Dr. Richard Hodges is the President of The American University of Rome since 2012. He began his career as an archaeologist with excavations in his home village of Box, Wiltshire while at high school. During that time he founded a village archaeology society which is thriving today. He studied archaeology and history at Southampton University where he completed a doctorate on the archaeology of Dark Age trade. In 1976 he joined Sheffield University as a lecturer and while there launched excavations in England and Italy at Roystone Grange (Derbyshire), Montarrenti (Tuscany) and San Vincenzo al Volturno (Molise).From 1988-95 he was Director of the British School at Rome, during which time he enlarged the excavations at San Vincenzo al Volturno with support from the Abbey of Monte Cassino, and joined the Butrint Foundation as its scientific director (1993-2012) to launch new excavations and site management strategies at the World Heritage Site of Butrint (Albania). From 1996-98 he was Director of the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture, then from 1998 he has been Professor in the School of World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. During this period, he served in the Ministry of Culture in Albania (1999), as adviser to the Packard Humanities Institute during the Zeugma (Turkey) excavations (2000), and as Williams Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (2007-12).Dr. Hodges is a Board member of the Istituto Packard, Italian affiliate of the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. He has been Visiting Professor at SUNY-Binghamton (1983), the University of Siena (1984-87), the University of Copenhagen (1987-88) and the University of Sheffield (2006-7). He was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s honours in 1995.

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.