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Friday, December 10, 2010

Digging Ancient Rome: The Ostia Antica Marina Field School


Anyone interested in a well-designed and substantive field school focusing on a very exciting site should seriously consider The American Institute for Roman Culture’s Summer Archaeology Field School. It is a six-week intensive learning opportunity in Roman archaeology. The program will be held from June 20 through July 31, 2011 and offers students a unique combination of 5 weeks of on-site field work and one week of specialized academic instruction by expert archaeologists and AIRC professors. As the program is centered in Rome, there will also be visits to major Roman museums and open-air sites to augment field studies and provide participants with a broader context of what life was like in ancient Rome.


Participants in the field school will be given the opportunity to develop their archaeological expertise in the third season of excavation outside the Porta Marina in Ostia Antica, the port city of ancient Rome. The Ostia Marina project, operating under the auspices of the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma (Ostia Antica office) and the University of Bologna (Department of Archaeology, with the collaboration of the Faculty of Preservation of Cultural Heritage), is a multi-year re-evaluation of the suburban neighborhood that lay on the ancient seashore immediately outside of the city walls at the Porta Marina (Sea Gate). The area is populated by private homes, funeral monuments, religious sanctuaries, and large public structures, including several bath complexes, dating between the Late Republican and Late Antique periods. It is best known for a luxurious late-4th century AD seafront residence that yielded one of the most complete and lavish examples of wall and floor decoration made of precisely cut and arranged colored marble fragments (opus sectile) from anywhere in the Roman world.


The excavation site is a large (80 x 80 m) complex lying between the opus sectile building and the Marciana/Porta Marina Baths started by the emperor Trajan. Geophysical prospection (magnetometry and GPR) indicates a large open area in the northwest that may be a palaestra, which in turn suggests that the structure is also a bath complex. It is the first entirely unexplored building to be excavated at Ostia in 50 years, and it is particularly important because it preserves intact the Late Antique-Early Medieval (ca. AD 300-800) layers and features that were elsewhere destroyed with little or no documentation in the clearance excavations of 1938-1942.


The 2011 season will concentrate on the exploration and documentation of several rooms in the complex. Materials recovered so far include marble decorative slabs, marble columns and capitals, mosaic flooring, painted wall fresco (some of very high quality), ceramic and glass vessels, and assorted minor artifacts such as bone utensils and coins. These materials are evidence of a prestigious function, possibly public or imperial.


The archaeological training is provided on-site, using the extraordinary setting of Ostia Antica as a living laboratory, by a staff of professionals in archaeology and related disciplines: Ostia Marina project director Prof. Massimiliano David (University of Bologna), Professor of Topography Dario Giorgetti (University of Bologna), Field Director Marcello Turci (University of Rome), Alberto Prieto (Associate Director of Archaeology, AIRC), and others. In addition to the principles of stratigraphic excavation, the participants are given expert instruction in analysis and classification of materials (pottery, marble, glass, coins, etc.), archaeological drawing, Roman building materials and techniques, and digital modeling using a total data station.


The program aims to supply participants with both a synchronic and diachronic approach to the study of Roman culture. Through this dual approach, those involved in the program will gain a more comprehensive historical and cultural overview of Rome and Roman civilization, from its rise to power to its decline, understanding how it set a standard of cultural values that continues to exert influence over the entire Western world to this day.
Applications for participation are due by April 30.

Program Co-directors: Prof. Massimiliano David (University of Bologna), Dr. Angelo Pellegrino (Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, Ostia Antica office), Dr. Darius Arya (AIRC), and Dr. Alberto Prieto (AIRC)

More detailed information about the field school, including costs and how to apply, can be obtained at the website.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Tel Dor: Archaeological Riches by the Sea


About 30 kilometers directly south of Haifa, Israel, lies a very large tel (an earth mound containing ancient architectural and artifact remains) that tells a story crossing at least eight civilizations. The story is largely a commercial one, as the ancient seaport city of Dor on the Mediterranean coast of present day Israel was host to the trading activities of a number of civilizations or cultures that ringed the Mediterranean world in ancient times. Once a Canaanite city, its history spans settlement or rule by "Sea Peoples", Phoenicians, the Solomonic monarchy, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Finally, in the thirteenth century A.D., a Crusader castle was built on the site. Few sites of the ancient world can boast a settlement history more varied and complex than this.


The 2011 Excavation Season

From June 28 to August 5, excavations will resume at Dor under the direction of Ilan Sharon (the Hebrew University) and Ayelet Gilboa (Haifa University). The areas under investigation consist of an elite Iron Age I section that includes a large complex (possibly a palace or administrative building); further evidence of early Iron Age destruction; the Hellenistic city and large Iron Age Phoenician public structures; and other Persian and Iron Age layers, which include remnants of an Assyrian fort. Work will include the analysis of finds and stratigraphy at the site museum. The season will afford students and volunteers the opportunity to participate in all facets of state-of-the-art field archaeology. This will include excavation, digital registration of architecture and artifacts using advanced graphics and database software, sampling and analysis of deposits, analysis of finds and stratigraphy, and site conservation. Participants may arrange for academic credit (formal field school instruction) through the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University. Students in this program will receive academic instruction in archaeological field methods and theory, the processing and analysis of material excavated each day, and afternoon lectures on archaeology, history, and specialized studies of the site and region.

There is no doubt that the Tel Dor excavation is considered to be one of the most exciting excavations in this part of the world, as history and archaeology at this location are exceptionally rich and the location boasts beautiful views of the bay and ocean!


Join The Team

Don't just read about history. Help make a difference -- feel it, discover it, and make it a part of you. You can learn more about the project and the application procedure by going to the website at http://dor.huji.ac.il/.

Contact Information:

eblochsm@sju.edu, or
bloch-smith@msn.com