One of the great things about living in Rome is that you frequently discover something new in a nook or cranny of the city that you think you know inside and out. A good example is the Roman Forum, a place I’ve visited dozens of times over the past 20 years. I first started visiting the Forum before the fencing was erected around all of the monuments. You could walk all over the Basilica Julia, pound the Augustan pavement of the square, and admire the blobs of melted bronze on the floor of the Basilica Aemilia, possibly the remains of coins knocked to the ground during Alaric’s sack of Rome in AD 410. There was also that golden period, between 1998 and 2008, when the Forum was open to the public for free all day long, acting as just another way to get from Via dei Fori Imperiali to the Colosseum valley.
So I thought I’d seen everything, including—thanks to my position at AIRC—many special structures and ongoing excavations closed to the public. A couple of weeks ago I was surprised to learn, while reading a recent book about the Forum, that the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda, which occupies the Temple of the Deified Antoninus and Faustina, is open to the public, but for only two hours a week (Thursdays 9-11). After kicking myself for never having thought to investigate that possibility, I visited the church on the next Thursday and was received by a very formal but friendly gentleman from a bygone era who gave me a rapid tour of the artistic treasures housed in the church (as well as an earful about its increasing isolation in the archaeological zone) and then turned me loose at the old doorway facing out onto the Forum, now a balcony floating about 25 feet above the ancient levels. Although the view is obscured by the columns of the porch, the experience is nevertheless a feast for the eyes, offering a fresh and fascinating perspective on the temple itself, the Forum, and the Palatine hill. In Rome, fortune really does favor the bold. And the curious.
~Hidden Jewels is a monthly series by Albert Prieto, AIRC Associate Director of Archaeology, as he investigates the hidden secrets of Rome that are right in front of us. albert[at]romanculture.org
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
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- 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
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…)
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.
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…)
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.