste Disposal for Lazio with special powers to confront the emergency situation. In October 2011 Pecoraro announced a plan to install a new 400-acre garbage dump at a locality called Corcolle, which is less than one mile from the site of Hadrian’s Villa. Needless to say, the prospect of bringing Rome’s daily garbage to the very doorstep of a precious World Heritage Site was greeted with alarm and opposition. The Italian Ministry of Culture and the Province of Rome are on record in opposition to the proposal as are various nearby cities (including Tivoli) and citizen groups.
“GARBAGE EMERGENCY, A ‘YES’ OF THE TECHNICAL EXPERTS PUTS CORCOLLE AT RISK
by Maruro Evangelisti
“March 17, 2012, ROME – Among the documents which the collaborators of the Commissioner for Waste Disposal, Prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro, are examining in meetings with the Director of the Ministry of the Environment and representatives of the Province of Rome, City of Rome, and Region of Lazio, there is a site plan. It shows the area of Corcolle (selected to be one of the new temporary garbage dumps) at a distance of 2 kilometers from Hadrian’s Villa. The land parcel belongs to the corporation Pozzalana srl.
“In another site plan the boundaries of the UNESCO site of Hadrian’s Villa are only 1200 meters away. And in the dossier of the staff of the Commissioner there is also a document dated 15 June 2010 from the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome in response to a request to install a rubbish dump in which the Superintendency affirms that the land is ‘archaeologically sterile.’ And the Superintendency expressed its approval.
“In contrast, in the course of the meeting of specialists which blocked the choice of Corcolle [i.e., several days ago--BF], the Cultural Ministry vetoed the choice of Corcolle.
“In a nutshell: for Pecoraro the candidacy of Corcolle has NOT been discarded. It is the only site among the seven under consideration that permits creation of the garbage dump by this autumn, if Corrado Clini, Minister of the Environment, gives his approval.
“Let’s be clear: suppose that on March 22, 2012 the government says ‘yes’ to the areas chosen by Pecoraro (Corcolle and Riano). For Corcolle there is already a preliminary plan of action. Land expropriation and a call for bids will be set in motion. The winner will have to present a final proposal. An environmental impact report will have to be filed.
“Before October-November 2012 the new garbage dump [at Corcolle- Hadrian's Villa--BF] will not be ready. For that to happen, an additional month will be needed. If the options of Corcolle and Riano are rejected and if a different site is chosen, then the whole process starts over from the beginning and much more time is needed [to get Rome's new garbage dump up and running]. In that case, even an extension until December 2012 of the use of the current dump site at Malagrotta would not be enough.”
Time is short. You can help by signing an internationally sponsored online petition appealing to Pecoraro and Clini to abandon the ill-conceived plan to put a huge garbage dump so close to Hadrian’s Villa. Over 3,600 people from all over the world have already added their names, including such notable figures as Architect Richard Meier; Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, former Director of the British School in Rome and Master of Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge; and Salvatore Settis, former Director of the Getty Research Center and Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa. Sign today.
Photo from Wikipedia.
The shocking decision to create a massive landfill within a few hundred meters of Hadrian's Villa, one of most well known, important cultural heritage sites in the world is, to say the least, astonishing. See last December's CBS news video for a summary of the landfill project.
In light of the recent pummeling from the media that Italy has undergone due to the lamentable condition of the heritage management at…
What do you get when you put a 21st century landfill next to a nearly 2000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site?
It seems like the joke is on us since the only punch line is that for the past months, news outlets around the world have been reporting on a project to create a landfill near Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli outside Rome. Yes, that beautiful and historic Roman site of unparalleled importance and scale just 40 minutes outside of Rome in nearby Tivoli, that amazing imperial villa which is noted as a magnificent example of Roman architecture that has resounded through the ages. The current plan for a landfill seriously challenges the well-being of the site and other historic monuments in the vicinity, not to mention the socio-environmental affects it will have on the surrounding neighborhood.
Just a a few days ago,Bernard Frischer, professor of Classics at the University of Virginia and long-time supporter of the American Institute for Roman Culture, has started an onine petition to stop this development in an effort to raise more than a signifcant number of signatures proving global support of Hadrian’s Villa. The AIRC is collaborating as sponsoring instituion of the petition and so far, more than 2000 people have signed, including countless professionals and experts from three continents and all areas of expertise, not just Roman Culture. And we are not kidding around here. Cultural Heritage is not a joke.