Much of the history of archaeology is a study in imperialism. As well meaning or nobly driven as the inquiry might have been, the past is littered with tale after tale of temporary visitations that did not bode particularly well for those lucky enough to live alongside the ruins so highly prized by scholars or the fickle gaze of popular culture. Antiquities in the Mediterranean have a particularly contentious past, and oftentimes, the modern lives of residents living among great monuments of the ancient world remain overlooked entirely.
As hindsight is 20/20, more recent projects have made a concerted effort to chart a new path, one where cultural property, no matter how interesting and important to academia or lay audiences, is respected as part of a living and dynamic cultural landscape. Our scholarship is only a part of the greater scope of Libarna’s influence and we have structured the LULP to reflect that as community involvement is a cornerstone of our work.
Without the support and permission of organizations like the Libarna Arteventi Associazione or the Soprintendenza Archeologica del Piemonte, we wouldn’t be here. Alessandro Quercia, Melania Cazzulo, Iudica Damei, Antonio Santopietro, Donatella van Wyngaardt, and so many others have become active members of our team, furthering our investigation, and enriching our student experience.
On Sunday, with the help of the Libarna Arteventi Associazione, we continued our tradition of inviting the community to come to Libarna for a behind the scenes view of our work. Last year, a great time was had by our staff and a few dozen of the local landowners who came by to watch Mike fly Dronina (may she enjoy her retirement in peace) and Nana as she beeped her way to local stardom (at least within Melania’s family).
This year’s gathering had a bit more of a formal flair as we were presenting to regional officials associated with the SOP as well as residents and regional archaeological enthusiasts. The Libarna Arteventi Associazione helped us put together some great posters which we hung in all of our favorite bars, shops, and message boards from both this year and the last. Melania coached us through sending our message loud and clear, and sooner than we thought, Sunday was here.
We were expecting a few people, maybe forty or so for the conference and a bit more for the practical demonstration. What we weren’t expecting was a standing room only crowd with a line out the door and attendees outside every window! While much of the data is still being processed, we were able to show off our love of the site and the successes we’ve experienced thus far. Katie even set an additional goal for herself-delivering the whole of her presentation in Italian. Nana stuck to English, but since the data she has been working on this season did so much talking, the language barrier fell pretty quickly.
And then it was time for a truly heartwarming moment. Iudica, as a representative of the Libarna Arteventi Associazione, shared an extra special surprise-we had all just been made citizens of Libarna. To hammer in the gravity of such a thing, the mayor of Libarna himself had to grant special permission for our new status since the vast majority of us aren’t EU citizens. It was a gesture that truly made our stay.
Once our documents were presented, we switched gears and brought out the practical part of the day! Of course, Dronita made her public debut, and the resistivity machine, and gridding set up (equally important components of survey) were also demoed. We even had interactive stations where visitors could try their hands at each task. Dronita was presented with a crown, she is a bit of a princess after all, and we had a few brave souls run a line or two on the res.
Which brings us to the Libarnjitos. The fields surrounding Libarna are full of wild mint, dosing us with archaeo-aromatherapy on every step. Last year, we made a few jokes amongst the staff about how delicious it would be to make mojitos with the Libarna mint for a refreshing pick-me-up after a hot day’s work. But they wouldn’t be mojitos anymore, with such a special ingredient in the mix, they would be Libarnjitos!
When we shared this with Melania, she thought it was brilliant, and we promised to treat her and the Libarna Artiventi Associazion to a round as soon as we had a spare moment. Unfortunately, as often happens in the field, that spare moment never really arrived, so we decided to make Libarnjitos the featured drink of our community outreach day.
After our co-director, Katie, conjured up a delicious batch of traditionally muddled drinks for us one night, we knew we were on the right track, but the idea of making fifty or more of them on the fly in a field wasn’t exactly practical. Ashley Mason put her thinking cap on and decided to make a few modifications that would launch us into mass production. With our Libarnjito syrup (patent pending), we arrived on scene ready to treat visitors to our “invention.”
As I was manning the table for a time, I would like to think the Libarnjitos rivaled Dronita in their popularity, so much so that we even made the regional section of the national Italian newspaper, La Stampa. “Cocktail di saluto a Libarna con gli archeologi americani,” read the headline. “Cocktails of welcome to Libarna with the American archaeologists,” for those of us who need a helping hand with our Italian. While the article was about much more than drinks, the final line read that our Libarnjitos came from the heart.
As kitschy as it might sound, Libarna is a local treasure. We are just the latest to have fallen in love with this site. So many of those here have given their all to Italian archaeology and Libarna, we are merely the very lucky souls who have life changing opportunity to work (and drink) alongside them!