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ARCHAEOLOGY and ROMAN PEASANT LIFE in SOUTHERN TUSCANY


Cinigiano, my Tuscan village, is off-the-beaten path. And that's exactly why I love it. So the last thing I expect when having a drink at one of the local bars is a crowd of young fashionable looking Americans and Brits doing just the same. Which is exactly what happened to me last summer. My Tuscan father-in-law spends his whole days at the bar playing cards and my brother-in-law doesn't play cards but nevertheless can always be found at the local bar. They looked as surprised as me when they spotted the flock of young foreigners. To say the least I was WORRIED. Had Cinigiano suddenly moved ON the beaten track?! And if so why? 

The relief came once I started eavesdropping on their conversation. The trendy looking youngsters didn't talk about the best Prada or Gucci outlets near Florence and neither were they on the look-out for a cheap hostel. To my utter surprise they were talking archaeology, diligently discussing the findings of their day in a Roman dig near Cinigiano. I know, archaeology and Italy go well together, however my Tuscan village doesn't quite have the reputation of a second Pompei. At least not yet.


Archaeology: digging for the remains of Roman peasant life in Italy

Next thing I know I'm standing in a field outside of Cinigiano with Emanuele Vaccaro, archaeologist and field director of the Roman Peasant Project. Everybody digging seems far less bothered by the heat wave than I am  (archaeologists must have a deal-with-the-heat-gene I'm missing out on) and Emanuele generously takes out some time to show me around. It is only now that I realize that the Roman Peasant Project isn't just about discovering yet another archaeological site in Italy (yes, they are kind of all over the place), but a venture that has taken on a part of Roman life that has been getting far too little spotlight so far. Whilst an amazing amount of information is available about the life of the Roman elite, only little is known about the day-to-day routine of the Roman peasants. Which is quite something considering that up to 90% of the Roman population was made up of people who were farming the land. It's quite an allegory to modern day Italy. Whilst everybody is obsessed with ex-president Berlusconi's mad lifestyle (dollars and girls), not much is to be heard of the less glossy reality of the majority of the Italian population. Thanks to the Roman Peasant Project, long hours of digging under the scourging Tuscan sun will make sure that the lower castes of the Roman empire will finally get their share of attention. It was about time.

The archaeological discovery and inquiry into Roman peasant life in Tuscany is a joint project of a team of international archaeologists (and their students) from various universities: Pennsylvania, Cambridge and the Tuscan universities of Siena and Grosseto to mention but a few. If you'd like to dig along or read up on archaeological background information, check Pennsylvania University's informative Roman Peasant Project website

And if you just want to poke in your nose, come and join us this summer, when the hip youngster archaeologists will be back in town. We will try to find out what they are exactly working on (so far all we know is that they like the local coffee and pizza as much as we do). 

The team around Emanuele Vaccaro and scientific director Kim Bowes will take us into the field for an introduction to their findings. The event will happen towards the end of June or at the beginning of July. I'll be posting the exact date and time on this blog so check back in. In fact to liaise with the local community is an integral part of the Roman Peasant Project. Cinigiano's male inhabitants perked up when we talked about this the other day at the bar...


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