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

The Curious Loneliness of the Director of Archaeology

Have you ever seen, on TV or on the Web, videos about archaeology, leaving aside documentaries?
Probably not if you live in Italy.

Have you ever seen an archaeologist recording with a camera?
Probably not if you live in Italy.

I’m an Italian archaeologist and when I don’t dig I edit videos recorded during the excavation (when I’m too tired for studying…).
I’m also a video-narration/storytelling enthusiast, and these two interests mixed together led me to produce footage like this, a docudrama that performs the 2011 excavation season in the Roman site of Vignale (Italy).

My archaeological life so far has been a mix of university studies, excavations and recording videos. But communicating fieldwork is my favorite activity and I like to do it via video, especially referring to the point of view of the archaeologists, translated in a story using the genre of docudrama. Putting together images and sounds/voices, in my opinion video is the best medium for telling histories of archaeology, from the most famous to the worst preserved site. I think video can become a fundamental way of communication and involvement, raising public awareness of archaeological fieldwork.
This summer seems to be not so different from the others, even if more satisfactory until now. In June, Giuliano De Felice and I won the first Italian video contest about archaeology, organized by Mappa Project, with this short video about Open Access in archaeology (not subtitled yet). It has been absolutely terrific winning this contest with a dialogue instead of the usual 3D models or documentary.

Later on, I’ve started a new column about video-narration in archaeology on “Archeologia tardoantica e medievale a Siena” Facebook page. Every week I review one or two videos from all over the world that are characterized by a special care about narration; from this derives the name of the column “Making archaeology as a movie“.

Today archaeology covers a wide variety of works and specialisms. Video-communication is not among the most popular at all and sometimes I feel I’m doing it for myself and a few other people (and always gratis!). But this doesn’t mean that is less important and less necessary. It’s part of the archaeological process and I’m going on doing it, trying to achieve a better and more involving communication of the fieldwork.

recording in vignale

I will spend my Day of Archaeology 2013 at home, editing videos but most of all studying boring books. Therefore I’m impatiently waiting for the new excavation season in Vignale, next September, when I can experience something new about video during fieldwork and resume the dig. This is definitely my favorite way for celebrating a great Day of Archaeology.