Lazio

Four Days in the Life of a Postdoctoral Researcher

Tuesday, June 26

I have recently proposed an online course for the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge. My day started with a meeting at Madingley Hall to discuss this idea with the manager of the courses. The online provision is a novelty at Cambridge and the manager has been surprised how many of the customers are apparently totally new to the ICE and create a truly global audience. Thus, my idea needs a rethink in order to fulfil their remit to be able to run the course at least three times and reach a wider audience with a less area-specific title. The course seems to stay in development. Luckily, the manager has to put on his second hat as the manager of the International Summer School so I will have until late August or September to brainstorm.

After the meeting I headed to the University Library to check the dates suggested for the calibrated chronology of the late central Italian prehistory. The book in question seemed to be in the open collection so I decided to go the Department of Archaeology first. I had a series of illustrations to do for an article; thus, I needed to scan some slides with a slide scanner and to check old GIS coverages in order to edit the figures needed for the wetlands volume Water : Movement – The importance of rivers, lakes and wetlands in prehistoric societies edited by Andrea Vianello. It turned out that the slide scanner had not been connected to the network since the last network update and I had to get the departmental computing officer David Redhouse, the network administrator required to add an USB appliance, to come and get the scanner online. In addition, for some reason scanning slides is always prone to random difficulties. This time one slide turned all black and one bright red; if only one had foreseen how redundant the old photographic forms were to come and how quickly slide scanners became obsolete. I shiver with the thought of upgrading from the current modes of storing them.

I scanned the slides for the illustrations and saved them in order to edit them later and proceeded into creating a series of new ArcMap coverages in order to have the correct features in my figures. Since I can edit all new CorelDraw files further at home later during the week, I just created the content I needed and imported it to the CorelDraw for later editing and use. The day finished with fetching the book I had looked for in the online catalogue earlier from the stack in the UL and updating the dates taken from my PhD.

 

University Library at Cambridge

University Library at Cambridge

 

Wednesday, June 27

This morning saw me giving a lecture in the Exploring Art course (Makers and Materials II) in the Embrace Arts. This course is part of the Art History lecture series in the Richard Attenborough Centre at the University of Leicester. These courses are organized by the Institute for Lifelong Learning at Leicester. The course director was sitting in this time in order to assess me and start the process of including me officially in the tutor panel. Considering that W. G. Hoskins taught at the Vaughan College and for the Workers’ Educational Association, I am not in bad company.

 

My slide

My lecture is about to start

 

The lecture on Phaidias at Olympia, a topical subject due to the arrival of Olympic flame relay to Leicester on Monday, went well and the learners seemed interested and enthusiastic.

In the afternoon I started to edit the illustrations but managed to make very slow process, since I had to crosscheck different place names mentioned in the text and their locations.

 

Thursday, June 28

In the morning I uploaded my archaeological blog ‘Landscape Perceptions’, where I did blog about this Archaeology Day last week. This week’s topic was ‘Summer Season of Archaeological News’ in which I discussed some Roman glass beads from Japan. I try to be topical; thus, I have reviewed both Pub Archaeology and Mary Beard’s excellent ‘Meet the Romans’, while discussing important archaeological topics. As a busy working mother, I am lucky to be able to keep a weekly blog!

On this particular day I had to make some preparations for my coming short work trip to Rome. I have to keep my Italian mobile number alive by crediting it at least once a year. This I could have sorted otherwise – online or bothering colleagues – but for drawing a few diagnostic pieces of pottery for an article I am preparing and meeting the new inspector for Crustumerium where I excavated between 2004 and 2008 you have to travel to Italy. In order to make swifter moves from the airport to the centre, from the centre to the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae, where I store some utensils, and from Rome to Civita Castellana, I have hired a car. I try to make this trip on a shoestring so avoiding the extra insurances in the car rental place is paramount. Thus, I had to buy a car hire excess insurance online that was much cheaper than any tie-ins.

Secondly, I needed a new cabin trolley. My husband will be leaving almost immediately for Turkey for work on my arrival so he could not lend his but I had to go to the city centre to buy a new one. I managed to spend almost two hours while comparing models, weights and volumes in different department stores and to lose my toddler son in the process. It is good to know that the security in the shops can be used to spot runaway children with extra energy…

I also had to send a recent article, out about a month ago, to the inspectors in different Superintendencies whose areas I was discussing in my article ‘Political landscapes and local identities in Archaic central Italy – Interpreting the material from Nepi (VT, Lazio) and Cisterna Grande (Crustumerium, RM, Lazio)’. In addition, there were e-mails from the first hostel I am staying in Rome and a follow-up message from the lecturer responsible for the Landscape History courses in the Institute of Continuing Education at Cambridge to deal with. I also finally received a photo register file from my assistant.

 

Friday, June 29

As I suspected, my Friday looks like it will be less than exciting. I have to do a job application, continue editing and compiling illustrations for the article I now have the material for and look at briefly some other texts in order to make progress on them. I will look at the summary of the activities before turning off my laptop in the early evening.

 

Editing illustrations

Editing illustrations

 

*          *          *

Not unsurprisingly the time flew and I barely got the illustrations ready – all 15 of them. I also wrote the list of captions and inserted the references into the text. There is one illustration I am not happy with but I have to do it later; its colour scheme does not take the change to the greyscale well. I may also have to include a 16th figure in order to show more of the real landscape in a photo. The other texts have to wait until next week. One is always optimistic what one manages to do in one day…

Desk-based Day

I am happy to admit that today I am “stuck” in the office at the British School at Rome (BSR) (my presence here  is explained in my post from last year) seated at my desk with a fan gently whirring at my feet.

Desk Based Day

It is about 35 degrees outside and I am enjoying my final few days of cool office time before heading into the field. A field I might add with no shade and the weather prediction is that it is only going to get hotter… am mentally preparing for days of slapping on sun cream factor 50 only to have it trickle into my eyeballs with sweat whilst I am marching up and down in lines conducting a magnetometer survey in Interamna Lirenas, near Monte Cassino, Italy.

I have already had a taste of the heat at Segni, Lazio. Perched on a hilltop, this Roman colony is exceptionally pituresque and has been partially enveloped in the medieval borgo. The circuit of the town is bounded by a wall of polygonal construction and the large stone jigsaw walls are impressive even to this day. Our work as part of a major new project of the BSR in collaboration with the Archaeological Museum and local council of Segni, was to conduct GPR survey in the towns piazza and adjacent to the robust podium of the temple of Juno Moneta on the acropolis. Closing down roads and piazzas is never popular but we were warmly welcomed. The locals were inquisitive and supportive of our work although many remained unconvinced that pushing, seemingly, a pram across tarmac and cobblestones could ever herald the results we were claiming that this simple manoeuvre would bring. They have a point.

But back to my desk, writing up a conference paper with the pit-pat, pit-pat of tennis balls being struck at Wimbledon on the radio in the background. In between rooting through a thesaurus as the heat begins to fry any semblance of a creative vocabulary, there are other things on my to do list for the day. Perhaps the most daunting task I have is the initial stage of securing and organising new projects. Funding, as we archaeologists all know, is rather scant so trying to maintain a steady income to cover our salaries and costs is a nerve-wracking job. Although we run our geophysics programme as a non-profit enterprise we do have real costs and it is always a delicate balance between fixing a price and ensuring that we can do the project to our professional level on the budget in hand. So far, so good this morning. The client is on board and we shall meet next week to discuss the details.

At a set down -it would appear that last year’s Wimbledon champion, Novak Djokovic, is not having such a good day in the office as me.

ArchaeoSpain project in Clunia, Spain

A team of students worked this past July on an archaeological dig to unearth the remains of a 9,000-seat Roman theater in the former Roman metropolis of Clunia (in the
present-day province of Burgos, Spain).

The Clunia Team

The Clunia Team

Students, all of whom study Archaeology at various American, Australian and European Universities, joined a team of archaeologists and archaeology students from Spain uncovering important information about how the Romans built and used the theatre. Our scope also included layers of post-use looting, which can tell us what happened to the theater after the final curtain-call. The daily tasks included the excavation and mapping of the site, in addition to extracting and cataloguing artefacts.

Clunia is widely considered by archaeologists as one of Spain’s most fascinating Roman cities, having served as one of northern Hispania’s capitals during the 1st and 2nd centuries. ArchaeoSpain teams consist of between around 10 participants from around the world who join Spanish crews of 10 to 20 more people.

Shannon and the other students have learned not only how to conduct an excavation, but also how to interpret the archaeological clues discovered,

said ArchaeoSpain director Mike Elkin.

Over the past few years, our joint Spanish-international crews have uncovered priceless information about Spain’s ancient past.

In recent years, teams of students joining the ArchaeoSpain fieldschool have assisted in major discoveries at various sites in Spain and Italy. In Valladolid, teams are excavating the necropolis of Pintia, an Iron Age burial site that has revealed important clues about warrior classes from the 5th century B.C. In Pollentia on the island of Mallorca, the high-school group – one of the few archaeological programs for high school students in the world – has been uncovering sections of that city’s Roman Forum. At Monte Testaccio in Rome our team is helping unearth clues about Roman trade throughout the empire. And in Son Peretó, also in Mallorca, we are excavating a Byzantine settlement dating to the 6th century.

Interviews with the project team


SteveShannon

Steve and Shannon

Steve and Shannon

Mike

Mike

Joan

Joan (in Spanish)

Iza

Iza

Fiona

Fiona

Dave

Dave

Dan

Dan

Chelsea

Chelsea

Aixa

Aixa (in Spanish)

Swen

Swen

Isola Sacra – Existing Features

So the survey at the Isola Sacra has been running for the last three years. The area comprises an artificial island between Portus and Ostia Antica with the line of the Via Flavia running from north to south. A number of questions are being directed at the area, in particular relating to the location of the ancient coastline in the Roman period, the division and make-up of the ancient landscape an the presence or absence of buildings, workshop zones, cemeteries and other sites.

One thing that has stemmed from the survey to date is the presence of ancient canals sub-dividing the area, a small example of which appears below.

More of the same being processed at the moment suggesting the continuation of similar features. The area is marked by broad geological features also, all relating to the prograding of the Tiber delta in antiquity. For more information see www.portusproject.org/ and http://www.portusproject.org/fieldwork2007-9/regionalsurvey/results.html and http://bsr.academia.edu/StephenKay/Papers/185232/The_role_of_Integrated_Geophysical_Survey_methods_in_the_assessment_of_archaeological_landscapes_the_case_of_Portus.