LULP is hoping to go out to Libarna this July to do some work to create an online exhibition tour of a small museum in the local town of Serravalle Scrivia. We plan to create an online exhibit that can link to the fantastic website for the site of Libarna itself (http://www.libarna.al.it/en/) and help tell the story of the site from its foundations in the 2nd cent. BCE to its place in the modern world. We are seeking donations from people interested in the project. We know people are strapped for cash, but if you can spare even $5 that adds up and allows us to do our work. You can donate at www.ko-fi.com/LibarnaULP. Anything you can spare would be much appreciated
We have big plans for this small museum. As always, we want to work closely with the local administration the Soprintendenze Archeologia, belle arti e paesaggio per le province di Alessandria, Asti, e Cuneo* (SABAP-Al for short) and the local community. It is, after all, their history.
First, a good thing to point out is that everything will be bilingual – in English and Italian. We plan to invite members of the SABAP-Al (especially Dott. Simone Lerma who works hard to help us carry out our research at Libarna), local archaeologists, magistrates, and school children working on the collection, as well as the people of the Libarna Arteventi Associazione (http://scoprilibarna.it/), particularly Antonio Santopietro and Iudica Dameri, and other local people interested in the site and its history to talk about certain artefacts in the collection either on video, sound bites, or written testimonials. We also have a wonderful ceramics/pottery specialist, Melania Semeraro, who we hope to get on video discussing the local types of pottery and highlighting some of the examples in the museum.
We hope to bring down some specialists in photogrammetry to create 3D images of particularly interesting artefacts, mostly those that our local experts and school children will be discussing. For the rest of the artefacts we have a photo turntable to take 360 degree images of the other artefacts. So, not only will you be able to see them in great detail, but you will find out their connections to Libarna and the region as a whole. Most importantly, that some museums have forgotten, is that they should weave a narrative to help the visitors understand the archaeological site, its history, its artefacts and how they all connect. This is what we seek to do online with this museum.
Right now we are in the early stages of planning; there is still a lot of uncertainty. I suspect it will be March or April before we have confidence that our project can move forward this July. But please, consider donating just a small sum to help us out and to bring this fascinating site, its history, and its artefacts to the world through the internet. Should we not be able to go to Italy in July due to COVID, know that the money raised will go to our first season of excavations in 2022.
So, please if you can spare a little money, you can donate it at www.ko-fi.com/LibarnaULP. There is no set time limit, so you can donate up through June if you can’t spare anything now. We know times are tough.
*It took me a long time to learn that, so just remember SABAP-Al 🙂 – Katie
Here is the video, filmed by the Libarna Artevent Associazione. The event was sponsored by the Soprintendenza archaeologia, belle arte, e paesaggio per le province di Alessandria, Cuneo, e Asti (SABAP-AL). This is a presentation in a mix of English and Italian introducing ourselves and the project and about discussing our field work in 2017. We had a great turn out; lots of people from the area came to listen. Katie and Nana are presented by the wonderful Dr. Alessandro Quercia, the former official of Libarna. The following year Dr. Quercia moved on and we began to work with the wonderful Dr. Simone G. Lerma as Libarna’s new functionary. We are working on getting subtitles or a transcription in Italian and English for the relative parts.
Ecco il video, girato dall’Associazione Libarna Artevent. L’evento è stato patrocinato dalla Soprintendenza archaeologia, belle arte, e paesaggio per le province di Alessandria, Cuneo, Asti (SABAO-Al). Questa è una presentazione in un mix di inglese e italiano che introduce noi stessi e il progetto e sulla discussione del nostro lavoro sul campo nel 2017. Abbiamo avuto un ottimo risultato; molte persone della zona sono venute ad ascoltare. Katie e Nana sono presentate dal meraviglioso dottor Alessandro Quercia, ex funzionario di Libarna. L’anno successivo il dottor Quercia si trasferì e iniziammo a lavorare con il meraviglioso dottor Simone G. Lerma come nuovo funzionario di Libarna. Stiamo lavorando per ottenere i sottotitoli o una trascrizione in italiano e inglese per le parti relative.
Grazie Mille per le Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le province di Alessandria, Asti e Cuneo (SABAP-Al), soprintendente Luisa Papotti, Funzionario Dr. Simone Lerma, Libarna Artetevente, particolarmente Antonio Santopietro e Iudica Dameri, Melanania Cazzulo, Funzionario Dr. Alessandro Quercia, Signora Nicoletta Cucinella, Sindaco Alberto Carbone, Sindaco Alberto Basso, Silvano, e chiunque possa aver dimenticato involontariamente.
Due to the COVID situation we are postponing excavations and the field school until 2022. However, if you are interested, please get in contact at any time. Reach out to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
We plan to be digitizing a 19th century collection of artefacts recovered from Libarna in summer 2021. So keep an eye out for the virtual experience of the collection in Fall 2021. This project will be conducted with the guidance of SABAP-Al, the comune of Serravalle Scrivia and Arquata Scrivia, Liverpool University, and the Libarna Arteventi Associazione. In addition to showing the artefacts in 360 degree photography and in some cases 3D, we plan to have interviews with several experts to explain the artefacts and what they tell us about Libarna and Libarna’s place in modern history. The virtual experience will be bi-lingual in English and Italian.
We hope our virtual artefact collection experience will be a useful accompaniment to Libarna’s fantastic website:http://www.libarna.al.it/en/
N.B. Sotto scadente traduzione italiana di seguito
It’s hard to know what the world will be like in 6 months, but the LULP are pushing ahead to plan should we be able to carry out work it Italy. We must consider whether SABA-Al and MiBAC are conformable granting permits to non-EU projects, especially American ones. We must also consider whether the many wonderful people of Arquata Scrivia, Serravalle Scrivia, and Gavi, who host us, will want us there considering the risk Americans may pose. The wonderful LibarnaArteventi Association also may not feel fully safe with Americans there.
There are many things that may change in the coming months, but this is where we are right now in terms of plans. We have two courses of actions that we might take this summer depending on what happens in the coming months.
The first option is a small scale excavation. Staff members only, 3 weeks, 1 trench. This plan seems unlikely to happen this year for a number of reasons. We have submitted a grant application to the AIA-NEH, though we will not learn the outcome until January at the earliest. I still believe strongly that excavation is a worthwhile endeavor, but that this year is not the year for it to begin. We have team members who are currently unable to travel either due to underlying health conditions or closed border policies in their home countries. Many students many not be willing or able travel. Postponing excavation to 2020 seems the most sensible course of action.
The second plan allows us more flexibility in planning, a smaller team, and an opportunity to create something for people across the world to enjoy. We want to digitize the Capurro Collection, an assemblage of artefacts from Libarna that had been collected in the 19th century by local landowners as they worked their fields. Capurro was a local priest, who wanted to create a museum for the people with the materials from Libarna.
Today that collection is kept in a municipal building of Serravalle Scrivia and is opened upon request. The collection itself, thought smaller than it was when Capurro first took possession of the artefacts, provides some important insight into life in Libarna. We hope to be able to create either 3D images or 360 degree photographs along with information about the artefacts so you can learn about them from home. We plan to have a video of one of our collaborators lead a tour through the collection and other videos of featuring specialists discussing particular artefacts. We hope to offer an interactive and educational experience that allows you to learn more about Libarna and some of its artefacts. We want you to come away with a little more understanding and knowledge of Libarna from your very own homes.
This plan, too, will rely on certain team members getting into Italy as well as permits to photograph or scan the artefacts and make them publicly available online. However, I believe this is a more reasonable project and in the days of COVID it will allow people to enjoy another aspect of Libarna. We plan to keep up with our usual social media and bulletins to keep people aware of how the project is going on. We do hope to bring 2-3 student volunteers, making out team about 6 in total, not including all the wonderful local experts we work with.
If you haven’t seen the fantastic website about the archaeological site itself, developed by Dr. Venturino just prior to her retirement from the SABAP-Al, check it out: http://www.libarna.al.it/en/
In the meantime, understanding the economic hardship everyone is dealing with, we are using something called Ko-Fi. It has no time limit, so we can raise money up until June. Also it emphasizes small donations. So if you think either of these projects here sound interesting and have $5 or €5 to spare, we would be very appreciative of this support. You can donate here: https://ko-fi.com/libarnaulp
We will finish with thanking Soprintendente Luisa Papotti, funzionare Dr. Sermine Lerma, Mayor Alberto Carbone of Serravalle Scrivia, Mayor Alberto Basso of Arquata Scrivia, Associazione LibarnaArtevente (especially Antonio Santopietro and Iudica Damei), Nicoletta Cucinella, assessore of Arquata , and all the wonderful people of Arquata and Serravalle. Last but not least we thank our own Field Director Melania Cazzulo, who has been such a help to us that it is impossible to put into words. I would also like to thank my friend Dr. Alessanro Quercia, who, I (Katie), got to know at the University in Leicester. LULP would be nothing without these people. If we have forgotten anyone, it was unintentional and we sincerely apologize.
Thank you all! We hope to see you in June/July 2021. And hopefully we will be digging and getting covered in dirt in 2022!
Best wishes from Katie and the entire LULP team
Traduzione in italiano (piuttosto mediocre, scusa)
È difficile sapere come sarà il mondo tra 6 mesi, ma la LULP sta spingendo avanti per pianificare se dovessimo essere in grado di portare a termine il lavoro in Italia. Dobbiamo considerare se SABA-Al e MiBAC sono conformi per la concessione di permessi a progetti extra UE, soprattutto americani. Dobbiamo anche considerare se le tante persone meravigliose di Arquata Scrivia, Serravalle Scrivia e Gavi, che ci ospitano, ci vorranno considerando il rischio che gli americani possono rappresentare, anche la meravigliosa Associazione LibarnaArteventi potrebbe non sentirsi completamente al sicuro con gli americani lì.
Ci sono molte cose che potrebbero cambiare nei prossimi mesi, ma questo è dove siamo adesso in termini di piani. Abbiamo due linee di azione che potremmo intraprendere questa estate a seconda di cosa accadrà nei prossimi mesi.
La prima opzione è uno scavo su piccola scala. Solo membri dello staff, 3 settimane, 1 trincea. Questo piano sembra improbabile che avvenga quest’anno per una serie di motivi. Abbiamo presentato una domanda di sovvenzione all’AIA-NEH, anche se non apprenderemo il risultato fino a gennaio al più presto. Sono ancora fermamente convinto che lo scavo sia un’impresa utile, ma che quest’anno non sia l’anno in cui inizierà. Abbiamo membri del team che al momento non sono in grado di viaggiare a causa di condizioni di salute sottostanti o di politiche di confine chiuse nei loro paesi d’origine. Molti studenti molti non vogliono o non possono viaggiare. Posticipare gli scavi al 2020 sembra la linea d’azione più sensata.
Il secondo piano ci consente una maggiore flessibilità nella pianificazione, un team più piccolo e l’opportunità di creare qualcosa che le persone di tutto il mondo possano apprezzare. Vogliamo digitalizzare la Collezione Capurro, un insieme di manufatti di Libarna che erano stati raccolti nel XIX secolo dai proprietari terrieri locali mentre lavoravano i loro campi. Capurro era un prete locale, che voleva creare un museo per le persone con i materiali di Libarna.
Oggi quella raccolta è custodita in un edificio comunale di Serravalle Scrivia ed è aperta su richiesta. La collezione stessa, ritenuta più piccola di quanto non fosse quando Capurro prese possesso dei manufatti, fornisce alcune importanti informazioni sulla vita a Libarna. Speriamo di essere in grado di creare immagini 3D o fotografie a 360 gradi insieme alle informazioni sui manufatti in modo che tu possa apprenderli da casa. Abbiamo in programma di avere un video di uno dei nostri collaboratori che guida un tour attraverso la raccolta e altri video di specialisti che discutono di particolari artefatti. Ci auguriamo di offrire un’esperienza interattiva ed educativa che ti permetta di saperne di più su Libarna e alcuni dei suoi artefatti. Vogliamo che tu venga via con un po ‘più di comprensione e conoscenza di Libarna dalle tue stesse case.
Anche questo piano si baserà sull’ingresso in Italia di alcuni membri del team e sui permessi per fotografare o scansionare i manufatti e renderli pubblicamente disponibili online. Tuttavia, credo che questo sia un progetto più ragionevole e ai tempi di COVID permetterà alle persone di godersi un altro aspetto di Libarna. Abbiamo in programma di tenere il passo con i nostri soliti social media e bollettini per mantenere le persone consapevoli di come sta andando il progetto. Speriamo di portare 2-3 studenti volontari, creando una squadra di circa 6 in totale, esclusi tutti i meravigliosi esperti locali con cui lavoriamo.
Se non avete visto il fantastico sito web sul sito archeologico stesso, sviluppato dalla Dott.ssa Venturino poco prima del suo ritiro dal SABAP-Al, date un’occhiata: http://www.libarna.al.it/en/
Nel frattempo, comprendendo il disagio economico con cui tutti hanno a che fare, stiamo usando qualcosa chiamato Ko-Fi. Non ha limiti di tempo, quindi possiamo raccogliere fondi fino a giugno. Inoltre sottolinea piccole donazioni. Quindi, se pensi che uno di questi progetti qui sembri interessante e hai $ 5 o € 5 da spendere, saremmo molto grati di questo supporto. Puoi donare qui: https://ko-fi.com/libarnaulp
Concluderemo con i ringraziamenti al Soprintendente Luisa Papotti, al funzionamento della Dott.ssa Sermine Lerma, del Sindaco Alberto Carbone di Serravalle Scrivia, del Sindaco Alberto Basso di Arquata Scrivia, dell’Associazione LibarnaArtevente (soprattutto Antonio Santopietro e Iudica Damei), Nicoletta Cucinella, assessore di Arquata, e di tutti splendide persone di Arquata e Serravalle. Infine, ma non meno importante, ringraziamo la nostra Field Director Melania Cazzulo, che ci è stata di tale aiuto che è impossibile esprimere a parole. Vorrei anche ringraziare il mio amico Dr. Alessanro Quercia, che, io (Katie), ho avuto modo di conoscere all’università di Leicester. LULP non sarebbe niente senza queste persone. Se abbiamo dimenticato qualcuno, non è stato intenzionale e ci scusiamo sinceramente.
Grazie a tutti! Speriamo di vedervi a giugno / luglio 2021. E speriamo di scavare e di essere ricoperti di terra nel 2022! E scusa per il mio italiano scadente.
Dr. Ash Lenton, who produces the podcast Foreign Countries: Conversations in Archaeology, interviewed our own Nana Friedman about our work at Libarna. Give it a listen. It will tell you a bit more about our work and what we hope to contribute to our understanding of the Roman world, Cisalpine Gaul, and the archaeology of imperialism.
Every archaeologist I know has had to confront the effects of the Covid-19 which has completely upended the field of archaeology. Like many others we of the LULP had to postpone our dig season for this summer. Postponing this season was the only choice we could make we the health of our students and ourselves. Libarna has been an abandoned city since 500 AD, it can wait a little longer to yield its secrets.
We love conducting our research and answering important questions about the Roman world. Our postponed 2020 field season is disappointing. Missing a season will delay our long term research goals but will not stop us. Not being in the field is not unusual; archaeological projects often have study years when research and writing are prioritized over collecting new data. In this vein the LULP is continuing to work during this summer, albeit from home. Currently, we are planning next year’s field season. One major part of this planing is students for the field school, which I will address in the next blog post. We also are applying for grants and writing up papers.
Another reason we are upset is because we make close connections with local archaeological departments and community members. With a delay, we miss out on a year of all the joys and pains of the village life. We especially worry about our famiglia italiana during this crisis.
So what information or words of wisdom can we offer for the current situation. Modern epidemiology is not in our normal purview. However, we as archaeologists have studied multiple eras of human history. Many times before humans have had to confront global pandemics. Even in the Roman period, two major pandemics struck during the reigns of emperors Marcus Aurelius and Justinian. What we can learn from historical examples is that societies can recover even from these severe shocks.
We wish you all well and hope you are safe and healthy during this time.
Part 3 is about another specialist we are adding to the roster, an archaeobotanist. So what does an archaeobotanist do? Why do we need one of these? Archaeobotany- as the end of the word sounds- is botany or the study of plants. Plants are used by humans in all sorts of ways not just for eating. Grapes were the main ingredient in wine which was a huge part of Roman culture. Plants were used for use for fuel, medicine, and even decoration.
Do you know that each plant has unique seeds and pollen? Kinda like a fingerprint for each plant. A trained specialist can identify these.
Take an easy example of the acorn. It’s one of the most recognizable seeds from a tree when you see it you know it is from an oak tree. However, not all plants have seeds that are easy to identify by the naked eye. That is when a microscope comes in handy. By comparing a found archaeological specimen with a reference collection (as seen below) different species can be identified.
So what kind of things can we learn if we know the species present? Well, are there are a lot of desert plants? Because if there are it was likely an arid environment in the past. Are you currently in a flat plain but you find lots of evidence of pine cones and old-growth forests? That would suggest the site has suffered from deforestation. Was it caused by humans or changes in the natural environment? These questions and more can be answered by a trained archaeobotanist. Any and all plant matter we find in the 2021 season will be going to Hannah Lessiter to be studied.
Hannah completed her BA (Hons) in Classical Studies in 2019 and is now studying for her MA in Classical Art and Archaeology at Royal Holloway, University of London in the UK. She has participated in excavations in the UK and Italy. Her most recent work in Italy includes working as assistant Archaeobotanist in Vacone as part of the Upper Sabina Tiberina Project.
So if you have read our previous blog you will know that due to the current situation our plans have changed. So on to part 2 of our new team introductions for 2020 2021!
What other staff are needed in the field when we begin excavating? Just as we had team leaders for the survey groups we also need trench leaders. Individuals who will make sure all data is recorded, all notes were taken, all artifacts labeled properly. They also oversee the students (AND REMIND THEM TO DRINK WATER, WHY DO THEY NEVER DRINK ENOUGH WATER?). These important tasks take immense concentration, skill at multitasking, and a set of lungs to scream “DRINK WATER” across a field.
Why is it so vital to have someone in this role? Because archeological excavation is a destructive science. Essentially we only get one shot at digging up the past. Once the soil is removed a lot of information like the seeds and pollen gets lost, which we will discuss more in New Team Members Part 3.
Most importantly we must record the spatial relationships between objects as we excavate them. One of my favorite images to show students is this;
This meme plays on the fact that unless you know something about 20th-century music technology these objects at first seem unrelated. However, anyone who has dealt with a tangled cassette knows one of the best ways to rewind it manually is with a pencil. This context would have been clear to viewers a few decades ago but as the technology changes, this knowledge has been lost. If this image stumps some of my students now, imagine trying to figure out the relationship between objects from millennia ago. It can be incredibly difficult. One thing we hypothesize is that spatial proximity suggests a connection between the two objects. So what if we did not record that the pencil was found right next to the cassette? Then we have objects that are recorded separately just a music cassette and a writing utensil. An entire nuanced experience of tape maintenance, mixtape creation, frustration leading to adaption to CD technology, is lost. Perhaps a more pertinent archaeological example is if we find a lot of broken pots, used up tools, trash, and bones in one location we can hypothesize it was a midden. Recording these spatial relationships between objects is why it is vital to have a detailed plan in order to record as much information as possible. Early on in the planning process, we realized the LULP needed more supervisors so that this comprehensive field recording could take place.
Supervisors on the edge of the trench are vital- especially when conducting field schools with students. Without them, things descend into chaos rather quickly. They record data and teach excavation skills. Which is why I am happy to introduce Petur Hansen who has a wealth of experience in excavation- and some skills in GIS which will be useful for us as we record things in the field. With Petur’s experience, he is a boon to the students because they will get more interaction with an experienced digger. As a member of staff, we have someone who knows how to make hypothesizes and catch mistakes in real-time!
Petur is a graduate from the University of Leicester with a Master’s degree in Archaeology, mainly focusing on zooarchaeology. He has participated in archaeological excavations in Israel, Puerto Rico, Faroe Island, and England. The excavations have been varied, both regarding time periods and aims. Since 2017 he has worked as a project-based archaeologist with Tjóðsavnið, the Faroe Island National Museum, excavating an early medieval church site and a Viking settlement. His involvement with Tjóðsavnið, has also included post-excavation work, producing a faunal report and processing environmental samples. Petur also volunteered with the University of Leicester Archaeological Services during his Masters, working in post-excavation. His interests are mainly zooarchaeology and colonial dynamics. 2021 will be Petur’s first season with the LULP.
We are excited to have him with us! Look for the 3rd part of this series where we introduce our Archaeobotanist and talk about her important role!
We love working at Libarna and believe it has so many stories to tell us about Roman life. We are already planning the 2021 field season which promises to be amazing. However, we must confront the elephant which is sheltering in place. The 2020 season will not be occurring. The social disruption is too great and the unknowns are too many. This is a major disappointment to us both as researchers and as friends of Serravalle and Arquata. We hope that our Italian colleagues are well. If you want to learn more about them we have earlier blog posts about the rangers and about the community.
However, we also need your help- we started a crowdfunding campaign before the season was delayed and despite the change in global circumstances, we must see it through. We are asking for small donations- just a few dollars to help us reach our goal. Please visit our page to learn more. All funds raised will go to the 2021 season.
Please stay safe and take care of each other. We will have more blog posts soon to entertain you all as we practice social distancing!
After much debate, we have decided that our excavation season will proceed as planned. The pandemic of Covid 19 is serious and it is especially concerning for us since we are working in Italy. In order to be best informed, we are in daily contact with public health officials, epidemiologists, and doctors. (For example, individuals such as Dr. Michael Friedman, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who also worked for the National Institutes of Health. He also served on the Federal Bioterrisom Response Taskforce after 9/11. Dr. Eleanor Friedman, an epidemiologist who wrote a thesis on the SARS coronavirus and quarantine efforts in Singapore. We are also getting updates and information from other doctors who are similarly qualified but not related to Nana.)
With all of this information, we have decided not to cancel or delay our plans to begin excavation this summer for a few reasons
All the experts we are in contact with are suggesting we proceed with caution but not panic
As we start excavation in June we have time to further monitor the situation and make informed decisions
We have connections with the Italian community and we consider each other family. We know no matter what the crisis we would receive excellent support from them if required.
So far there is no reason not to press ahead with our plans. Please know we are taking precautions to ensure the health of our students and staff, which is our utmost concern. We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves. We will continue to update everyone as we move forward.