Thursday, 16 August 2012

Perceptions of Flag Fen Alive

This week brought us the news that the crowd-funded excavation at Flag Fen had finished. Peterborough Times quoted Lisa Westcott Wilkins, managing director of DigVentures that run the excavation, who said that they achieved what they wanted to achieve, and they had nothing but positive feedback from people who participated. They stated that the project was a ‘success’.

Journalist does archaeology (picture link)

A reporter from Peterborough Times, their feature editor, visited the excavation and got into cleaning a trench. He joined a team of 25 people who were made up of DigVentures members, Birmingham University archaeologists, total beginners, and the excavation dog called Fergus. During the first day the finds included a fragment of a 5,000 year-old flint axe, animal bones and holes left by the now-vanished timbers used in Flag Fen’s causeway.

On the day the reporter was entertained by resident flint knappers evocative descriptions but he described the hard work in the brutal sunshine in 30 degree heat. Nevertheless, he considered documenting what was found the previous day in the 20-metre long trench by the 10 or so people who had paid to dig “the less inspiring aspect of archaeology away from the uncovering”. But he noted that the enthusiasm of experts on the day, including DigVentures managing director Lisa Wescott Wilkins and Time Team regular and project manager Raksha Dave, remained undimmed.

It is interesting to note that Martin Carver who gave a talk as part of the project in the evening of that same day was somewhat pessimistic about local participation. He pointed to his own experiences in similar project in Scotland and at Sutton Hoo; at the latter site it took three or four years before anyone from the surrounding area came to see the excavation. However, he pointed out that there is a big population in Peterborough and when the schools will be involved, the children will bring their family and parents. This may suggest that people who happily may take part into local archaeology groups are less likely to pay for their local pastime. Considering the success of garden test pits and Michael Wood, one suspects that people come more easily when the site is not over-familiar and they can experience a new famous site.

The trench (picture link)

The day by day news feed can be found on the DigVentures web site. It is clear that the sunny weather helped a lot since the similar weather as early in the ‘summer’ would have resulted in misery for all parties. Now there is a continuous thread of upbeat tweets. The project also got good coverage from the BBC with a prompt about the closure of the dig.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Not Ferragosto yet

Sometimes working in Italy can test your patience. I already told you about my futile trip to Civita Castellana in order to draw some pottery. However, now I have managed to get these few diagnostic pieces drawn and I also found out that my study space was upgraded! I was not in a dark former jail room near entrance but in a room along the main court next to the conservation department. This room was lighter and had a lamp ready. In three hours and with an extra check I was done. If only the travel would have taken so many hours.

One can see that the winter was harsh since Via Flaminia was full off filled potholes and giving me a bumpy ride. Due to the hot weather I rushed towards Rome with the air conditioning on a full blast. I did not register where I was although I just had passed the S. Oreste junction. Thus, I apparently managed to earn three points to my driving licence – although a scholar in the institute suggested they were not added to Finnish driving licences that do not use point system. I have been contemplating the change to the British one so I was glad I had not got around to it just yet.

The weather is one of the number one discussion topics in Italy since after an unusual cold winter the summer started with the August temperatures already in June. I was in the city when the fourth afa-warning came into place. This one had a snazzy name with a dragon in its name and blew from the deserts of Algeria. The first part of my week was manageable with cool nights but the latter part was sweaty and boiling. In the afternoon the mind started to wonder in a small sweaty room. Unfortunately, the same space took the morning sun during the coolest time of the working day but with a certain finishing day one had to try to plough through even if the heat made everything slow.

Luckily, I had made my trip to the library – Biblioteca Nazionale, the only large library open in August in Rome – during a cooler day. The visits always take the same trajectory. You hurry in order to the library order the book you need and then linger around for an hour while waiting for your order. This time around there was something important also in the open collection so I could start my hectic note taking straight after having my morning coffee.

I can here apologize those colleagues I should have contacted but could not under the heavy workload and travelling with my young family. Pazienza – the things will happen when the weather is cooler and the mountains are not obscured by afa.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Everyday view of the Eternal City

What is the first thing you do when you get to Rome? That is after you have made your way from either of the airports to the city centre. Every now and then, as occurred yesterday, my first thing is to go to the supermarket to fetch the dinner and the essentials for the breakfast. This time it was more urgent than ever since my son would not have taken missing his evening milk lightly. It was only an hour to the closing time and it was easier to run down the hill to the well-trotted supermarket instead of finding the way to the more distant ones that are open until 11pm or 24 hours.

So here I went with a rucksack in my back, through the gate and through the park where a large number of pensioners had placed their deckchairs in groups. Down the chairs past the Spanish school and down the second set of chairs into Trastevere. Then a brisk walk across the square almost not seeing the tourist sitting around the fountain and ignoring the beggers. A brief scan around on both sides of the road as I proceeded. Yes, Bar San Calisto was full and my favourite pizza place and the neighbouring pizza places were open for business as well so the future meals seem sorted. Then a quick spurt down the road, turn right and through the doors, meandering through the children’s clothing section (Yes!! The sale is still on!) and down the stairs to the super market.

What followed was a 1920’s comedy silent film paced run through the super market. A grab of minimum fruit and veg and rapid progress to the chilled milk section. A quick pick of a couple of yogurts and plenty of milk, basic cheese and then a turn to look for some bread. Next picking up some ham and a diversion to the wine section. I paused only to check that the white wines snapped from the discount section were not the ones I do normally avoided. I had a grave disappointment when my favourite coffee was out but Lavazza Rossa will do. I managed to find the rearranged fruit juice section and pass the biscuit one and proceed to the tills just before when the lady started to make announcements about the imminent closure of the shop. After ignoring the usual pleas for small change – I did only have a one big note – I had achieved a result. The final hurdle was waiting for the regular bus and get uphill with my bags bursting. Now we were able to cook our dinner. How mundane can a first night in the Eternal City be!