The Colosseum or the Flavian Amphitheatre as it was known in Antiquity is a worldwide symbol of recognition. Very rarely does one come across anyone who doesn’t place the city of Rome alongside an image of the Colosseum. It was the tallest structure in the city in its day rising four storeys to a height of 52 m and dominating both the physical and mental landscape. So, when the opportunity to excavate at the Colosseum in Rome was presented, it was something one could only have dreamed of. Now, at the end of our project dig and having had the opportunity to team up with fellow students from the American University at Rome (AUR) and Roma Tre, I can safely say that it has been one of the most interesting classes, I have ever undertaken.
As a Masters student of Ancient Roman History, I was always keen to further my understanding of historiography with a basic understanding of practical Archaeological methods. Coming from India, I am acutely aware of the lack of an inter-disciplinary approach to the historical narrative and spending time with seasoned students in the field was well-worth it and something, I would advise all budding historians.
Preparation for a dig begins even before getting one’s hands dirty. This includes ensuring the right kit in terms of overalls, handyman gloves and construction worker or steel-tipped shoes. It takes a measure of good luck to find the right shoe-size and if you’re picky, the right colour and design! As I was advised, I also needed a ready set of t-shirts I could change into for each day of the dig while, keeping my trousers constant. As can be seen, I was really new to this. By the end of the first week, I was quite sure the trousers I had worn all week were capable of standing on their own! Other equipment like, a hard hat and a trowel are also very handy especially in a busy tourist site like, the Colosseum. I also realised the need for a small lunch or tiffin box (like the kind at school) but I wasn’t organised-enough to keep one so, a few fruits had to do for the breaks. For lunch, one was off into the surrounding tourist-countryside to find an affordable deli and a quick bite. Luckily, Rome has something for everyone.
The day begins fairly early even before regular office hours. We would start at 8:30 am with a break at 11:30 followed by a lunch break from 1 to 2 pm. The dig would close at 5:30 pm. We were led by Professor Riccardo Santangeli and Research Fellow Giulia Facchin from the University of Roma Tre’s Archaeological Department and shepherded by Professor Valerie Higgins from the AUR. Their unending patience with newbies like myself and careful manner of instruction is a quality, worth taking forward in any sphere of instruction. Assisted by a trinity of archaeology majors from Roma Tre as their eyes and ears, I can safely say that we were in capable hands.