Sunday, 15 November 2015

How many archaeologists am I? Part 4: Italy

At Crustumerium in February 2008

Today I try to tackle briefly the trickiest of the questions: am I an archaeologist in Italy?

Well, I have been, if one considers that I took part as a volunteer student at the excavations at Veii and Ischia di Castro when I was the postgraduate grant holder in the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae in the late 1990s. I also ran the Nepi survey and the Cisterna Grande excavations at Crustumerium, Rome, as a doctoral and postdoctoral research. The foreign teams are incorporated into the national system of applying for the excavations and research permits, but as I write this, the implementation of the new law governing the permits is going on. The permits were previously approved and signed by the local Superintendency, but now an Italy-wide office has been established and the practical reorganisation is ongoing. How this will change the practice is not perfectly clear.

Nevertheless, the different systems and practices related to archaeology and governing the administration excavations has been in flux for some time now. One can read Pintucci and Cella’s (2014) report on archaeological profession in Italy in the recent years and perhaps get an idea how the profession has changed hugely at least in northern Italy. The system there conforms closely to that of commercial archaeology in Britain. As an archaeologist carrying out fieldwork in Italy I am not part of this professional commercial system but the one of the archaeologists working in the parallel system for the international teams and foreign academies. The answer is therefore that I am definitely maybe an archaeologist in Italy. Perhaps half an archaeologist: a foreign archaeologist involved in Italian archaeology.

I am not sure how easy it would be for a foreign academic to be hired professionally in Italy, if I moved there. Similarly, I am not sure how easily I would be hired within commercial archaeology. There are a lot of talented people there making their way to get salaried jobs and any economic downturns make it only harder for individuals.

On an excursion with a colleague in 2015

The reality is that the profession does not stand still. During the time I directed excavations in Italy, we got the safety plans and a health and safety official. I did not have doctor’s statement for all involved in the field, but now the directors of excavations have to present them to the authorities and the diggers have to get them. I could work in Britain as an assistant site officer without having a series of passes on my name, but now I have to get them, if I need to work for units again (which I was expecting to do until last week in not so far away future).

What is clear is that the discussion is on in many countries, not the least in Finland, Britain and Italy, regarding the professionalism in archaeology and the directions where the commercial model is taking us. In Britain it is an extremely capitalist and lean model that does not provide much of job security for diggers but has resulted in the creation of efficient recording systems. In a country like Finland where all sites and archaeology in principle belongs to state and is governed by the all-binding antiquities law and the National Boards of Antiquities, the discussion is on, if there is much point to fragment the field and let business confidentiality to enter the picture as Sweden has done when allowing the commercial units to carry out excavations. The active discussions mean that we are involved and interested in archaeology and fieldwork, even if those circles funding universities, research and heritage do not always seem to be. I hope we do not fall in despair when they show the lack of interest but stay intellectually active.

All in all, three and half archaeologists after four weeks of consideration. Not a bad figure.

Now I will be ready for another season of fieldwork in Italy as a Finnish archaeologist currently funded by the Swedish Kungliga Vitterhetsakademien and representing Stockholm University, living and being active in UK and soon-to-be working in Sweden again.

Sinkhole at Le Balze and Badia in Volterra in 2014


Pintucci, A. and Cella, E. (eds.) 2014. Discovering the Archaeologists of Italy 2012–14. Translated from Italian by D. Pate. Milan: Confederazione Italiana Archeologi,

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