Sunday, 13 December 2015

Missing out

Former Wihuri Fellowship holders in Helsinki (photo via the IRF/Villa Lante)

It seems a fitting morning to reflect the academic events that were happening while I was in the fieldwork in Volterra. Tomorrow I will be disappearing to the world of punctuation, indentations and reference formatting while my colleagues group to Bradford to discuss archaeological theory in the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference and have the annual TAG party. After gallivanting for four weeks abroad, it is my turn to do the school run - and perhaps occasionally see from the Twitter stream what is going on. I also seem to have misplaced the family cat, who was not supposed to be let outside due to recent operation...

It was lovely, though, in Volterra

The timing of Volterra fieldwork was beyond my choice, so unfortunately, I could not attend the Swedish ämneskonferens for classical archaeologists and ancient historians, even if I had originally make the trip on my own cost, if possible. It is useful to hear what other people are studying and I would have had my own presentation to give, if there had been space in the programme. The timing of the conference also meant that I could not organise the visit of the director of the Swedish Institute in Rome to Volterra, even if I have money reserved for it. This has to wait until the coming year.

At least I was handed the programme of the conference. The research themes covered by the Swedish classicists are fascinating ranging from the Mediterranean-wide study of the polygonal columns (Tess Paulson) to family potraits in Athenian grave monuments (Agneta Strömberg) and to the changes brought by Roman expansion in Ager Bleranus (Hampus Ohlsson). This year in this biannual meeting the focus was on PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, but the professors and lecturers presented their field projects and teaching and more famous researchers presented their latest projects (public mourning, Ida Östenberg) and there was also indications of the things to come (Francavilla di Sicilia, Kristian Göransson).

Since I was in fieldwork, my excuse not attending the classical events was rock solid. Regardless, I was feeling a bit sorry my face could not be among the former Wihuri stipendiates, the grant holders in the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae. The trust of the institute and the Wihuri Foundation organised a big gala dinner to celebrate the 50 years of the fellowship on November 19. This naturally collided with the ämneskonferens, so at least I did not have to choose, which country, Rome institute and group of colleagues to support. I had managed to write a short piece remembering my stay in Rome during the academic year 1997/1998 that involved learning Etruscan pottery with Marco Rendeli's group of laureandi, part of the restudy of the South Etruria Project, at the British School at Rome, mixing with the Finnish au pair crowd in selected bars, taking part in the excavations at Veii and having discussion lessons in Italian from an architecture student whose competition work I ended up taking to Barcelona. My fellow ex-Wihurist told me that all he could remember of my piece was my difficulties with Italian verbs! It may be that my Italian colleagues strongly agree. Well, at least I could see the photos on the Facebook page!

It was not only the things classical I missed. I also missed the Finnish archaeologist days, which naturally were this year organised in my home city of Tampere. I could have seen my friends and visit my mother before Christmas at the same time. The programme concentrated on Finnish industrial heritage, very suitable topic for the old textile and paper industrial town. Now most of the factories are silent or transformed to offices, flats, shopping centres and museum spaces, but the old paper factory by the rapids still pushes steam. My own report as the Editor-in-Chief of the Monographs of the Archaeological Society in Finland (MASF) had been sent hastily in a few lines in an e-mail before vanishing to Italy.

I and my assistant managed to have a small miss ourselves in Rome. I suddenly realised on the last Friday that I have to put the drawing board, graph paper, first aid kit and other utensils somewhere and contacted Villa Lante, the Finnish Institute in Rome where naturally nobody could guarantee that anybody will be on a late Sunday afternoon in the house. It was a glorious sunny Sunday that day when we drove through Etruria back to Rome. Predictably, all were out, so all I could do was to throw everything in a plastic bag, tape a message in Finnish and Italian onto the drawing board explaining that the things should go to the office and that I will sort them out the next time I will be in Rome and throw the items inside the gate. Apparently, it was not raining during the night, since everything had been collected and taken inside.

Nevertheless, may be I should mention an occasion I could make. I did advertise and also tweet about the marvellous talk Dr Rebecca Jones gave on the Roman camps in Britain in the Royal Archaeological Institute lecture. Next time, I hope the photos also go through - it apparently was an evening of cyber attacks and Twitter and my phone just could handle texts. The following morning all went swimmingly through.

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