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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.
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.
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.
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.
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