Italy

7 things you need to know about Forum Pacis dig in Rome

I’m a digital archaeologist. I excavated Pagan and Christian tombs, nympheaums, Consular roads, harbor storehouses, and kilns and much more. Then, a few years ago, I left the trench behind and become a different kind of archaeologist: I wrote for museums and for the Web, telling people about ancient Romans and about the archaeologists who help uncover their stories. Along the way, I met other archaeologists who share my passion for communication, like Antonia, Domenica, Francesca and Paola. It’s with them that I spent my Day of Archaeology, using social networks to tell yet another story about archaeologists, this time about the ones who are currently working at the Forum of Peace dig in Rome.

archeobloggers_Forum Pacis

You probably heard of it: it’s a big area, also known as Temple of Peace, erected in the 1st Century CE by the Emperor Vespasian to celebrate his victories in Palestine. It’s located on Via dei Fori Imperiali, the long road that since the Thirties cuts through the heart of the wide archaeological area that lies in the middle of Rome.

We spent the day in a large auditorium (which also functioned as a temple), situated inside the Forum of Peace. Today, the noises of the buses that cross the modern road, the tourists’ chatter, the construction work for the new subway line make it hard to imagine how this ancient part of the city must have looked like centuries ago: what we know is that it was quite big, on the edge of a large square that was surrounded by a portico and had a flower garden in the centre. The space inside the auditorium was dominated by a cult statue of the goddess Peace on a high podium. Here, sacred symbols taken from the Temple of Jerusalem—such as the Ark of the Covenant and the menorah, the seven sticked candelabra—were kept and preserved. These objects, along with the statue of the goddess Peace, disappeared during the sack of Rome in the 5th century.

Menorah_Titus Arch

Forum Pacis

The excavation, now in its fourth consecutive summer season, is being carried out by the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome and Rome Tre University. Since 2014, they have been joined by students from the American University of Rome.

Below is a list of 7 things you definitely need to know about Forum Pacis dig.

Forum_Pacis

1. First meeting to talk about the last results of the excavation: everyone in the team must know about the latest finds and share their ideas. And that big squared brick thing? It’s the podium of the statue of the goddess Peace

Forma Urbis wall

2. The famous Forma Urbis hanged from this wall. It’s a large map of Rome, over 20 m tall and made of 140 marble plates! The big holes accommodated the bronze hooks that supported the plates.

Flotation_ Forum Pacis

3. The excavation unearthed many traces of hearts, which means that one of the most important activities on the dig is the flotation, that is sifting in water, which helps archaeologists to retrieve even the smallest, but very important, finds such as seeds and bones.

Leveling staff_Forum Pacis

4. Things you shouldn’t do on a dig: stand beside a leveling staff. This way everyone will know how tall (or short!) you really are 😉

Rota_Forum Pacis
5. Anywhere in the Forum you can see traces of the dismantling and reuse of the precious marble decoration from the floor and walls. Where this wide circle lies there was a rota made of porphyry, which was then taken during periods of abandonment of the ancient monument.

Pottery_Forum Pacis

IMG_2882

6. Cooking pots, African Terra Sigillata, eastern amphorae, lamps. By studying pottery archaeologists can retrace past commercial routes within Mediterranean and recover evidence left by the different peoples who lived in the Empire over the centuries. Turns out, all roads did lead to Rome.

Palatine Hill view from Forum Pacis

7. The view is simply breathtaking!

 

Original post by Astrid D’Eredità (@astridrome)
Translation from Italian and editing by Domenica Pate (@domenica_pate)

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

The daily bureaucracy of the Soprintendenza

5:47 AM CEST. My #dayofarch starts with the phone ringing the alarm tune. I remember it’s #dayofarch today. I tweet, for those few already awake.

I can’t get “The magnificent seven” out of my head so I play it from Youtube while I shower, reinventing the lyrics.

I wake up so early every day, so I can avoid rush hours and spend less time commuting. The radio keeps me company, with horrible news of a shooting in the US, dozens of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean, and a Earth-like planet found by the Kepler team. It’s a “twin” or “cousin” depending on which news channel you listen to. Most journalists are so clueless that the artist impressions of Kepler 452b have become “photographs” in their words. There is an atmosphere. There may be plants (according to the spectral footprint data received by the telescope). There may be life. What if there is no intelligent life? What is there was intelligent life on Kepler 452b but they self-destroyed their advanced civilisation and now the simpler organisms are starting over, with their simple goals? A good science-fiction work must involve some archaeology, after all.

I work at the Soprintendenza Archeologia della Liguria, as I recounted in the past few years in my #dayofarch posts.

At 7:22 AM CEST, I’m at work. Today it should be a “relaxed” day, at least compared to yesterday when I was working in parallel on two urgent dossiers. For the first two hours I’m “digging” through old records dating back 30 and even 50 years ago. I don’t do fieldwork, I don’t work in a lab. My work here is mainly at a desk, with occasional inspections at storage facilities and excavation sites. The main task I’m following is the harmonisation of all records on State-owned archaeological finds that are kept in storage spaces out of our immediate control. This includes “temporary” storage at excavation sites, museum depots, etc. With a few exceptions, 90% of items related to archaeology are a property of the State, in Italy. Our records for all the items stored (and even on display) at local museums are lacking. The strategy is quite straightforward: look what we have in our archive, what is in the museum archive, what is actually in the museum, compare, supplement missing information in the form of inventory records, assign inventory numbers, assess monetary value. Lather, rinse, repeat ‒ it’s an endless work and I’ve been told that no one before me had the exact role of doing this, which probably explains the gaps in our archive records. There’s some beauty to this work, though, like early examples of digital typesetting and beautiful old-school typography:

Two hours later, I start having a general picture of the situation of the museum I’m looking at, but yesterday’s dossiers strike back. First I talk with a colleague from the Direzione Generale Archeologia in Rome, who needs some documents about the Piazza Verdi dossier sent by e-mail. Unfortunately digital dossiers can easily get at several GB in size, so it’s more efficient to send a DVD via traditional mail. In this case, the Direzione Generale needed an excerpt from the dossier as soon as we could. Presto and done! The second urgent dossier from yesterday is the transition of all archaeological museums from the Soprintendenza to the newly formed Polo Museale who keeps together all State-run museums in each region. I took care of collecting and harmonising all documentation about the five archaeological museums of Liguria. Yesterday we sent the entire dossier out, but today I was told that some documentation was missing, so a supplement was needed.

Then, from 11:00 to 12:50, I’m out of office for a protest sit-in at the local office of the Treasury Ministry. We’re protesting because they blocked the payment of part of our stipends since 2014. The Renzi government is imposing huge austerity measures on key sectors like school, culture, health, transport … but few seem to notice. In our case, the dirty trick is they keep the money for one or two years, and then obviously we are paid, but without any interest rate (and in the meantime, some other reduction usually happens, so the actual stipend remains the same).

Back at the office, I continue working on the Piazza Verdi dossier. It’s a common preventive archaeology situation, but it got of of hands for political reasons because it involves a big architectural project. I speak again on the phone with my colleague in Rome, we cross-check the documents we already sent out in DVD with the ones they already had. Bureaucracy, that is.

At 13:50 I’m out. It’s Friday! I’ve got a two hours drive from Genoa to Torino, where I live with Elisa. It takes five minutes of full-force AC before I can enter the car that was parked under the sun. It is 36 °C outside.

When I arrive in Torino, after a short nap (after all, I woke up pretty early) my second #dayofarch starts: it involves Byzantine pottery and #phdwriting ‒ I wrote extensively about my research in a series of daily blog posts from Crete, but it’s difficult to keep the motivation up and the words going. I write my PhD thesis before dinner. I have dinner. I write my PhD thesis after dinner. At 23:32 I’m quite exhausted.

This was a rather terse account of my 4th #dayofarch, but hopefully it provided some interesting insights into what goes on at the Soprintendenza.

Day of Archaeology in Pizzo Monaco

The Day of Archaeology in the MEMOLA study area of Monti di Trapani (Sicily-Italy)
The University of Granada, The University of Sheffield and Arqueoandalusí Arquelogía y Patrimonio S.L  are currently working in the excavation of Pizzo Monaco (Custonaci, Trapani).  The University of Palermo is involved with soil sampling for  pedological analysis, while the Escuela Española de Historia y Arqueología en Roma-CSIC is working with the flotation of stratigraphic soils taken at various occupation levels defined during the excavation.  A number of international students, coming mostly from Spain and Italy are participating in the excavation.
The first excavation of the MEMOLA project at the site of Pizzo Monaco took place in October and November of 2014 and was authorized by the Soprintendenza ai Beni Culturali e Ambientali di Trapani. During this activity we excavated four cells and the main entrance of a fortified structure, identified as a possible collective granary from Islamic times (10th?-11th centuries). After the results of archaeological excavation and archaeobotanical and environmental analysis, the site was interpreted as a possible collective fortified granary (aghadir) dated in the Islamic period (10th?-11th century).

The University of Granada, The University of Sheffield and Arqueoandalusí Arquelogía y Patrimonio S.L are currently working in the excavation.

The University of Granada, The University of Sheffield and Arqueoandalusí Arquelogía y Patrimonio S.L are currently working in the excavation.

The flotation of stratigraphic soils taken at various occupation levels defined during the excavation

The flotation of stratigraphic soils taken at various occupation levels defined during the excavation

 A number of international students, coming mostly from Spain and Italy are participating in the excavation.

A number of international students, coming mostly from Spain and Italy are participating in the excavation.

Iron Age textiles on bronzes

Today I’m writing up my analysis of Iron Age textiles represented on the sheet bronze artefacts of northern Italy. These buckets, belt buckles and scabbards are called situla art and date to the 6th century BC. The miniature figures embossed and engraved on the bronzes are enjoying themselves feasting, drinking and riding their fine horses. The textiles are recorded with tiny points and tool marks. I’m finding ways to calculate their quantity and quality because I want to understand the textile economy.

 

Modern copy of the Montebellunas situla

The photo shows a reconstruction of a bronze bucket at Montebelluna museum in north Italy. The other photo is me trying my hand at embossing a figure. I was on a field visit there earlier in the year.

It’s great to get a quiet hour or two over the summer to read. This afternoon I was reading Peter Wells book on “Image and Response in Early Europe”, where he talks about the way people respond to this kind of art by tracing around the shape of the object with their eyes then focusing on the detailed areas. The figures on the shiny bronzes would certainly have attracted attention.

The same can be said of the textiles themselves, and there is evidence that large, intricately patterned and multi-coloured textiles were particularly prized in the early first millennium BC.

I’m a Research Associate at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Some of my papers can be downloaded here. For more about the ERC PROCON textile economy project click here or check us out on Facebook. If you have any questions get in touch, I like to hear from fellow enthusiasts.

Templum Pacis, Rome

20150724_095408

Students from Roma Tre University and the American University of Rome

To celebrate the Day of Archaeology the students of Rome Tre University and the American University of Rome put down their trowels and acted as guides to show off the results of their excavation at the Forum of Vespasian (aka Templum Pacis) in the centre of Rome. As well as passing tourists, the media showed up and also many fellow archaeologists took the time to come and look. Even the weather co-operated! For much of the last two weeks the daytime temperatures have been more than 38C (100F) but after rain during the night, the centre of Rome was much cooler.

The excavated area that visitors could see is just outside the Roman Forum. It was built by the Emperor Vespasian to celebrate his victory at Jerusalem and at one time this area held the sacred items he took from the Temple at Jerusalem, such as the Menorah and the Ark (which unfortunately have long since disappeared).  In one part of the excavation we have reached the marble pavement of the original forum. Overlying this are the remains of makeshift buildings that occupied the space after the forum went out of use.

20150724_105241

The Roman marble floor. The central marble piece has been robbed in antiquity.

Today the area is dominated by a wide boulevard that was constructed by Mussolini. In order to create this space all of the 18th and 19th century buildings which had characterized this area were demolished and the ground was leveled using the debris. Looking at the section which separates the dig area from the present ground level, you can get some idea of the tremendous amount of fill that has been removed in order to arrive at the in situ layers of the medieval period. Another difficulty is that the stratigraphy is disrupted by robber trenches, and much of the marble and foundation stonework was removed to be used in later constructions. The very large circular hole in the upper area is caused by a robber trench to extract a large column fragment.

20150724_100421

The upper area digging down through medieval layers. The large circular hole is where a piece of a column was robbed.

The vividly coloured marble of the Roman pavement makes an immediate impression but, in many ways, it is the information from the makeshift buildings and sparse remains of the succeeding era which is most interesting. We know so little about the texture of daily life in this period that every small piece of evidence is exciting.

Thank you to everyone who came to visit our dig this morning, on what is the last day of the summer season. Prof Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani and his team look forward to next year’s Day of Archaeology when we can give you all an update.

Best wishes from the Templum Pacis 2015 team and special thanks to Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il MNR e l’Area Archeologica di Roma and particularly Dott.ssa Rosella Rea for allowing us to participate in this very special experience.

University of Padova working on historical maps, aerial photography and LIDAR

University of Padova team, partner of MEMOLA project, working on historical maps, aerial photography and LIDAR to rebuild the historical landscape of the Colli Euganei hills (Italy) in a GIS platform.

In this GIS platform they upload the information from different archaeological fieldwork like the Hydraulic survey back in February, that allowed them to locate numerous water mills and analyse their architectural features. All this information is used to understand the evolution of the Colli Euganei Cultural Landscape.

University of Padova team working on historical maps, aerial photography and LIDAR

University of Padova team working on historical maps, aerial photography and LIDAR

Water mill of Colli Euganei (Italy)

Water mill of Colli Euganei (Italy)

Archeostorie: contemporary archaeology as a brand

Who is this amusing, coloured and cardboarded puppet that sustain the leaning Tower of Pisa?

archeostorie a pisa

It all started with last year’s Day of Archaeology. Until then, only few Italians were participating in the DoA, and we thought this should change. So we called to arms the Archeobloggers, i.e., a group of  archaeologists we had gathered together a few months before, who actively write about archaeology on the Web. It was a real success: the organizers even created a local category, “Italy”, in order to allow visibility to this wide collective enterprise.

DoA 2014 Italy

However, this was by no means a random participation: we were very careful in assigning to everyone a specific duty, according to the capabilities and professional experiences of each of them, so that we could show how many different things Italian archaeologists do. Moreover, we wanted to demonstrate that, even if very few of us work as “traditional” archaeologists in Universities or in the Public Cultural Heritage Administration, this doesn’t mean that most archaeologists are unoccupied, as common people in Italy generally assume. On the contrary, there is a wide variety of things that archaeologists can do, especially in the fields of management and communication of Cultural Heritage. Believe it or not, they are all real jobs you can make a living from!

To cut a long story short, we decided to turn our DoA posts into a book. Actually, a handbook for University students who have the right to know how many job opportunities can spring from a degree in Archaeology. Only few professors talk about real job opportunities in class, so we had to fill this incredible gap.

Archeostorie was published last March by Cisalpino-Monduzzi, collecting 31 exciting, compelling and fantastic stories. The subtitle runs “Unconventional handbook of real-life archaeology.” It was conceived for students but it turned out an incredibly readable book for everybody: a collection of  real, genuine adventures in archaeology. Archeostorie is therefore significantly contributing to raise public awareness of the relevance and importance of archaeology to the modern world, and it concretely shows people how useful our past is to modernity.

We added some posts to the DoA original ones in order to have a very wide overview: from experimental archaeology to reenactment and videogames, from video making to journalism and social media, from community archaeology to crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, from landscape planning to management and branding. You can see many of them on our colourful cover, painted by Francesco Ghizzani Marcìa, an archaeologist of course!

archeostorie copertina

We want archaeologists to be storyteller, and “Storyteller Archaeologist” (Archeologo Cantastorie) is the name of our mascot.

We asked everybody to tell good stories: significant episodes in their professional careers that would clearly explain what their job consists of, and what on hell they do every single day. We wanted narratives, and very concrete ones so that students could almost imagine to be side by side with each of us in a virtual training course.

It was not easy to have archaeologists create narratives. We made some of them rewrite their story several time, we rewrote several paragraphs ourselves, and our final editing work was a nightmare, but eventually we succeeded.

archeostorie in italia doa

We spent the past five months touring Italian Universities and public halls to present the book and discuss what really means to be an archaeologist today. But this is not the end: our “Archeostorie tour” is going on with several summer events and again presentations next fall and winter. Everybody is requesting our show: we bring excitement and positive ideas wherever we go, we are contagious. We demonstrate that archaeologists can actually take a leading role in our societies, provided they want it and strive for it.

We already reprinted the book and added a preface by Filippo Maria Gambari who drew a sort of history of the discipline in Italy from the times when it was mostly history of ancient art up to the Archeostorie movement, and a postscript by Daniele Manacorda who practically hands the torch to us and says we represent the future of archaeology. We are honored of these as well as of all the many positive and encouraging comments we received. We do not know if we are really designing our future, but we know we are clearly showing how powerful our discipline can be in the present. Archeostorie conveys strength and enthusiasm. Archeostorie is a source of inspiration and an occasion for discussion. Archeostorie, like it or not, is becoming a brand.

 

Cinzia Dal Maso, Francesco Ripanti

Medieval Tuscany to conquer the EU

On the Day of Archaeology2015 I shall be designing a new project. Quite unexpectedly, Siena University in a partnership with The American University of Rome has been awarded a prestigious ERC Advanced grant by the European Union (under the Horizon 2020 scheme). Giovanna Bianchi (who lectures at Siena University) and I thought up the concept and gave it a very academic title:

‘The creation of economic and monetary union (7th to 12th centuries): mining, landscapes and political strategies in a Mediterranean region’.

This mouth-full is not exactly what comes to mind when you think of the Maremma, with its glorious miniature Sienas at Massa Marittima and Campiglia Marittima. Our ponderous title, though, is rich with romantic promise. The Tuscan coastal strip runs from the Etruscan promontory sanctuary and port at Populonia past Piombino, the industrial gateway to the island of Elba, and as far as Grosseto.

The motive for the project lies in the hills that discretely rise up from the coastal plain and disappear under a thick covering of chestnuts and firs. These are the Colline Metallifere. The Etruscans first procured copper and iron here, transporting it down to Populonia to ship to the Celts and the Greeks. The Romans seemingly acquired better mines and let the hills be. But a Lombard family with strong Frankish connections, the Aldobrandeschi – whose scions still live in these parts – returned to the Etruscan adits. On and off a thousand years of metal prospecting followed.  In recent decades mining has given way to acquiring sulphur and gas, providing continued employment for the tight villages connected by snaking woodland lanes. Here, believe it not, are the riches that helped to shape Tuscany, becoming as it did by the 12th century the cornerstone of medieval Europe.

Cugnano: the location of one of the excavations of the project

Cugnano: the location of one of the excavations of the project

Our project is explicitly a scientific one. Our objective is to understand how this region that was reduced to prehistoric circumstances in the later 6th century (after the Gothic wars), by steps was transformed to boast splendid townscapes like Massa Marittima by the later 12th century. After decades of research by my old friend, Riccardo Francovich, and his energetic pupil, Giovanna Bianchi, the Siena University hypothesis is that mining in the hills started in the later 9th century at lost villages like Cugnano. The ore was then passed down a river corridor to a lost port on the coast at Carlappiano. Close by is the earliest castle excavated in Italy at Ventricella.

So, working with many collaborators, we aim not only to excavate at these three points in the procurement chain, but also to use a battery of new techniques to analyze the mining and the coins minted from the local silver, while new research takes place on the plentiful 8th-to 10th century charters here.

With this squad of scientists there is a wealth of material to add a vital new chapter in Mediterranean history. Added to this, there is the prospect to make the Maremma the centerpiece of a new medieval story, part of Charlemagne’s legacy and the stage upon which the Renaissance was constructed.