Archaeological Fieldwork: Summer 2020

It was an unusual summer for archaeological fieldwork in Italy, with many teams sadly unable to excavate due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. However, following the necessary precautions, the archaeologists at the BSR were able to continue its rich programme of archaeological surveys in support of its own research programme and those of other colleagues.

Fieldwork in Rome has continued on our ERC funded research project Rome Transformed (led by Newcastle University, with the Università degli Studi di Firenze and the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche). In June, Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey was conducted inside the Amphitheatrum Castrense, a 3rd century AD amphitheatre that formed part of the Sessorium.

GPR survey in the Amphitheatrum Castrense, inside the property of the Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Photo: Francesca Carboni)

With the support of experts from Geostudi Astier and the kind permission of Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma, another geophysical technique, Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT), was also used to survey parts of the Circus Varianus which also formed part of the complex.

ERT inside the Circus Varianus, with the Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in the background (Photo: Stephen Kay)
BSR Geophysical Researcher Elena Pomar conducting topographical survey at the Circus Varianus (Photo: Stephen Kay)

Together with the team from Geostudi Astier, ERT was also conducted inside the public gardens in Viale Carlo Felice, with the aim of mapping deeply buried structures alongside the Aurelian walls. The work was conducted with the generous support of the project partners the Sovrintendenza Capitolina.

BSR and Geostudi Astier teams working with ERT in Viale Carlo Felice, next to the Aurelian walls (Photo: Francesca Carboni)

In July, the BSR archaeology team headed into the Sabina to Cotilia, northeast of Rome, to conduct GPR and magnetometry surveys at the so-called ‘Baths of Vespasian’ on the behalf of colleagues at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax.

BSR Archaeology Officer Stephen Kay conducting magnetometry survey at Cotilia (Photo: Elena Pomar)

The site, which lies alongside the ancient consular road of the Via Salaria, is a sprawling complex whose precise function is still unclear but which includes thermal baths and a medieval church.

An excavated section of the Via Salaria at Cotilia (Photo: Stephen Kay)

From the hills of the Sabina, the team then headed across Lazio to the Tyrrhenian coast and the wonderful site of Vulci, an Etruscan and then later Roman city. In 2019 the BSR had conducted a preliminary survey at the site, testing GPR and magnetometry, on the behalf of the University of Gothenburg. The exciting results, shortly to be published in the Bollettino di Archeologia Online, encouraged the team to further extend the GPR survey to map larger parts of the city.

BSR Geophysical Researcher Elena Pomar conducting GPR survey at Vulci (Photo: Stephen Kay)
A paved section of the roads inside the city of Vulci (Photo: Stephen Kay)

Rome Transformed: new ERC-funded research project gets underway

The Caelian hill in Rome, which occupies much of the south-east quarter of the city within the Aurelian walls, is today dominated by the archbasilica of Rome, Saint John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano). Yet between the 1st and 8th century AD it grew from an area of private luxury dwellings, to the site of a major military camp, to the construction of fortifications and later the world’s first cathedral. The Rome Transformed project aims to reveal how these constructions were a reflection of the prevailing political, military and religious ideas.

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Rome Transformed team. Photo credit: Ian Haynes

The ERC advanced grant funded (2019-2024) project draws together expertise from Newcastle University, the Università degli Studi di Firenze, the British School at Rome and the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche. The project is led by Professor Ian Haynes, together with Professor Paolo Liverani (a BSR Honorary Fellow), Stephen Kay and Dott. Salvatore Piro, together with two recently appointed project Research Associates, Dr Thea Ravasi and Dr Francesca Carboni.

Over the course of the next two years the team from the BSR, Archaeology Officer Stephen Kay and Geophysics Researcher Elena Pomar, will focus on the sub-surface mapping of large areas across the Caelian Hill. Principally using Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Electrical Resistance Tomography (ERT) the team will use these geophysical prospection techniques to enhance of our understanding of a number of buildings across the research area, including the Castrense amphitheatre, the Sessorium and Aurelianic walls.


Stephen Kay and Elena Pomar (BSR) conducting GPR survey in the grounds of Villa Wolkonsky. Photo credit: Ian Haynes

Rome Transformed draws upon the experience of several years of fieldwork mapping the 5,000 square metres of excavations under the basilica of San Giovanni (updates from each season can be found in the PBSR Archaeological Fieldwork Reports). More recently, with the generous support of a BSR donor, the project has been recording the early Imperial houses preserved underneath the Hospital of San Giovanni.

In January 2020 a first season of fieldwork was undertaken, recording the standing monuments in the grounds of Villa Wolkonsky, the residence of the British Ambassador to Italy. Thanks to the kind support of the UK embassy, the team were able to begin a geophysical survey of the gardens, a structural analysis of the Neronian spur of the Aqua Claudia and the Colombario of Tiberius Claudius Vitalis, as well as record the structures with laser scanning and HD photography.

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Alex Turner and Jon Allison (NCL) conducting laser scanning inside the Tomb of Tiberius Claudius Vitalis. Photo credit: Elena Pomar

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Thea Ravasi and Francesca Carboni (Rome Transformed Project Research Associates). Photo credit: Elena Pomar

In March team returned to focus on several monuments. The structural analysis and laser scanning continued of the Aqua Claudia and detailed recording was made of the tombs preserved in Via Statilia. The geophysical survey undertaken by the BSR explored the area alongside the Aurelian walls, using the technique of ERT to better understand the depth of stratigraphy and to locate suitable deposits for subsequent mechanical coring. In front of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran the team from CNR used the technique of GPR to investigate the sub-surface, building upon results collected during the earlier San Giovanni in Laterano project. Sadly the season was curtailed after 1 week due to the current COVID-19 pandemic but preparations are underway to continue the fieldwork once the current restrictions are lifted.


The CNR team led by Salvatore Piro surveying in front of St. John Lateran Basilica, March 2020. Photo credit: Ian Haynes.


Alex Turner undertaking photography of the Aqua Claudia. Photo credit: Elena Pomar.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 835271). The project is grateful to the staff of the La Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma and Roma Capitale – Sovrintendenza ai Beni Culturali for their support. Our thanks is also extended to the British Ambassador to Italy and San Marino Jill Morris CMG and the team at the British Ambassador’s residence at Villa Wolkonsky, in particular Allegra Serrao the Residence Manager.



Exploring life and death on a Roman imperial estate at Vagnari, Puglia

BSR alumna and Professor of Roman Archaeology Maureen Carroll, and Associate Professor of Anthropology Tracy Prowse (McMaster) update us on one of the BSR’s associated projects, the Vagnari imperial estate. This summer two teams of researchers from the University of Sheffield and McMaster University continued their archaeological research on the Roman settlement and associated cemetery at Vagnari, located about 15 km northwest of the large Iron Age settlement at Botromagno (modern Gravina in Puglia).


Map showing location of Vagnari in south-east Italy (Puglia). Map by M. Carroll.

Since the archaeological discovery in 2000 by Alastair and Carola Small of a vast Roman estate around Vagnari, the retrieval of ceramic roof tiles stamped with the name of an imperial slave has indicated that this estate and its central settlement (vicus) were the property of the Roman emperor himself.  Thanks to the excavations by the University of Sheffield from 2012 to 2018, it is now clear that the imperial settlement was developed at the very beginning of the first century AD, perhaps by Augustus, and that it enjoyed a significant burst of activity at this time. Excavations in the last two years have pushed the chronology of the site back to the second century BC, however, by revealing a late Republican settlement that may have been one of those established by Roman aristocrats and speculators expanding into Apulia after the Roman conquest of the region in the third century AD. This private landholding at Vagnari then entered imperial possession, perhaps through inheritance, in the early first century AD. Archaeological evidence points to the period between the late first and the mid-fourth century AD as the most active and productive phase of occupation in the vicus at Vagnari, with the late fourth century witnessing the decline and abandonment of the settlement.


Excavating a pit filled with pottery of the Augustan period in the vicus. Photo by M. Carroll.

In preparation for the final publication of the vicus, an international team of specialists on the University of Sheffield project came together in Gravina in 2019 to conduct an analysis of specific finds complexes that are particularly informative and offer new perspectives. The focus of our work this summer and in the coming months is on the networks that were established to create and develop the imperial estate and the connectivity between this region and others in and beyond Italy. Artefactual and environmental remains were studied to investigate the supply of imported ceramics and decorative marbles, the mobility of animals in transhumance patterns, cereal cultivation strategies, and on-site industrial outputs. Imperial properties have been studied primarily on the basis of historical texts and inscriptions, but the high-resolution archaeological data at Vagnari enables us to take a broader and, at the same time, more nuanced approach to studying such estates. The carefully documented sequences of occupation and diagnostic material at Vagnari allows us to explore the profound changes in social and political contexts, human and animal mobility, and economic regimes in this region of southern Italy brought about by its annexation to the Roman state and its regional exploitation by the imperial elite. Work on the post-excavation analysis and publication of the research is ongoing currently at the University of York.

Work in the Roman cemetery at Vagnari began in 2002, and since that time excavations have uncovered over 150 burials dating between the first and fourth centuries AD. The burials in this cemetery provide an opportunity to understand what life was like on an imperial estate and how these people buried their dead. Fieldwork continued in July and August under the direction of Tracy Prowse (McMaster University, Canada), with the aim of continuing to reveal the extent of the cemetery to the West and South of previously excavated trenches.

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Plan of the cemetery with areas excavated in 2019 outlined in black. Plan F. Taccogna, courtesy of T. Prowse.

The large northern trench contained five alla cappuccina burials similar to those found in other Roman cemeteries. Four additional cappuccina burials were reinforced with hundreds of kilograms of stone and mortar surrounding the tile structure. This year we found three burials that appeared to have been intentionally disturbed in antiquity, one of which was re-used, indicated by disarticulated bones clustered at the end of the burial  and the presence of multiple individuals inside the same disturbed tomb.

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Photo of burial F352 with cluster of bones at the South end of the burial. Photo by T. Prowse.

In the smaller southern trench, we uncovered five cappuccina burials badly damaged by modern ploughing, but also found a number of young children and infants (less than a year old) who were intentionally buried adjacent to the tomb covers, bringing the total number of individuals recovered from this trench to eleven. Most of the burials in both areas of the cemetery contained a small number of modest grave goods, typically ceramic vessels, lamps, iron objects (e.g. blades, nails), and some items of personal adornment. Ongoing bioarchaeological analysis of the skeletal sample from the Vagnari cemetery is investigating diet, mobility, activity, and health of this rural Roman population.

Pottery work

Sorting and cataloguing vicus pottery (David Griffiths, Kelsey Madden, Sarah Hayes) at the Centro Operativo per l’Archeologia di Gravina in Puglia (Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paessagio) in 2019. Photo by M. Carroll.

The Sheffield 2019 fieldwork was funded through research grants from the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust, the Rust Family Foundation, and the University of Sheffield. Participants included Sally Cann, Maureen Carroll, David Griffiths, Sarah Hayes, Caroline Jackson, Petrus Le Roux, Louis Olivier Lortie, Kelsey Madden, Giuseppe Montana, Jonathan Moulton, Rebecca Sgouros, Matthew Stirn, Angela Trentacoste, and David Wigg-Wolf.

The 2019 field season by McMaster University was funded, in part, through a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (#430-2017-00291). The 2019 excavation team included Liana Brent, Marissa Ledger, Franco Taccogna, and 22 undergraduate students from McMaster and other Canadian universities.


Excavations in the Roman cemetery. Photo by T. Prowse.

Maureen Carroll (Professor of Roman Archaeology, University of York (since 2020); BSR Hugh Last Fellow 2015-16; BSR Balsdon Fellow 2007-8) and Tracy Prowse (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, McMaster University; director of excavations in the cemetery at Vagnari).

City of Rome Postgraduate Course 2019

A long-established component of the BSR study offer, the annual City of Rome Postgraduate Course took place from 1 April to 29 May 2019. With Cary Fellow Robert Coates-Stephens on sabbatical (on a Fellowship at ANAMED, the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations within Koç University of Istanbul), this year’s course was directed by Amanda Claridge (Royal Holloway University of London, Emerita Professor). The programme was co-organised and run with Niccolò Mugnai (Residential Research Fellow) and with the precious support of Stefania Peterlini (Permissions Officer); logistical support was kindly provided by Tanya Di Rienzo (Administrative Officer), Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager), and Christine Martin (Residence and Estate Manager). The course was attended by a group of eleven MA and PhD students from the universities of Nottingham, Manchester, Oxford, St Andrews, Warwick, Reading, and King’s College London.

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The City of Rome group at the Maritime Theatre of Hadrian’s Villa.

Each year this course offers an exciting opportunity to delve deep into the history, archaeology, topography, art and architecture of the Eternal City. The richness of the programme and its thoroughness make this course unique in the context of higher education within and beyond the UK. This year’s programme was further expanded to include some sites located in the environs of Rome: Segni, Tivoli, Praeneste, Grottaferrata, the Alban Hills (Lanuvium, the Alban Lake, Nemi, Villa Palazzola), and Rome’s maritime façade (Ostia, Portus, Isola Sacra, Castelporziano). The chronological frame under examination spanned from the Archaic period through to Late Antiquity (eighth century BC – fifth century AD). However, we also looked at the profound urban transformations of the Medieval and Baroque periods, dedicating some time to visiting the principal churches in Rome, such as Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in Laterano, San Pietro in Vincoli, Santa Maria in Cosmedin, San Lorenzo in Lucina, Sant’Agnese fuori le mura, Santa Sabina, and Santa Maria in Trastevere.

The course provided an up-to-date account of the historical development of the major monuments and urban spaces of ancient Rome, discussing – and in some cases challenging – the results of the most recent archaeological research undertaken in the heart of the city. This was complemented by targeted visits to the Capitoline Museums (Palazzo dei Conservatori, Palazzo Clementino-Caffarelli, Palazzo Nuovo, Centrale Montemartini), the Etruscan National Museum (Villa Giulia and Villa Poniatowski), the Roman National Museum (Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, Baths of Diocletian), the National Museum of the Early Middle Ages, the Vatican Museums (Museo Gregoriano Profano, Museo Pio Clementino, Museo Gregoriano Egizio, Museo Chiaramonti, Museo Profano, Braccio Nuovo), the Ara Pacis Museum, the Museum of the Imperial Fora at Trajan’s Markets, as well as to the various indoor and outdoor exhibitions that are currently on display across Rome (read the review by BSR Rome Fellow Christopher Siwicki here).

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View over the Forum, Palatine, and Capitoline from the Vittoriano’s panoramic terrace.

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Investigating the Forum of Caesar and the topography of the Imperial Fora.

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The exedra of Marcus Aurelius in the Capitoline Museums.

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Walking around brickwork tombs in the necropolis of Portus at Isola Sacra.

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Stunning opus sectile decoration from Ostia at the National Museum of the Early Middle Ages.

During many of these site visits the group was accompanied by leading experts, who offered their invaluable insights and fostered a productive discussion with the students: Monica Ceci (Sovrintendenza di Roma Capitale), Francesco Maria Cifarelli (Sovrintendenza di Roma Capitale), Luca Attenni (Museo Archeologico di Lanuvio), Stephen Kay (BSR Archaeology Officer), Letizia Ceccarelli (Politecnico di Milano), Carlo Pavolini (Università della Tuscia), Eleonora Ferrazza (Musei Vaticani), Simonetta Serra (Sovrintendenza di Roma Capitale), Mark Wilson Jones (University of Bath), and Paolo Vitti (University of Notre Dame).

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Discussing the Pantheon’s building project with Mark Wilson Jones.

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A fascinating tour of Hadrian’s Mausoleum (Castel Sant’Angelo) with Paolo Vitti.

Alongside more traditional locations like the Roman Forum, the Palatine, and the Colosseum valley, the City of Rome group was granted the opportunity to access numerous other sites thanks to the permits issued by the respective authorities. Highlights included: the sacred areas of Sant’Omobono and Largo Argentina, the round Temple of Hercules and Temple of Portunus in the Forum Boarium, the insula of the Aracoeli, the Temple of Veiovis on the Capitoline, the auditorium of Maecenas, the House of the Knights of Rhodes, the Altar of the Fire of Nero on the Quirinal, the Basilica Hilariana on the Caelian, the so-called ‘Casa Bellezza’ on the Aventine, the tomb of the Scipios and the colombarium of Pomponius Hylas on the inner Via Appia, the excubitorium of the vigiles in Trastevere, and the archaeological remains and collection of sculptural antiquities at Villa Wolkonsky.

A recurring theme of this year’s programme was undoubtedly represented by ‘underground’ explorations: the mithraea of the Circus Maximus and of Palazzo Barberini, the compital altar of Via San Martino ai Monti, the temples under San Nicola in Carcere, the nymphaeum of Via degli Annibaldi, the Horologium of Augustus, the excavations under the Lateran basilica, the buildings underneath San Clemente, the Roman houses under Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, the sacred spring of Anna Perenna, the insula of the Vicus Caprarius at Trevi, and, of course, Nero’s Domus Aurea.

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Looking at the temples of Largo Argentina and their transformations through time.

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Exploring the preserved frescoes in the auditorium of Maecenas.

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Down into the mithraeum of the Circus Maximus.

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Getting suitably equipped before entering the Domus Aurea.

In addition to the daily site and museum visits, the programme featured a rich series of public lectures which were delivered by international speakers: Eloisa Dodero (Musei Capitolini), Stefano Camporeale (Università di Siena), Paolo Liverani (Università di Firenze), Gabriele Cifani (École normale supérieure, Paris), Frank Sear (University of Melbourne), Nicholas Purcell (University of Oxford), Lynne Lancaster (American Academy in Rome), Ginette Vagenheim (Université de Rouen-Normandie), Christopher Siwicki (BSR;  University of Exeter), and Olivia Elder (BSR; University of Cambridge). The series proved to be a great success among the students and the BSR community of scholars and artists. It was also very well attended by residents of other academies, universities, and institutions in Rome, thus stressing the role played by the BSR in encouraging a stimulating intellectual debate and exchange of ideas with this audience.

Feedback received from the students has confirmed once more the importance and distinctiveness of this programme of study. Among their comments: ‘this was a life-changing experience’, ‘I’ve learned so much and I’m looking forward to putting it into practice’, ‘it was amazing to visit sites that are inaccessible to the public’, ‘my time spent at the BSR on the City of Rome course has been incredible’, ‘I appreciated how interdisciplinary it was’, ‘lectures have been informative, diverse and engaging’. The fact that the course continues to be so popular among our students is due to the enormous efforts of all those who have contributed to its organization, preparation, and development over the years. Indeed, if there is an ambitious plan to pursue, it is the preservation and constant improvement of this course. Ad maiora, City of Rome!

Text and photos by Niccolò Mugnai (BSR Residential Research Fellow)

Ashby Patrons Weekend 2019

This month we hosted our Ashby Patrons visit to Rome, a highlight of the BSR’s annual calendar. The benefaction of our Ashby Patrons plays a vital role in supporting the BSR. This special weekend, exclusively for Ashby Patrons, is a unique opportunity to become more closely involved with the BSR’s activities, award-holders and staff and to understand first-hand the work and mission of the institution. This years’ programme did not disappoint, with a full schedule of varied activities and excursions.

Studio tours (2)

The opportunity for our Patrons to meet and engage with our current resident award-holders is a key part of the weekend, be that through the medium of presentations, studio tours or one-to-one informal conversations over dinner.

Patrons Rinfresco

The first full day of the Patrons weekend included a behind-the-scenes visit to see the collections, Library and Archive of the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, a historically important institution which the BSR collaborates closely with, recently co-hosting this academic years’ international RA250 conference: The Roman Art World in the Eighteenth Century and the Birth of the Art Academy in Britain.

Academia Nazionale di San Luca

Following the visit, we were most grateful for the hospitality of Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Mrs Sally Axworthy MBE, who hosted us at the current Ambassadorial Residence for lunch. HMA Mrs Axworthy explained the direction and work of the Embassy in the context of current major global challenges.

Lunch at the British Embassy to the Holy See

On return to the BSR the Patrons were treated to a wet-plate collodion workshop given by Heritage Photography expert Tony Richards , which focused on the BSR’s archive collections and the photographs of Thomas Ashby, the BSR’s illustrious first director, after whom the Ashby Patrons are named.

Wet Plate Collodion shotThe second day continued along this watery theme… our Patrons took to the river for a boat trip down the Tiber. Despite rather wet conditions our spirits were not dampened – the cruise was most interesting. In the words of Director Stephen Milner it was an “eerie experience cruising down the Tiber… No boats, no developments, no tourists… an abandoned wildlife corridor to the sea. Yet once the umbilical cord that sustained one of the greatest cities known to human history”. The BSR has long worked on both the city and the port of Ostia and Portus, yet future research hopes to explore the river connections between the three sites.

Our boat docked at Isola Sacra where, after lunch, we were treated to a guided tour of the ancient Necropolis by Archaeology Officer Stephen Kay. This site was included in the area which was surveyed as part of The Portus Project, a very successful and long-standing research collaboration between the British School at Rome, the University of Southampton and the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il MNR e l’Area Archeologica di Roma.


To conclude the weekend, Director Stephen Milner delivered a ‘State of the Nation’ address to the Patrons, outlining the current direction and future of the BSR. In light of the update on the progress of the work currently being undertaken on the Lutyens façade, the Patrons were given the opportunity to view Lutyens’ original architectural drawings, recently returned to the BSR and partly conserved due to the generosity of the Patrons additional gifts.  

It was a pleasure to host the Ashby Patrons in Rome and to thank them for their continued encouragement and support.

If you are interested in becoming an Ashby Patron, or would like to learn more about how to support the BSR, please contact Alice Marsh on


Text by Alice Marsh (Impact and Engagement Officer). Images by Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager).

A lecture by BSR Assistant Directors: a legacy and trajectory of interdisciplinarity at the BSR

Earlier this month BSR Assistant Directors Peter Campbell, Martina Caruso and Harriet O’Neill gave a lecture in London at the British Academy examining the origins of the British School at Rome and the pathway forward into the BSR’s twelfth decade.

1911.PNGHarriet O’Neill, Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences: I wanted to use my section to think about why the BSR was conceived as an interdisciplinary institution and how this aspiration worked in practice. In researching this I discovered that the key moment was the move to what had been the British Pavilion at the International Fine Arts Exhibition held in 1911. This is known but what surprised me was the level of BSR involvement in the exhibition itself, particularly the archaeological and ‘historical’ parts of the show which were held elsewhere in Rome.

Martina Caruso, Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries: For my section of the lecture I presented the latest interdisciplinary work that the artists and scholars undertook together as part of a reflection on Brexit and the wider political climate. The workshop resulted in a series of printed flags for the March Mostra which were hoisted on the rooftop during the opening of the exhibition.


In terms of my personal research I’ve been exploring photography by women archaeologists who were working in the Mediterranean at the turn of the last century, a time when the so-called historical sciences like geology, palaeontology and archaeology were gathering momentum but were still very much a man’s world. Among these women I’ve been examining Agnes and Dora Bulwer’s photographs, which are conserved at the BSR archives, and the way in which they adopted the survey style on archaeological field trips while often deviating from that style to photograph the environment, their travelling companions and the people they met. I’m interested in tracing the lives of these women through the photographs they took, since very little is known about them from other sources.


From the Bulwer collection, courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archives

Peter Campbell, Assistant Director for Archaeology and Archaeological Science: For my section of the lecture, I examined the BSR’s archaeological development from horse-drawn carts to drones. Since 1901 the BSR has been an innovator and early adopter of new methods, from Thomas Ashby’s photography to today’s geophysics. I concluded my time by discussing the future trajectories of the BSR and how our new research strategies will prepare for the next century.

Alumni, Members and friends at the reception following the lecture

Watch the video of the lecture below:

Ward-Perkins permanent exhibition opens at Castelnuovo di Porto for the Giornata Nazionale del Paesaggio

Today, on the occasion of the Giornata Nazionale del Paesaggio, a permanent display of photographs from the BSR Collections will be opened in the Sale della Rocca Colonna – with the room being dedicated to former BSR Director and pioneer of landscape archaeology John Bryan Ward-Perkins – at Castelnuovo di Porto. You can read more in this week’s feature in La Repubblica, or in the press release.

giornata del paesaggio

The exhibition John Bryan Ward-Perkins, SOUTH ETRURIA SURVEY. Un’ indagine fotografica sull’Etruria meridionale negli anni ’50 e ’60 is made up of fifteen photographic prints and is curated by Elisabetta Portoghese and Valerie Scott.

This follows the photographic exhibition Castelnuovo Fotografia in September, an initiative curated by Elisabetta Portoghese, in which a selection of photographs of excavations and archaeological surveys carried out in the area of Castelnuovo di Porto as part of the South Etruria Survey project was exhibited in a three-day event.


Ward-Perkins’ South Etruria Survey (1950s-70s) is one of the most important archaeological surveys conducted in Italy, and is pivotal for our understanding of the archaeological landscape preceding the urban expansion of Rome.

John Bryan Ward-Perkins – the BSR’s director from 1945 to 1974 – is well-known for his role as one of the World War Two Monuments Men in his capacity as Deputy Director of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) Allied Sub-Commission in Italy from 1944 to early 1946.


It was in his capacity as a Monuments Man that Ward-Perkins was initially approached by John Bradford, a pioneer in landscape archaeology and aerial photography for research and scientific purposes. John Bradford was an English historian from Christ Church College, Oxford, who was recruited as photo interpreter in 1943 by the Mediterranean Allied Photographic Reconnaissance Wing (MAPRW) based in San Severo, a small village in Southern Italy (Puglia).

After inducing the RAF authorities to suspend the destruction of their photographs taken for military and intelligence operations, deemed so important for historians, geographers, archaeologists and researchers, Bradford persuaded Ward-Perkins of their unique value, and Ward-Perkins went on to make significant use of aerial photography when undertaking the South Etruria survey.


For further reading see Christopher Smith’s ‘J.B. Ward-Perkins, the BSR and the Landscape Tradition in Post-War Italian Archaeology’ in PBSR 86 (2018), pp. 271-92.

All images courtesy BSR Photographic Archive (Ward-Perkins Collection, South Etruria Series)


BSR visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum


Archaeology Officer Stephen Kay with award-holders at the House of Venus in the Shell, Pompeii (photo by Caroline Barron)

Now is undoubtedly a special time to visit Pompeii. After several years of continuous conservation work by the Parco Archeologico di Pompei as part of its EU-funded Great Pompeii Project there is a wealth of houses now open to the public, previously hidden away behind closed doors. The recently restored frescos have been given a new lease of life: the famous House of the Orchard with its garden scenes or the hunting scene in the House of the Ceii.

This week the award-holders, staff and residents spent two days exploring these two famous UNESCO sites nestled under Mount Vesuvius. The beauty of going at this time of year is that the sites are less overwhelmed with mass tourism and the cooler temperatures allow for the sites to be explored at a more leisurely pace.


Cast of the blocked street entrance door, House of the Ephebus (photo by Elena Pomar)

Having worked at Porta Nola necropolis for several years, I began our tour at the amphitheatre entrance to the site as it is here that we now find on display the haunting casts of a few of the victims of the eruption of AD 79, some of which were found in the layers of pumice outside Porta Nola. We threaded our way through the amphitheatre and gradually worked our way up Via dell’Abbondanza, enjoying the recently reopened House of Venus in a Shell, House of the Ephebus (with a cast of the blocked street entrance door – pictured here on the left) and the Fullonica of Stephanus.

We took a few minutes to stop outside the Schola Armaturarum as it was the sad collapse of this building in 2010 that instigated this new phase of work (the building has now been restored and has dedicated visits every Thursday). Under the guidance of Professor Massimo Osanna (Honorary Fellow of the BSR) and Generale Giovanni Nistri of the Arma dei Carabinieri, much of the site has been returned to the public. Alongside this, consolidation work to tackle some of the drainage issues in Region V has led to some recent amazing discoveries (see this handy overview map at ècampania), such as frescos of Narcissus, Leda and the Swan and a curious charcoal graffiti that perhaps provides further evidence for a later autumn eruption date (17 October) rather than the established date of 24 August given to us by Pliny the Younger.


Staff, award-holders and residents at the Schola Armaturarum (photo by Elena Pomar)

After passing through the forum to admire the stunning view of Mount Vesuvius towering over the Temple of Jupiter, our tour concluded in front of the (copy) of the famous mosaic of Alexander depicting the Battle of Issus at the House of the Faun. It’s hard to do justice to such an amazing site in five hours, but hopefully the glimpses that we saw will encourage people to return or perhaps even feed into their work whilst at the BSR.


Copy of the Alexander Mosaic at the House of the Faun, Pompeii (photo by Peter Campbell)

Our second day on the Bay of Naples was a short hop from Pompeii over to its sister site, Herculaneum. The BSR has a long history of involvement in this extraordinary site, beginning with the important continuing efforts of the Herculaneum Conservation Project (HCP), led by former BSR Director Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill and generously funded by the Packard Humanities Institute.


The SplendOri exhibition at Herculaneum (photo by Elena Pomar)

Similarly to Pompeii, the site has recently become an autonomous park under the direction of another old friend of the BSR, Dr Francesco Sirano. Significant work over the past years has also seen much of the site reopened to the public, a point made by the director in a short introduction given to the BSR visitors on arrival at the site, followed by a tour to the current SplendOri exhibition (a highlight being the reconstruction of a scene in a fresco of a table with glass vessels and silver ornaments, which are displayed alongside).

Thanks to the offices of the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano and the wonderful HCP team, the BSR group was given a special tour of the famous theatre of Herculaneum, the point at which the city was once again discovered in 1738 following the sinking of a well. Led by Dr Domenico Camardo, a leading expert on the city, the group was guided in the darkness around the labyrinth of Bourbon tunnels until emerging at the foot of the shaft where the statues that once adorned the scaenae were hauled away.


Dr Domenico Camardo shows the group around the Bourbon tunnels inside the theatre at Herculaneum (photo by Niccolò Mugnai)

Whilst much of the marble decoration was stripped away in the 17th and 18th centuries to be sold in Naples, the theatre is unique in that much of the coloured stucco inside and the painted exterior are still preserved.


Relief of the face of Marcus Nonius Balbus (photo by Stephen Kay)

But perhaps the most poignant impression of the devastating effects of the eruption and the subsequent burying of Herculaneum in volcanic mud is seen in the eerie relief of the face of Marcus Nonius Balbus. A statue of the wealthy benefactor of the city was in the theatre, and an impression of the statue (since removed) was left in the solidified volcanic mud.

The two Vesuvian cities are at another remarkable moment in their history. The ongoing work of the Great Pompeii Project and the new phase of research and conservation underway at Herculaneum by the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano and HCP means that these cities are once again flourishing, being returned to the public in a way not seen before. I can only encourage you to go and visit and, if you have been before, go again!




Stephen Kay (Archaeology Officer)

Introducing…Peter Campbell, Assistant Director for Archaeology and Archaeological Science

dsc_2810It has been a pleasure to return to the British School at Rome as the Assistant Director for Archaeology and Archaeological Science. As a Research Fellow at the BSR in 2017-2018 working on the Portus Project, I engulfed myself in the community’s mixing of ideas from artists, historians, filmmakers, poets, archaeologists, and the numerous other disciplines that flow through the building. Starting as Assistant Director, I look forward to facilitating this interconnectedness between our awardees, fellows, visitors, students, and the public.

My PhD in archaeology is from the University of Southampton, while my MA (East Carolina University) and BA (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) were in maritime archaeology and anthropology. My research broadly examines the spread of ideas through Mediterranean maritime connectivity. As a result, I typically work underwater on shipwrecks, harbours, and sunken cities. However, I enjoy terrestrial survey and excavation, frequently working in cave sites (writing the chapter on archaeology in the National Speleological Society’s Caving Basics). Mixing caves and underwater research, I edited the book The Archaeology of Underwater Caves which examines paleolandscapes and ritual sites around the world. I have directed archaeological projects in six countries, mostly concentrated in the central and eastern Mediterranean. Currently, I co-direct the Egadi Islands Survey Project in Sicily and Fournoi Underwater Survey in Greece. My research uses archaeological science such as elemental and molecular analyses, but also UV/IR fluorescence, paleomagnetic dating, isotope analysis.


Amphorae from part of a reef where a shipwreck occurred. Photo by Vasilis Mentogianis.

Beyond field archaeology, I research the illicit antiquities trade and my work has been used in policy papers and presented to the OSCE, INTERPOL, and UNESCO. I enjoy teaching and have experience in a variety of higher education contexts, as well as taking new approaches to education through digital learning such as FutureLearn and TED Ed . I also maintain an active public profile, publishing articles in New York Times , Bloomberg, and The Guardian, as well as recently appearing on BBC, CNN, History Channel, and National Geographic. I am often found on Twitter @peterbcampbell.


A diver carefully raises an amphora to the surface. Photo by Vasilis Mentogianis.

I look forward to the challenge of further building existing research projects and finding new research avenues for the BSR. Together with Director Stephen Milner and Assistant Directors Harriet O’Neill (Humanities and Social Sciences) and Martina Caruso (Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries), we are planning a series of impactful events, conferences, and projects. Over the next year, we will host events on subjects such as Object-Oriented Ontology and the Anthropocene, conferences on archaeological science and machine learning, and seek to bridge art and research through exhibitions. As a person who is collaborative at heart, I am thrilled to have a position within such a prestigious interdisciplinary institution.

Peter Campbell (Assistant Director for Archaeology and Archaeological Science)

Portrait photo by Antonio Palmieri. Cover image by Vasilis Mentogianis.

Peter Campbell, along with fellow Assistant Directors Martina Caruso (BSR) and Harriet O’Neill (BSR), will speak in the UK in March.

MONDAY 11 MARCH 2019, 18.00–20.00

A legacy and trajectory of interdisciplinarity at the BSR

The BSR Assistant Directors will examine the origins of the British School at Rome in the early twentieth century, in particular its award-holders’ exploration of art, architecture and archaeology. They will discuss their personal research and the points of connection between them. Continuing the legacy of interdisciplinarity, the talk will examine the pathway forward, and how to pursue this collaborative trajectory into the BSR’s twelfth decade.

This event will be held at the British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH. Please contact if you wish to attend.

BSR at BMTA 2018

The Borsa Mediterranea del Turismo Archeologico saw its 21st edition this year with a rich range of events hosted in the breath-taking surroundings of the Parco Archeologico di Paestum (15-18 November 2018). Tourism and cultural heritage stakeholders, cultural associations, publishers, academics and educators from Italy and other Mediterranean countries (and beyond) took the opportunity to display and promote their activities at this annual fair.

Fig 1

Paestum, Temples of ‘Neptune’ and Hera 

Fig 2

Andriuolo, Tomb 53: slab with depiction of duel and chariot race

Fig 3

Rome stand at BMTA 2018 

Among the numerous initiatives that took place over these four days, particular emphasis was put on themes of cultural exchanges and interrelationships. Given the growing climate of political – and cultural – isolation in countries such as Italy, the UK and the USA, archaeology is crying out for the need to reach out rather than to hide behind physical or ideological borders. Indeed, cultural heritage as a universal value knows no boundaries by definition.

The Dialogues on the Archaeology of Magna Graecia and the Ancient Mediterranean focused on the concepts of ‘Identity and Belonging’, by assessing and comparing different interpretative models. The session was chaired by Emanuele Greco (President of the Fondazione Paestum) and Carmine Ampolo (Accademia dei Lincei and Emeritus Professor of the Scuola Normale di Pisa). It featured talks by international scholars who addressed this subject through the perspective of archaeology, history, art history and philosophy.

Fig 4

Opening of the Dialogues on Magna Graecia and the Mediterranean

Another highlight was the presentation of current archaeological projects in Italy by the foreign institutes in Rome. As customary, this session was run jointly by the Associazione Italiana di Archeologia Classica – AIAC and the Unione Internazionale degli Istituti di Archeologia, Storia e Storia dell’Arte in Roma. This year’s panel included presentations by Kristian Göransson (President of AIAC and Director of the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome), Ria Berg (Institutum Romanum Finlandiae) and Tesse Stek (Reale Istituto Neerlandese di Roma). This wide range of research projects, including those conducted by the BSR, is of crucial importance for fostering international collaborations. The work carried out by these institutes is not just based in Italy, but is also for Italy and, especially, with Italy – an example of the far-reaching impact of cultural and scientific exchanges. Over the past month the BSR has worked with colleagues from Berlin at Morgantina, with the Swedish Institute at Francavilla and with the British Museum in Sudan.

Fig 5

Panel with the foreign institutes in Rome

Emblematic of this year’s leading theme, one of the principal sessions was dedicated to ‘Intercultural Dialogue as a Universal Value of Identity and Heritage’. Starting with the remembrance of the tragic episodes of the Bardo Museum and the destructions at Palmyra, the discussion was chaired by Stefania Battistini (RAI Tg1 journalist) and featured contributions by Moncef Ben Moussa (Director of the Development of Museums for INP Tunisia), Paolo Verri (Director of the Foundation Matera-Basilicata 2019) and Paolo Matthiae (Director of the archaeological mission in Syria by the University of Rome La Sapienza) among many others. The ‘Khaled al-Asaad Prize 2018’ was awarded to Benjamin Clément (Researcher of Archaeology and Archaeometry at CNRS) for his discovery of the ‘Small Pompeii’ at Vienne (France).

Fig 6

Discussion on the importance of intercultural dialogue 

Alongside the panels in the two conference venues, the Borsa also hosted a number of events at the Archaeological Museum of Paestum: ‘hands-on’ sessions on archaeological artefacts, re-enactments of ancient production techniques, interactive workshops and meetings with archaeologists for schools and the general public. Walking around the museum display of architectural sculpture from the temples of Paestum and the Heraion at Foce del Sele, visitors could experience the wonders of 3D reconstructions and virtual reality. The exhibition ArcheoVirtual 2018 was co-organized by the CNR ITABC Laboratory of Virtual Reality, the MiBAC General Direction of Museums and BMTA. By stimulating the visitors’ visual senses and perception of ancient monuments, the exhibition was a pleasant way to connect past, present and future, thus making archaeological information easily accessible to a broad audience.

Fig 7

Virtual reality in the Archaeological Museum of Paestum

Fig 8

ArcheoVirtual 2018 exhibition


Text and photos by Niccolò Mugnai (Research Fellow)