Everyone should participate in a dig once in their life– and it might as well be in Rome. In June 2010, we’ll be starting our fifth season of excavation at the Villa delle Vignacce, one of the greatest excavation sites in and around Rome. We’re looking for people from all walks of life– structural and computer engineers, architects, artists, poets, students, accountants and tennis players– whatever your background and insights are, we want you– especially if you are happy to spend 8 hours getting sweaty and dirty working to save the cultural heritage of Rome.

Here are some Q and A’s that I have come up with based on questions we’ve been asked about our past summer digs. I hope this helps anyone who is interested in excavating with us this summer. And if there are other questions, please send them to me.

What is the project? Why is it important?
The project is Villa delle Vignacce, fascinating because we still are working to grasp the purpose of the sprawling site– is it a 2nd century villa or a public bath? Its importance is that it is a multi-storied, undocumented, unspoiled site. The materials are rich- marble veneer, glass paste mosaics in the vaults, precious statuary. The architecture is extraordinarily well preserved with a whole series of underground tunnels.

Where is the excavation?
We’re in Rome’s suburbium– an integral part of the great URBS– connected today by a 20 minute metro ride from the center of Rome. Our precise location is at Via Lemonia, in the Park of the Aqueducts, where there are some of the most famous aqueduct arcades from Rome’s imperial past. They serve as a backdrop to the site, which also originally tapped into the water supply for fountains and bath complex.

What happens on an excavation field school?
We spend week one in “full Rome immersion”, visiting the major sites, collections, 7 hills of Rome, Rome’s port city Ostia Antica and lecturing on site on building materials, engineering, etc. The remaining five weeks are spent at the site, from 7 am until 4 pm each day. We start early because it gets hot fast. We drink a lot of fluids and watch out for each other to prevent heat exhaustion. Hey, it’s strenuous work! But we take lots of breaks and if you are overtired or getting too much sun, you can always have a rest.

What do we do in Rome?
We live here because it is a dynamic city that has something to explore everyday– whether its ancient, underground, museum or neighborhood. Personally, I like the great streetfood in Trastevere.

Where are the students from? Who are the participants?

Students come from all, representing schools like Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA, USC, Clemson, Brandeis, Holy Cross, Carthage and Davidson– and international locales- Australia, England, Sweden, Ireland. We’ve also had participants where were mortgage brokers, physical therapists, architects and investment bankers.

Do I have to be a Classics major?
Definitely not. We love our Classics and Archaeology majors but we also encourage people from all areas and backgrounds to participate.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever found?

The Marsyas statue, by far. There are 60 known variants of Marsyas skinned alive (punished for challenging and losing to Apollo in a music contest), but the Vignacce Marsyas was found in context (unlike most of the others). And context is key to understanding its purpose in an exact location, versus just a thing of aesthetic beauty.

How much Italian do I have to know?
None, but you’ll certainly learn some. Many of the staff are Italian.

Is there an age limit?
No, we’ve have students finishing high school to retired people in their late 60s. Just ask to find out more.

Is it too late to sign up?

Definitely not. Please inquire: studyabroad[at]romanculture.org