Well, first of all, let me tell you that most of my spare time is spent at cafes around Rome. I sit and drink, and then creativity fills up my glass (after having finished work of course….say what!?). And most of the time, I always meet people who have something to interesting to share. The other day I was hanging out at one of my favorite bars in Rome- Bar del Fico- where I met a couple from France. The woman, Nadia, was a professor of medieval philosophy but I prefer to call her my new French-Algerian encyclopedia. She was modest and didn’t reveal her academic credentials until well into the evening and when she did, oh my goodness, did she know everything about, well…many things! What stood out the most though was the mannerism in which she spoke about the country of her forefathers: Algeria.
Nadia’s eyes almost filled up with tears when she described to me how, unfortunately, many Algerians do not know the history of their country, their nation, and their identity. As history is very important to me, I was nostalgic but yet not surprised to learn that there is a huge lack of awareness of historical identity in Algeria. Nadia continued to tell me that the preservation of archeological sites and monuments is in absolute miserable condition in Algeria. Ancient Roman columns are used as ashtrays, marble statues are covered with graffiti, historically significant sites are in disarray, and in general, citizens are not aware of the rich cultures that make up Algeria’s dense and mosaicked history. In fact, those casually castaway artifacts represent millennia of Algerian culture: Carthaginian, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Caspian and Arab Umayyad cultures.
My conversation with Nadia that evening made me realize that though I am working to promote preservation of archeological sites in Rome and trying my best to emphasize the importance of cultural heritage, there is so much work to be done around the world. Rome is the eternal city but not the only one in need of dedicated people who try to teach history for sake of understanding our contemporary society.
~Saman Tehrani, AIRC intern, Summer/Fall 2013
- 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!”
- Remember all your hard work will eventually pay off* : Excavation needs to be a slow process
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.
It’s been over a month since Rome’s anti-bivacco law, a citywide ordinance forbidding eating and drinking in areas of “particular historic, artistic, architectonic and cultural value” in Rome’s center was put into effect. The idea may have been conceived as lending a helpful hand to help the areas around the Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, et al, in maintaining a modicum of cleanliness and lessening the accumulating debris that is inadvertently (or deliberately) dropped. However, instead raising hands to the nearest trashcan, it has raised polemic.
People do not see the logic in fines for eating while standing around, especially when the ground beneath their feet is carpeted in cigarette remnants. They definitely don’t appreciate a monument-centric ordinance when the monuments themselves are in debatable states of preservation. If anything, the ordinance seems a bit Baby-Bathwater syndrome- while trying to encourage cultural heritage, it is effectively discouraging respect, growth and (potentially) tourism.
Let’s get historic. Rome has a history of trash. Littering laws (for trash, bodies, dung, whatever) have literally been set in stone since Ancient Rome. Check out the 1st century BCE sepulcher pillar at Centrale Montemartini. More likely, you’ve seen the 18th century mondezzari plaques but as quaint detail to Rome’s picturesque sidestreets. For centuries, Rome has been asking its visitors and residents alike to be kind to their city. Adding ordinances to existing laws seems slightly excessive when perhaps we need to focus on changing attitudes about cultural heritage, civic pride and just plain littering.
Will the anti-bivacco ordinance help the city’s plea to take of her and her patrimony? We’ll let you know if there is a significant change on January 1, 2013, when the ordinance expires.
For more information, please check out Elisabetta Povoledo’s Buon Appetito but not next to monuments (New York Times), Anti Bivaco è ordinanza per tutelare monumenti (Il Livello), and food blogger Katie Parla’s thoughts on the ordinance.
Man-eating dolphins, crazy cow heads, scary skeletors, fake saints and a drainage mask- it seems like Rome has always been ready for Halloween. . . .
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!
One of our favorite sites to visit in the Roman Forum is the church of Santa Maria Antiqua, which up until this week had been closed to public viewing. Santa Maria Antiqua is the oldest church in the Roman Forum and a key monument in the transformation of the Forum from pagan to Christian space: constructed in the 6th century inside a 1st-century structure with courtyard attached to the Imperial palace on the Palatine hill above. Santa Maria Antiqua was abruptly abandoned in the 9th century after a devastating earthquake and resulting landslide. The church was rediscovered at the turn of the 20th century, partly restored, and made accessible to visitors until 1980, when it was permanently closed due to damage caused by rising damp. Since 2006, Santa Maria Antiqua has been a World Monuments Fund project, led by mural conservators Werner Schmid and Giuseppe Morganti, who have been working with the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome to restore the frescoes and permanently resolve the damp problem.
Thanks to centuries of sealing off, Santa Maria Antiqua can be considered a veritable Pompeii-like site- somewhat untouched postcards of an era that was written over. Its walls showcase a cycle of beautiful frescoes depicting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, popes, saints, and martyrs, thus forming one of the largest and most important collections of pre-Iconoclastic Roman and Byzantine art in the world. These frescoes date to a period of iconoclasm when in East figures in churches were destroyed. The AIRC has a special connection with Santa Maria Antiqua. In years past, we have excavated in front of the site and we have also done our best to help WMF, Schmid, Morganti and team. Over these past six years, we’ve had given special entry and behind-the-scenes access to Santa Maria Antiqua thanks to professors Morganti and Schmid, who’ve also taken the time to speak with our students.
From now through November 4, Santa Maria Antiqua is available for public visits. A maximum of 25 persons can visit the site for approximately 45 minutes. Reserve via coopculture.it , 06 39967700. Cost: €12+ €9 (Foro romano entrance ticket + guided visit)
In its approximately 1980 years the Colosseum has seen a lot of action: gladiatorial spectacles (through the 5th century AD), wild animal hunts (through the 6th century AD), skirmishes and sieges for control of central Rome (11th-14th centuries AD). After several centuries of comparative leisure, the Colosseum is once again the scene of epic and historic events, although this time it’s not just the scene of the action – it’s the protagonist. And it faces the fight of its life.
The new third (C) metro line, crossing Rome and its periphery roughly from east to west and due to become fully operational in 2017, will have a stop at the Colosseum. Preliminary work on the station – an extension of the existing B line station – has been going on for a couple of years already, with modest results in terms of archaeological finds. In the next few months construction of the station will commence; the work area will extend into Via dei Fori Imperiali, the broad parade street built by Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1930s, causing local authorities to close half of the street and force both directions of traffic (reduced to one lane each way) onto the other half, right against the Colosseum. Conservation experts are concerned about the vibrations caused by the extra traffic in close proximity, augmented by the rumbling of heavy machinery in the Metro C work area.
At more or less the same time, the three-year, 25-million euro restoration project financed by luxury accessories brand Tod’s is supposed to begin – a starting date in December (the latest in a seemingly infinite series) was announced just last month by mayor Gianni Alemanno. The restoration will have three phases: (1) consolidation of the north and south faces and replacement of the fencing in the arches; (2) construction of a new visitors’ center with bathrooms, café, bookshop, and ticket office in the surrounding piazza near the Arch of Constantine; and (3) conservation and cleaning of the main structure, from the hypogeum (underground) up to the crown. The Colosseum will remain open to the public continuously.
The Colosseum’s imminent makeover has caused a lot of collateral controversy: there is increasing awareness of not only the monument’s precarious condition, but also its image around the world. In the spring, under heavy pressure from the Special Archaeological Superintendency for Rome, an agency of the national Ministry of Culture, the municipal authorities created a “zone of respect” around the Colosseum where the quaintly dressed “gladiators” and “centurions” who pose for photographs with tourists can no longer ply their trade. The city is also under pressure to remove the numerous trinket stands and mobile snack bars that dot the entire length of Via dei Fori Imperiali; these businesses are viewed with great suspicion by Romans because the vast majority of them are owned and operated by a single family, named Tredicine, which has amassed a fortune over the decades more from a laissez-faire attitude than from any legal authorization to occupy public soil. The Tredicine family has gone so far as to file suit against the authorities over the construction of the new café, branding it state-sponsored competition to their questionable “business.”
As if these tussles were not enough, a troubling discovery was made in the past year during a detailed study of the Colosseum’s physical fabric ahead of the restoration: the entire structure has tilted about 40 cm out of horizontal, with the north side rising and the south side dipping down, perhaps the consequence of a fissure in the 40-ft deep cement foundation. The experts put most of the blame on the constant vibrations caused by the traffic that whizzes around the monument’s perimeter, although a fair share of the blame must also go to the metro (B) line that runs just a few feet beneath the surface of the piazza, between the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. (To judge for yourself, you can stand at the edge of the earth embankment between these two monuments and wait for a train to pass.) The tilt is aggravated by the fact that the foundations of the south side rest on relatively unstable alluvial sediments, whereas the north side is founded on volcanic stone. Comparisons of the Colosseum’s situation to that of the leaning tower of Pisa are amusing but exaggerated.
Thankfully, not all the news about the Colosseum is gloomy. Legambiente, a leading Italian conservation organization, has submitted to the municipal authorities a proposal to close the entire length of Via dei Fori Imperiali to vehicle traffic in stages, starting with weekends (at the moment, the street is closed only on Sundays during the daylight hours), extending to weekdays within certain blocks of time, and culminating in complete closure of the street and removal of the asphalt around the Colosseum. Legambiente has begun to collect the 5000 citizen signatures necessary to have the proposal inserted into the city council’s agenda for formal consideration. With so many wild beasts encircling it, the Colosseum needs allies like Legambiente to watch its back.
– by Albert Prieto, AIRC Associate Director of Archaeology, albert[at]romanculture.org
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 Ostia.
While 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.
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.
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)
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.
Our Unlisted2012 conference is all about global access and community. With the help of US Department of State, we will be live streaming UNLISTED 2012 fro 230-530 Rome time (930-1230 EST). Here is a test link.
For Twitter users, we created the tag #UNLST2012 so that you can find all relevant tweets. Be sure to include this tag in all tweets regarding Unlisted2012 conference and we will do our best to answer your questions. After each speaker we will have a brief question and answer session, as well as Q&A during the last hour of the conference – so tweet your questions and watch us respond. To make it easier, please take a look at our UNLISTED TweetGrid which filters all conversations tagged #UNLST2012 as well as @AIRomanculture and @SaveRome (Director Darius Arya) accounts.
Information for live streaming and Twitter:
- Test link: http://www.ktroma.it/romanculturestreaming/index.html
- Ttest page (to see how the video streaming works) http://www.ktroma.it/streaming/index.html
- For conducting a test prior to 23rd:
- For Ipad: With GoodPlayer App clicking on link on March 23
- Twitter: #UNLST2012 and UNLISTED TweetGrid
What you need
PC: Internet explorer or other browsers with windows media player plugin
MacOSX: Safari or other browsers with Flip For Mac Plugin
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.
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.