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Friday, December 10, 2010

Digging Ancient Rome: The Ostia Antica Marina Field School

Anyone interested in a well-designed and substantive field school focusing on a very exciting site should seriously consider The American Institute for Roman Culture’s Summer Archaeology Field School. It is a six-week intensive learning opportunity in Roman archaeology. The program will be held from June 20 through July 31, 2011 and offers students a unique combination of 5 weeks of on-site field work and one week of specialized academic instruction by expert archaeologists and AIRC professors. As the program is centered in Rome, there will also be visits to major Roman museums and open-air sites to augment field studies and provide participants with a broader context of what life was like in ancient Rome.

Participants in the field school will be given the opportunity to develop their archaeological expertise in the third season of excavation outside the Porta Marina in Ostia Antica, the port city of ancient Rome. The Ostia Marina project, operating under the auspices of the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma (Ostia Antica office) and the University of Bologna (Department of Archaeology, with the collaboration of the Faculty of Preservation of Cultural Heritage), is a multi-year re-evaluation of the suburban neighborhood that lay on the ancient seashore immediately outside of the city walls at the Porta Marina (Sea Gate). The area is populated by private homes, funeral monuments, religious sanctuaries, and large public structures, including several bath complexes, dating between the Late Republican and Late Antique periods. It is best known for a luxurious late-4th century AD seafront residence that yielded one of the most complete and lavish examples of wall and floor decoration made of precisely cut and arranged colored marble fragments (opus sectile) from anywhere in the Roman world.

The excavation site is a large (80 x 80 m) complex lying between the opus sectile building and the Marciana/Porta Marina Baths started by the emperor Trajan. Geophysical prospection (magnetometry and GPR) indicates a large open area in the northwest that may be a palaestra, which in turn suggests that the structure is also a bath complex. It is the first entirely unexplored building to be excavated at Ostia in 50 years, and it is particularly important because it preserves intact the Late Antique-Early Medieval (ca. AD 300-800) layers and features that were elsewhere destroyed with little or no documentation in the clearance excavations of 1938-1942.

The 2011 season will concentrate on the exploration and documentation of several rooms in the complex. Materials recovered so far include marble decorative slabs, marble columns and capitals, mosaic flooring, painted wall fresco (some of very high quality), ceramic and glass vessels, and assorted minor artifacts such as bone utensils and coins. These materials are evidence of a prestigious function, possibly public or imperial.

The archaeological training is provided on-site, using the extraordinary setting of Ostia Antica as a living laboratory, by a staff of professionals in archaeology and related disciplines: Ostia Marina project director Prof. Massimiliano David (University of Bologna), Professor of Topography Dario Giorgetti (University of Bologna), Field Director Marcello Turci (University of Rome), Alberto Prieto (Associate Director of Archaeology, AIRC), and others. In addition to the principles of stratigraphic excavation, the participants are given expert instruction in analysis and classification of materials (pottery, marble, glass, coins, etc.), archaeological drawing, Roman building materials and techniques, and digital modeling using a total data station.

The program aims to supply participants with both a synchronic and diachronic approach to the study of Roman culture. Through this dual approach, those involved in the program will gain a more comprehensive historical and cultural overview of Rome and Roman civilization, from its rise to power to its decline, understanding how it set a standard of cultural values that continues to exert influence over the entire Western world to this day.
Applications for participation are due by April 30.

Program Co-directors: Prof. Massimiliano David (University of Bologna), Dr. Angelo Pellegrino (Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, Ostia Antica office), Dr. Darius Arya (AIRC), and Dr. Alberto Prieto (AIRC)

More detailed information about the field school, including costs and how to apply, can be obtained at the website.


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