Blog

Libarna as an Agricultural Stronghold

written by Zoe Yamada Stave (Boise State University)

While Libarna has been somewhat under-researched (aside from periodic excavations throughout the last two centuries and some research by the Soprintendenza in the late 20th), the environmental history of this specific site is almost non-existent. The relationship between humans and their environment is often not a relationship that we would go to to understand the past; but, agricultural practices can provide a plethora of answers to questions we may never have even asked. Through the lens of environmental history, the relationship between the Ligurian peoples (the people who occupied and resided in the Ligurian region where Libarna rests) and their surrounding environment of Libarna, will be examined in order to construct a better contextual understanding of the agricultural, pastoral, and cultivation practices of this ancient civilization.

Introduction: A Brief Introduction to the History of Libarna

Ligurians inhabited the area prior to the foundation of the Roman colony of Libarna, residing along a thriving trade route in Northwest Italy, having been developed and established between the sixth and fifth centuries BCE and its transformation into the official Roman road, the via Postumia.1 Although research suggests that the colony had been occupied by the Ligurians, it seems to have disappeared before the Roman conquest of Liguria; leading to the re-settlement of the area during the construction of the via Postumia.1

Via Postumia

Libarna is most known for its location along the via Postumia, but what is it? This trade route provided travelers with various goods and supplies for their travels and as well as customers for the many traders. Travelers included the Roman military, as most of the empire’s roads were constructed to move and supply the army.2 This trade route has been not only proved by its lithic remnants, but also through various evidence-based inferences through archaeological artifacts, historical orations, and maps. One such example is the Tabula Peutingeriana, a thirteenth century remake of a Roman map of the road system of the empire, that included the via Postumia (and Libarna, marking the latter as a significant locale). Other evidence of the existence of this trade route is supported by the discovery of materials not naturally found in the region of Liguria or engraved/decorated by outside cultural influences. The presence of prestige goods, such as ceramic vases and pots characteristic of inland colonies, suggests that tradesmen and travelers were present for the intention of growing commercial interests through an expanding trade network through the exploitation of the via Postumia.2

Tabula Peutingeriana [map]. Scale not given. In: Finocchi, S. (ed.) 1996. Libarna. Castelnuovo Scrivia: MAXMI Editore.

Agriculture in the Surrounding Region

Not only was the via Postumia important for Libarna’s status as an economically prosperous colony, but agriculture also played a key role in its development as a Roman settlement. Over the course of multiple centuries, the land that was formally an urban center, has been since cleared and reutilized for agricultural cultivation, leading to incredible changes to the landscape.3 Liguria and Piemonte, the modern regions which encompass northern Italy and the borders of which Libarna now straddles, underwent extreme land transformation, synchronous with changes in climate and human occupation. 4

Based on archaeobotanical studies done at sites scattered throughout the regions of Liguria and Piemonte, climate change and human influences (such as land exploitation, farming, and deforestation) are the most influential factors that affected vegetation changes.4 Between 3250-2350 BCE, the few cultivated plants present and accounted for were oats, barley, and hemp.4 The presence of these hardy plants and cereals suggests that the people living here were not aware of the gradual climate change, but rather adapted to the minute changes over time.4

“Agricultural field near Libarna,” Libarna, Italy (2018).

Another site called Vado Sabatia (modern Vado Ligure) has proved to be incredibly beneficial to environmental history research for the region, following the recent discovery of an ancient Roman well containing animal, ceramic, and lithic remains; suggesting that this well was used as a dump by its residents.5 The well provided even stronger evidence for the presence of hemp, oats, and barley; additionally affirming theories of other cultivated crops such as cucumber, fava beans, flax, beets, cabbage, olives, and grapes.5 The presence of grapes in the first century BCE, as well as wine-making equipment, gives researchers the opportunity to create a timeline for the history of wine.5

Agriculture in Libarna: An Applied Case Study

Since the site-specific environmental research for Libarna is virtually nonexistent, I have had to apply the research done at other relevant sites until we are able to carry out the core-sampling and digging for the environmental sampling that we require.

Through artefacts and primary historical resources (such as historical documents and inscriptions), not only are the cultivation practices of Liguria highlighted, but pastoral and land surveying applications can be identified as well.

Several authors who lived at the time of Libarna (not exactly representative to Libarna’s conception, nor decline) wrote about the Ligurian peoples, oftentimes insinuating various agricultural applications and practices they utilized and relied upon. One such writer, the Greek author Strabo, described the region in his monumental work, Geographica (1st century CE): ‘This country is occupied by the Ligures, who live on sheep, for the most part, and milk, and a drink made of barley; they pasture their flocks in the districts next to the sea, but mainly in the mountains. They have there in very great quantities timber that is suitable for ship-building, with large trees. These, accordingly, the people brought down to the emporium of Genoa, as well as flocks, hides, and honey, and received therefore a return-cargo of olive oil and Italian wine.’6

Strabo’s account of Liguria is particularly intriguing as it highlights the lack of olive and grape cultivation, the large quantities of timber that act as their primary mode of exchange, the region’s reliance on trade, and the very important presence of pastoralism and animal husbandry. The data collected at the various core sites throughout the Ligurian region and northern Italy (although thousands of years before Strabo’s geophysical and geocultural account of the Ligurian region), in conjunction with Strabo’s account, indicates that the presence of barley cultivation and sheep pastoralism relied upon the fields and, indirectly, the cultural adaptation to the aridification of the region.4

Landscape of Libarna and Liguria

Other notable accounts of woodlands in Liguria rest in stories and orated histories of the Roman conquest efforts of Liguria and other regions of Northern Italy. The spread of Roman influence, between 201 and 148 BCE, relied heavily on the occupation of the Po Valley and subsequent surrounding areas, but the peoples of the Cisalpine Gaul remained ‘incredibly hostile’ according to Diodorus Siculus (1st cent. BCE), who wrote a particularly harsh account of the landscape and peoples of Liguria.7 Diodorus focused rather obsessively on the harshness and barbaric tendencies of the people in the eyes of ‘distinguished’ Roman cultural perspectives, citing that the mountainous, stony region that they occupied was particularly brutal and perceived that the lives they lived were ‘grievous and unfortunate.’7 But these ‘barbaric’ tendencies of the Ligurian peoples were most notably cited in the second Punic War; the hesitations of the Romans to traverse through the heavily wooded areas had been exploited by Hannibal in order to encourage, or rather force, the fighting to ensue on his terms.6 With historical accounts of these densely wooded areas, Strabo’s account of timber and lumber trading being a vital part of the region’s economy can be taken as reality for the peoples of the time.

The control of Rome brought changes to the region that had a drastic effect on the landscape. The inhabitants of Liguria prior to Roman conquest had a deeply rooted history in exploiting the natural resources and landscape around them, with very little effort in ensuring its capability to maintain their lifestyle. But with the conquest of the Ligurian region, the Romans began to use careful land management techniques to shift the focus of coastal exploitation to more balanced land use between coastal regions and mountainous areas.6 the progressive cultiavtion of plants such as hemp (fibrous qualities for wicks and baskets as discussed previously), barely and cereals, and the progressive and growing practice of pastoralism in the region, indicate Roman efforts to balance land usage.6

“Road network and lithic remains of buildings; decumanus maximus leading to amphitheater at Libarna archaeological site”. Libarna, Italy (2018).

Today, Liguria and Piemonte’s landscape, riddled with short valleys, plotted lands and wooded mountains, gives a perfect insight into the ancient land management practices in the region. These ‘short valleys’ are ideal for moving flocks from the pastures in the winters to the mountains in the summers, with many of the routes that pastoralists have utilized for centuries (including the via postumia) still being utilized today; albeit, purposes fluctuating under the cultural pressures of economic needs.6 These short valleys were subject to other land management applications, such as surveying and plotting. One tool, found in a previous study at the site of Libarna, was identified as being used for land survey (characteristic of Roman survey tools). The tool, groma, was used for land centuriation by the Romans in order to plot for distribution to settlers and citizens for field-cultivation use and inventory to determine taxation rates.8 This tool having been found in the area of Libarna proves the existence of land management and survey techniques, showing that Libarnians relied upon their plotted fields for economic and personal prosperity; suggesting further that Libarna had a plethora of agricultural fields (also present in today’s landscape through generational succession of agricultural practices).3

The clearing of woodlands for the purpose of cultivation and agriculture in the late Roman period has been discussed, but how it was accomplished has yet to be acknowledged. Evidence of controlled burning has been found in pollen samples (where an increase in wild grasses and cultivated cereals are present), as well as historical accounts which discuss the potential legal consequences of allowing travelers to exploit unharvested fields for their horses.6 Written sources also suggest that controlled burning had legal consequences as well, if not practiced correctly: ‘he who makes a fire beside the road should extinguish it before he goes away and not leave it negligently.’6 With grazing pastures being utilized for both pastoral and agricultural purposes being highlighted by way of controlled falling of trees and slash/burn techniques, the knowledge of these practices being present in Liguria suggest that their application to Libarna specifically could be appropriate.

Concluding Statement: The Case of Under-Researched Libarna

The cross-application of plant macro remains from the Vada Sabatia well, historical accounts of the landscape of Liguria (including evidence of land management practices), and historical accounts of pastoralism in the region suggest that Libarna was an essential component of the region’s agricultural and economic development. Today, Libarna’s modern agricultural economy relies heavily on the cultivation of hardy crops (such as alfalfa and barely, both of which were present in the well, during the time of Libarna’s existence), which receive no irrigation (characteristic of many crops in Northern Italy).3

Pastoral practices that were essential for the trade industry of Libarna (primarily because of its location on the via Postumia), as well as the cultivation of cereals, vegetables and fruits (or absence thereof), were present throughout the region of Ligura and formed a rather tumultuous and conflictual relationship with its environment. This relationship between Libarnians and Romans with their environment relied heavily on what the environment had to offer (especially given the issue of historical over-exploitation of land and resources) after deforestation and aridification, and the eventual introduction of efficient land management practices (that is, balancing the exploitation of the coastal region to its mountainous one) led to a healthier relationship between them. While there is significantly absent site-specific research on the environmental history and agricultural practices of Libarna throughout its existence in pre-Roman conquest times, application of the knowledge base from the various core samples utilized in this research, are appropriate for the time-being. Until specific core samples are obtained from Libarna itself, the inferences made of Libarna’s agricultural and pastoral history will have to rely on these case studies.

Final Thoughts, Acknowledgement & Thanks

I would like to thank the many supporters I have had throughout my research process including many of my professors (namely Dr. Lisa Brady of BSU who made my research possible), as well as the support from the LULP itself and my peers. And a major thanks to Dr. Huntley for allowing me access to sources that I would not have otherwise been able to utilize, as well as her continued support in my educational passions and career.

I would also like to acknowledge the incredible data collection and analytical efforts by the sources that I utilized for this research, those of which all proved to be invaluable to the project’s ability to construct an environmentally historical context of Libarna.

While this was merely a shortened version of my research, if you would like to read/access the full draft, please let me know personally. And, finally, if there are any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.


Sources Cited:

1:

Katherine V Huntley, Hannah Friedman, and Penelope Allison, “Recovering the Fragments of the Roman Colony of Libarna: Libarna Archaeological Project (LAP) Field Report, Season 1,” The Journal of Fasti Online Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica. (2016), 1.

2:

Finocchi, S. (ed.) 1996. Libarna. Castelnuovo Scrivia: MAXMI Editore, 47-48. (translated)

3:

Katherine Huntley et al., “Ancient Peoples, Historical Crops, Modern Drone: Climate Change and Mapping the Local Landscape of Libarna,” Research Gate, January 10, 2021, 8.

4:

Anna Maria Mercuri et al., “A Marine/Terrestrial Integration for Mid-Late Holocene Vegetation History and the Development of the Cultural Landscape in the Po Valley as a Result of Human Impact and Climate Change,” Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 21, no. 4-5 (2012): pp. 354.

5:

Daniele Arobba et al., “Roman Landscape and Agriculture on the Ligurian Coast through Macro and Microremains from a Vada Sabatia well (Vado Ligure, Italy),” Environmental Archaeology 18, no. 2 (2013): pp. 114.

6:

Ross Balzaretti, Dark Age Liguria: Regional Identity and Local Power, c. 400-1050 (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), 13.

7:

Clifford Ando, “The Changing Face of Cisalpine Identity,” A Companion to Roman Italy, August 2016, pp. 269-287, https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118993125.ch14, 15.

8:

“Centuriation,” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.), accessed April 11, 2021, https://www.britannica.com/topic/centuriation.

Exciting News: Project moving forward/Notizie entusiasmanti: progetto che avanza

Dear friends and supporters, It looks like we will be able to move forward with our summer project. We will be digitizing a collection of artefacts from Libarna, which will include a catalogue, images, and interviews.. We’ll be using ArcGIS StoryMaps as our platform. We will be photographing the artefacts in 360 degrees. We hope also to be able to get some equipment to do some 3D imaging. We’ll be including interviews with local officials, archaeologists, and residents to discuss the importance of the collection and specific artefacts

For some examples see:

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Shortlist/index.html?appid=e5c9db1eb2764bd3a8b125000eb14ee5 or google “Catálogo de Colectivas de Arte Indígena de la Cuenca del Río Caura – Venezuela”.

and

https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/b22a6a09bb2344ff845d9efd3e4152f7 or google “The Voices of the Grand Canyon”.

Also exciting news: keep an eye out for a post by our research assistant Zoe Yamada Stave, who has written about the environmental history of Libarna. She is a new team member/research assistant and will be joining us this summer.

Please consider a small donation to help the project out. If you can spare $5/£5/5 Euros it all adds up and we are very appreciative. You can donate at http://www.ko-fi.com/LibarnaULP.

Best wishes to all out supporters,

Katie and the LULP team

Cari amici e sostenitori, sembra che potremo portare avanti il nostro progetto estivo. Digitalizzeremo una raccolta di artefatti da Libarna, che includerà un catalogo, immagini e interviste .. Useremo ArcGIS StoryMaps come nostra piattaforma. Fotograferemo i artefatti a 360 gradi. Speriamo anche di riuscire a procurarci delle attrezzature per fare delle immagini 3D. Includeremo interviste con funzionari locali, archeologi e residenti per discutere l’importanza della collezione e di artefatti specifici.

Per alcuni esempi vedere:

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Shortlist/index.html?appid=e5c9db1eb2764bd3a8b125000eb14ee5 or cerca/google “Catálogo de Colectivas de Arte Indígena de la Cuenca del Río Caura – Venezuela”.

e

https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/b22a6a09bb2344ff845d9efd3e4152f7 or cerca/google “The Voices of the Grand Canyon”.

Un’altra notizia entusiasmante: tieni d’occhio un post della nostra assistente di ricerca Zoe Yamada Stave, che ha scritto sulla storia ambientale di Libarna. È un nuovo membro del team / assistente di ricerca e si unirà a noi quest’estate.

Si prega di considerare una piccola donazione per aiutare il progetto. Se puoi risparmiare $ 5 / £ 5/5 euro, tutto si somma e siamo molto riconoscenti. Puoi donare su http://www.ko-fi.com/LibarnaULP.

I migliori auguri a tutti i sostenitori,

Katie e il LULP team

Fundraising in Hopes for a Summer 2021 Project

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

The 2018 LULP team visits the Museo di Serravalle Scrivia, which houses the Collection of the 19th cent. priest Gianfancesco Capurro as well as other artefacts collected from the area.

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.

Local school children visit the site of Libarna in summer 2018. It is easy to forget that Libarna is an important part of their history and not just a novelty for those of us living far away.

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.

The 2018 LULP team at the museum along with the local archaeologist and cultural heritage managers that oversee the museum. Also in the photo is our field director, Melania Cazzulo (in the center of the front row), and the Assessore di Arquata Scrivia, Nicoletta Cucinella (second on the left in the front row), who have helped us so graciously and so much that we owe them our first born children. PS Don’t miss the fabulous column capital from Libarna’s theater behind us.

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

Blast from the (recent) Past

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.

Presentation to Community Members in July 2017

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.

English Transcript to come.

Italian Transcript to come.

Summer 2021 and 2022 Plans and Field School Information

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 libarnaproject@gmail.com or kvhuntley@boisestate.edu 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/

Summer 2021 and 2022

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.

LULP team project directors (Prof. Katie Huntley & Dr. Nana Friedman) and field director (Melania Cazzulo)with Dr. Simone Lerma of SABAP-AL, Mayor of the Province of Alessandria Gianfranco Cuttica di Revigliasco, Mayor of Serravalle Scrivia Alberto Carbone, Mayor of Arquata Scrivia Alberto Basso, and representatives from LibarnaArteventi Asssociation, Antonio Santopietro and Iudica Damei.

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.

The Catalogue of the Remains of the Capurro Collection & History of Gianfrancesco Capurro

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.

LULP Field Director Melania Cazzulo discussing one of the Capurro artefacts with our staff and students.

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/

We will of course be reaching out to the donors from the Experiment Crowdfunding Campaign (https://experiment.com/projects/how-did-rome-create-new-cities-to-build-an-empire) to see how they would feel about using that money for this project, since the campaign was specifically for excavation.

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.

Direttori del progetto LULP (Prof.Katie Huntley & Dr.Nana Friedman) e field director (Melania Cazzulo) con Dr. Simone Lerma di SABAP-AL, Sindaco della Provincia di Alessandria Gianfranco Cuttica di Revigliasco, Sindaco di Serravalle Scrivia Alberto Carbone, Sindaco di Arquata Scrivia Alberto Basso, e rappresentanti dell’Associazione LibarnaArteventi, Antonio Santopietro e Iudica Damei.

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.

Il Catalogo dei Resti della Collezione Capurro e Storia di Gianfrancesco Capurro

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.

Melania Cazzulo, Field Director del LULP, discute di uno dei manufatti di Capurro con il nostro staff e gli studenti.

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/

Ovviamente contatteremo i donatori della campagna Experiment Crowdfunding (https://experiment.com/projects/how-did-rome-create-new-cities-to-build-an-empire) per vedere come Avrebbe voglia di usare quei soldi per questo progetto, dato che la campagna era specifica per gli scavi.

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.

Cari Saluti, Katie e tutto il team LULP

LULP is now featured in a Podcast!

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.

Link to Podcast on Archaeology of the Roman West: Long term Research Projects and Roman Identities.

Transcripts in Italian and English to come.

Archaeology in the age of Coronavirus

So what is happening here?

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.

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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.

New Team Members Part 3

the revenge of the team….

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.

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Tools’ of an archaeobotanist (clockwise): Dissecting microscope, wood collection, fruit and seed collection, reference literature, charred samples, wood slide collection. (Photo J. Markwirth © GoetheUniversität Frankfurt am Main.) 

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.

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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.

We welcome her to the team!

New Team Members! Part 2

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;

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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

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!