On Friday, a few fellow students and I went to the town of Artena with our professor, Jan Gadeyne, to visit his archeological excavation site. Artena is a small town only about an hour outside of Rome with a small population of friendly people. Our first stop was at the museum of Artena, where we saw many of the pieces that had been excavated from the ancient villa that Professor Gadeyne is currently working on (others had worked on this same site before him). There we saw pieces of pottery that had weathered with time, but still managed to survive. We saw beautiful painted pieces of tile and cement that were used in the buildings along with coins that help historians place the villa in an era/time period and give clues as to the type of people who lived there. We were also shown pieces of a cistern, most likely used for collecting rain water seeing as the villa resides on a tall hill. Along with many other artifacts, Professor Gadeyne painted a nice picture for us of what life was like in this villa.
After we toured the small museum, we went to see the actual excavation site. We took a bus up to the hill in Artena and walked to the relative top where we saw what looked like a blueprint of a house except made in the ground with the outlines defining the rooms made (in actuality) from stone in soil where the walls of the separate buildings had since been buried over time, originating from centuries BCE. We were told that the villa being excavated had been created from a succession of people coming in, building structures, abandoning them, and then another group coming in and doing the same thing. As we walked around, we saw enormous storage pots that had been left there, the other part of the cistern that was not exhibited in the museum, rooms that looked to be storage rooms, common areas, etc. Professor Gadeyne told us that, in its most recent state, the area was probably some type of factory/storage. They would store the product that the factory made (maybe legumes) in the big pots which where then put in the storage rooms. We also saw the places where Professor Gadeyne and his team had excavated many graves of infants/newborn children who had been placed in clay pots and buried.
We were standing on tangible history from around 4th/5th century BCE learning about it first hand with an expert who was able to divulge all the details. While going to the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Forum, etc., it’s also very interesting to find the history that’s not so famous but just as important. Sometimes it’s even super close to where you currently are! Rome is full of so many incredible historical areas and evidence that it’s easy to stumble upon an insane piece of history, like the plaques on the ground commemorating the lives of the Roman Jewish population that were taken from their homes during World War II. It’s also a great place to ask your teachers for advice on where you should go based on your academic interests. They know where the coolest places are for art history majors, classics majors, and so many more.