What Do We Get Up To When We’re Not In The Field?

It’s been a little while since we last posted on the blog, but lots has been going on behind the scenes. A little over 5 months have passed since we returned from Italy, but that doesn’t mean work has stopped, oh no! We’ve been as busy as ever making sure that everything is in place for this summer’s excavation. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, after 3 years of survey we are finally getting to the good stuff – digging! Of course, survey is very important, it would be unconscionable to excavate without having done all of this preparation, and we’ve loved every minute but….we’d be lying if we said the excavation wasn’t the bit we all look forward to the most! Less “sun, sea and sand”, more “sun, sweat and soil”, but we love it!

So what have we actually been doing these last 5 months? Lazing around dreaming of Italy? Of course, but there’s real work to be done if we want to make our dreams of excavation a reality. Almost immediately after returning from Libarna, our co-directors Katie and Nana began work on a paper about our results over the last few years to present at the AIA (Archaeological Institute of America) annual conference which took place just a few weeks ago in San Diego. With over 3,000 attendees from over 30 countries, the conference is a great way to share LULP’s research and the history of Libarna with the rest of the archaeology world. Thousands of researchers apply to present their work here, and we are very fortunate to have been accepted for two years running. And even more fortunately, we were a lot warmer this year in San Diego than we were last year in Boston….I’m shivering just thinking about it. The LULP team is not built for the cold, that’s why we work in Italy!!

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Over 12 inches of snow and -30 temperatures at the Boston conference in 2018!

Anyway, so after putting in our application to the AIAs, our focus turned to summer 2019. There are very precise rules and regulations in place when it comes to archaeology in Italy, and particularly excavation. We were granted a 3 year survey permit in 2015 by the Soprintendenza (Italian governmental archaeology department) but now we had to go through a much more rigorous process in order to apply for an excavation permit, known as a “permesso”. Without boring you too much, we basically have to include a short essay outlining what we plan to do, what research questions we hope to answer and why it is important to increasing knowledge of the ancient world. We then have to provide proof of our financial abilities to carry out this work and also to cover a governmental tax which helps pay for conservation and storage of anything we find. In Italy, anything we uncover while excavating is owned by the government and cannot leave the country. Once it has been excavated it obviously needs to be carefully conserved and stored, and since we’re the ones that dug it up…we have to contribute a certain amount to help fund that conservation. After all that, we have to hand over personal documents like passports of all the staff members, sign a load of forms renouncing our claim to anything we find, and complete other various bits of paperwork. You see where I’m going with this, there’s a lot to be done. Oh, and did I mention….it’s all got to be done in Italian!! What a nightmare. Thankfully, we’ve sent it all off and, despite a slight delay courtesy of the Poste Italiane, it has arrived and is being considered as we speak.

Now alongside the paperwork for the permesso, we have also had to search for some new members of the LULP team. We’ve had a great time over the last few years working with each other, and at first it might seem a bit strange to have a few new faces, but we’re very excited to spread the word about how amazing Libarna is with even more researchers and archaeologists. Obviously, survey and excavation are very different, and with excavation comes finds and with finds come specialists! Of course, we don’t know exactly what will be uncovered when we start digging, but we have a good idea of what has been found during previous excavations in the area, so we can make an educated guess as to what kind of specialists we will need. We have several new team members joining us, including pottery and archaeobotany specialists, and some Italian archaeologists familiar with working in this kind of soil and location who will be assisting our students and making sure everything in the trenches runs smoothly. We’ll post a blog soon introducing you to our new crew, so keep an eye out.

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Looking at pottery found at Libarna in previous excavations helps us evaluate what kind of objects we might find

In addition to all of that, we have also been working hard with our contacts in Italy to organise accommodation and food for our team while we’re out there. It’s not easy trying to find somewhere that ticks all of our very particular boxes, but we have some great friends out there who work incredibly hard to accommodate our needs as best they can! Our requirements are slightly different this year because we’re excavating, so we will be more numerous, more hungry, and certainly more dirty than in the past. 4 showers between us is just not going to cut it this summer! Fortunately, it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be to get all that sorted, and now it’s all done we can focus on the remaining tasks that need to be completed before we arrive in just 5 months time!

Very importantly, as we are a field school, we need students! Applications for our 2019 field school are now open so check out our field school tab for information on what you could learn and how to apply.

And finally, the last big task before we can fly out to Italy is fundraising…we had an incredibly successful fundraising campaign last year, raising well over what we were asking. Our generous donors helped pay for the month-long loan of our GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) machine, which gave us some fabulous results and helped us choose where we will be excavating this summer. We were overwhelmed by the response! This year we are running two campaigns, a donation drive and a crowdfunding campaign. The donation drive is Italy based, and dozens of kind souls have donated the use of their pickaxes, buckets, shovels, and wheelbarrows for us to use during the summer. It has been so wonderful to reach out to the local people around Libarna and see their excitement and interest in what we are doing. It makes our work there so much more enjoyable.

In a short while we will begin a fundraising campaign on this side of the Atlantic – archaeology is an expensive affair, especially when you have to ship people and equipment thousands of miles across an ocean, so we’re asking for any help we can get. Even forgoing a coffee one morning and donating what you would have spent could make a huge difference if everybody else did the same! Our campaign isn’t up and running yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as it is. Feel free to spread the word about Libarna, our story, and our campaign – donors might even get a little thank you present if they’re lucky…..

Well, that’s the abridged story of everything we have been doing since August, and everything still to do before we leave for Italy in 139 days! We’ve got a lot more blogs on the way, and we’re always posting on our other social media so make sure  to give us a follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see more regular updates. If you’ve ever got any questions, you can always send us a message from our contact us page. 

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