The title of this post is a little cheeky- archaeology is of course "real" all over the world- in your back garden digging up Victorian pottery and rat skeletons, or at huge and iconic sites like the Acropolis in Athens, or Teotihuacan in Mexico. I have done my fair share of scratching in my home turf and visiting showstopping sites abroad. I'd done enough of both to know, from a pretty early age, that I wanted to be an archaeologist. The problem I had was that I didn't know where the archaeologist I wanted to be belonged. I loved everything about my courses as an undergraduate, read voraciously around the subject, and gradually got more specific- I knew I was interested in later prehistory, but where? Britain? France? Central Europe? I went digging and wrote an undergraduate dissertation. When it came to choosing a topic for the dissertation aspect of the MA I knew I wanted to do, I was stuck. The question of specialism had arrived- what did I really want to do, and where did I want to do it?
The Duomo, Orvieto, Umbria.
The answer was decided for me in a meeting with Etruscan archaeologist, Dr Vedia Izzet. She had not taught me over my undergraduate degree, but when meeting with her to discuss the MA she co-directed, she skilfully steered me to her own specialism. I went home with five books, and returned the next day burning with questions and more book borrowing requests. I'll blog a little more on the Etruscans in my next post, but it is the place they inhabited which is the focus of this story. I had never been to Italy except on a rugby tour, and had not formed the most favourable impression after three days in Rimini in March. From that meeting with Vedia, travel to this amazing country became one of the most important markers in my life. If you've never been to Italy, I urge you to go. Drop everything. Go tomorrow. It's a perfect time if you're not into hot weather, and the archaeological sites (outside the "big guns" in Rome, Pompeii and Florence) will be all yours to explore. My first trip to Italy with my archaeological eyes open came in April 2009, and I have visited regularly ever since. Excavation in Italy has been one of the highlights of my year since I began working there in 2010. The experience of living in Italy for 6 weeks a year, learning Italian to a level far beyond my A-level French, and of falling in love with Italian culture, both ancient and modern, has been a transformative experience. A huge amount of this blog will be about Italy, Italian culture past and present, my travels and excavations in Italy, so I thought it was only right to explain why, and how I ended up here. As the title of this post suggests, Italy made archaeology real for me, and my life has never been the same since.
How about you? Have you ever been somewhere that has crawled inside your soul and wedged itself in? At what moment did archaeology become real for you, rather than a vision in your head? Did you always know what you wanted to specialise in, or did it take a well timed intervention? I'd love to know.
PS The photos from this post are of my first trip to Italy- can't you tell from their content?