Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Gabii Project: Archaeology in The Information Age

Racel Opitz demonstrates use of the tablets to students .
Racel Opitz demonstrates use of the tablets to students .

Rachel Opitz doesn’t dig much at Gabii, but rather records. Leading a core team of four, her topography, data entry, and photogrammetric modelling unit is tasked with the construction of a digital database on a large scale.

“We have scale issues,” Rachel chuckles, “Well, they’re not issues because the method works.”
Rachel’s team has implemented strategies and introduced technologies aimed at increasing efficiency within The Gabii Project to support a large open area excavation. They upgrade software and propose new methods nearly every field season. Most recently, Rachel brought tablet technology to the scene, replacing almost all of the paper recording formerly done in the trenches with direct to digital recording on Panasonic ToughPads and Android tablets, linked in real-time to the project’s ARK database and GIS system.

“One of the reasons we were able to open such a large excavation area as is that the recording is just so fast,” Rachel states plainly. “You can answer very different archaeological questions working at this scale”

Several forms of digital recording can be uploaded and processed in real-time using the current configuration.
Several forms of digital recording can be uploaded and processed in real-time using the current configuration.

The Gabii Project isn’t the only dig using digital recording. Excavations at Çatalhöyük and Pompeii—to name a couple high-profile cases—are also making use of similar systems, and such methods have been increasingly adopted in recent years. In Rachel’s opinion, what sets The Gabii Project apart is Program Director Nicola Terrenato’s insistence on using these systems extensively from the beginning.

“More and more people are doing some variant on what we’re doing, and that’s a good thing. Of course we try to stay at the forefront, so five years from now we’ll be doing something totally different.”

You can follow Rachel’s work at: http://gabiiserver.adsroot.itcs.umich.edu/gabiigoesdigital/

This post was adapted from James Reslier-Wells'  post to The 2014 International Day of Archaeology on behalf of The Gabii Project.

The Gabii Project: A Moment with Field Directors Anna and Marcello


Gabii Project Managing and Field Directors Marcello Mogetta and Anna Gallone visit Area F to see how things are going.
Gabii Project Managing and Field Directors Marcello Mogetta and Anna Gallone visit Area F to see how things are going.

The Gabii Project is an excavation and field school run jointly with The University of Michigan and The University of Verona. We are excavating the Ancient Latin city of Gabii, about 20 km East of Rome. The city grew alongside Rome through the first millennium, BC, and into the 3rd century AD, when it was finally abandoned. Throughout its existence, the city underwent many of the same changes as its more famous neighbor except for one crucial point: it hasn’t been developed further. This fact allows us pure excavation of the site, without millennia of modernization stacked atop it.
But today, we focus less on the story of the site, and more on those who have cultivated it. First, we have Managing and Field Directors Marcello Mogetta, and Anna Gallone…

Anna Gallone and Marcello Mogetta taking a quick break.
Anna Gallone and Marcello Mogetta taking a quick break.

“Archaeology is one of the best activities ever,” begins Marcello, “because you have the feeling of discovery; I guess that’s what drives us despite the effort, the grueling conditions associated with digs.”

At The Gabii Project, however, Marcello’s work is mainly administrative. As a so-called “big dig,” there is a lot of logistical work to be done not only on-site, dealing with safety concerns, and choosing where to dig and where to spend money, but also during the off season where securing permits, writing and submitting papers, and choosing new staff take precedence.

“The important point to realize is that these are not isolated tasks,” maintains Marcello, “It’s so linked together… and this is not something that starts on June 1st and ends on August 1st, it continues throughout the off season.”

“What happens here in five weeks is the result of ten months of preparation,” Chimes in Anna, whose work is also primarily logistical.

Even with all of the preparations and planning, the two are still very busy during the field season. This affords the two little time to participate in the actual fieldwork, their real passion. While they do make time to buck this trend where they can—such as when they lead the excavation of a lead sarcophagus in 2009—the two long for their days working in the field.

“Our secret dream is to go work as volunteers in another field school, with fewer responsibilities,” Marcello half-jokes, with Anna adding: “Back to the old days, when the only thing that really mattered was excavating a layer correctly and finding something cool.”

Anna Gallone and Marcello Mogetta snag a rare moment to join the active excavation
Anna Gallone and Marcello Mogetta snag a rare moment to join the active excavation.

Regardless of the desire to get back out to the field, both are fiercely proud of The Gabii Project and their roles therein. In fact, both of their favorite parts of the program have to do with its inherent structure.
“I’ve been a field archaeologist for 20 years now,” states Anna. “I have never ever seen a site with so many people working together at the same time on so many different aspects.”

As for Marcello, “The project is constantly evolving, I mean the way we started six years ago, you would hardly recognize it. In a way, this is like a living organism, growing and changing, so I’m very curious to see what this is going to look like in 10 years.”

This post was adapted from James Reslier-Wells'  post to The 2014 International Day of Archaeology on behalf of The Gabii Project.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tha Gabii Project and the state of Italian archaeology

An interview with Nic Terrenato just appeared on the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano. The article discusses the state of Italian archaeology in light of the recent funding cuts by the Italian government, and highlights the important contribution of US-based and other foreign institutions.

Gabii in the Top 10 Discoveries of 2013!

The Archaeology magazine has selected Gabii's Area F building as one of the Top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2013! A large chunk of this monumental building, which features imposing ashlar architecture and finely appointed floors, was uncovered in 2012-2013. In July 2013 the sensational find was first announced in a short article by Prof. Mario Torelli, featured in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Additional coverage from news outlets in the UK and the US soon followed. Most notable are a piece that appeared in the New York Times, and a release by the University of Michigan's news service. Both include a summary of the finds, and quotes from Nic Terrenato and other team members. A story on the dig was included in the september/october 2013 issue of the UK-based magazine Minerva.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lecture on Lapis Gabinus at the Kelsey Museum FAST series

Jason Farr (Michigan) will present the results of current research on the well-preserved quarries at Gabii in a a lecture titled "Lapis Gabinus and the Economy of Urban Construction: Recent Fieldwork at Gabii and Rome". The talk is part of the Field Archaeology Series on Thursday, and is sponsored by the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Thursday November 21st at 6:00 pm (Kelsey Museum, Lecture Hall).

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gabii Goes Digital... at the Digital Heritage 2013 Conference


We're excited to be leading a joint workshop, together with Ilaria Meliconi and Bernard Frischer of the Digital Applications in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (DAACH) journal, on 3D models, Peer Review and Publication at the Digital Heritage 2013 Conference in Marseille. Our workshop will be Monday, October 28 from 2:00pm - 6:00pm. During this workshop we will be presenting our work so far within the Gabii Goes Digital project. Participants will have the opportunity to participate in a 'mock peer review' through which they will critique the digital content we've created in terms of interface, information content,and integration with the narrative and argument.This exercise will act as a springboard for open discussion, in which participants will define key issues in developing a process for the peer reviewed publication of the kinds of digital 3D models and complex, interactive data archaeological projects like the Gabii Project are now producing. You can read more at: http://sched.co/19fV9w7. If you're attending the conference in Marseille, we hope you can join us at the workshop!

gabii goes digital integrated narrative and models
Work in Progress: Integrating model content and basic stratigraphic narrative.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Gabii Project announces its 2014 season (June 22-July 26)

Applications are now being accepted from students and volunteers who wish to participate in the 2014 season.The field program will run from June 22 to July 26, 2014.

Detailed information on the application process can be found on the project website. The call has also been published on the AFOB listing of the Archaeological Institute of America.