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The Stones of Ancient Latium

Inscriptions, Archaeological Remains, and the Geographic Contexts of Latium Vetus

Course Description

ARCH 187 – The Stones of Ancient Latium:

Inscriptions, Archaeological Remains,
and the Geographic Contexts of Latium Vetus

May 25 – July 1, 2011

Instructors: Monica Berti &  J. Matthew Harrington

(with contributions from expert guest-lecturers)

The fertile region drained by the Tiber river was inhabited or bordered by a number of distinct peoples and was home to speakers of Latin – one language among many in ancient Italy.  From the people of this once-insignificant region rose the complexity of the Roman Empire.  Beginning from before the founding of Rome in the 8th century BC and closing with the late Empire in the 4th century AD, this interdisciplinary course provides an overview of the evolution of the ancient region called “Latium Vetus” (Ancient Latium), which corresponds to modern Lazio.  We will approach this region as a cultural system, a complex amalgam of cultures, languages, and social practices.  As part of a collaborative partnership between Tufts University and the Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”, participants in this course will study and assist in the annotated digitization of the Latin inscriptions of Ancient Latium.  The particular emphasis of this course will be the integration of textual and archaeological sources to create a geographically referenced digital database of information on the development of this region centered on primary texts preserved as inscriptions.

To further these goals, this course will be comprised of three interlocked fields of study: Digital Epigraphy, Field Archaeology, and Latin Linguistics.  While epigraphic and archaeological on-site study will be conducted primarily as a unified group, students will be separated into multiple Latin sections based on a placement exam.  Geographic documentation and epigraphic assignments will be tailored to individual skills, with students working collaboratively.  The course will be structured topographically, with inscriptions, archaeological remains, and Latin sources typically focused on a single site rather than following strict chronological order.  The instructors will give appropriate contextualization to all inscriptions, sites, and readings.

The course is designed as a multidisciplinary seminar, with students of fields such as Geography and Urban Studies as well as Archaeology, History, and Latin. Students will conduct presentations and develop course projects that draw upon, and advance, their particular interests and skill sets, while concurrently becoming familiar with and assisting their peers using additional approaches and methodologies.  The course will expose students to collaborative methods whereby they can integrate geographic information, archaeological data, and primary sources preserved in the forms of both manuscripts and inscriptions.

The epigraphical and linguistic facets of the course will take place primarily within Latium, modern Lazio, with extensive, on-site study of epigraphical remains both in situ and at museums.  In particular they will also have the unique opportunity to study inscriptions that are still preserved in the archaeological sites of Ancient Latium: Lanuvium, Nemi, Palestrina, Tivoli, Tusculum, Velletri, and Villa Gregoriana.  Moreover, they will also be guided to private visits to restricted sites, such as the Vatican Necropolis and Palazzo Barberini at Praeneste (modern Palestrina).  The curriculum includes a survey of the geographic context, major archaeological remains, and historical sources. Students will have an opportunity to contribute data about Latium for publication within the Perseus Digital Library, the German Archaeological Institute’s Arachne Database, and the Epigraphic Database Roma (EDR).  While contextualizing the inscriptions in their assigned sites, students will also learn to encode inscriptions in XML and will contribute to add data to the ongoing digital database of the inscriptions of Latium Vetus.  Preference will be given to conducting lectures on-site; lectures requiring digital resources will be conducted at the facilities of the Dipartimento di Antichità e Tradizione Classica of Roma “Tor Vergata” near the hill-town of Frascati, just outside Rome.  Latin sections will read and discuss Latin texts pertaining to the sites being visited, and these meetings will primarily be conducted on-site or otherwise in the open air: e.g. selections from the Roman architect Vitruvius and the account of the eruption by Pliny will be read at Pompeii.

The archaeological facets of the course will also take place primarily within Latium with extensive, on-site study of archaeological remains and current excavations: including Ostia, Tivoli, Praeneste, Sutri, Gabii, Albano Laziale, and others.  The development of the Roman city will be extensively covered with on-site lectures and guided study.  As a set of comparanda for the sites and museums of Latium, students will conduct on-site study of significant sites in Etruria and Campania.  Study of the Etruscan sites will provide insight into the conditions of the formation of early Rome and will include visits to Tarquinia, Cerveteri, Veii, and other significant sites.  Since continuous occupation and limited excavation has obscured the urban fabric of Rome itself, students will travel to Campania in the final week of the course for extensive study of domestic architecture and Roman urban planning at Pompeii, Herculaneum, and significant sites surrounding the bay of Naples.

This course is particularly aimed at students who wish to develop the foundations for research projects that build upon their experiences in Latium and that advance new digital methods to deepen our understanding of the past in ways unavailable through traditional modes of scholarship.  Technologies include Geographic Information Systems for the analysis and reconstructions of the ancient landscape as a system, 3D modeling to test hypotheses about the reconstruction of particular sites or buildings, and the application of TEI XML, linguistic annotation, and modern imaging technologies to the study of historical sources.

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