promoting cultural heritage and conservation

Life in the Trenches: Keep your eyes on the road

These basalt paving stones have had plenty of centuries to shift out of place. Inattentive walking can be a contact sport in Ostia Antica, and the blocks of volcanic stone and tree roots usually win. Clunk along the old Roman road in your steel-toed boots and breathe in the warm air that smells like fresh-baked bread and wild mint. Take a break from digging to swig some cool water and pick a few blackberries right off the bush.

Ostia is a wonderful place for field school because you have the entire ancient city to yourself. Duck into a mithraeum or a tomb, read an inscription, ponder an in-situ fresco (and interpret it for yourself), photograph another famous black-and-white mosaic every time you go to work. Getting up early is worth it when you have the pleasure of physical labor and intellectual advancement in an idyllic park outside bustling Rome. This way you get the best of both worlds: all you have to do is shower off the dirt and sunscreen, and you’re ready to enjoy the nightlife and incredible cultural attractions in Rome’s city center.

Ostia is a surprisingly pastoral ghost town of stone, brick, and concrete with hardy vegetation that both adorns and threatens it. The largest excavation campaign was in preparation for the 1942 World’s Fair, but a large chunk of territory both inside and outside the fence remains to be explored. That which has been exposed could do with further documentation and study, and AIRC is doing its part to strike a sustainable balance between uncovering the new and rediscovering the old. We are a staff of extremely passionate people who truly want to help you achieve your professional and academic goals, whether or not they lie within the archaeological discipline. We also hope that your experience of studying in a foreign country enriches you as a person. You will find that having to deal with everyday life in Italy can increase your patience and adaptability.

What can you expect to gain from your time at Ostia?

  • A solid grounding in good archaeological methodology
  • Several lasting friendships
  • A grasp of ancient Roman history and Ostia’s place within it
  • An excellent farmer’s tan
  • The ability to wield a pick axe with panache
  • Improved self-reliance and empowerment

What will you love, probably?

  • Living in and getting to know Rome, transport strikes and all
  • Working in a peaceful, beautiful environment
  • Your trench and trenchmates/all other dig people
  • Finding awesome stuff

What will you love, probably…not so much?

  • Remembering how to fill out context sheets
  • Your turn on finds duty (it’s okay, I love them enough for both of us…)
  • Getting up early
  • Returning to your home country at the end of your odyssey

~Julia Elsey is a three-peat field school participant, AIRC intern and programs assistant, lightning wit and long-distance friend.  She scribed the Saverome blog in Spring and Summer 2011, and is tied with Albert Prieto as the best person for a bit of perspective on Life in the Trenches.


One response

  1. Pingback: Life in the Trenches: Week 3 at the Dig | American Institute for Roman Culture

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