Middle Ages

Archeologia e ceramiche: non solo storie dalla terra ma anche storie “di terra”

GR.P.51

Ceramica ingobbiata e graffita prodotta a Pisa nel XVI secolo (Cinquecento) con al centro un decoro con viso femminile e capelli raccolti in una rete.

Il lavoro di un’archeologa può essere vario e complesso e chi come me è anche specializzata nello studio delle ceramiche del passato (che di terra sono fatte!) si troverà spesso a pover riscoprire e

Ila_lava

Le ceramiche appena ritrovate vengono lavate con acqua e spazzolino.

ricostruire le storie racchiuse nella terra o di terra composte.

Ecco, questo è il mio mestiere, raccontare le storie delle ceramiche e di coloro che le avevano create e utilizzare, capire le persone e le società del passato, i cambiamenti delle mode e delle tecnologie, i modi di produrre gli oggetti e quelli di utilizzarli o, una volta rotti, gettarli via.

Come ogni giorno, quindi, anche questo Day of Archaeology 2016 (svolto in un cantiere in corso di scavo nel centro storico di Pisa) si è composto di vari passaggi preliminari agli studi più approfonditi e alle ricostruzioni: gesti semplici che,

lentino

Si osservano le ceramiche in ogni particolare con l’aiuto di lentini d’ingrandimento: in laboratorio l’osservazione potrà essere fatta con microscopi ad ingrandimenti molto più alti.

partendo dalla scoperta delle ceramiche, permettessero di riconoscerle e comprenderne il potenziale informativo.

E allora la ceramica è stata lavata con un po’ di acqua fresca e uno spazzolino, e poi pazientemente fatta asciugare. Successivamente i diversi tipi di ceramiche sono stati divisi e contati, cercando di capire se le forme potranno essere ricostruite, e iniziando a descriverne i decori, le forme, le cronologie. Queste ultime saranno utili ai colleghi che scavano per datare gli strati e capire le epoche di ciò che si trova durante lo scavo (muri, pavimenti, ambienti ecc…).

Ogni ceramica viene fotografata, in modo che resti un

al lavoro

Si conteggiano i frammenti, si riconoscono le ceramiche e si trascrivono sui database informatici le informazioni ricavate.

archivio fotografico digitale di tutto, e poi imbustata con la sigla dello strato di provenienza e conservata in magazzini ordinati di cui viene stilato un elenco, per sapere sempre dove poterla ritrovare.

Si usano database elettronici per conservare le informazioni e osservazioni fatte sul cantiere, che potranno essere affinate con studi successivi con restauri delle forme e analisi di laboratorio e, una volta rielaborate per le mostre e/o le pubblicazioni, permetteranno non solo di conoscere il momento in cui, ad esempio, una casa fu creata o distrutta, ma ci porteranno a comprendere la vita nel medioevo

fotografo

Le ceramiche vengono fotografate e archiviate.

pisano.

Le ceramiche sanno raccontare storie bellissime, se solo si ha l’amore e la pazienza di ascoltarle!

Marcella Giorgio

Archeologa professionista, specializzata nello studio della ceramica medievale e postmedievale

https://pisa.academia.edu/MarcellaGiorgio

 

Seguite le “Storie (di) ceramiche” anche su Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/storiediceramiche/

 

Charlemagne & Rome: Discovering a Lost Renaissance

It’s really hot today. It is one of those days of May in which summer seems to have pushed spring away. We are waiting for a key. After a few minutes, a keeper arrives and opens a little gate: we walk down a few steps and, slowly, we pass through thousands of years of history. You will never be able to say that you know everything about Rome: it will always surprise you, there will be everytime something to discover, that you didn’t know before. While over our heads the traffic is flowing, we attend to a little miracle of urban archaeology: the early medieval houses in the Forum of Nerva are waiting for us, even if they are neglected every day by the rest of the world. But we must be very quick, because this area is not open to the public, we are not allowed much time, and it is very hot… Only twenty minutes, maybe less, then we must leave the archaeological site. Prof. Hodges and Prof. Mitchell are trying to use every single moment, in order to understand the importance of those buildings, but the keeper is waiting for them at the top of the stairs. He gently tells them off with his eyes: they should be a little bit faster. Some hours before, at S. Maria Antiqua, the charm of the place was also ruined by the same problem: we had to complete our visit in only fifteen minutes.

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An early-medieval house in the Forum of Nerva

This is just a brief summary of what happened during the second day of a Masterclass organised by The American University of Rome, in partnership with the “Istituto Italiano di Studi Germanici” and “Zètema”, and with the financial support of “Fondazione Roma”Turning Charlemagne into an Asset for Rome”. The purpose of this course was to show to a group of professionals and students how to define, conceptualize and market a “cultural” asset. The Masterclass program had been well designed: during the first and the second day there were lectures, led by some important professors and introduced by Prof. Richard Hodges, in order to discuss which relationship there was between Charlemagne and Rome and which were the most important events and places of the Carolingian Rome (we were able to see some of them: S. Maria Antiqua, SS. Quattro Coronati, the Forum of Nerva, Crypta Balbi Museum); the main subject of the remaining days was “marketing”, with lectures, introduced by Prof. Peter Gould, useful to understand what a “cultural asset” is, and how to define and conceptualize it. Then, we were ready to achieve the real aim of the Masterclass: making a touristic project to value the Carolingian Rome. We suggested creating some urban itineraries, in order to help tourists to discover and visit the most important carolingian monuments and places around the city. What is really fascinating about this project it’s the fact that we already have these itineraries, made in the VIII and IX Century: the Einsiedeln Itinerary. We could suggest to the modern tourists to follow the itineraries of the medieval pilgrims. Through modern technologies (the internet, web sites, an App, etc.) we could easily reach a wide number of people, and they could discover some beautiful places to visit, in addition to St. Peter’s or the Colosseum. But are tourists really interested in Medieval Rome? On the last day of the course, we interviewed around a hundred tourists in the centre of Rome, and the result was astonishing: 85% of them wanted to know more about Medieval Rome and the Charlemagne’s Renaissance. The outcome of our work was presented to the audience during the conference “Lost renaissance? The legacy of Charlemagne in Rome and its future”, held at the “Istituto di Studi Germanici” on the last day of the Masterclass.

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The Masterclass work group

I graduated in Italy, and this international Masterclass showed to me how we can think at Archaeology in a more modern and engaging way, compared to that I am used to. But for all of us, the participants, there was another important aspect, which didn’t leave us indifferent. We were witnesses of a clash between two different worlds: on one side Prof. Richard Hodges, who can’t understand the reason why, in Italy, we aren’t able to value our incredible cultural heritage; on the other, the bureaucracy of the “Soprintendenze”, unable to open up to the contemporary world. Why can’t Italy value his cultural heritage? All the answers are in the anecdote I recounted at the beginning of the post:  it isn’t understood yet that it’s a useless effort “protecting” monuments or archaeological sites without “sharing” them. If I can’t discover a monument, if I can’t visit and “touch” it, I will struggle to consider it something of mine, something I should preserve and defend. “Communicating” and “sharing”. These are characteristics which give value to every story, and should be important for disciplines like Archaeology and History: otherwise, monuments will remain just a cultural and moral ruin.

Turning Charlemagne into an Asset for Rome Masterclass (Conference Video)

A Day in Swiss Rescue Archaeology

There was a big contrast between this day’s morning and afternoon.  A large project, renewing all pipes and drains and the street, as well as implementing a district heating system is underway in the medieval town of Unterseen, Switzerland.  A small team from the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Berne is investigating the archaeology as it is being exposed by the building work.  Mechanical diggers and all sorts of building machines serve around us as hole after hole are opened and closed at an unrelenting pace.  We do a combination of a watching brief and a more traditional excavation. It is a complex construction site, one of the most challenging I have worked on.  There are many partners (firms and authorities) on site; there is little space in the old town centre for all these people and their material.  Besides, the many shops and restaurant lining the street suffer greatly from the extended work during the main tourist season.

It is thus essential that the archaeology delays the building work as little as possible.  To be able to allow some traffic we only truly excavate one of the 16 small fields (7x9m) at once.  For the remaining area we react to the construction work.  That means we document the archaeology as the builders open new sections of trenches, after which the building continues and the archaeology gets destroyed.  We thus strictly limit ourselves to excavating and recording only that which is threatened to be destroyed.  It a stressful project and only possible at all – as is so often the case – through good and intense communication between the local authorities, the various building partners and the Archaeological Service.  The scientific results are fantastic though, considering the way we work.

©Archaeological Service Canton Berne. June 2012.– Niche in a medieval wall in Unterseen, Switzerland.

© Archaeological Service Canton Berne. June 2012.– Niche in a medieval wall in Unterseen, Switzerland.

We have been able to confirm the old suspicion that during medieval times, the town was not yet characterised by the `Stadthaus´ and the surrounding open spaces as it is today.  Instead we now know that, at least along the eastern side of the town, a narrow alley lined by densely packed rows of houses allowed traffic to pass through the town from gate to gate.  Of these houses, we only find the cellars.  The stone-built cellar walls are often plastered.  Some even twice, showing not only the care with which they were constructed, but also their extended use and the way they were cared for.  Stairs leading down into them and wall-niches for lamps and candles further help to bring the medieval occupation of Unterseen to life.

These new finds, however, also raise new questions.  The building work does not reach the depth of the cellar floors and it is here most finds are to be expected.  As a result it remains unknown for now what these cellars, and the houses above them, were used for.  Without finds it is also difficult to date them precisely.  However, from historical sources we know much of the small market town was destroyed by fire in 1470AD. After that it was decided not to rebuild the central part of the town, but leave open spaces surrounding a large trading house, the precursor of the current `Stadthaus’.  And indeed we see many signs of fire on the remaining cellar walls and the rubble that fills them. So it is likely the cellars date between the city’s founding in 1279AD and 1470AD.

In the afternoon I was able to meet up with a colleague to talk about the start of a next project.  Summer 2010 I was involved in another rescue archaeology project in Andermatt and Hospental just below the Gotthardpass in Switzerland.  On the site of a future golf-course, at ca. 1500masl (which must be almost finished now), we discovered a number of archaeological features, dating from the Late Mesolithic (ca.6000BC) to Early Modern Times.  The Canton of Uri, who is responsible, has now provided funds for a small post-excavation project.  We were able to excavate part of the Late Mesolithic site, Hospental-Moos, before its destruction and this now forms the heart of the project.

Mesolithic sites are relatively seldom in Switzerland and in the Alps.  But archaeologists are becoming more and more aware of the prehistoric occupation and use of the Alps.  Slowly we see more research and even rescue archaeology in the Alps.  Until 2010 no Late Mesolithic sites were known at this altitude in central Switzerland, which makes this site rather special.  The fact that practically all artefacts are made of rock crystal makes it even more special.  I am very thrilled to be able to analyse these finds.

In a quiet office, we discussed which of the many samples we had taken on site are to be analysed further. Especially at sites of this nature, it is not just the finds and the features that allow us to paint an accurate picture of the past: Soil samples can help us explain the built-up of the soil.  Charred plant remains such as seeds, e.g. from hearths, might tell us about what people ate. And like pollen-samples from the soil they can also teach us about the vegetation around the site at the time of occupation.  Charcoal samples, often also from hearths, can be used to date the site’s habitation.

So my day started on a hectic construction site, where I try to unravel the development of a 13-15th Century market town.  It finished in a quiet office, discussing the last hunter-gatherer societies of the Alps and their environment ca. 7000 years earlier.  A challenging and varied Swiss Day of Archaeology!

Medieval Chapels and Monastic Sites in Glamorgan and Gwent

Hello, my name is Richard Roberts, Project Manager with GGAT based in Swansea.  Assisted by my colleague Rachel Bowden, I am undertaking  a project on behalf of Cadw investigating medieval ecclesiastical sites in southeast Wales.

We have so far created dossiers on the historical and archaeological background for the selected chapel and monastic sites, and have undertaken a desk-top analysis to identify those sites which are likely to retain significant remains.   The use of aerial photographs is a key element of the project, and is already proving especially useful to identify the extent of monastic precincts.

At the moment we are preparing  the ground for the fieldwork, identifying and contacting landowners.  The fieldwork, a rapid descriptive and photographic walkover-survey, has been tailored to aid the assessment of the heritage resource with reference to aspects such as survival, condition and significance.  It is hoped that recommendations made will enhance conservation and the long-term preservation of the best of the resource.

3. Crickley Hill: an outline of post-excavation analysis

I dug at Crickley Hill in 1993, but began research on the Crickley Hill archive in 1997, as part of my MA in Archaeological Research at the University of Nottingham. My dissertation would focus upon the late- to post-Roman activity on the site, and provide a platform from which I could continue research in order to publish Volume 6 in the series of site reports. This report will cover the late pre-Roman Iron Age (‘Period 3c’), Roman, and Early Medieval (‘Period 4’: also called the ‘Early Middle Ages‘, or ‘Dark Ages‘) phases of occupation and ritual within the Early Iron Age hill fort. In this post, I’m going to provide a brief outline of work on the Crickley Hill archive

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