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The origin of archaeological studies in Italy, part II
Portal of the Italian language

The origin of archaeological studies in Italy, part II

Categories: Archaeology and Heritage

A brief overview of archaeology.

Parliamo di Archeologia Acquedotto
Parliamo di Archeologia Acquedotto

The Unification of Italy made it necessary to harmonize the different laws on the protection of archaeological and artistic heritage. It also required the various pre-unification archaeological experiences to converge and interact with other contemporary European experiences thus providing a starting point for a methodological reflection that brought Italian archaeology under the influence of the German school for over fifty years.

A new profile of archaeologist was therefore needed in Italy. The answer to this need came in the form of Giuseppe Fiorelli who, in the aftermath of the Unification of Italy, founded the Scuola Archeologica di Pompei (Pompeii Archaeological School), while outstanding figures such as Rodolfo Lanciani and Giacomo Boni engaged in the archaeological and topographic study of Rome, Italy’s new capital which at that time was undergoing an intense urban renewal as a consequence of the creation of the new Italian State.

Italian archaeology moved beyond national borders, as happened in 1899, when an Italian mission settled in Crete, thus creating the conditions for the subsequent emergence of that which would be known as the Italian Archaeological School of Athens established in 1909 and still active today. This institution is an independent public body, whose Board of Directors includes a representative form the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as representatives from other Italian Ministries.
The School has two sites: one is in Athens, where study and research activities take place, and the other one, with administrative functions, is in Rome. The School is the reference point for Italian archaeological missions operating in Greece; it is aimed at conducting archaeological research in Greece and in the areas of Hellenic civilization, as well as training scholars in the different historical and archaeological sectors. The School is linked to Doro Levi, who directed it for over three decades after the end of World War II, following the footprints of its previous director, archaeologist Alessandro della Seta, who held office from 1919 to 1939. Levi gave new impetus to the School and favoured a renaissance of Italian archaeological research in Greece and Turkey.

In the Thirties, the need to preserve and restore the vast artistic and archaeological heritage of Italy resulted in the creation of two institutions that had an essential role in the field of restoration: the Gabinetto di Restauro dei Dipinti (Cabinet of Restoration of Paintings) in Florence (1932), on the initiative of Ugo Procacci, and the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (ICR, Central Institute of Restoration). In 1975, the former was joined to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Workshop for Hard Stone) (established in 1588 in Florence); the latter – subsequently renamed Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro (ISCR – High Institute for Conservation and Restoration) – was established in 1939 in Rome, with Cesare Brandi as its first director.

As far as archaeology s concerned, in the Thirties and Seventies of last century an outstanding figure was Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli, a scholar and archaeologist who had an essential influence on other important figures such as, among others, Andrea Carandini, Philip Coarelli, Adriano La Regina, Mario Torelli and Fausto Zevi. In 1969, the need to protect the vast artistic and archaeological heritage led Italy to create a dedicated and specialist military police corps, the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale (Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage). In addition to the protection, there was also the fight against the illegal sale of artistic and archaeological assets which made this Command a model for the police forces of many nations and a sure point of reference for the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural assets.

Italian archaeological missions abroad are linked to a long tradition of Italian studies which they endeavor to continue, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, to further archaeological knowledge in the most diverse areas of the world. Some missions, as in the case of the Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Cartagine (SAIC, Italian Archaeological School of Carthage), established recently, have fostered synergies and exchange of information to improve the study of specific areas of the world. The missions have created strong links with local institutions, collaborating with them through mutual cultural and scientific exchanges, making Italy’s achievements in the fields of archaeology, restoration and protection of artistic and archaeological heritage available to them.

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