All about Concrete: from the Pantheon to the Present

Last week we held the workshop All about Concrete: from the Pantheon to the Present, the second in the BSR’s series of interdisciplinary research study days in the UK on the historicity of materials and the work of the BSR. This event was generously sponsored by the Concrete Centre and hosted by the University of Liverpool in London. 

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The day, organised by BSR faculty members Vivien Lovell, MaryAnne Stevens and Marco Iuliano, comprised a series of presentations on the use of concrete over two millennia. Speakers highlighted the extreme versatility, strength and plasticity of the material.

Alan Powers (London School of Architecture) opened the day with a keynote presentation exploring ‘Cult Contrete’, which provoked lively debate.

The first panel session, chaired by MaryAnne Stevens, explored the history of the use of concrete. Presentations encompassed over two thousand years of use from ancient Rome to Carlo Scarpa (1906–1978). Janet DeLaine introduced us to the seven virtues of concrete in ancient Rome, while Joseph Rykwert touched on the Renaissance ‘rediscovery’ of ancient concrete techniques. Richard Murphy closed the session, bringing us forward into the twentieth century, with his discussion of Scarpa’s use of water in his architectural projects – an analogy for concrete.

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Giovanni Paolo Panini,
Interior of the Pantheon, Rome
c. 1734

After lunch participants were split into three groups and were treated to a study visit to to the Barbican Estate and Centre. These groups were led simultaneously by Catherine Croft (C20 Society), Dave King (Architect and Barbican Resident) and Vicky Richardson (Writer and Curator, of architecture and design). Even those who thought they knew the Estate well, were surprised to learn that there are over 100 different property types on the estate; that all of the concrete was hand chiselled (including the towers!); and that the water features were dyed to reflect depth.

We reconvened after the visits for the second panel session chaired by Vivien Lovell, which covered the contemporary use of concrete. Artist, Florian Roithmayr presented current work and described his process. Participants were able to see first hand concrete sculptures which Florian had on display throughout the day.

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Concrete sculptures by Florian Roithmayr

Following this, organiser Marco Iuliano was in conversation with photographer Helene Binet, discussing themes in her architectural photographs of concrete structures. Finally Jo Melvin introduced us to the concept of concrete poetry and how it is produced in contemporary art practice.

The afternoon was concluded by two readings. Organiser Vivien Lovell read a poem entitled ‘Times New Roman’ by Pele Cox (written especially for the event) and Vicky Richardson read a passage from J G Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island’.

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Concluding remarks were given by architect Eric Parry who succinctly synthesised the presentations and the interdisciplinary conversations of the day.

Text and photographs by Natasha Burbridge and Alice Marsh, BSR London Office.

Ancient tokens and their communities

For the month of October, BSR alumna Clare Rowan has been staying at the BSR to conduct fieldwork for her European Research Council funded project Token Communities in the Ancient Mediterranean. Here she tells us more about her own research on the subject, and the project’s workshop that was held here at the BSR last week.

Tokens in antiquity were monetiform objects, largely made of lead, that were created across the Mediterranean at a very local level. Tokens likely served a variety of purposes: they might aid in governmental procedures (e.g. Athens), serve as banquet tickets (e.g. Palmyra), were used in cults and festivals (e.g. in Rome), and may also have served as a sort of currency at times, particularly in bath houses.

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Lead token (20mm) from a private collection showing on one side a male head surrounded by the legend P GLITI GALLI; the other side shows a rooster carrying a wreath and palm branch. The image is a visual pun on the name of Gallus, which meant ‘rooster’ in Latin.

The find spots of tokens aid us in understanding how they were used. Their imagery reveals information about ancient identities, imagery and ancient joie de vivre. While at the BSR, I have been focusing on the tokens of Rome and Ostia, working at Ostia to look through the archives of excavations (Giornali degli Scavi) for tokens and token moulds found in the port. I have also been cataloguing the token collections in the Museo Nazionale Palazzo Massimo, the Capitoline Museums, as well as a collection that was recently acquired by the Archaeological Museum at Palestrina. This last collection consists of more than 1000 specimens, many of which are new types. By using archival and library materials to locate where token moulds (made of palombino or lunense marble) and lead casting waste are found, I have been able to begin to identify that tokens were privately manufactured across both Rome and Ostia, connecting particular types to particular buildings, and even particular tabernae.

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Lead token (22mm) from a private collection showing the lighthouse of Portus on one side and the legend ANT on the other.

A workshop was also held at the BSR on the 18 and 19 October, Tokens, Value and Identity, Exploring Monetiform Objects in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, organised by a postdoctoral fellow in the project, Antonino Crisà. Scholars from around the world came to discuss tokens from different collections and excavations across the Mediterranean.

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Half of a palombino marble mould for casting circular tokens showing Fortuna holding a rudder and cornucopiae. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University, 2008.118

The workshop underlined the idea that tokens were made very locally, often unique to a particular city – the method of using marble moulds to cast tokens, for example, appears to be found only in Rome and its port. The exchanges among the scholars who attended continued to contribute to the development of a methodology to study these objects, which have not seen serious attention since Rostovtzeff in the 19th century. If you are interested in seeing and learning more about these objects, you can find the blog entries of the team members here: https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/numismatics/tag/token/

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Speakers at the Tokens, Value and Identity Conference

Clare Rowan (Associate Professor, University of Warwick and former BSR-Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar)

Opening of the nymphaeum of Q. Mutius at Segni

Since 2013 the British School at Rome has worked in partnership with the Comune di Segni on the excavation and conservation of the nymphaeum of Q. Mutius, a monumental fountain in the town of Segni. This Saturday 20 October we are delighted to celebrate the opening of this monument to the public which will now form part of the archaeological visit to Segni, together with the Porta Saracena and the impressive polygonal walls, the well-preserved Temple of Juno Moneta and the archaeological museum of Segni.

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Post-excavation photogrammetry of the Segni nymphaeum.

The inauguration will commence at 10.30 a.m. with welcome speeches by Piero Cascioli, Mayor of Segni, Laura Onorati, Dirigente Città Metropolitana, Quirino Briganti, President of the Compagnia dei Lepini, Margherita Eichberg, Soprintendente ABAP Città Metropolitana Roma, Provincia di Viterbo e Etruria Meridionale and the Director of the BSR Professor Stephen Milner.

New protective structure for the nymphaeum at Segni

New protective structure for the nymphaeum at Segni.

Following this there will be brief presentations by Michelangelo Bedini, Fulvio Balzani and Francesco Maria Cifarelli (BSR Research Fellow) about the restoration project of the nymphaeum; by Stephen Kay (BSR Archaeological Officer) and Federica Colaiacomo about the excavation and by Francesco Maria Cifarelli about the architecture and history of this monument from the late Republican period. Visits to the monument will begin at 12.30 with other organised tours at 15.00 and 18.00. We very much hope that many of you can join us too celebrate this occasion.

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Stephen Kay (Archaeology Officer)

Repatriation of ancient artifacts and the launch of the UK’s Monuments Men: Cultural Protection event at Villa Wolkonsky

On October 11, 2018, the UK Embassy and British School at Rome hosted an event at Villa Wolkonsky, the British Ambassador’s residence. The focus of the event was the protection of cultural heritage and it was attended by representatives from the UK and Italian governments, Carabinieri, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), British Council, British Academy, and Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA).

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Assistant Director for Archaeology Peter Campbell presents HMA Jill Morris with a scaled-down replica statue of Antinous currently on display at the British Museum, created by digital heritage specialists ThinkSee3D Ltd. In the background you can see work by BSR Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow John Rainey. Photo by Luca Marinelli.

The event featured exhibitions by the Carabinieri and the BSR. The Carabinieri displayed eight artifacts that had been recovered in raids, spanning from ancient Greek vases to an Amati violin dating back to 1500. The BSR exhibition featured the destruction and looting of cultural heritage, showing post-World War II photographs from the archive taken by John Ward-Perkins to document war damage, as well as contemporary photographs from Aleppo and Palmyra in Syria. The exhibition also showed the latest methods for identifying, documenting, and sharing cultural heritage in the race to preserve archaeological sites. This included geophysics equipment, 3D documentation and printing, and holograms. For example, ThinkSee3D, a company based in Oxford, sent a reproduction of a statue of Antinous that was found on the Janiculum and is currently in the British Museum. The museum 3D scanned the statue and ThinkSee3D printed it and created a high quality cast. The statue was presented as a gift to HMA Jill Morris. The exhibition also featured contemporary art by Ian Kirkpatrick, John Rainey (2018 Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow), and Joseph Redpath (2018 Scholars’ Prize-winner in Architecture), who draw inspiration from Rome and ancient themes.

A panel of speakers addressed the protection of cultural heritage from various perspectives. General Parrulli of the Carabinieri detailed how they have become world leaders in the recovery of stolen antiquities. Lynda Albertson, the director of ARCA, discussed her experience of training students to disrupt the illegal trafficking and sale of antiquities. Particularly poignant was the recent sale of a Hindu statue, which was retracted due to ARCA’s intervention. MP Mark Lancaster gave perspective from the UK government and the military, as the head of armed forces.

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Peter Campbell with Minister of State for Armed Forces The Rt Hon Mark Lancaster MP at the exhibition of photographs from the BSR Ward-Perkins collection of war damage photographs.

The highlight of the event was the return of two stolen Etruscan artifacts. Taken from collections several decades ago, the artifacts turned up on the art market in London. The Metropolitan police confiscated the pieces from dealers and presented them to the Carabinieri at the event, marking the successful repatriation of these stolen works of art.

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The ceremony for the official repatriation of two Etruscan artefacts recovered by the Metropolitan Police. Photo by Luca Marinelli.

Perhaps the most significant moment in the day came with the announcement of the creation of a UK military unit to protect cultural heritage, a ‘Monuments Men’ as it was known in World War II, though the original and current units included women. Following the ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention, the UK is now enlisting specialists in cultural heritage to identify significant cultural sites in countries and work to protect them during conflict. Led by Lieutenant Coronel Tim Purbrick, the unit has started recruiting members from reservists with specializations in cultural heritage. The new Monuments Men will assist with areas in conflict and protect sites that may come under assault.

Peter Campbell (Assistant Director for Archaeology and Archaeological Science)

Excavating a Roman villa with the Ashmolean Museum and King’s College London

Last week a joint team from the BSR, the Ashmolean Museum and King’s College London completed the excavation of a small Roman villa at the village of Matrice, 10km from Campobasso in the Southern Italian region of the Molise.

Excavation 2018

Work began at the site in 1980 following its discovery during the construction of a road. At the time, Graeme Barker (later Director of the BSR 1984-1988) was leading the Biferno Valley survey, and together with John Lloyd was invited by the regional authority to investigate the site. Over the following four years John led a team of archaeologists from the Universities of Aberdeen and Sheffield in the excavation of the villa. The excavations brought to light a fascinating site, with occupation from the Samnites through until the late antique period, and it was clear that the villa could provide much information about the impact of Romanization on rural communities. Sadly John passed away in 1999 whilst the publication was in preparation, but given the importance of the site we felt obliged to bring this site to publication in his memory.

The new fieldwork began in October 2017 with a topographical survey and geophysical prospection of the site, generously funded by the Roman Society. The results, written up as a Master’s thesis by Elena Pomar as part of an internship at the BSR (Elena has joined the BSR this week as Archaeological Research Assistant) showed that the villa extended further to the west than previously understood and that within the excavated villa several areas could help better understand the earlier phases of the site.

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Archaeology Officer Stephen Kay is interviewed by RAI television. Watch the interview with Steve, as well as Paul Roberts of the Ashmolean, and Dominic Rathbone of KCL here at c. 13 minutes

In September this year a three-week season was undertaken with the aim of investigating the anomalies recorded by the geophysics and refining the chronology within different parts of the site. The excavation revealed that the magnetometry had recorded the precise position of a large cistern, still with a well-preserved cocciopesto lining belonging to the Roman phase of the site that fell out of use in the 3rd century AD. Whilst the earlier work had recorded a network of drains and rooms indicating agricultural practice, it had been unclear where the water source was to allow these processes.

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A paw print on a tile from a rubble layer inside the newly discovered cistern. Ph: Stephen Kay.

Elsewhere on site a small trench was excavated at the southern extent of the villa within a previously unexcavated room, the aim of which was to record evidence of the earlier phases of the site. Through the careful excavation of a later drain, evidence was recorded at a greater depth of the Republican phase of the complex. An intriguing aspect of the site, both for John and for us, is the Samnite phase which saw construction undertaken using large roughly trimmed limestone blocks. The aim of the new fieldwork was to reveal more of the structure and understand if it was associated with the dwelling or perhaps had another purpose. Excavating within the structure, a further wall built from limestone blocks was recorded, which can be securely dated to the 2nd century AD.

Matrice team

The 2018 fieldwork was funded through research grants from King’s College London, the Ashmolean museum and a private donation from Mr Philip Kay. The team is grateful for the support given by the Comune di Matrice. The 2018 team was: Paul Roberts, Dominic Rathbone, Stephen Kay, Elena Pomar, Christopher Siwicki, Sally Cann, Liz Gardner, Ludovica Di Tommaso, Angela Payne, Beatrice Fochetti, Erica Rowan, Tomas Jirak, Willem Beekhuis and Gabriella Iafanti.

 

Stephen Kay Archaeology Officer

 

BSR alumna exhibits at Pompeii and Herculaneum

Back in 2008, artist Catrin Huber visited Pompeii and Herculaneum for the very first time with her fellow BSR award-holders under the expert guidance of former BSR Director Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. This is when Catrin first fell in love with Roman wall painting.

Fast forward to 2018, and the seeds of an idea first sown during her BSR residency have come to fruition in the form of two site-specific contemporary art installations at Herculaneum and Pompeii.

The opening at Pompeii took place earlier in July in the Casa del Criptoportico. In the cryptoporticus itself, Catrin’s painted colonnade sits in dialogue with the Second Style wall paintings (inspired by episodes from the Trojan War) and incorporates replicas of everyday objects such as oil lamps.

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The second installation can be found in the area of the house containing one of the very few ‘private’ baths documented in Pompeii.

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A whole team of researchers was behind the project Expanded Interiors based at Newcastle University where Catrin is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art. The team included archaeologists Dr Thea Ravasi (Research Fellow at the BSR), Professor Ian Haynes (co-director of the BSR-Newcastle University Lateran Project) and Dr Alex Turner (Newcastle University). Their combined expertise was invaluable when it came to producing scans of the houses as well as the altered 3D replicas of Roman objects.

At the exhibition opening, speeches were given by BSR Honorary Fellow and Director of the Parco Archeologico di Pompei Massimo Osanna, as well as the Director of the contemporary art museum Museo Madre in Naples, who both discussed the value of an interdisciplinary dialogue when approaching archaeological sites.

37233072_10160680685475578_2726541695876333568_nThis dialogue between the historic and the contemporary can also be seen in the exhibition in Herculaneum which opened earlier this year. Here the installation focuses on objects, with some artistically altered replicas of rarely-seen artefacts from the storerooms of Herculaneum. The chosen location was the Casa del Bel Cortile, a significant site in the history of the excavations as it was used as a small antiquarium when the site was under the direction of the renowned Amedeo Maiuri.

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The Expanded Interiors exhibition rounds off a year of exciting initiatives for the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano and the Herculaneum Conservation Project to mark the 90th anniversary of the Scavi Nuovi initiated by Maiuri in 1927.

Both exhibitions are open to the public until January 2019.

You can read more from the Guardian here and watch a feature from RAI News here (from c. 18 minutes).

Expanded Interiors is led by Newcastle University with kind support from the Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Parco Archeologico di Pompei, Parco Archeologico di Ercolano, Herculaneum Conservation Project and Art Editions North are project partners.

Photos by Sophie Hay.

 


If you are interested in Herculaneum more generally and wider issues of conservation, take a look at the recently published volume Protective Shelters for Archaeological Sites, the proceedings of a collaborative symposium which took place at Herculaneum in 2013.

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An update from the Lateran Project

As an archaeologist, I am used to seeing transformation in many contexts and in many ways, but nothing has excited me so much as what one can witness underground in one of the most hidden, albeit historically significant areas of ancient Rome: the Lateran quarter on the Caelian. Thanks to the generous support from Mr Peter J. Smith, this year I had the opportunity to spend six months on a post-doctoral fellowship at the British School at Rome, working as a research assistant to the Lateran project, under the direction of Professors Ian Haynes (Newcastle University) and Paolo Liverani (University of Florence).

One of the aims of my research was to get a greater understanding of the excavations underneath the Lateran baptistery, where the archaeology reveals the complex series of transformations that took place in this quarter of Rome from the 1st century up to the early 4th centuries AD. The development of this part of the Caelian is well known: occupied by luxury residences for the Roman elite during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the area was transformed by Septimius Severus, who ordered the construction of the barracks for his horse guards (the Castra Nova Equitum Singularium). Next to the barracks, at some point between the reign of Septimius Severus and Caracalla, a bath building was constructed that underwent several transformations during the 3rd century AD.  The Severan imprint on the area was completely wiped out by the Emperor Constantine, who dismantled the corps of the equites singulares and gave the land where the barracks and the baths were built to the church. This event marked the beginning of what we can still see today, as the barracks and the baths were completely dismantled, and replaced by the construction of the Constantinian basilica and of the baptistery. As part of my research on the Severan baths, I was able to suggest a new phasing for the building and get a greater understanding of its design and final layout.

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The remains of the Severan bath complex and of its Late Antique transformations under the Lateran Baptistery (photo: A. Turner ©The Lateran Project)

I am spending the remaining time of my fellowship in Rome working on the future development of the Lateran project. After six years of intense surveying of the excavations under the Lateran basilica and baptistery, the Lateran team has now expanded its investigations beyond the limits of the basilica, to get a better understanding of how political, social and religious changes that occurred in Rome during the Imperial age reflected in the transformation of this portion of the Caelian hill. The new investigation is taking place within the property of the Azienda Ospedaliera San Giovanni-Addolorata and is carried out as part of an agreement between all the institutions that are currently involved in the area: the Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma, the University of Florence (IT), Newcastle University (UK) with the British School at Rome, the Seinan Gakuin University of Fukuoka (JP) and the Azienda Ospedaliera San Giovanni-Addolorata.

The portion of the Caelian occupied by the modern Azienda Ospedaliera underwent huge transformations during the Roman era: situated outside the Servian walls and the pomerium of the city, but easily and quickly accessible from the city centre and conveniently set on a raised plateau, the area was cut across by the via Caelimontana and by the via Tuscolana. The excavations carried out between 1957 and 1978 within the property of the Azienda Ospedaliera have revealed a complex of properties that were distributed around this important crossing point of the Caelian and that were variously transformed from the Imperial age to Late Antiquity.  During the 1st and the 2nd centuries AD, a series of richly decorated aristocratic houses were built. Among these properties were the horti Domitia Lucilla, mother of Marcus Aurelius.

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Inscription on a water lead pipe, mentioning Domitia Lucilla, found in the Lateran area (photo: T. Ravasi ©The Lateran Project)

The property, where the future emperor spent his early years until his adoption by Antoninus Pius, likely encompassed a residential building with a richly decorated peristyle and a small bath complex and an area destined for the production and storage of wine.

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The area underneath Corsia Mazzoni in the old Ospedale di San Giovanni (photo: T. Ravasi ©The Lateran Project)

If the impact of the Severan and Constantinian transformations is broadly understood in the eastern part of the Caelian, it is however still unclear what role it had in the development of the residential properties found in the Azienda Ospedaliera di San Giovanni-Addolorata.

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The area underneath the Ospedale delle Infermiere (photo: T. Ravasi ©The Lateran Project)

It is likely however that the area kept, at least partially, its residential nature. As part of the 2018 fieldwork, the Lateran team has completed a laser scan survey and comprehensive reassessment of the stratigraphy of the structures in three out of four of the excavated areas within the property of the Azienda Ospedaliera, providing a foundation for further interpretation of the area.

Thea Ravasi (BSR Research Fellow)