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2017 AIRC Summer Archaeological Field School study session: Parco dei Ravennati, Ostia Antica

Location: Ostia Antica, Rome, Italy

June 4, 2017 to July 1, 2017

Session dates: 
June 4- July 1, 2017

Application Deadline: 
Friday, March 31, 2017
Saturday, April 15, 2017

Deadline Type: 

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



American Institute for Roman Culture

Project Director:

Dr. Darius Arya and Dr. Michele Raddi

Project Description

The American Institute for Roman Culture’s Summer Archaeological Field School STUDY SESSION is an intensive, accredited FOUR-week educational program in Roman archaeology led by AIRC faculty and expert archaeologists. The program offers students a unique combination of (1) one week of specialized academic instruction in Rome, including visits to major museums and open-air sites to augment field studies and provide participants with a broader context of what life was like in the ancient city, and (2) THREE weeks of hands-on fieldwork (drawing, photography, geophysical survey, total station) and study and analysis of finds from past seasons with specialists (human bone remains from burials, ceramics, coins,  metals, marble, ivory, etc.) at an important archaeological site in the city and environs. In 2017 the program will be held from June 4 through July 1, 2017 and will take place at Ostia Antica, the harbor of ancient Rome.

Why Choose This Program?

The AIRC Summer Archaeological Field School offers its participants both a synchronic (single-period) and a diachronic (multi-period) approach to the study of Roman culture. Through this dual approach, which provides depth and breadth simultaneously, participants will gain a comprehensive historical and cultural appreciation of Rome and Roman civilization, from its rise to power to its decline, understanding how it set a standard of cultural values that continues to exert influence over the entire Western world to this day.

 During the fieldwork (site study session) component, participants will:

  • be offered a focused look at the techniques and methodologies of modern archaeological research, through which we are able to explore past cultures and understand more about their histories and origins;
  • learn the importance of archaeological record-keeping, including the proper methodology for conducting excavations, archaeological drawing, note-taking, and identifying/organizing/cataloguing finds;
  • become familiar with a variety of Roman artifacts and building techniques/materials and practice "reading" art, architecture, and other traces of this civilization’s material culture to reconstruct the wider cultural framework;
  • become acquainted with the city of Rome and its port at Ostia and their rich archaeological record;
  • be introduced to the principles of historical conservation of the material remains of the past.

The Project
AIRC is seeking 30 participants for the fifth campaign of its exciting multi-year project at Ostia Antica, the harbor city of ancient Rome. The project will take place in the Parco dei Ravennati, a public greenspace situated between the main archaeological site of Ostia and the Medieval borgo with the imposing Renaissance castle built by Pope Julius II. In collaboration with the City of Rome and the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome, and under the direction of principal investigators Dr. Darius Arya (AIRC Executive Director) and Dr. Michele Raddi (archaeologist and topographer, AIRC associate), who led the multi-year excavation, the AIRC project this year will document and analyze the finds (from the excavation of the two areas of the park):

Area A consists of an Imperial Roman structure in opus mixtum, part of which was redecorated in Late Antiquity with frescoes and an elaborate opus sectile (cut polychrome marble) floor; the opus sectile room was subdivided into a series of smaller rooms in the Middle Ages. Behind this space lies a vaulted structure with double apse and a niche on the southwest side, partially investigated in the 1970s, dating to the 15th century and probably associated with the construction of the castle at the edge of the borgo. Exploratory work in 2012 revealed re-use of these spaces as recently as the Second World War.

Area B consists of a well-preserved stretch of a Roman road—likely the last major phase of the Via Ostiensis dating to the early Middle Ages—flanked by a small circular Late Republican mausoleum built in cement and travertine. In Late Antiquity the core of the mausoleum was converted into an octagonal structure, and in the Middle Ages it was re-used again as a place of burial.

The experience will include the following didactic aspects to which all participants will be exposed, all under the supervision of experienced professionals:

  • strategy, techniques, and methods of stratigraphic archaeology, including pre-excavation topographic research and cleaning/defoliation;
  • detailed architectural and functional study of the exposed remains involving both the traditional (hand-drawn) method and the latest technology (photogrammetry, total station, and CAD software);
  • cleaning, analysis/classification, and documentation of all classes of artifacts;
  • photographic documentation of artifacts, standing remains, and archaeological stratigraphy using digital cameras;
  • the history and physical condition of the site and approaches to conserving it for future generations.

See also:

The project runs from Monday through Friday, 8:00-4:30.

Other Information

Three hours of credit for the Summer Archaeological Field School is provided by California State University, Fresno (transcript fee included in the program cost). Student assessment is based on the following criteria:

  • attendance, during lectures and on-site;
  • participation, in discussions during lectures and on-site;
  • an exam based on the first week’s exploration of Rome;
  • personal excavation journal (detailed instructions are supplied).

Selection Criteria
There are no pre-requisites, and no knowledge of archaeology or Italian is expected—only a desire to get dirty and learn about Roman civilization. Prior archaeological experience and coursework are welcome. NOTE: This program is physically rigorous and requires long hours in conditions that can make the experience both physically and psychologically challenging.

Educational Requirements
Whether you’re a postgraduate or undergraduate, archaeology or anthropology major, or simply someone interested in learning more about the field of archaeology, this program provides an exciting and unique opportunity for a first-hand look at archaeological fieldwork at a one-of-a-kind Roman site.    

Course Text
None. A packet of course notes and a custom manual will be provided.

Application Deadline and Program Costs

Cost US$3800 The cost covers tuition, housing in the historic center of Rome in shared apartments with other program participants (Wi-Fi connection included), public transportation within the city of Rome and between Rome and Ostia, entry fees for archaeological sites and museums visited during the first week, printed materials, welcome and farewell dinners, and transcript with 3 hours of credit from California State University, Fresno.

How to Apply

Applications due: March 31, 2017.  After March 31 a late fee ($100) will be assessed. The last date for accepting late applications is April 15, 2017. Interested persons are encouraged to apply early, since space is limited and participants are accepted on a rolling basis as applications are completed and reviewed.

The program application consists of:

  • a one-page (600-800 words) essay describing your interest in Rome, your interest in the AIRC Summer Archaeological Field School, and how participation is expected to contribute to your education/development;
  • a letter of recommendation from one professor;
  • a copy of your curriculum vitae/resume;
  • phone or Skype interview with AIRC project staff (February-March).

All inquiries and application documents should be submitted to: studyabroad[at] AND dar[at]

Period(s) of Occupation: Republican Roman, Imperial Roman, Late Antique, Early Medieval

finds study, analysis, documentation, excavation methodology, conservation, topography

Project size: 
25-49 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: full program

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Participants are lodged in small groups (generally 4-6 people) in typical Italian houses in the historic center, where they eat/drink, shop, and interact with contemporary Romans. Modern Rome is an ideal place to live and study, offering all of the amenities and attractions of a major European capital with an international character, while retaining the charm and feel of a small city with a strong local color. It is well-connected to most major European (and some Italian) destinations via low-cost airlines operating out of its two international airports, as well as to the rest of Italy via the extensive network of the Italian National Railways—Florence and Naples are just 90 minutes away by rail, and the nearest beach is just 30 minutes away at Ostia Lido.

Lunch and a snack are provided on-site from Monday to Friday. All other meals are at the participant’s expense.

USD $3800

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
California State University, Fresno
Number of credits offered 3
included in cost


Contact Information
Darius Arya
1101 W. 34th St, Ste. 730-174
(512) 772-1844
Recommended Bibliography: