Department of History

Rutgers University Archaeological Field School in Italy

Overview

The Rutgers University Archaeological Field School in Italy, in operation since 2012, is a Rutgers Study Abroad summer program that endeavors to teach undergraduate and graduate students archaeological field skills and methods. Among these are: excavation techniques; site recording and management skills; the handling, processing and preserving of site materials, such as mosaics, painted wall plaster, pottery, human remains and other small finds; and field surveying skills through the operation of a total station and possibly with geophysical prospection equipment such as ground penetrating radar and magnetometer. Student participants will acquire this training by doing these things on site in Italy under the supervision of academic and professional archaeologists, geophysicists, conservators, and anthropologists. Rutgers professors and graduate students from the Departments of History-Newark, Earth and Environmental Sciences-Newark, Classics-New Brunswick and Anthropology-New Brunswick will all teach and participate in the field school. In addition to fieldwork, there will also be lectures and readings about archaeological methods, and historical and anthropological topics related to the project currently being pursued by the field school, the Upper Sabina Tiberina Project (detailed below). For this project the field school operates in the Tiber River Valley in the northwestern part of the province of Lazio, just about 40 miles upriver from Rome. Participants live and work near the small village of Vacone, excavating a Roman villa site with evidence of Republican, Imperial and post-antique occupation and activity.

Enrollment in the Rutgers Field School is not limited to Rutgers University students, and applicants from other institutions of higher learning are welcome to apply. Although applicants with backgrounds in history, Italian studies, archaeology, anthropology and/or classics are desired, no previous experience or prerequisites are necessary, nor is any particular major or background. Moreover, no knowledge of Italian language is required.

Undergraduate students will receive six course-credits from Rutgers Study Abroad that may be counted toward a variety of departments and majors, including Classical Studies, History, Anthropology, and Art History. For instance, the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers-New Brunswick will accept these as equivalent to 01:070:334 ‘Archaeological fieldwork’ and 01:070:335 ‘Analysis of Archaeological data'. Please consult Prof. Farney (gfarney@rutgers.edu) if you have any questions about how these credits might apply to your situation.

Graduate students can earn either six or three course credits, depending on the track they wish to take. They should consult their departments to see how they will treat the credits for any degree they are pursuing. For six credits, they can participate in the undergraduate regimen in the first half of the course (as noted above), and in the second half in a graduate student only course on site and materials conservation. For the three credits option, graduate students just participate in this conservation course. This intensive course of conservation will build on previous operations and interventions at the site of Vacone conducted by the Italian Archaeological Service. These interventions were “rescue” restorations to preserve the standing architectural remains; during the course of this restoration, floor mosaics were discovered some of which were conserved and removed. Every year, the Rutgers field school uncovers more mosaic floors. Some mosaics found last year and the ones we will find in the coming year will need to be restored, and in situ stretches and fragments of painted and sculpted wall plaster will also need conservation.

Living Arrangements for the Field School

For 2015, the field school will operate from July 5 to August 8, and participants will live in an agriturismo (a kind of country hotel and restaurant), called Le Colline (http://www.agriturismolecolline.com), located very close to the Vacone villa site (< 2 km). Le Colline has rooms of two to four people, each with a separate bathroom. The agriturismo has internet access and will provide us with a means to do laundry. All meals will be provided at the agriturismo for staff and students Sunday dinner through Friday lunch as part of the program costs. Students will have to pay for their own meals at other times (Friday dinner through Sunday lunch), from the agriturismo or elsewhere. Students will also be able to visit the town of Vacone and other local towns regularly.

Students are encouraged to travel to Rome or other nearby locales on the weekends. On Friday afternoon, staff will drive students to a nearby train-station (Poggio Mirteto) for a direct train into Rome (ca. 45 minutes); likewise, they will pick up returning students on Sunday late afternoon.

During one designated weekend (likely July 18-19), students will stay at the agriturismo in Vacone and we will tour around the local area to see sites and museums of relevance to the field school. Among these will be a trip to Rieti, a local city with Roman and later remains and buildings, large medieval walls, and a substantial archaeological museum. During this weekend the field school will provide breakfasts and dinners, but not lunches; instead, students will have the opportunity to eat lunch in Rieti and in another local community at a restaurant or some other kind of establishment of their own choosing.

Research Aims of the Project

The Rutgers University Archaeological Field School in Italy conducts work to further the research goals of the Upper Sabina Tiberina Project. Our team’s ultimate aim is to assess archaeologically a select cluster of Roman villa sites in the Upper Sabina Tiberina, focusing on the Republican and early Imperial period (third century BCE to first century CE) in order to investigate regional patterns of rural habitation and agricultural exploitation. Our villa sites are situated in an area defined by the Tiber on the east, mountains separating the region from Umbria to the north and the Reatine valley to the East, and the edge of the Farfa river valley to the south (ca. 250 sq. miles). We seek to substantiate archaeologically the point at which the historical characterization of the Sabina in the late Republic and early Empire is perceptible in the rural built environment, providing evidence of agricultural intensification and subsequent economic development. To this end, we are excavating one villa site in the area (Vacone), while conducting geophysical survey at other known villa locations.

GOOGLE EARTH MAP: http://g.co/maps/vspm6

The first part of our strategy is to excavate the villa near the town of Vacone (the “Villa d'Orazio") as the cornerstone for a comparative regional project assessing the Roman rural habitation in the area in terms of its scale, mode of agricultural exploitation, and diachronic development. This selective excavation at Vacone will be combined with a ground penetrating radar (GPR) and magnetometer survey of the immediate environs of this villa and other villas in the subject group. Research goals include estimating the size of both the villas and the surrounding land they exploited, assessing the choice of villa locations from the standpoint of topography and ecology, and incorporating a GIS database with detailed physical and chronological information about the group villas.

Our team has selected Vacone for excavation based on information derived from earlier interventions by the office of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Lazio and our own GPR survey of the central area of the villa. The villa has two standing criptoportici (underground chambers/corridors) built in opus incertum style masonry, which would date it to the late Republican period. The interventions supervised and published by Giovanna Alvino of the Soprintendenza in the 1980s shored up these substructures and carried out limited excavation in the area above each criptoportico. The work on the lower criptoportico uncovered a mosaic floor running along the length of its roof. Several thresholds were also unearthed that appear to open into mosaic-floored rooms in the area between the two criptoportici, presumably part of the villa’s domestic quarter. Our GPR survey of this area, conducted in October 2011, confirmed the presence of anomalies consistent with room walls. Exploration of the upper criptoportico revealed a space for the pressing of wine or oil adjacent to the end of the criptoportico, with a channel running down to a collecting basin in the criptoportico itself. Today the portion of the site between the criptoportici, where we have begun excavation, is on publicly owned land, and the remainder of the villa site would seem to be under local farmland and associated privately owned buildings.

South Criptoportico, Vacone

We plan to conduct field-operations at Vacone for the next several summers, interspersed by several study-seasons to analyze the data collected. .

Excavations at Vacone in 2012

Our project’s summer 2012 season concentrated in the area immediately north of a mosaic-floored porticus discovered in 1986-7 atop the lower cryptoporticus, where threshold blocks found during the Soprintendenza’s intervention suggested the presence of rooms facing the porticus. Our excavations identified six rooms with mosaic floors along the porticus.

Excavations at Vacone in 2013

This season's work continued the excavation trenches of the previous year. We also began a new trench along the upper cryptoporticus (which has now been identified as a cistern) which revealed more rooms and mosaic. Another new trench in the upper section alongside the cistern continued the previous work of the Soprintendenza in the so-called "work area." In the lower trenches we also found what seems to be a passageway to the (lower) cryptoporticus. These trenches reveald more mosaic and painted wall plaster (some in situ) as well as small finds of bronze implements, nails and two more post-occupation burials.

Excavations at Vacone in 2014

Excavations continued the trenches of the previous year. More of the upper work area was revealed, and two large ceramic assemblages were discovered, one in what was possible another work area or storeroom, and another in the passageway from the upper area to the lower cryptoporticus. A few more burials were uncovered, raising our number of burials to five on the site. More of the "earlier" villa phase was uncovered and explored.

For a more detailed description (and images! and more to come!) of the excavations at Vacone, click here.


What to Expect

Living Arrangements for the Field School

For 2015, the field school will operate from July 5 to August 8, and participants will live in an agriturismo (a kind of country hotel and restaurant), called Le Colline (http://www.agriturismolecolline.com), located very close to the Vacone villa site (< 2 km). Le Colline has apartments of two to six people, each apartment with a separate bathroom. The agriturismo has internet access. All meals will be provided at the agriturismo for staff and students Sunday dinner through Friday lunch as part of the program costs. Students will have to pay for their own meals at other times (Friday dinner through Sunday lunch), from the agriturismo or elsewhere. Students will also be able to visit the town of Vacone regularly.

Students are encouraged to travel to Rome or other nearby locales on most weekends. On Friday afternoon, staff will provide transportation for students to a nearby train-station (Poggio Mirteto) for a direct train into Rome (ca. 45 minutes); likewise, they will pick up returning students on Sunday late afternoon.

During one designated weekend (likely July 18-19), students will stay at the agriturismo in Vacone and we will tour around the local area to see sites and museums of relevance to the field school. Among these will be a trip to Rieti, a local city with Roman and later remains and buildings, large medieval walls, and a substantial archaeological museum. During this weekend the field school will provide breakfasts and dinners, but not lunches; instead, students will have the opportunity to eat lunch in Rieti and in another local community at a restaurant or some other kind of establishment of their own choosing.


A Typical Working Day in the Field School

Participants should be prepared to work hard physically as part of the field school. Muscle power is what moves the earth around as we excavate the remains. We use pick-axes, shovels, hand-picks, trowels and brushes to remove the earth, and we move it away from the trenches with wheelbarrows. At the end of the project, we must “backfill” the trenches with sand, geotextile and more dirt, all by hand. While we work early in the day to avoid the hot Mediterranean sun and encourage you to drink lots of water and take other precautions, it still gets hot. Because of all this, you must be reasonably physically fit to participate in the field school.

We start working on site at 7am and stop ca. 1:30pm for lunch at the agriturismo. We have a snack-break in the middle of the workday, ca. 10am. About two or three days a week, we meet again ca. 430pm to work in the small finds lab (cleaning and sorting pottery and other finds taken from the site) or we have lectures and discussion. When we don’t need to meet for this, you can have that afternoon time off until dinner and then after dinner.

For 2015, we are also arranging for Italian language classes which will meet twice a week at the agriturismo.

Quiet time at the agriturismo MUST be respected between 1130pm and 600am.

On work-days, Breakfast is at 6:00am, Lunch is at 2:00pm, and Dinner is at 8:00pm.

Back to top


Instructors and Project Leaders

Gary D. Farney (Project Director) is an Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark. He has participated in a number of excavations in Italy and is a trained numismatist. His research focus is on ancient Italic group identity, including the Sabines, and the formation of Roman identity from the various Italic groups. Before this field school, he operated the Rutgers Summer Program to Greece for six years (2005-2010).
Giulia Masci (Site Director) has a PhD from the University of Turin. Her primary research interests  include  the  formation  of  Sabine  identity  and  the  concept  of  “Romanization.”  Her  family-home is in the Upper Sabina Tiberina where she has conducted much of her research.
Dylan Bloy (Field Director) is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics at CUNY-Brooklyn College. He has not only participated in a half-dozen excavations in Italy and Greece, but has taken a leadership role in several (including the villa excavations at Ossaia de la Tufa in Cortona).
Kimberly "Max" Brown (Survey Manager and Trench Supervisor), of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, has participated in over a dozen field-archaeology projects around Italy and the Mediterranean, many in a leadership role, with a particular emphasis on both field and geophysical survey.
Ian Travers (Excavation Manager) is a cultural heritage consultant with a proven background in the management of archaeological projects and conservation programs. He has worked as a field archaeologist across four continents, and is adept at bringing this experience to bear in an academic training environment. Ian's work also involves the wider presentation and interpretation of cultural heritage, and he aims to impart a solid understanding of field methods within the wider context of cultural resource management.
 
Matt Notarian (Trench Supervisor), PhD U. of Buffalo, has participated in a number of archaeological projects in Italy, Greece and the USA, most recently at an imperially owned villa outside of Rome. His research focuses upon the archaeology and survey of Rome’s countryside, particularly the capital’s influence upon regional development.
Candace Rice (Publications Manager; Trench Supervisor) has a PhD in Roman Archaeology from the University of Oxford and is currently a Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked in a supervisory role on excavations in Tuscany, Molise and Lazio, as well as in France and Tunisia. Her research focuses on maritime trade and regional economic development in the Roman Mediterranean.
Liz Homberger (Conservator Supervisor) is a conservator and founder of EKH Conservation LLC, a conservation studio located in Los Angeles. Liz received her BA in Art History from Bard College and her MA in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College. Prior to starting her business, Liz worked on cultural and fine art collections in institutions throughout the United States, including the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Denver Art Museum and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Tyler Franconi (Finds Manager; Trench Supervisor) is finishing his DPhil at the University of Oxford in Roman archaeology. He has excavated at a number of sites in Italy, Tunisia, and the USA and specializes in the processing and documentation of archaeological finds. His research focuses on the economic development of Roman Germany as well as rivers in antiquity.
Lela Urquhart (Trench Supervisor) is an assistant professor in the History Department at Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA. She currently co-directs the Sosio-Verdura Valley Survey project in southwestern Sicily; her previous fieldwork includes having been an assistant director of the Monte Polizzo Project, also in Sicily, along with other projects in Sardinia, Israel, Crete and North Carolina. More generally, her research focuses on ancient colonization and the relationship between religious change and state formation in the ancient west Mediterranean.
 
Melanie Crisfield (Finds Supervisor) is a PhD candidate in Evolutionary Anthropology at Rutgers-New Brunswick. She has participated in a number of archaeological projects in Canada and Kenya, and has experience working with human skeletal remains from both archaeological sites and forensic investigations.
Wesley Bennett (Survey Supervisor) graduated from Texas A&M University with a double major in Classical Studies and History in 2010 and is currently a PhD student in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College. He is primarily interested in ancient cultural interactions, specifically the relations early Greece developed with its Mediterranean neighbors, especially in pre-Roman southern Italy and Sicily. He is also deeply interested in potential geographic information systems (GIS) applications in the field of archaeology. He has also worked on projects in the United States (Poplar Forest, VA) and Turkey (Tarsus-Gözlükule, Mersin Province).
Amanda Klein (Field School Supervisor; Conservation Assistant), a history teacher at Saddle Brook High School, is completing her MA in History at Rutgers-Newark, returning in 2015 for a third season of field work. She recently won a grant from the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics to continue doing conservation work at Vacone in 2014.
Gordon Kelly (Field Assistant) is an Associate Professor (with Term) of Classics at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. His research focuses on Roman History (especially exile during the Republican Era) and ancient military practices. He has participated in three sea trials of the reconstructed Greek trireme Olympias.

Back to top


Program Costs and Scholarships

Field School Costs

For 2014 the costs for the undergraduate participants were $5534 for NJ residents and $6534 for out-of-state residents. The costs for 2015 have yet to be determined but should be close to this.

For 2014 the costs for the graduate participants in the six credit program were $5852 for NJ residents and $6852 for out-of-state residents. The costs for 2015 have yet to be determined but should be close to this.

For 2014 the costs for the graduate participants in the three credit program were $2833 for NJ residents and $3333 for out-of-state residents. The costs for 2015 have yet to be determined but should be close to this.

These costs include tuition, room and board at the agriturismo, and transportation within Italy for program purposes. Airfare to Rome is not included in these costs, and participants must make their own travel arrangements being sure to arrive on time in Italy and leave only after the program has ended. We will arrange to bring you from Rome’s Fiumicino airport on July 5 and take you out to the field school’s location.

Financial Aid

There are several scholarship opportunities available from sources outside Rutgers for undergraduate and graduate students who wish to participate in archaeological excavations and field schools. Prof. Farney is happy to advise and support you in the process of applying for them (last years dates should approximate those in 2015):

Minority Scholarship in Classics and Classical Archaeology, sponsored by the American Philological Association (open to undergraduates; due December 16, 2013): http://www.apaclassics.org/index.php/awards_and_fellowships/details/minority_scholarship_in_classics_and_classical_archaeology

Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarship, sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America (open to undergraduates; due March 1, 2014): http://www.archaeological.org/grants/708

DiMattio Celli Family Study Abroad Scholarship, sponsored by the UNICO Foundation, Inc. (open to undergraduate and graduate students of Italian descent; for 2013, due February 1, 2013; 2014 not yet announced): please contact Prof. Farney and consult this .pdf

Etruscan Foundation Fieldwork Fellowship (open to undergraduates and grad students; due January 24, 2014): http://www.etruscanfoundation.org/programs_fieldwork_fellowship.htm

H.R. Butts Summer Scholarship for Fieldwork in Classical Archaeology, sponsored by Eta Sigma Phi (open to undergraduate and graduate members of Eta Sigma Phi; due February 1, 2014): http://www.etasigmaphi.org/scholarships/archaeological-fieldwork

The Janice and Herbert Benario Award, sponsored by the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (open to graduate students and teachers of Latin and Greek living in the Midwest, South and Canada; due January 31, 2014): http://www.camws.org/awards/sgb.php

David D. and Rosemary H. Coffin Fellowship for Travel in Classical Lands, sponsored by the American Philological Association (APA) (open to members or non-members of the APA who are teachers of Latin or Greek at the secondary level; for 2013, due February 15, 2013; for 2014, not yet announced): http://apaclassics.org/awards-and-fellowships/david-d-and-rosemary-h-coffin-fellowship-travel-classical-lands

Classical Association of Atlantic States (CAAS) Professional Development Grants (open to members of CAAS: mostly an option for teachers and maybe graduate students), which are awarded throughout the year based on their availability of funds: http://caas-cw.org/wp/caas/grants/

Some limited scholarship money may also be available for Rutgers University-Newark students.  Please inquire with Prof. Farney (gfarney@rutgers.edu) for more information about this.

Students outside of Rutgers should consult their home-departments (esp. Anthropology, Classics, History) and universities who sometimes have scholarships they offer for students to do fieldwork.

Back to top

 

Photo Gallery

To view images taken at the site, click here.