promoting cultural heritage and conservation

Posts tagged “Summer

The Next Great Travel Writers Contest by @goabroad

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Can’t stop talking about your study abroad experience? Put it in writing for the GoAbroad.com”Next Great Travel Writers Contest” and show your friends your words are worth a lot.


Life in the Trenches: Week 4, 11 Things I’ve learned on the Dig

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  1. Count the buckets: When brushing away a mound of dirt with the equivalent of a glorified toothbrush and an oversized spork, it can be discouraging to look at your area after several hours of work and feel you haven’t made a dint in it.  In order to prevent dismay, learn to count the buckets of dirt that you fill instead.  Nothing says progress more than being able to climb up a pile of dirt and say, “Look, Ma!  I spent 5 weeks moving all this dirt from over there to over here!”
  2.  Remember all your hard work will eventually pay off* : Excavation needs to be a slow process

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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…)


Life in the Trenches: Week 1 at the Dig

Welcome to the Parco dei Ravennati excavation in Ostia Antica.  There is nothing like being on site at an excavation, and nothing better than having hands on reportage of the dig itself.  Five participants have volunteered to contribute a blog post about what they are doing at Parco dei Ravennati.  From now through July 21, we will feature weekly posts from the point of view of actual dig participants as they get down and dirty in Ostia Antica. Our first post is from Tara Giangrande, an art history and anthropology student from Swarthmore College.
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After a week of touring around all seven hills of ancient Rome, the students of this summer’s AIRC archaeological field school began work at Parco dei Ravennati in Ostia Antica.  While a few of us had prior experience with excavation, it was an entirely new adventure (more…)


Digging the Dig before we dig, Ostia Antica 2013

For those of you with visions of Indiana Jones and Laura Croft frolicking through layer upon layer of antiquities, here’s a glimpse at what our excavation looks like immediately before the students start digging into Ostia Antica.

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What Every Student of Latin Needs to Know

One of the most important aspects to education is dialogue, and we love to promote an on-going conversation with past, present and future students.  Summer 2012 student Lidia Zanetti Domingues spent last summer with Nancy Llewellyn in the AIRC’s Living Latin, Living History program, and writes about What Every Student of Latin Needs to Know.latin

At first sight, Latin always seems a tough nut. Whether you are a 14-year-old Italian during the you first day at the High school, or an American teenager who has decided to study Classics at the College, or anybody else eager to read Cicero or saint Augustine in the original language, the first impact with Latin can be really traumatic.

At the very beginning, I felt the same sense of discouragement that probably many of you are feeling or have felt too. But I decided that Latin language and literature were so amazing that it was worth the trouble. I have experienced many different types of teaching in different contexts and I wish to share my experiences with you. Here are some tips that I found very useful during my learning path.

  • Latin has a meaning:  many beginners seem to think that, since Latin authors wrote their works so many years ago, their language cannot but be cryptic and unintelligible. Therefore, when they look up a word in the dictionary,  they tend to pick the weirdest meaning they find. Remember that, if classical authors are still read nowadays, it’s because they still can communicate us something! If your translation has not much meaning, it is probably wrong. Yes, decus suum can also mean “the honor of pigs”, but why should Tacitus write about pigs’ honor?
  • Beware the false friends: the average student who is an Italian, French or Spanish native speaker is simply too lazy to look up some words in the dictionary. The Latin says focus? Well, it must mean fire (fuoco, feu, fuego), of course! Pity that it actually means “hearth”. Romance languages can be helpful allies to learn Latin also for those who are not native, but if you are not 100% sure about a meaning, it is better to check.
  • Accent issues: in one of your first classes, you might have learned the laws of Latin accent and especially the “law of the penultimate accent”. They are very simple, but unfortunately one always discovers very soon that they are not so simple when it comes to implement them: sometimes it looks almost impossible to discern whether the penultimate syllable is long or not. My advice is to always read Latin texts aloud and check the words you are unsure of in dictionaries or grammars. You should also bear in mind the retraction of the accent in compound verbs (e.g. dàre-circùmdare): it is very tricky!
  • Verbs quizzes: this is a method I often used during the first years of High school to learn Latin verbal system. With a friend, tear a sheet into pieces and write on them Latin verbs (the more insidious they are, the more useful the game will be), fold them and put them into a bowl. Draw a piece of paper in turn and try to analyze the verb: the other person must check that the answer is correct.
  • Try a spoken Latin course: apart from making you get rid of accent problems (if you use Latin words in real conversations, you will know for sure where to put the accent!), knowing how to speak aliquantum Latine also liberates you from the dependence on dictionaries. Also spoken Latin has its complexity and one of the biggest issues is to enhance one’s lexicon. Try to memorize words making connections between them, associating them by topic or by contrast (a word and its antonym, for instance). I also noticed that some of my American classmates struggled a bit trying to pronounce some words (contignatio was especially their nightmare), but they find very useful to divide such words in shorter sections, practicing their pronounce separately and then joining the parts.

Good luck with your Latin studies, and believe me: one day, when you will be reading an epistle of Seneca or an ode of Horace, you will agree with me that all your efforts were worth those enchanting masterpieces!

~Lidia Zanetti Domingues, LATIN2012

Interesting in augmenting your Latin studies with an on-site, practically total immersion in Latin? Please take a look at our Living Latin, Living History program. There are a few spots left for applicants for this summer 2013’s program in Rome- check out our video for the full experience.


Ostia Antica: The Importance of First Impressions

If you mention Ostia Antica to most anyone, Italian or foreigner, you get only a blank stare and/or a shake of the head. Most modern Romans have never visited it, at least not in their adult lives; in fact, the majority of the roughly 300,000 people who visit the site every year are Italian schoolchildren and foreign tourists. This is a tiny fraction of the nearly five million people who visit the Colosseum every year. Yet there was a time—about 2000 years ago, admittedly—when, if you mentioned the word “Ostia” to anyone who travelled, whether Roman or foreigner, you would get an animated response fueled by mental images of Rome, the greatest metropolis of the ancient world, for which this unpretentious port city was the lifeline to the world. Millions of people from all walks of life embarked and disembarked at Ostia in the approximately 1000 years of its life, from slaves to emperors (Augustus, Claudius, Nero), from merchants to early Christian luminaries (St. Augustine). These people navigated the same streets, drank from the same fountains, and washed in the same bath complexes that we can see today, just 25 minutes by train from downtown Rome.

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I first “landed” at Ostia Antica as a graduate student in the summer of 1998. My initial impression of the site then still corresponds perfectly to its appearance today: a beautiful, sleepy, largely empty park packed with an incredible array of structures that beg to be explored. It’s like having a theme park practically to yourself, except this theme park happens to be the closest experience to the look and feel of ancient Rome available anywhere in the world.

Several things struck me then, as now. Ostia is as big as Pompeii, but it offers a much better visitor experience by virtue of being entirely accessible (whereas most of Pompeii is barricaded to keep visitors away), well-shaded by big pine trees, and much less crowded. The one major disadvantage that I recall was having to leave at lunchtime to forage for food in the Medieval borgo next door, an episode that nevertheless had a silver lining in introducing me to a quaint 1000-year-old town.

The food problem at Ostia Antica was soon remedied by the construction of a pleasant glass-walled cafeteria next to the site museum, which allows the visitor to spend the entire day among the ruins. The visitor experience at Ostia Antica continues to improve gradually with every passing year. Recently a cement staircase and ramp were installed on the decumanus maximus (main east-west road) at the corner of Via dei Molini to smooth the abrupt (and dangerous) drop from the Late Antique to the Republican street level, the mosaics in the Piazzale delle Corporazioni were cleaned, and Wi-Fi was installed in the cafeteria.

But if it’s true that first impressions are the most important ones, then much more needs to be done to allow Ostia Antica to make the sensational first impression every visitor deserves. There are many dirty mosaics and frescoes that need to be cleaned and conserved, collapsing walls that need to be patched up, and trees and plants that need to be cut back more frequently. Many of the informational signs are so old as to be faded or peeling, and there are not enough signs to make up for the lack of a good guidebook in English.

We at the American Institute for Roman Culture are big fans of Ostia Antica, and we’re working hard to improve the visitor experience there through a variety of projects. In 2010 and 2011 we created a series of educational videos about the site that were recently cited by The New York Times as an authoritative source. In 2011 we brought much-needed attention to the site by making it a central theme of our first annual Unlisted conference on sustainable cultural heritage. In 2011 and 2012 we tested an innovative approach to documenting and conserving the standing remains. And in recent years our Summer Archaeological Field School has been based at Ostia Antica.

In 2013 the AIRC field school will be held in the Parco dei Ravennati, a practically unexplored public park located between Ostia Antica and the borgo. This three-year excavation will help finally unite the two areas, blending the romantic beauty of Ostia Antica, the imposing majesty of the castle of pope Julius II, and the relaxing small-town charm of the borgo into an unforgettable first impression. It’s also an opportunity to engage the local community and invite them to invest their tangible and intangible resources in the transformation of Ostia Antica into a world-class archaeological experience on a par with Pompeii and central Rome through preservation, education, and promotion, so that everyone will gain something.

We want your first impression of Ostia Antica to be a great one: please consider joining the excavation project, if a student, or just stopping by to say “hi” as you make your way from the train station to the archaeological site.

– by Albert Prieto, AIRC  Associate Director of Archaeology, albert[at]romanculture.org

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How Latin and Twitter helped a Journalist

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They are calling it “the tweet heard around the world”, a less than 140-character message by ANSA journalist Giovanna Chirri that announced to resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. “B16 si ‘e dimesso. Lascia pontificato dal 28 febbraio” [B16 is stepping down. Leaving on February 28.] The news itself is beyond spectacular.  As Papal history fans will note, Pope Benedict XVI will be the first pontiff to voluntarily resign since Gregory XII in 1415. Yes, nearly 600 year ago. And how this news was not just conveyed [Chirri's social media short-hand] but understood is just as spectacular.  Chirri, part of a papal audience on Monday, February 11, listened to the Pope’s Latin declaration,

Quapropter bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium die 19 aprilis MMV commissum renuntiare ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 29, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet et Conclave ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse.” [For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.]

She confirmed with ANSA what she had heard, posted her tweet, and from there, the deluge.  Journalists quickly caught on, and began spreading the news, along with speculation as to why.  Chirri has quickly become a superstar both journalistically and linguistically.   Not only was she the very first to get the scoop on history-making news, she quickly followed up her tweet with another stating “the Pope’s Latin is very easy to understand”, an inadvertent shout-out to supporters of Latin language and its studies in academic institutions across the globe.  Optime, Iohanna!

Thanks to Chirri’s great use of Latin, a once “useless” language proves ever relevant in the real world and Latin’s lasting legacy continues to shine bright and clear.  It is opportune to note that there are many opportunities to study Latin around the world but very few to speak it and we are proud to support Latin and its uses in daily life and contemporary media by studying Latin in a contemporary and living environment.   Rome is the ideal city- as the city is literally covered in Latin inscriptions– and now with the world scrutinizing Vatican Ctiy for the coming months, it is a great opportunity to re-examine Latin’s role in contemporary society.

Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation [VIDEO and below photo, The Guardian, February 11, 2012]

Click here for Official transcript

Pope Benedict XVI


Study Abroad with AIRC: Cal State Fresno offers School of Record to AIRC Programs

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AIRC is pleased to announce the development of its partnership with California State University, Fresno (Fresno State), as official school of record for all academic program offerings. University academic credit for AIRC programs will now be offered by Fresno State. That includes our upcoming 15-week semester program:

as well as this summer’s program offerings:

The partnership, which is administered through Fresno State’s Division of Continuing and Global Education in partnership with the College of Arts and Humanities, support’s the University’s internationalization vision as articulated in its Strategic Plan for Excellence. Russel Statham, Manager for Administration and Global Operations, said, “We are excited about this new partnership and are pleased to be able to expand Fresno State’s role in promoting global education. Our alignment with AIRC will offer hundreds of students the opportunity to receive academic credit for world-class educational programs in Rome, and we are pleased to be a leader supporting international education opportunities.”

AIRC is proud to have Fresno State as its official partner in offering university academic credit for AIRC’s high-quality, one-of-a-kind academic programs in Rome, and is looking forward to the opportunity to now enroll a much wider range of students who require college credit for their academic experience abroad.

Now Enrolling! Click here to view AIRC Study Abroad Programs


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.




Living Latin (Photos)

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International Association for Classical Archaeology AIAC

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Not necessarily the protagonist of most coffee table conversations, the International Association for Classical Archeology (Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica or AIAC) is the classical archaeologist’s best friend. A prestigious organization for promoting archaeological activities throughout Italy, AIAC is located right behind the tourist hub of Rome’s Piazza Venezia and the Vittoriano in the former papal residence of Palazzo Venezia. This unique historical setting speaks to the academic and institutional importance of AIAC as large scale research organization, benefiting members and scholars worldwide.

Founded in the aftermath the Second World War in 1946, AIAC was originally created with the aim to provide an international forum for archeologists and researchers to discuss classical archaeology across national, economic, or even political borders. AIAC’s roots, however, date back to 1823, when a small group of four northern European intellectuals would reunite periodically in Rome in order to explore the city’s architectural and artistic treasures as well as to read and discuss classical texts. This camaraderie resulted in the formation of the group entitled the “Circle of Hyperborean Romans” (Il “Circolo degli Iperborei Romani), in reference to the natives of Hyperborea, a mythical region supposedly located to the north of Thrace according to the ancient Greeks. In 1928, E. Gerhard, a member of this small knit community, launched the first archeological journal on Rome, under the newly inaugurated Institute of Archeological Correspondence.

Gerhard’s commitment to consolidate classical archaeological knowledge remains primordial to AIAC today. Starting in the 1950’s the association has hosted and organized a series of quinquennial conferences in large metropolises across the globe, such as Rome, Ankara and Izmir, Paris and Berlin. In 2008, AIAC marked its fifty years of conference organizing with its 10th meeting in Rome, entitled “Meetings between Cultures in the Ancient Mediterranean”.

In 2000, AIAC began publishing FASTI online, a website dedicated to consolidate news and updates on ongoing preservation and excavation projects worldwide. By the end of 2012, the organization hopes to provide each project with appropriate visuals, which American Institute for Roman Culture is proud to participate in doing. Since Spring 2011, we have been producing a series of short, documentary videos on excavation and conservation projects for FASTI/AIAC and with the generous help of the Italian Ministry of Culture (MiBAC). Our partnership has deepened this past summer as we are now sharing as office space in Palazzo Venezia and just down the hall from the AIAC center.

Please enjoy a look at our FASTI mini-documentaries.

by Michelle Al-Ferzly, Wellesley College Summer 2012 intern


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.


Heatwave Rome: Our top 5 tips to cooling off in the summer

Welcome to Rome in the summer. One word: hot. And imagine working in the dirt eight hours a day every day under a full sun.  Since we’re always thinking about the well-being of our students, we’ve come up with five fool-proof tips to cooling down during the urban heat. If you think you (or anyone you know) will break from Rome’s rising mercury, here’s how we do it:

  1. Grattachecca(grah-tah-KEK-ah) 
    • This is Italian shaved ice– aka the real deal. Literally shaved by hand on the spot from a big block of ice, grattachecca is a Roman summer tradition where you get to pick the fruit syrups and fresh fruit to pour into the hand-shaven ice. Grattacheccha stands are street-side kiosks, and sometimes are near the summer sliced watermelon pop-ups. Our favorites include:
  2.  Ostia Beach
    • Since our excavation is at Ostia Antica, instead of saying “take a hike”, we tell our students to hit the beach. A half-hour local train from Rome (on the same line as heading to our dig site), is Ostia beach- a public beach with restaurants, activities and social life.  For your €1.50 ATAC ticket, hop on Roma-Lido “trenino” (little train) found at the local station adjacent to the Piramide (Metro B) metro. Destination:  Lido Centro.
  3.  Use a big nose
    • That’s right, those fountains you see on the streets that are constantly running are called “nasoni,” big noses, and they are a really great way to keep cool and hydrated as you explore the city. The water is cold, clean and delicious, coming from a deep underground spring.  According to the Comune di Roma, the nasoni run constantly in order to keep the system clean and flushed out.  Our tip to taking a sip? Put your finger over the main spigot to block it and water will arc out of the small hole on top. Or, you can use them to fill your water bottle without paying outrageous tourist prices for water bottles at the coffee bars! Newsflash: the Comune di Roma is offering re-useable water bottles sold for €2 at local tourist information points (PIT). 
  4. Villa Borghese 

    • Rome’s second largest park with over 140 acres of greenery is the perfect respite from a hot day in the sun. You can walk up from the stairs off of Piazza del Popolo, take a paddleboat, peddle around on a group bike, rollerblade or run under the sprinklers.
  5. Gelato
    • Saving the best for last, don’t forget to sample Roman gelato, which is definitely NOT ice cream. Gelato uses more whole milk and less cream, so it has a lower fat content, and it contains less air so it’s denser which provides a more intense flavor. Some of our favorite gelato shops are*:
*Pop onto Parlafood for Katie Parla’s au courant and every growing gelato reviews. We’re so impressed with how she talks gelato, we think a flavor should be named after her!

Living Latin, Living History in Rome is here and on the road!

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Monday kicked off our inaugural Living Latin, Living History in Rome program led by the amazing Nancy Llewellyn.  Everyday we will be going places in Latin so we welcome you to follow us as walk the streets of Rome in Latin.  Look for #LTNL #Rome tags and peek @AIRomanculture, @NancyELlewellyn and of course @SaveRome.  Please tweet us your thoughts– in Latin or any other language– and we’ll get back to you on site!

Latin students with Nancy Llewellyn at Villa Giulia (Etruscan Museum)


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.

Top 5 Must-see Archaeological Sites in Rome

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Our very own Albert Prieto picks his top five must-see archaeological sites in Rome:

  1. Basilica of San Clemente Steps away from the Colosseum and St. John Lateran lies the High Medieval basilica of San Clemente. After having your fill of the extraordinary gilded mosaic in the apse, the marble elements in the nave, and the intricately carved Cosmatesque floor, you can purchase a ticket (5 Euros) to descend under the church to explore the preceding version, which was built around AD 400 and buried around 1100 after being declared too unstable to save. But the surprises don’t end there: another staircase takes you down one level further, into a series of Roman structures constructed in the 1st-3rd centuries AD; one of these structures housed a mithraeum, a shrine dedicated to the mysterious cult of the god Mithras, which was very popular in Imperial Rome.
  2. Palazzo Valentini Just off Piazza Venezia and next to Trajan’s Column, in the heart of downtown Rome, stands this massive Renaissance palace, home to the Province of Rome. Recent excavations inthe basement have revealed sumptuous Imperial Roman homes, which have been transformed into a stunning modern museum complete with glass floors and a sophisticated multimedia tour (available in English, 11.50 Euros with reservation).
  3. Baths of Diocletian Sandwiched between Termini station and the bustling Via Nazionale is the last of the great Imperial Roman bath complexes, constructed under the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in AD 298-305 in a busy residential area. Walk around the semicircular theater space (exedra) preserved and enhanced in the modern Piazza della Repubblica (be sure to go down into the Repubblica metro station and have a peek at the preserved bits of the foundation and a Roman road, behind the glass panes), visit the circular corner structures (the church of San Bernardo and a parking garage on Via del Viminale), do a circuit of the central bath block (Viale E. De Nicola, Via L. Einaudi, Via G. Romita, Via Cernaia), and go inside the church of St. Mary of the Angels, designed by Michelangelo using the soaring, fully preserved vaulted space of the frigidarium (cold pool) with its massive pink Egyptian granite columns (be sure to go through the sacristy into the back, to admire the theatrical façade of the natatio, or open-air swimming pool).
  4. Via Latina tombs Off the Via Appia Nuova, reachable via metro (A/red line, Arco di Travertino station), is a tranquil and beautiful little park along a section of the ancient Via Latina, a road leading tothe Latin country south and east of Rome. The road is lined with tombs dating fromthe1st through the 3rd century AD, two of which preserve their subterranean burial chambers, richly decorated in stucco and fresco—a feast for the eyes (8.00 Euros with reservation, restricted opening).
  5. Aqueducts in the Aqueduct Park Reachable via metro (A/red line, Lucio Sestio, Giulio Agricola, and Subaugusta stations), this is one of Rome’s most beautiful parks, full of trees, joggers, playful dogs, canoodling couples, and the staggering mass of Roman aqueducts. In the heart of the park is the Renaissance aqueduct Aqua Felice, built over the path of three Roman aqueducts (a section of which is visible near the south end of Via Lemonia). Just beyond it, to the southwest, the ancient Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus aqueducts stride majestically towards the city on high stone arches that inspired generations of Romantic painters and poets. ~AP

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


Pipiatio Latina: Gladiatores et Scripta Parietalia #LTNL

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We’re back and we are all about men waving swords and dirty walls. Pipiatio Latina wants to talk about gladiatores et scripta parietalia.

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

Host:  American Institute for Roman Culture,  Dr. Nancy Llewellyn

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.

Contact:  @AIRomanculture, email:  info@romanculture.org

Follow us on Twitter also at @SaveRome and join us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/airc.rome and http://www.facebook.com/romanculture

Graffiti photo: Mr.Jennings


Life in the Trenches: An Excavation’s Top 5

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~Nadia Pucci SAFS ’11 (Sant’Omobono) shares with us her top five things you really need to know when working on an excavation in Rome:

  1.  Sun screen, water, and gloves:  Sun protection is essential, especially in the more intense Italian heat. Water is also important for staying hydrated. Lastly, gloves are a must to prevent blisters from all the troweling. 
  2. Whatever you do, don’t bring: any valuable possessions, leave them at home! You don’t want to risk possible damage or loss of the items(s). Try not to bring your entire house with you to Italy, just bring the essentials since you will end up acquiring several items during your stay that you will have to haul back.
  3. The good and bad about working/living in Rome: Living in Rome means easy accessibility to various sites – mostly within walking distance – as well as the endless amount of pizzerias and gelaterias. The people and culture can be experienced even while taking a simple stroll to the piazza. There aren’t many words that can be used to accurately describe the endless possibilities that Rome has to offer, but “priceless” will suffice. One not-so-good aspect is transit. The buses can be a little unpredictable! Their bus stops are different from what we know and understand, and there are strikes which shut down most transport mechanisms for a few hours.
  4. What to do in your spare time:  With free time, I loved to venture and explore. From visiting Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican to walking along the Tiber at night under the moon and lights from the busy night markets. Of course, going to beach and swimming is a splendid way to beat the heat
  5. Who are you- aka Dig Personality: It’s hard to state one dig personality, because I feel that I experienced several at any given time. I definitely think that I was a cheerleader, encouraging my peers to continue troweling. And I do think that over time I became a wheelbarrow warrior! At first I was slightly afraid of the dreaded task of unloading the wheelbarrow, but by the end of the dig I was able to unload it with little or no help! Lastly, dirt magnet is an obvious personality for most people, especially myself, since no matter what the day’s tasks were I seemed to always be covered in dirt from head to toe. It was a challenge to stay clean during the dig!

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.


Life in the Trenches: What to expect– the good, the bad and the dirty

At the site of Sant’Omobono, located beside the Tiber in downtown Rome, lie the massive stone remains of a Roman sacred area with twin temples and altars from the 6th century BC dedicated to Fortuna and Mater Matuta.

For five epic weeks it was my home, a place where I wielded pick-axe, shovel, trowel and dirt-filled wheelbarrow on a daily basis, sifted through dirt, washed pottery, heaved massive stone blocks of the site’s ancient Roman wall, and learned about archaeology.

Though every day I came home covered in dirt, and on one funny day even with my pants ripped in the crotch area (if you shovel with too wide of a stance in pants that are even slightly tight, the pants will stretch and rip and your boxers will be revealed to gazing tourists, as mine were!), with the work I got to carry out on this dig, the great amount learned (and discovered) in so short a time, as well the great bonds of friendship I forged, I am extremely grateful to the AIRC and University of Michigan Prof. Nicola Terrenato for this experience, especially as it was my first experience in the field.

Things to brace yourself for:

  • Hard physical labor, every day for weeks! Some days you will find yourself so fatigued that you come home and just pass out.
  • Getting up early, five days a week (but if you get to the site early, you can have a quick cappuccino, making the process easier).
  • Filling out database forms

Things to look forward to:

  • Hard physical labor, every day for weeks! You’re going to use a pick-axe regularly, and honestly nothing feels better than having the power to smash your way through walls of dirt and rock. Wheelbarrowing heaps of dirt regularly, heaving broken stone bits, and using a shovel will have you in excellent physical shape when you get home.
  • Having the opportunity to live and furthermore, work, in the center of Rome! You can check out great sights and restaurants during your free time at night (or perhaps in the morning if, like me, you like to go running).
  • Making some really good friends with the people at your dig site. By spending hours beside these people day after day, the bonds will strengthen enough that you will find yourself spending your free time hanging out with the same people after hours, playing soccer, hitting bars, playing guitar, or having fine meals.
  • Getting the chance to discover some really cool Roman stuff and excavate at a phenomenal site. Since I relished smashing apart dirt and walls with a pick-axe (so much so that Professor John Pollini nicknamed me “Demetrius Poliorcetes,” Demetrius the wall-destroyer), heaving wheelbarrows, and carrying massive pieces of stone from one side of the site to the other, I can definitely say my dig personality was BEAST OF BURDEN.

~ Bryn Coleman is an Ancient History and Classics major at Rutgers University.  He reflects on Summer 2011′s archaeological field school at Sant’Omobono for Life in the Trenches.


#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.


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