RU making plans for summer 2013? Rutgers—Newark History chair Gary Farney leads archeology field school in central Italy

PreviewScreenSnapz001GPS work at Vacone, Italy: Neil Terry (left) and Prof. Gary Farney

You’ve got to tip your broad-brimmed sunhat to Rutgers—Newark History chair (and member of the Rutgers—NB Classics Graduate Faculty) Professor Gary Farney. For six consecutive summers (2005-2010) he led a Rutgers summer study-abroad program in Greece. In summer 2012 Gary Farney took the idea to the next level:  the creation of a summer archaeological field school in Italy. This multi-year initiative—known as the the Upper Sabina Tiberina Archaeological Field School—allows students from Rutgers and elsewhere to gain hands-on experience in surveying, excavation and conservation.

The dates for the 2013 field school (see here for the official website) are 9 July through 9 August 2013. How to apply? It couldn’t be easier. Through 15 December 2012 Rutgers students can apply through the university’s Study Abroad website. Applicants will be accepted on a rolling basis. Non-Rutgers applicants are urged to contact Prof. Farney as soon as possible by email. The final deadline for all applicants is 1 March 2013.

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 (i.e., about one hour by car, not far from the A1 towards Orte). 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.

Vacone in the snowVacone in the snow

One interesting point about Vacone is that here is an instance of early villa building—safely dated to the 1st century BC. No later material seems to have been uncovered yet. Plus there are an unusual number of mosaics in the area. Some of these emerged a few years ago when the Italian Archaeological Service conducted rescue interventions at Vacone. But more came to light thanks to the Field School in 2012—in addition to striking examples of painted and sculpted wall plaster—and there is every indication that future seasons will produce still other significant examples of villa decoration.

Overall, Vacone appears to be a relatively untouched site, with exciting possibilities for further understanding the Roman agricultural economy and modes of self-presentation by Roman elite in this area, with an unusual number of other similarly understudied villas nearby for comparanda.

vancone villa

South CriptoporticoSouth criptoportico at Vacone

Here are excerpts from an engaging article in which the Rutgers—Newark College of Arts & Sciences [NCAS] trumpeted the opening of this exciting new field school opportunity in Italy:

Farney, whose expertise lies in Roman history, numismatics and material culture, created the Upper Sabina Tiberina Archaeological Field School, which in its inaugural summer drew nine students, along with an experienced staff of seven academics and archeology-and-conservation experts from major universities and organizations around the U.S. and Italy.

They began excavating a Roman Republican villa site at Vacone, in the Upper Sabina Tiberina region of Italy, located about 40 miles northwest of Rome, while living in the small nearby village of Casperia.


The project, which will span several years, attempts to discern Roman settlement and land-use in this region during the middle and late Roman Republic (third to first century B.C.E.), which may have served as a model for later Roman expansion and exploitation in the rest of Italy and Europe.

Farney‘s team got geophysical surveying help from the Rutgers-Newark’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES), who used ground-penetrating radar to determine roughly what man-made objects were one-to-two meters below ground at the site before excavation began…

…Farney, who is chairperson of Rutgers-Newark’s Department of History and Director of the Program in Ancient and Medieval Civilizations, is no stranger to excavations. As a grad student, he had excavated three Italian sites, and he’d been longing to return since the publication of his first book on ancient Italic ethnic groups…

ViewFromVaconeVillaToSouthView from Vacone villa  to south

…Of the nine students who studied abroad with Farney this summer, four were from Rutgers-Newark (three undergraduates and one graduate student). Of those, three represented NCAS. Undergraduates from Rutgers-New Brunswick and Villanova University rounded out the group. All of the participants received six course-credits from Rutgers’ Office of Study Abroad…

…Farney believes his summer field school is set apart in still other ways. Giving undergraduates a chance to dig with active instruction, to learn how to run a total station, or to draw and map out a site were important. He also wanted to offer conservation and preservation instruction, especially to graduate students.

251460_10150249992110780_4092588_nCriptoportico at Vacone

“It’s rare to get instruction in conserving ancient objects and material by a professional conservator in the field,” says Farney. “This could draw students who are interested in material culture, public history or museum studies into the Rutgers-Newark fold.”

The work of Prof. Farney’s field school focuses not just on excavation, but also on restoring and conserving the remains that come to light. Students also learn about cultural heritage management issues and the role that public history should play in the project—such as in the dissemination of information, the interpretation and public presentation of the material and history uncovered at the site, and the (potential) role of tourism from the site in the local economy. You can read a full description of the aims of the course here, and see a list of its international staff members.

Enrollment in the Rutgers Field School is not limited to Rutgers University students, and, as noted, 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 all six credits for their Anthropology major and minor. Graduate students can earn either six or three course credits, depending on the track they wish to take, and departmental approval.

Remember those application deadlines, especially the final one of 1 March 2013!


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