“Tall Nana Beep-Beep”

As foreigners conducting archaeological research in Italy, it’s imperative to remember that our roots here are only as deep as our resistivity probes. Yet, our work is very invasive, requiring us to ask people all over the landscape to allow us into their backyards. Time and time again, we’ve been given a fantastic welcome, however, we feel that this warmth and kindness deserves the same from us.

Which leads us to a primary goal of the Libarna Urban Landscape Project. We are invested in making this project give back to the community in a meaningful way. Archaeological research should not only serve the investigators and academics conducting their work, it should also serve the community where this research is performed. Each year, we spend just a month or two surveying, or digging in some place far away. But for those who call this home, our visit here is temporary, and oftentimes they will never see our publications or artifacts uncovered.

Ancient Libarna is part of a living landscape with residents who passionately love their past and wonder what lies beneath their feet. What they feel for their home requires more from us than an introduction and permission slips allowing us to traipse about their property. So to get things started off right, this past Sunday, we threw an afternoon gathering for the local landowners where we all could eat, drink, and be merry while introducing the mission of the LULP.

Even after distributing flyers throughout town (with one taped up in our current home, the San Stefano compound), we were afraid nobody would come! Nevertheless, we prepared to impress with plenty of wine, cheese, and bread to accompany our demonstration. Happily, within moments of our arrival in “Field V,” we were met by about two dozen local landowners, townspeople, and some very supportive members of the Soperentendenza’s Office who helped us explain what it is we want to accomplish here in Libarna.

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With one table full of aperitifs and another covered with our data, we dove in! Alessandro gave us an amazing introduction and then the toys came out. Mike, with the very talented Sabrina as translator, explained what Dronina was up to buzzing above everyone’s fields. The moment the drone took to the sky, everyone took out their phones and snapped pictures, there were even a few excited squeals from the younger members of the crowd!

After Dronina touched down, it was Dr. Nana Friedman’s turn to show off our magnetometer. She dazzled with a few demonstrations of just how magnetic our audience members were. Now, if you’ve never had someone come at you with a mag unit, it’s a pretty silly experience and Nana had everyone laughing in a matter of minutes. After the ice was well and truly broken, some serious bonding ensued. San Stefano’s priest, Don Lucca gave us a visit and more people trickled through as the afternoon carried on.

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Our data was a hit, and while we’ve only been able to survey a few fields with mag, res, and Dronina, what we have found is promising. The curiosity and hope that we share with these people is a testament to the power this place and the past itself holds over us. But as usual in archaeology, all was not scientific and sentimental, there was plenty of fun to be had as well!

To the other staff members delight, our guests taught us that, in Italian, “nana” means runt or dwarf, something our Nana definitely is not. This earned her the nickname, “Tall Nana Beep-Beep.” A few celebratory glasses of prosecco later, and one particularly entertaining guest set this to the tune of a Bob Marley song, so now, much like your favorite superhero, Nana has her own theme music.

We couldn’t be more pleased at the wonderful time we had with those who have genuinely opened up their homes to us. We are truly honored to be here and are grateful for the trust they place in us.