Welcome to the third season of LULP! We are nine strong this year and going full steam ahead on another year of survey. Before we get to far into the business of data collection, some introductions are in order!
Of course, we have Drs. Katherine V. Huntley and Hannah Friedman (that’s Katie and Nana respectively in the field) at the LULP helm. Dr. John Bradford joins us from his new digs at the Colorado School of Mines (not mimes… we confused some students with our sloppy diction), and brings with him, for the third and fourth week, postgraduate student, Adam Mangel. Shura Harris, our Survey Coordinator and Outreach Officer, is representing the UK and eagerly hoping for England’s domination at the World Cup. Our resident Libarna specialist and archaeologist, Melania Cazzulo, joins us in the field again as well. Back at the keyboard today is Nicole Inghilterra, Camp Director and Education Coordinator.
Katie gives the students a tour of site.
John helps a student navigate some flora.
Melania shows off her guns.
Shura documents the completion of our first grid.
Nicole works on the blog.
Nana and John test out the GPR after a long drive!
Speaking of students, our contingent arrived here on Saturday! Boise State University master’s student, Hayley Noble, might be missing some baggage (thanks Delta) but she’s certainly not lacking in enthusiasm. Back in Boise, Hayley studies the history of World War II and female Soviet combatants. Also joining us from BSU is Joseph Bradshaw, a media arts major. We’re not at all joking when we say Libarna would make for some good documentary material! Senior project perhaps? Elijah Castillo came all the way from the Longhorn State, but he’s spent the past month in Spain studying at the TTU Seville campus, so he’s well past the jet lag phase of travel. As a kinesiology major, Elijah brings a totally different perspective to the table. Here’s to hoping we’re carrying the jerry-can in an anatomically correct way! We’re turning them all into archaeologists, one field at a time.
Things kicked into high gear the moment we assembled, and we have a busy four weeks ahead of us. In-between introducing the students to the region, we’ve already been able to examine a concrete parking lot and a gas station with our fabulous new GPR machine, something we couldn’t have done with the equipment we were using in previous years. We’ll soon be moving back to fields that gave us good results in preliminary work last year, as well as few more new locations, but that’s another post altogether!
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!
Field school isn’t just about toiling away in the fields, the weekends are every bit as important. Of course, there is the very essential R&R that keeps everyone sane, a little adventure and exploration to introduce our students to the beauty of the region, and then there are the museums. We’re particularly lucky to be positioned nearby several amazing institutes. Our home in Arquata Scrivia is situated in between Genoa and Turin, which makes the Ranger Station optimally suited for weekend excursions to either city for a peek into their vast collections.
When Saturday rolls around, it’s time for a field trip from field school. Dr. Katherine V. Huntley and Dr. Hannah Friedman are experts in the archaeology of ancient Rome, so a tour through a museum with them is a mind opening experience even for those of us who have studied classics for years. With Katie’s focus on urban and domestic life and Nana’s experience studying centers of ancient industry, no stone is left unturned.
We start the students off in Turin’s Museo Archeologico in the Musei Reale Torino. Housed in the 16th century palace complex of the Savoy dynasty, the collection of regional antiquities is absolutely stunning and takes the viewer deep into the past as we descend into the subterranean galleries of the palace basement. The palace structures lie above a Roman theatre and we begin our tour with a worm’s eye view of ruins barely visible above ground. As Libarna has one of the foremost remaining theatres from the Roman world, this offers a great point of comparison.
Starting in the more recent past of Medieval Piemonte, we travel deeper in time to ancient Rome with exhibits that walk students through both the material culture itself and the analytical process involved in drawing conclusions from shards of bone, stone, and pot. This understanding is particularly important when you are solely conducting survey. It’s all about perspective. These kinds of exhibits are crucial to help them see that, while it might not be the most scintillating thing they’ve ever done, standing in a field with a rope, a tape measure, or a resistivity probe, really is contributing to that shiny, finds filled future we all envision when thinking of archaeology.
With archaeological evidence of the Langobards, Etruscans, Romans, and Gauls within arm’s reach, the exhibit also works as a fantastic primer on how the material evidence of these different peoples varies. How is terra sigillata from Gaul (the predominant type found in Libarna) different from the classic “Arretine-ware” produced further south? What images and motifs are considered regionally unique versus those that would have traveled along the commercial arteries of the Roman Empire? And what about that weird, green glazed pottery that somehow snuck itself into production in the Roman world?
But Turin isn’t the only place where such a wealth of material culture resides. In the opposite direction, the Museo di Archeologia Ligure sits high on a hill in Genoa (once an Etruscan colony itself),overlooking the sea. Here is where the lion’s share of finds extracted from Libarna throughout the centuries resides. While a bit smaller, the collection does a fabulous job of impressing upon visitors the cultural flexibility present in the ancient world. Words like “Romanization” trap learners into a false prison of antiquity as a place where imperial forces arrived and merely stamped their almighty imprint upon the largely blank, barbarian landscape.
Finds from Libarna tell a very different story. Whether you’re looking at a grave marker featuring a delightfully mustachioed reclining fellow (who certainly breaks the Roman mould) or a piece of pottery that doesn’t seem to follow any distinctly “Roman” pattern, the collection in Genoa is a reminder that we are largely in uncharted territory up here. The southern and central Italian peninsula has been studied repeatedly in an attempt to distill the Roman presence, but much of what we think we “know” about the north is framed by the context of the south.
By encountering these pieces that fall so far outside the box, we challenge the students to see antiquity as the diverse, fluctuating, regionally sensitive time and space it really was. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the concept of a largely uniform “Roman World” took hundreds of years of study to establish as well, so our work to bring the complexities of life in Libarna to light might take a while as well. A couple of weekends in Turin and Genoa seem like a good place to start.
Once we’ve filled their minds with all we can of Italian antiquity, our students are free to spend the next day and a half discovering their own private Italy. For some, this will have been their first trip out of the United States, or even their home state. For all, this marks an opportunity to become more than a tourist and get an intimate view of life in places like Arquata Scrivia and its neighboring towns, to trade stories of their work and journey with fellow hostel-goers when further afield, and to share an experience that shows them just a bit more about who they really are. It’s what our weekends are all about.
For a short, inaugural season, what we were able to accomplish last year was pretty impressive. That said, we came away with a laundry list of things we wanted to do in coming seasons (speaking of laundry, if you missed Shura’s struggle with the mountain of dirty linens we amassed over the past week, take a look at our most recent Instagram pics here). A more comprehensive survey using ground penetrating radar was at the top of that list.
In the final week of 2016’s season, we rented a day’s worth of ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey and processing from the fabulous specialists at Tech Gia in Turin, but one day only gave us two test grids on opposite ends of site. What that limited data told us was instrumental in deciding where we wanted to go and how we would structure our approach this season, but we wanted more!
When an article from the Boise State University’s Arbiter made the rounds, we snagged the attention of Dr. John Bradford in the geosciences department. John has extensive experience all over the world conducting GPR surveys for mining, and utilities development, so when he said this was a project he was eager to be a part of, we jumped at the opportunity to host him and his daughter, Austin. We could only steal them for a week, but it has been a ridiculously productive five days.
Week two, with GPR as a central focus, started off with a bang. Because of the more time intensive nature of data collection through GPR, we were expecting to get a maximum of 10 grids evaluated. We picked our chosen fields carefully and John, Austin, and their little yellow unit tore through most of those within the first three days! All of this of course was done while guiding the students (and staff members) in the collection and interpretation of GPR data.
And then it all ground to a screeching halt…
Unfortunately, the nature of GPR survey (literally dragging the radar over uneven terrain, often including large stones and all sorts of damaging goodies) means that the units themselves have limited lifespans. Five or six years old is downright geriatric for a model like the one John brought with him, and while it was trucking along well, the abuses of international travel, hundreds of kilometers of survey in Greenland, and a full life of rocks and hard places took their toll. Rest in peace little friend.
John immediately flew into action and tapped into a vast underground network of geophysicists spanning the world. Hyperbole aside, John contacted a few friends across the Italian peninsula and wrangled not one, but two possible solutions that would help us finish strong. Lo and behold, one of those contacts happened to work with a delightful company we knew and loved, Tech Gia! John and Austin made the drive up to Turin bright and early Thursday morning and picked up the new unit.
Now, something to remember, GPR machines themselves come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. John’s model was a fleet little yellow guy that required two operators, but was compact enough that it would fit in your standard suitcase. TechGia’s model looks like a cross between a baby buggy and a seed dispenser. It only requires a single operator, but it also operates through a completely different system, which means that after the drive to and from Turin, John gave himself a crash course in the new unit and blazed through another four grids.
Friday we were ready to rumble. It was the last day of GPR and we had already gone through ten grids. We rallied the troops and constricted a long, slightly oddly dimensioned rectangular grid along the busy Via Arquata, and ploughed through it all before lunch time. After a couple of small control grids and the tail end of another field we had hoped to get a better look at, John and Austin were finally done, and were very happy campers with a grand total of twenty grids surveyed through GPR.
We celebrated our collective success in a little trattoria in Gavi and wished John and Austin happy travels. Not to get too emotional, but we will certainly miss them and hope that there will be at least a few more weeks of their GPR expertise in future seasons (that is, if we can manage to stop snoring long enough to get John a full night’s sleep…). In the meantime, we’ll be reliving the fun as the processed data starts coming our way!
Our experiences in the field stay with us forever, sometimes with a bit too much clarity depending on the situation… Whether it was the kind of season you’ll share with anyone willing to listen, or your favorite on-site horror story, there has been many a moment when we’ve all promised ourselves in trenches, labs, and fields the world over, that if we were in charge, we would do things differently. So, between the eight of us on staff, we have quite a bit of material to bring to the table when shaping the student experience of the LULP.
The challenge is always this: How do we immerse students in the physical components of archaeology (it’s not all racing giant boulders after all) in between sharing the realities of the investigative process, our academic mission, and our passion for the history of this region, all while conducting research ourselves? It’s a big question to ask, and this year, we have implemented a rigorous educational component to better answer it.
We’ve structured the season in such a way that our newly minted field archaeologists are getting up close and personal with as much of the research process as possible. As this is an upper division college course, reading plays a large part in the experience but, tying the kinetic to the mental gymnastics are the student journals. The Journal (capitalization intended) is an essential tool in field archaeology, and we introduce our students to it in daily questions aimed to tease out evidence of the knowledge we hope to impart.
Which is what exactly? We began week one with a crash course in phenomenology. Libarna is an excellent test case for this after centuries of piecemeal excavations and investigations all with very different goals to guide them. Since our students come from varying backgrounds (business, anthropology, and geosciences to name a few) a big part of the learning component in the first week is geared to orient them in the site armed with the methodological and theoretical tools to tackle what we might find.
In the following weeks, readings and discussions introduce students to the why behind what they do from eight to four every day. They get up close and personal with the science behind our fancy tools with articles discussing resistivity, remote sensing, and ground penetrating radar. Then it’s on to discussions of material culture analysis, osteology, community engagement, and more.
Daily, students practice the technical component of physically conducting survey. The basics of setting up a grid, operating a resistivity meter, GPS, and GPR unit are all important skills to this phase of the LULP, and the students start with Pythagoras and soon produce beautifully constructed grids that could bring a tear to the eye (trust me, it’s magical), which they then plot through GPS, and survey with our trusty resistivity meter and GPR unit.
And throughout each week we pepper them with question after question, challenging them to look beneath the surface (pun very much intended) of what they pour their blood, sweat, and tears into each day. Why is a strong relationship with the community so important to the LULP’s success? Why take so much time painstakingly surveying, both from the ground and air, before excavating? What kind of challenge does a site that has seen excavations here and there, but seldom a publication, present to those exploring it today? How can we target where to dig in future years all while being as non-destructive as possible?
Field school is a 24 hour educational experience, one which we hope our students enjoy, as exhausting as it might seem in the moment. There is nothing else quite like it, and at the very least, they will have quite the story to tell.
Few things say, “have a fantastic field season,” quite like a welcome feast at the annual candlelight festival.
Earlier in week one, we’d heard rumblings that the Comune di Arquata Scrivia wanted to host a dinner welcoming the Libarna Urban Landscape Project on Thursday evening. Aside from the obvious reasons for anticipation (who doesn’t love a party?), it would also give us a chance to meet more of the community and thank them for their hospitality and generosity. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but from what we’d tasted so far at the local trattorias, the food was guaranteed to be excellent. As a delightful surprise, we found that Thursday was also the night of a festival of candlelight, the Notte Delle Candele. A night full of music, breezy white clothing, and of course, lines of votive candles weaving through the streets of town.
We dressed to impress (or were at the very least clean), however, we were a bit short on white clothing, so we stood out a bit in the crowd! Not knowing what the comune had in store, we were ushered into the 16th century Palazzo Spinola where the mayor Albert Basso (adorned in his very official, ceremonial sash) and members of the council, Paolo Spineto, Nicoletta Cucinella, and Stefania Pezzan, gave our directors a beautiful welcome. And then came another surprise-a stack of books made an appearance and were gifted to the project. These local travel guides, historical surveys, and books featuring regional artists are fantastic additions to our field library.
After several rounds of pictures, we turned to the next phase of the evening-the feast. And yes, I truly mean feast. For those of you out there who have not yet experienced the pleasure and obligation of a classic Italian dinner, the flow of food seems endless, and you must have at least a little bit of everything. The comune took us to a lovely trattoria on the edge of the Piazza Santo Bertelli where we had front row seats to the early hours of the candlelight festival. As the choir assembled and vendors brought out their wares, our plates were filled with salads of faro, beef tendon, and vegetables; breads, lasagna, egg pies, roasted tomatoes, cheeses, and finally a divine apple cake with swirls of spices in its delicate crumb.
While the festival stepped into full swing, Melania took us on a tour of the oldest house in Arquata. The flickering candlelight illuminated our path to the medieval home where her grandfather was born. Today, it is a workshop and gallery for craftsmen creating incredibly detailed dioramas of religious scenes and imaginings of life long ago in Arquata Scrivia. As we climbed the stone steps of the house, we found ourselves captivated by the delicacy and beauty of each vignette.
After that, nothing was left but to enjoy the festival. Song filled the piazza and children were given white balloons with small LED lights casting a warm glow to match the flickering candles. At the culmination of the festival, hundreds of white clad children throughout the square and streets released their balloons into the darkness of the night.
We are very happy to be here, and it is so rewarding to know that Arquata Scrivia is just as excited to host us as well. Thank you so much for the very warm welcome!
It’s official—the students are here and we are hard at work with season two of the Libarna Urban Landscape Project! With the data collected last season, we now have a better view of the work that needs to be done to fully understand this beautiful ancient city. So, what’s new?
While we might not be digging, the digs are new! Ok, bad pun, but that said, we are in a new location. We loved our time at the church in Serravalle Scrivia, but with nearly double the student body and a few new faces on staff, the LULP has sadly outgrown its community rooms. Luckily, we found a home in Arquata Scrivia, a nearby town which is technically the municipality in which archaeological and modern Libarna are situated. The Volunteer Rangers of the Protezione Civile- Piemonte; Comune di Arquata Scrivia gave us a roof over our heads and enough bathrooms to properly mediate the madness that is 17 sweaty archaeologists. Just as in Serravalle, the people of Arquata have been incredibly welcoming and helpful, we are loving every moment here.
This year, we also have a few fabulous additions to our staff. Trevor Mason, husband to Ashley Mason, our PhD candidate and organizational maven extraordinaire, has been instrumental in keeping us very well fed. While we have Ivy’s Burger Bar to thank for dinners, Trevor is now our resident panini guru and has been introducing us all to the locally produced fixings in our daily lunches. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with ourselves once he leaves in two weeks. All I can say, is we will certainly miss him upon his return to Philadelphia.
We also have a late arrival from Boise State University coming at the end of week one, who will help to further round out our data with GPR mapping of select grids. Professor John Bradford of the BSU Department of Geosciences will be lending us his skills in week two! Last season, we were only able to conduct GPR surveys for a day, but it is such a useful tool, John’s arrival tomorrow is eagerly anticipated.
And, where would we be without our delightful Presidentessa, Melania Cazzulo? While we were able to steal Melania for part of the first season, her comprehensive expertise in the archaeology and history of Libarna, near magical power of her effervescent enthusiasm, and deep passion for the site itself, soon became instrumental to our project. Not only was Melania able to find us our homes away from home for both seasons, this year, she is also a full-time staff member, working in the fields and within the region throughout our 2017 season. While she is honing her English skills, Melania is also giving staff and students alike an intimate view of the region we love.
Machines are people too (at least where our drones are concerned), and Mike Boyles has brought along Dronina’s younger sister Dronita. She’s a slick little model and has already earned her weight in gold and it’s only week one! With crop rotations and a slightly shorter growing season this year, we are all incredibly excited to see what Dronita, Mike, and Sesha can show us. Unfortunately, she had a bit of an accident today and was clipped by a car (long story). She’s alright, and ready for action, but it certainly had us scared for a moment given all she’s been able to do in three days.
There are some things, however, that have not made it into the second year of the project. Speaking of Dronina, she has been given the season off as Dronita takes center stage. And in slightly bigger news, we have changed the name a bit to represent a more targeted research mission. Additionally, we have abandoned the magnetometer… For a tool to be useful, it must first function, and due to the complicated electromagnetic characteristics of the site, magnetometry simply does not work properly in Libarna. We feel that resistivity surveys will be able to fill in the map well and most importantly, provide us with an accurate view of what lies beneath.
Thank you all for following along with this truly special project!
We’re gearing up for the Libarna Urban Landscape Project’s second season which means we have spent many months missing the lush canyons of Alessandria, the Serravalle River, the enchanting ruins of the Libarna itself, and of course, our fantastic first crop of students. This July, we will have a whole batch of new faces, but for now, we thought it would be fun to take a look back and let TTU undergraduate, Chloe Morris, share some of her favorite memories of Libarna.
Being part of the Libarna Urban Landscape Project has been life changing. Before I came on this trip I didn’t know exactly what the archaeological process looks like and I’d never been to Europe, now I know about both! Although I already know that survey isn’t the exact career I want I still think it is critical to understand and appreciate the entire process. It feels amazing to know that I helped collect the data to make future discoveries possible. I also loved being able to see the many different aspects (of archaeology) with us surveying, the soprintendenza excavating the baths, and the rest of site that is open to the public. It also felt really cool to be working a lesser known site that could possibly be a big attraction in the future.
We were very lucky to have such wonderful people in the town that cared so much about our work and were happy to have us here. It emphasizes the social and diplomatic aspects of the job. I loved the emphasis that was put on visiting amazing museums every weekend. It gave a lot of information about the people and cultures that thrived here, and how they differed from other Roman peoples, and why we want to study them. I really can’t think of a better way to get course credits than work on an influential project and travel through Italy.
One of my favourite parts about the trips was the people. There’s no bonding like forced bonding, and it does the trick. Everyone (staff) is so well educated in different areas and it is so nice to be able to get different perspectives and advice. Overall I would say the first season of the LULP was a definite success and I wish to return!
We miss you Chloe and wish you the best (Psst! Anytime you want to come by and grid, you’re more than welcome!).
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.
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.
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.
Student participation is a massively important component of what we hope to accomplish through the LULP. One of the primary goals of our work is to create a thriving field school here at Libarna where budding archaeologists, and lovers of Italy’s ancient past, can follow the physical remains of the city from survey through to specialist analysis. This season, we have a relatively small student contingent made up of four students from Texas Technical University and one from Boise State University. These five very hardworking learners are doing a fantastic job and as they represent a key part of the future of this site, we wanted to give one very enthusiastic participant a voice on the blog this week! So without further ado, meet Texas Tech student, Melisa Franklin:
It’s been 11 years since I last left the States. Traveling has always been a dream of mine, so when I heard of this study abroad opportunity in Serravalle Scrivia, I figured it was about time that I did something exciting. Not only am I getting the chance to experience life in Italy, I’m getting to learn all about archaeology on the ancient site of Libarna.
Archaeology has always been intriguing to me since I was a child. Just in the past week of being here and working on the field, I have learned so much. We are surveying new fields in Libarna to find ancient ruins underneath the ground using different equipment such as the DGS, magnetometer, and resistivity machine.
I never realized how much work goes into the beginning process of an archaeological dig. The days are hot and long, the machines are heavy, and the terrain can be tricky (I realized this when I watched Dr. Friedman fall into the “Marinara Trench” while walking towards me). There are cuts and bruises all over my legs, and I definitely look forward to every juice break we get, but it is all worth it.
Knowing that I am one of the few people to start the process of this archaeological excavation on a site that has barely been dug up is what gets me up at 7 AM every morning. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the data I’ve helped to collect by the time our program is over. Knowing that one day, the site that I helped to survey will be dug up and ancient ruins and artifacts will most likely be found and possibly put into a museum more than excites me!
Living in Italy is also amazing. Touring places like Rome and Pompeii would be a blast, but getting to live in a small town and getting to experience how life is here in the north truly brings me happiness. Everything feels so relaxed. After a long day in the field, I come home (aka, the church) and I can enjoy the outdoors. I walk into town and buy a pastry and a cappuccino, I play soccer and hang with the young Italian people that visit the church (the language barrier isn’t a problem because everyone is so friendly here.
Every night the whole team comes together for dinner and we eat and socialize, play card games or listen to music. There are no TV’s in the church but Simon does have a small speaker and I loved it when “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on and I couldn’t help but jam out. I also never realized how smooth the church floors were until I pulled the perfect moon walk to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
I love being around a group of intelligent and beautiful people individuals. I am so inspired by many of them and with the others, I feel as though we’ve been friends for forever. Has it really only been a week?