Summer 2019 – Season Report

In our previous post we explained why we’ve been radio-silent for the last few months, but just because we’re quiet, it doesn’t mean nothing is going on!

We have been working hard behind the scenes to keep LULP up and running, and ensuring that we are fully prepared for our first excavation season in 2020.

One of our co-directors, Dr. Katie V. Huntley, travelled to Italy this summer for what we call “a research season” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – no digging but lots of time spent in archives and museums…researching!

Read below for her report from the 2019 “research season”

Being in the field is exhilarating and there is nowhere in the world I’d rather be than at Libarna. However, there is a lot of important archaeological work that takes place off-site. Those of you that read this blog and follow LULP will already know this. It’s the reason why we might sometimes seem to disappear but we are always working away, whether it’s forging relationships within the communities around Libarna, recruiting students to our fieldschool, dealing with the nuts and bolts of organizing the field work, writing reports of work for the Soprintendenza, or doing the required bureaucratic paperwork for our permits.

This summer, we were unusually quite, but boy were we busy! I made an expedition to Torino (Turin to English speakers), where the Soprintendenza Archaeologia Belle Arte e Paessagio per le Province di Alessandria Cuneo e Asti (SABAP-AI for short) is located. Also in Torino is the incomparable Museo di Antichita (Museum of Antiquity), one of the Musei Reali di Torino (museums housed in Turin’s Royal Palaces).

Nicole Inghilterra, another member of our team, came along to assist me in completing the two goals I had for the summer:

  1. To get an idea of the breadth of the museum’s collection of artefacts from Libarna, and how it is organized. 
  2. Read and digitize some of the reports from previous excavations at Libarna, particularly those carried out to the south of the archaeological park (fields we have designated as A and B). 

Image 1 Katie in archives with excavation reports from Libarna

Dr Huntley exploring the archives!

Here’s what we found in the museum: there is a lot of material from Libarna – thousands of artefacts from excavations carried out at the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century through some of the more recent excavations of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Archaeological excavations are great, but they produce a tremendous burden on museums and other repositories of cultural heritage that end up housing those artefacts. All of those finds represent a ton of information about life at Libarna. 

One of the ways that I  hope LULP will grow in the future is to develop some specific projects to study these materials. We got a very small start in our mission to create a massive database of artefacts from Libarna with materials excavated in 1911 and in the 1940s, which included oil lamps, bronze vessels, and metal implements. We are waiting on permission from the museum to show some images of those artefacts with you, so stay tuned! 

Our work in the archives was equally as productive. One of the most important things we learned is that during the 1990s, Field A underwent extensive excavation. We had previously been working under the assumption that a small trench was excavated in that field, but it turns out that the entire field was excavated! Knowing this helps us understand why our GPR data in that field was so incredibly clear. 

Here you can see our GPR results – a crossroads is clearly visible to the bottom of the image, with housing surrounding it 

The soil, disturbed by the excavations was much less dense than the archaeolgoical features, which allowed those features to come through so clearly. The original archaeological report was rather brief and didn’t offer much information on the structures found or any sort of updated map of the area. This makes our GPR data particularly useful. We can fill in all that information left out of the report and incorporate it into Libarna’s map, all without having put trowel to soil!

So what does this mean for our excavations moving forward? We had planned to start in Field A, but now that we know the extent of the excavations, it has made us rethink our strategy slightly. We will probably still put a trench in Field A – it appears that the excavations in the 1990s did not go down below the imperial layers (the 1st cent.), so there is probably good stratigraphic information still preserved below that can help us understand the earlier period of Libarna’s life. Since those later strata have been destroyed, we will probably also put a trrench in another area of the site where those layers have not been disturbed. We are currently trying to figure out where that will be….More on that to come!

And here was our reaction when we saw the GPR data we showed you above!

One of the best aspects of our expedition was getting to work with Dr. Simone Lerma, the SABAP-AI’s funzionario archeologico of the site of Libarna. He is the archaeologist in charge of managing and maintaining Libarna and he oversees all the research carried out on the site. LULP would not be able to function without the help and support of Dr. Lerma, so we are eternally grateful for all of his assistance. 

Image 3 Katie Simone Nicole
Dr Huntley, Dr Lerma, and Nicole in the archives

Dr Lerma took over the management of Libarna in 2018 and this trip was a good opportunity for him to get to know us, and LULP as a team. As we’ve noted before, excavation destroys the site and produces a substantial burden on the SABAP-AI and museum to care for the structures and artefacts, so it is vitally important to build trust before we are allowed to start digging. 

Overall it was a short, but extremely productive expedition that has given us some ideas about possible new directions that LULP could venture out into. Who knows what exciting places we might end up!


So there you have it – the report from our first “research season”. As with any season, whether it is research, survey, or excavation, there are a great deal more questions to answer by the end than the number you started with! We hope to be able to update you with answers to some of these questions over the coming weeks, months, and years, as we continue our research into the wonderful town of Libarna.

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