Professionearcheologo.it is an Italian archaeology website. We want to bring Italian archaeologists together, especially the youngest generations, so that they can share their experiences, the struggles they face in their professional life, and be up-to-date with the latest news about archaeology, embracing the new opportunities offered by web 2.0.

A day at the museum: #archaeobloggers explore the new rooms of Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, in Rome

One thing we often accuse our museum of—or at least, Italian museums—is that they rarely seem up to date with our modern tastes and, in some cases, they even keep that XIX century aura that it’s fascinating in its own right, but doesn’t really showcase the beauty of the treasures they guard. That’s especially true for archaeological museums, and quite a few of them still look like Wunderkammer, “Cabinets of Curiosities” stoked with random ancient objects, with little or none inclination to experimentation.

Luckily, that’s not always the case.

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is one of the four branches of the National Roman Museum in Rome, directed by Dr. Rita Paris. Its opening dates back to 1995, which makes it a young museum, but even so, since 2005, its rooms have been continuously renewed and updated to modern exhibition standards.

This past week, rooms 2, 3 and 4 on the first floor, the ones displaying portraits and statues made under the Nerva-Antonine dynasty (early to mid II century CE), reopened to the public and we were invited to have a sneak preview of them and to meet some of the curators of the new exposition.

Needless to say, we jumped at the occasion, and that’s how we found ourselves wandering through the newly opened rooms, looking up in wonder at the immortal portraits of people who once upon a time ruled the world.

IMG-20150730-WA0006

IMG-20150730-WA0010

Busts of Pompea Plotina, wife of Trajan, 110-120 and of Vibia Sabina, wife of Hadrian, 136-138

We were also dazzled by the beauty of the representations of the Roman Provinces as young women, originally from the Hadrianeum, the Temple of Adrian, located not far from the museum, and we could see the funeral relief of Apthonetus, a marble pedimental relief with a long epigraphy and Apthonetus’ portrait, displayed for the public for the first time and documented in every detail.

IMG-20150730-WA0002

Personifications of the Roman Provinces, from the Temple of Hadrian, built by his adoptive son and successor Antoninus Pius.

We admired the smoothness of their faces, and the details of their clothes and armours and we were surprised by the pleasant effect given by the contrast between the marble of statues and the dark colour of the supports. We enjoyed our visit very much, and as always, we used our smartphones to fixate in tweets and pictures what we were seeing and feeling, that incredible, eternal charm these ancient statues can have on us.

IMG-20150730-WA0008

Marble relief with with portrait and epitaph by Quadratilla for her father Apthonetus, from Colle Tasso, near Tivoli, 130-140.

We also had the pleasure to meet with Carolina De Camillis, architect and external consultant of Palazzo Massimo, in charge of the new lighting system of the rooms. She explained how lighting is an essential component of the new display: halogen lamps typically used in museums tend to give the surfaces of the statues an uniformed glaze, to flatten the differences of colour and in texture that are characteristic of the marble Romans used to make their statues.

The new lighting, created with special LED lamps, allows visitors to fully appreciate the traces that Roman artisans left on their works with their instruments, but also the natural veining of the marbles and, sometimes, even the single macro-crystal of the rock.

It is quite clear, then, that the new displays are the result of a common effort of a number of different professionals such as archaeologists, architects, lightening designers, specialised workers, who work behind the scenes to offer visitors new ways to enjoy the fascination of the ancient world.

Original post and pictures by Antonia Falcone (@antoniafalcone) and Paola Romi (@OpusPaulicium)

Translation from Italian and editing by Domenica Pate (@domenica_pate)

The Day of Archaeology at Templum Pacis in Rome

We are archaeologists and bloggers, and we think archaeology must be open and inclusive, that it must engage the wider public and society as a whole, because we retrace the past but we live in the present, and sharing is caring, isn’t it?

The archaeologists working at Templum Pacis (also known as Forum of Vespasianum) in Rome obviously care too, and so on July 24th, for the first time ever, an archaeological excavation located on the famous road Via dei Fori Imperiali opened its gates and let both journalists and bloggers in.

[How does an archaeological dig work? The archaeobloggers were free to wander inside the excavation area and ask questions]

[The Forma Urbis Romae, a map of ancient Romae dated 203-211 CE, hanged from this wall]

Professione Archeologo had the honour to be among them and we spent our Day of Archaeology there, where students from Roma Tre University and the American University of Rome are currently digging under the supervision of professor Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani, dr. Rossella Rea and field manager Giulia Facchin.

[Archaeobloggers with field manager Giulia Facchin]

Coincidentally, it was the last day of digging for the summer, and so the closing day became also a good opportunity to meet the public. Some of the students ventured outside the excavation area and down on the street to meet tourists and bystanders to explain what archaeologists do on an excavation. Journalists, with their cameras and blocknotes, and the archaeobloggers (and an artblogger!), with their smartphones and phone chargers, were left to freely explore inside the excavation area and ask questions of the archaeologists.

We asked the students to show us the different activities that usually happen on a dig, how the finds are cleaned up, where they are stored, how they can help archaeologists understand the way ancient Romans lived. We took pictures, wrote tweets, recorded short videos and broadcasted it all via live-tweets, Periscope streaming video, Instagram, and Facebook using the hashtag #ForumPacis.

[Flotation and sifting in water. This is how you’re sure you’re not missing anything]

[One of archaeologists’ favourite jobs when the weather is really hot: finds washing in water]

The Day of Archaeology is also a good chance to reflect about our work and to claim back our identity as archaeologists, trying to imagine what archaeology can be in the future and what it can represent for the future of our society.

So we also asked the students working at Templum Pacis, archaeologists “in progress”, what they want archaeology to be, what’s lacking at the moment in the current practice of it, and what path they foresee going forward.

[The mandatory selfie at the end of the morning]

Below you’ll find their answers, their faces and their smiles, their certainty that archaeology looks back at the past in order to build the future.

*

What’s archaeology for you? And how do you want it to be?

 

Original post by Antonia Falcone (@antoniafalcone) and Paola Romi (@OpusPaulicium)
Translation from Italian and editing by Domenica Pate (@domenica_pate)
Graphics by Antonia Falcone

An ordinary day in “emergency archaeology”

The alarm goes off at 5.30 am.

You hair is a mess, your eyes are only half open, and you desperately wish a cup of coffee could magically appear on your nightstand.

A new working week is starting.

Today’s location: Rome, suburbs.

The rucksack is packed with all you need for the day: the chalkboard, the ranging pole, the North arrow, your camera, alongside with the scratchpad, the hat, a bottle of suncream. The sun can burn you if you’re working on a construction site with no trees and no shade and you can’t risk a sunstroke, because that would mean staying home for a few days and that’s just not possible, especially not now, after having spent months waiting for a new job to turn up.

Yes, because, sadly, it’s not like you get to work every day, and there are times in which not even praying to the Roman Lares will do you good.

So, no hesitation. It’s time to leave.

All your security tools are already in the car: helmet, gloves, safety boots, high visibility waistcoat, and, of course, your trowel. The rest of your supply is made by a folding ruler, some pencils, a drawing board, drafting film, preferably pre-cut, the plumb bob, the compasses, a mallet and survey pegs. And last but not least a good measure of patience.

Ready, set, go!

You wish good morning to the workmen, check on the authorization and, finally, it’s time to start watching the bulldozer work.

Because, you see, it’s not true that archaeology is adventure and mystery or very improbable discoveries of alien made artefacts no one has ever seen before.

Archaeology can be, and, most times, is, a graduate with full marks and honour who stares at a bulldozer.

In Italy, we call it “emergency archaeology”: wherever construction works are happening (funded with public money more often than not), there must be an archaeologist to keep an eye on them and prevent damage to any archaeological remains that might be hidden in the ground.

Once you’re on site, you need to find “your” spot. This means a position which, considering the dugout edge, the working bulldozer and truck, still allows you a good view on the digging operations, keeps you from getting in the way of said operations, and thus prevents any possible harm. Strictly in this order.

After a while you usually manage to find the perfect spot, and you might even end up even standing in the shade for a few hours. Maybe it’s your lucky day after all.

And now: let’s dig!

Standing, helmet in place, wearing your high visibility waistcoat and safety boots and keeping a big bag on hand, you can start your working day.

The bulldozer does its work, always the same, and most times there’s nothing ancient there, but you still have to record everything.

That’s why after one part is dug and before the workmen lay down the pipe, you have act fast.

With an almost catlike leap you grab the ranging pole, the chalkboard, and the North arrow. And then you try to remember where the chalk and the compass are.

In a moment, everything is ready for you to take the picture.

You manage to set the ranging pole just right, find the perfect spot for the chalkboard. One, two, three… “click!”

And that’s usually when someone decides it’s a good idea to walk right between you and the dugout you’re trying to photograph.

Alright, you keep your cool and try for the second time.

“Click.”

While the workmen are distracted doing something else you then take your measurements, so that when they will be busy setting down the pipes, you will be able to draw a first sketch. Once you’re home, this evening, your “masterpiece” will have to become a beautiful, if useless, digitalized section, using Autocad or a similar software.

Since you have some time now you sit down on the sidewalk, retrieve your sketchpad and write down the daily entry of your excavation journal.

Then you check the time. It’s almost 12. Lunch break is only a few minutes away.

Midday, and chaos ensues.

Some sit in the truck, some run away to buy their lunch, some will sing the praises of the wife’s culinary ability and you, as quietly as you can, go look for the best bar around here.

It’s not really about the best or the cheapest food available. Whichever place you choose, its primary value is to be a way to escape the heat in the Summer, and the chill in the Winter, and to have a more or less decent toilette every time of the year.

While you eat your sandwich, which you brought from home, and drink whatever you bought in the bar so that you can stay without raising too many eyebrows, one thought whirls in your mind: when will they stop digging for the day? And, more importantly: how many possibilities are there of finding “something” before this work is done?

Because that’s what really proves your ability. Not the one you acquired in the library or built in your previous experience as a professional archaeologist in the field, but your ability to deal with what “emergency archaeology” truly entails.

In the exact same moment you’ll say “Stop the bulldozer”, in fact, a battle of wills will start, and no one ever told you about that back when you were a student.

Suddenly, you, the archaeologist, become the enemy, and every look, every word from the people around you have one mission and one mission only: to convince you that what you saw is not really there.

That wall you’re so sure you saw in the dugout? It doesn’t exist, and “it’s not like we can waste any time”.

And that’s when you will forget for a little while the archaeologist in you and brush off your abilities as a PR: surveyors, engineers, construction managers, foremen are arriving on site, and to each of them you have to explain that the area of the dig must now be enlarged, that the whole sector must be cleaned out, that you need to record the new-found archaeological structure, and that from now on you’re the boss.

Your only ally will be the Soprintendenza* official, whom, alerted at once, will come to supervise and give instructions.

Alea acta est.

From this moment how the rest of your day unfolds will depend on what kind of people you are working with.

If they cooperate, then when the working hours are over, you’ll go home tired, yes, but happy.

But if a cold war follows you’ll go home with one, very troubling thought: why on earth am I doing this?

 

Antonia Falcone

Paola Romi

(translation Domenica Pate)

* In Italy the local government department responsible for monuments and heritage.