Pompeii problems

Questions are being asked about the cultural priorities of the Italian Government in the wake of recent structural damage to the ancient Roman ruins at Pompeii. Italy’s own President, Giorgio Napolitano, described as ‘a disgrace’ the collapse on 6 November 2010 of the Schola Armaturarum Juventus Pompeiani (‘the House of the Gladiators’), and with it […]


Postcard from the Asso Valley

For years I have directed small armies of excavators through a project manager, so returning to the role of quartermaster (and co-director) was, to be truthful, both nostalgic and scary. I have always said an excavation runs on its food and accommodation. Rather like a well-honed army, fuel up the excavators, create an atmosphere of […]


Sicily Byzantine banquets for the dead

Sicily was best known during the Roman Republic as the breadbasket of Rome. Although she never reached such dizzy heights again (Africa and Egypt seized the role of Rome’s main grain suppliers), the province remained quietly prosperous throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. The dazzling late Roman villa near Piazza Armerina, with its vast array […]


Italy Chamber of Secrets

In 1997 four cavers set out to explore the deepest galleries of the Grotta della Monaca. It was not an easy task. Located in the Calabria region of southern Italy, the huge entrance to the cavity hangs over the Esaro River like a brooding black eye. Back then, the only way to reach this forbidding […]


Postcard from the Asso Valley

A gentler, more verdant part of Italy is difficult to imagine. The river Asso is little more than a brook bisecting southern Tuscany before it runs into the deeper Orcia valley and winds its way towards the Tyrrhenian Sea. This is heavenly country, blissfully serene, and awash with vineyards that produce Brunello, a prince of […]


The Roman Forum

This is one of the most delectable anti-archaeology books I have read for a long time. The author is the Emeritus Professor of the History of Architecture at Cambridge – and he doesn’t like archaeologists. The Forum at Rome is one of the monuments of antiquity that has suffered most at the hands of archaeologists, […]


Ports of Rome

Rome had a problem. The Tiber River is too shallow for maritime craft. So Roman vessels plying the Mediterranean routes had to unload their cargoes at sea, transferring them to smaller skiffs capable of negotiating the river channel. Worse still, unfavourable winds could close the river mouth for days at a time. The Emperors invested […]


Tiber valley: The Rise (and Fall) of Rome

The story of the rise of Rome is best studied not in the city itself, but in the area surrounding it. It is here that we can see the impact of Rome’s expansion, and measure its speed and extent. For centuries scholars have wondered whether the rise of Rome spelled prosperity or disaster for those […]


Draining Herculaneum: conserving the site

Should you be caught in a heavy rain storm in modern Ercolano, you will understand why the local residents talk about ‘lava’ flowing through the streets. The town sits at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, directly in the path of the rain water as it streams down from the mountain to the sea. The local […]


Windows to the Past

Rome is an iconic city. From Grand Tour etchings to nocturnal portraits of the cityscape, Rome’s monuments have become familiar images. Yet the British School at Rome Archive casts the metropolis and its environs in a new light, allowing us to witness the changing face of the Eternal City, and Italy itself. Long-vanished ruins and […]


Notes from Rome

For Sigmund Freud, the archaeology of the city of Rome was a metaphor for the unconscious mind – a place where no memories or influences are ever lost or forgotten. Recent excavations in the city have made a reality of the psychologist’s flight of fancy. The construction of a new metropolitan rail-line has brought discoveries […]


The Director’s Diary

Every time I arrive at the British School at Rome, it is somehow different. Old buildings and strong institutions can be like that; they hold up a mirror to us so that whilst they persist, we see our own changes more clearly. The first time I visited I was at Oxford, writing my doctoral thesis […]

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