International Catacomb Society Executive Director Jessica Dello Russo is a doctoral candidate at the Vatican’s Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology (PIAC). Her thesis, “Between Rome and the Levant: The Architecture, Setting, and Cultural Significance of Late Antique Jewish Burials in Rome”, seeks to make more explicit the layout and operation of burial sites used by Jews in Late Ancient Rome and how these sites have been contextualized in the study and excavation of catacombs to the present. Prior to her nomination as executive director of the ICS in 2015, Dello Russo received funding from the society to complete course work at the PIAC and assist with the ICS-funded project to restore wall surfaces inside the Vigna Randanini catacomb and ensure the site’s continued accessibility. The preliminary results of her PIAC work on Jewish catacombs was published in the form of reports on the “Roma Subterranea Judaica” between 2010 and 2012. These peer-reviewed articles made available for the first time in print government reports and other unpublished data on the excavation and study of the Jewish catacombs, and revealed a number of new features and artifacts in these sites that Dello Russo was able to identify through on-site survey work and archival research. Copies of these articles can be downloaded for free at:http://www.catacombsociety.
Dello Russo’s lectures and publications since then have focued on her PIAC doctoral study, “Between Rome and the Levant: The Architecture, Setting, and Cultural Significance of Late Antique Jewish Burials in Rome”, which is being prepared with additional data and a more unified presentation of structural and architettonic features in the ancient tombs of Jews that should contribute to a greater understanding of the Jewish element in the making and mapping of “Subterranean Rome”.