I launched a new site: www.dariusarya.co

Dar­ius’ newest site


With so many things going on, I’ve decided to tie my var­i­ous activ­i­ties into one umbrella site. I’m pleased to announce www.dariusarya.co, which unites my pro­fes­sional work and pas­sions, from direct­ing the Amer­i­can Insti­tute for Roman Cul­ture (pro­grams, exca­va­tions at Ostia Antica) and run­ning the new online edu­ca­tional plat­form Ancient Rome Live (video library with live stream­ing weekly), to TV, lec­tur­ing, and con­sult­ing, and now Unlocked Rome.  If you are curi­ous about Unlocked and want to learn more, send me an email.

Discussion Leave a comment Category Archaeology, Colosseum, Conservation, Culture, Documentaries, Excavation, Ostia Antica, Rome, Sponsorship

Ancient Rome is now LIVE

I’ve cre­ated a brand new video-based learn­ing plat­form: Ancient Rome Live. It’s a first of its kind, and it’s entirely free as a fun, acces­si­ble edu­ca­tional hub.  Great, researched and orig­i­nally pro­duced resources with none of the aca­d­e­mic jar­gon to turn you off or slow you down.  So dig into the video library (70 videos and count­ing) that a for­mi­da­ble team assem­bled and join me for live stream­casts weekly through­out Rome.

Ancient Rome Live website

Discussion Leave a comment Category Archaeology, Colosseum, Conservation, Culture, Documentaries, Excavation, Latin, Ostia Antica, Pompeii, Rome, Sponsorship

From excavation to museum: the AIRC Vignacce Marsyas statue on display

In the midst of a hec­tic 4 years of exca­vat­ing the Villa delle Vignacce in the park of the Aque­ducts, gen­er­ously sup­ported by the Amer­i­can Express Foun­da­tion, the Amer­i­can Insti­tute for Roman Cul­ture team dis­cov­ered in 2009 an intact, in situ statue of superb qual­ity: a Marsyas of red­dish mar­ble with one inlaid eye ringed with bronze still pre­served. It’s a one-of-a-kind statue that after its exca­va­tion was quickly removed to stor­age of the Super­in­ten­dency of Rome. The exca­va­tion con­cluded in 2010, and quite hon­estly, I had no word of the statue for six years, until I was noti­fied in Decem­ber that the newly restored statue would be on per­ma­nent pub­lic dis­play in the Capi­to­line Muse­ums in Decem­ber, 2014.  I was thrilled to see what we exca­vated, though dis­mayed not to be included in the restora­tion process or its related study. That much I voiced to the super­in­ten­dency.  At any rate, the mate­r­ial from the exca­va­tion is finally going to be moved this spring out of the “cis­tern” struc­ture in the park to a suit­able place so we can con­clude our stud­ies and have the site pub­lished. I am pleased to note that the sub­stan­tial dis­play on this extra­or­di­nary statue men­tions that the Amer­i­can Insti­tute for Roman Cul­ture found the statue and is pub­lish­ing the exca­va­tion.  Mov­ing ahead!

Dar­ius with the Marsyas statue that the AIRC exca­va­tion revealed in 2009.

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Ruining Rome: tourist’s graffiti in the Colosseum

There’s a lot a local or a tourist can com­plain about in the Eter­nal City cen­tro these days. Cer­tainly in recent years the streets are less policed and clean; street ven­dor and busker num­bers are up, all of which neg­a­tively affect one’s expe­ri­ence of the city.   But it is the Russ­ian tourist nabbed on Novem­ber 21, 2014 for defac­ing the Colos­seum that has made head­line news around the globe– not just for the act (he’s the fifth per­son caught this year) but for the amount of the fine imposed: 20,000 euros.
Yes, he was caught in the act scratch­ing a large K inside the Colos­seum, on a wall.  (Inci­den­tally, why the K?  Some col­leagues in the her­itage con­ser­va­tion field told me that some online com­ments indi­cated he was going to write that the “Krimea” belongs to Rus­sia; hence the K).  And where specif­i­cally did he write it? Clearly on a sec­tion of brick­work that is restored and refaced in the mod­ern area.  That’s not ancient brick he defaced.  It shouldn’t lessen the crime, though.  But let’s put the fine amount in con­text. The aver­age annual Ital­ian (net) salary is just over 23,000 euros (1923 euros/ month)- and I’m pretty sure the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment doesn’t accept credit cards.  The other option instead of pay­ing the fine is 4 years impris­on­ment.
As the Colos­seum is the world’s most famous ancient mon­u­ment, it’s time to really step up the amount of pro­tec­tion for the site, hand in hand with the ongo­ing Tod’s funded restora­tion project (see my video for an overview of the project).  Zero tol­er­ance for acts of van­dal­ism, matched with a sub­stan­tial fine is a great move that sends a pow­er­ful sig­nal.  And that’s what I said in the Guardian and on the Cana­dian radio show As it Hap­pens.

Now, the fol­low­ing needs to happen:

  1. The fine gets paid.  (My col­leagues in Rome have told me that they have heard that the fine was paid, but I have not found any legal state­ment from the gov­ern­ment, yet.) Per­son­ally, I don’t think I’m alone in say­ing that I’d also like it doc­u­mented where the fine money will go.  I hope toward her­itage preser­va­tion in the Colosseum.
  2. This heavy fine imposed leads to more vig­i­lance for other sites in Italy that are not as scru­ti­nized (or well funded) as the Colosseum.

Fail­ure to carry through and col­lect the money would ring like an empty promise– and send a mes­sage to trav­el­ers that want to leave a mark that Italy is not seri­ous.
Let’s see what happens.

Discussion Leave a comment Category Archaeology, Colosseum, Conservation, Culture, Documentaries, Excavation, Latin, Ostia Antica, Pompeii, Rome, Sponsorship

Exploration in Ostia Antica reveals a larger port city for ancient Rome: discovery and preservation

I’ve been exca­vat­ing, study­ing, and teach­ing in Ostia Antica, Rome’s port city (and explor­ing Por­tus, a man-made dual har­bor con­structed by emper­ors Claudius and Tra­jan just north of Ostia) on and off for over over 10 years and fre­quent­ing the site for over 20 years.  Why? Quite sim­ply because it is a liv­ing lab­o­ra­tory and is the clear­est reflec­tion of what indus­tri­al­ized ancient Rome looked like.

It was with great dis­may that I found much of the ancient city under water this past Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary, which shut down the site for a num­ber of weeks.  The site is still reel­ing from the recent inun­da­tion of the site from heavy rains and pos­si­bly bad drainage due to ram­pant con­struc­tion in the sur­round­ing area; no solu­tion has been found, yet, to pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing again.  Con­ser­va­tion and site man­age­ment remain the high pri­or­ity for the super­in­ten­dency and MiBACT col­leagues of ALES, a con­ser­va­tion divi­sion of the Ital­ian Min­istry of Cul­ture, and a lot of work vis­i­bly is tak­ing place at Ostia today.  But more needs to be done at Ostia and Por­tus (a sep­a­rate archae­o­log­i­cal site).

In the mean­time, how­ever, recent inves­ti­ga­tions and dis­cov­er­ies at Ostia have made head­lines world­wide.  The direc­tor of the ter­ri­tory of Ostia dott.ssa Paola Ger­moni gave a recent sum­mary of the dis­cov­er­ies in and around Ostia Antica, includ­ing my Institute’s own inves­ti­ga­tions.  Over­all, the find­ings were made in lit­tle explored areas, like the right bank of the TIber (on Isola Sacra) and our dig site, out­side the city walls, part of the suburbium.

My Institute’s study con­cen­trates on the bend of the dried up sec­tion of the Tiber River (ulti­mately this por­tion of the Tiber River was devi­ated in the 1557 flood) leav­ing the active por­tion of the Tiber River today hun­dreds of meters away; our dig site in the “sub­ur­bium” of Ostia is close to the medieval Gre­go­ri­opo­lis and (much later) Renais­sance cas­tle in the Parco dei Ravennati.

The geo­phys­i­cal sur­vey of the area on Isola Sacra by Simon Keay of Southamp­ton and col­leagues from Cam­bridge, on the right bank, oppo­site the left bank which con­tains the bulk of the city of Ostia (forum, the­ater, major baths, neigh­bor­hoods, etc.) has yielded a new pic­ture of far more struc­tures than pre­vi­ously under­stood, and a sec­tion of city walls; Ostia was much larger than pre­vi­ously thought is the head­line.  To be sure, plenty of struc­tures on that side had been pre­vi­ously been revealed and noted in the past and marked on maps before the more recent urban build up there, but not to the extent of this thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion, that should lead to some focused, lim­ited exca­va­tion.
What we we sum­ma­rize from these head­lines?   Where is archae­ol­ogy today?  The media, and the pub­lic still focus on the dis­cov­ery.  It’s part of human nature to explore and lit­er­ally unearth new infor­ma­tion about our col­lec­tive past.  In the case of Ostia, the sheer scale of what’s being explored (ware­houses– Keay, ships– Ger­moni, pos­si­ble late antique domus in the sub­ur­bium of Ostia– AIRC) is, indeed, astound­ing.  And this drive to learn con­tin­ues, but we must begin to tem­per this enthu­si­asm with a dose of real­ity, for as soon as we explore and unearth, we expose sites and and mon­u­ments to new con­di­tions that can rapidly dete­ri­o­rate them.  There needs to be a bet­ter plan.

In fact, in light of the recent destruc­tive effect from the unex­pected flood­ing of Ostia (and mind you the site has never been inun­dated like this before), that we seri­ously need to rethink about our val­ues and ideas about archae­ol­ogy and unearthing the past.  A huge com­po­nent that must become more preva­lent is pre­serv­ing that past.  This means con­ser­va­tion, invest­ing sig­nif­i­cant resources in daily main­te­nance, and engag­ing a large global audi­ence to par­tic­i­pate, with mul­ti­ple fund­ing sources devel­oped to sus­tain those efforts (and not just through pri­vate spon­sor­ship, mak­ing today’s head­lines.  I’m talk­ing about local com­mu­nity involve­ment and buy-in).  Oth­er­wise, we’ll find our­selves ever more fre­quently read­ing about the loss of her­itage, and not the dis­cov­ery of it.  (For my own ideas and goals for our Ostia dig in Parco dei Raven­nati, have a look at the fol­low­ing video by the US Embassy in Rome.)

Discussion Leave a comment Category Archaeology, Conservation, Culture, Documentaries, Excavation, Ostia Antica, Pompeii, Rome, Sponsorship

Happy Birthday, Augustus!

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The Splendors of Ancient Rome in 3D

I’m very excited to share the update on The Splen­dors of Ancient Rome, a 3-D doc­u­men­tary for Edu­ca­tional Broad­cast Sys­tem (EBS) South Korea where I appear as pre­sen­ter.  The doc­u­men­tary film will be air­ing May 5, 6 and 7 in one of Seoul’s famous cin­ema the­aters, and hope­fully I will get to see it.  I had a great time film­ing and am really proud to work with esteemed col­leagues at EBS and also Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Ray Law­er­ence and Jorge Beste to talk about Ancient Rome.


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Social, Cultural Heritage

image1When I first signed up for clas­sics and archae­ol­ogy classes, I thought most of my time would be play­ing in the dirt, teach­ing, hang­ing out in libraries and the occa­sional con­fer­ences.  If you had asked me about the social side to acad­e­mia, I prob­a­bly would’ve laughed, maybe even made a joke about the Archaeologist’s cocktail/mosquito repel­lent Con­tinue read­ing

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Pyramid of Cestius under wraps


Finally. The promised restora­tion project of the Augus­tan period Pyra­mid of Ces­tius has begun, with pri­vate Japan­ese funds. It took 330 days to con­struct the tomb, says the in situ inscrip­tion. Let’s see how long it takes to com­plete the project.

I will be post­ing pho­tos of the progress on my Insta­gram account @Saverome, Con­tinue read­ing

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Save the Gladiator Tomb, Sign the iPetition

Please join me in voic­ing your con­cern for sav­ing the Gladiator’s Tomb, a unique cul­tural her­itage site that runs the risk of being reburied per­ma­nently for lack of fund­ing.  Together with the AIRC, I am hop­ing to get 5,000 sig­na­tures on the iPe­ti­tion to save the Gladiator’s Tomb.

In 2008, on the Via Flaminia in the north­ern part of con­tem­po­rary Rome, archae­ol­o­gist found an impres­sive mar­ble mau­soleum, among other note­wor­thy tombs, along a well-preserved sec­tion of ancient road.  Con­tinue read­ing

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