The "Villa of the Antonines" 2017: Goals for the Summer

This summer will be the eighth season that a team of researchers, professors, and students will be attending the Villa of the Antonines Achaeological Field School. Deborah Chatr Aryamontri and Timothy Renner, both professors in the Classics department at Montclair State University, co-direct the excavation of an Imperial Roman Villa believed to have belonged to the Antonine family.

The crew ventures to the countryside of Rome, Italy, to uncover and preserve ancient artifacts and ruins of this site. When the team arrives, they must first expose the previously excavated ruins, which get a protective cover during the off-season to prevent looting, weathering, and safety hazards. The rest of the time on the excavation field school is spent digging and cleaning with picks, shovels, and brushes.

There are two main areas in the excavation site. Area 1 has bath complex ruins, which were previously the only visible structure above ground. The team has spent several seasons revealing a small amphitheater, characterized by its curvilinear arrangement and features that are present in other amphitheaters, such as the Coliseum. Area 2 is a more residential area: a mostly unearthed structure with separate chambers, which allude to a residential suite of rooms. In both of these areas, the team mostly uncovers pottery, bricks, marble slabs, tesserae, and broken pieces of painted fresco.

This year, the directors hope to accomplish a number of goals while on the excavation. Aside from further exploring the two existing areas, they hope to investigate the roughly 450 ft of space in between the two excavated areas. Geophysical survey in this rolling landscape has shown evidence that there could be walls or structures there.

Another goal the project directors have for the coming seasons is to continue their work on a GIS (Geographic Information System) database of the site and surrounding areas. This particular project began earlier this semester, funded by a grant from the Global Education Department. The team welcomed visiting scholars, Dr. Giuseppe Ceraudo and Dr. Veronica Ferrari from the University of Salento, who came to Montclair State University in March to give a lecture about new technology in archaeology and a workshop on GIS. 

The GIS database will also include data about the surrounding area, including the town of Genzano di Roma and other surrounding suburbs, where the team also stays in a hotel and frequents the local gelaterias. This town is known for it’s annual flower festival, the Infiorata. The town gathers to view an ornate carpet (made completely out of flowers) leading from the commune building at the top of the hill, all the way down to the main road.

The excavation field school attracts many participants with different backgrounds and careers. Joining them this year are four returning participants, four students coming from outside universities, and many students from Montclair State who are studying classics, anthropology, history, tourism, and other related majors. To see these students on their Villa of the Antonines Journey, follow the team on social media.