What is PArCo, the Public Archaeology Park

Cinzia Dal Maso Affiliazione, nome.cognome@gmail.com
  • Translated by Erika Bianchi
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In PArCo, the Community Archeology Park, the archaeologist’s job becomes accessible to everyone: here people have fun and spend their free time in touch with archaeologists at work. It is a new model that Archeostorie wants to pilot in the area of Poggio del Molino (Livorno - Tuscany) and that could be replicated in scores in other locations. A true revolution

Dal Maso, C. 2018. What is PArCo, the Public Archaeology Park. Archeostorie. Journal of Public Archaeology. 2: pp. 145-148.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.23821/2018_6b

CC BY 4.0 © The author(s). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

It will be a revolutionary change in the relationship between archeology and citizens. The public archeology park, that Archeostorie is planning together with the Cultural Association Past in Progress at Poggio del Molino (Livorno), will pave the way for people to think of and experience archeology in a different way: fun, engaging and fruitful for all parties.

Poggio del Molino and Public Archeology

The site will be conceived as a public, fully equipped area, a seaside park where people can swim (why not?) and then go and sit in the shade beneath the nearby trees and read a book, have a picnic, rest, or participate in one of the sports and cultural activities we are planning. Unlike ordinary parks, however, in Poggio del Molino there are archaeologists at work all summer long. They unearth the remains of an amazing structure that in the 2nd century BC was a fortress the Romans built as a coastal defense against pirates. Then it became a farm, with large tanks for the production of an ancient, popular fish sauce (not exactly a delicacy). In the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, finally, the farm was turned into a luxurious seaside villa (De Tommaso 1998; Megale 2015; Megale & Genovesi 2012). The place is breathtaking: how can you blame them?

Excavations of the area were undertaken in the 1970s and 1980s, and resumed in 2008 under the direction of the Superintendency and the University of Florence. The project’s coordinator, Carolina Megale, who is also president of the cultural association Past in Progress, immediately opened the dig to the public: thanks to an agreement between Past in Progress and the American Earthwatch Institute, Carolina regularly welcomes to her dig volunteers who are eager to experience the archaeologist’s life. Volunteers’ contributions support the excavation works; Carolina has been crowdfunding and crowdsourcing for ten years, and at the same time she has been involving undergraduates and high-school students, starting a school of restoration to repair the villa’s mosaics, and keeping the site’s doors consistently open to visitors who wish to discover the place. In short, at Poggio del Molino visitors are, and have always been, welcome (De Tommaso, Ghizzani Marcìa & Megale 2010; Megale 2015).

The Community Archaeology Park: the project of Past in Progress and Archeostorie

Now, however, we are willing to raise the bar. First off, we want to equip the area with a dedicated access, signage, benches, an accessible 

path and a reception structure. That is, we want to turn the site into a real park, one that people would actually like to visit and spend time at. The idea actually dates back to the Eighties, when archeologist Riccardo Francovich, together with architects Italo Insolera and Luigi Gazzola, included the archaeological area of Poggio del Molino in the design plan of the Val di Cornia Parks system: it was supposed to be the third archeological area of the System, after the Archaeominerary Park of San Silvestro and the Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia (Francovich 1999; Insolera & Romualdi 1988). In order to honor that original project, in 2014 the municipality of Piombino acquired it at great expense.

Poggio del Molino is, hence, public land. As such, it must be made available to everyone as soon as possible. Yet, the archaeological excavations are still ongoing. To overcome this apparent impasse, we have decided to create an archeological and leisure park that will offer activities suitable for everyone, while at the same time keeping the work of the archeologists as its main focus and hardest core. Any visitor will be able to observe the excavation in progress, ask questions, help out in less technical tasks, or even work as a volunteer. In short, this will be an open excavation, a work shared with anyone who visits the Park.

Between bookworm and Indiana Jones: what the archaeologist does

It is a very important step forward and, if we really want archaeology to become a true common heritage, we should not be afraid to move in this direction.

We imagine families spending their Sundays or summer vacation days at Poggio del Molino, consistently side by side with the archaeologists, gradually discovering each stage of their work. Not everyone knows what an archaeologist does. Indeed, we all generally know little about the jobs of others and often ask ourselves: what exactly does a lawyer, a graphic designer or a journalist do all day long? That of the archeologist is one of the least known professions which feeds the strangest fantasies. Not surprisingly, the Archeostorie® project was born two years ago by publishing a book (Dal Maso & Ripanti 2015) that chronicles the daily lives of many archaeologists. The point of the book was to show that archaeologists do not have their minds lost in the distant past, as most people imagine, but on the contrary they work very much inside today’s world, and they deeply affect our society. When we invite our fellow citizens to spend their Sundays or summer holidays in direct contact with archeologists, we bring them closer to the practice of archeology and inspire love for our past in a new way. Because the past belongs to all of us and those who study it, as archaeologists do, do so on behalf of the community. Their task is to make everyone be aware of the importance of our history and how much the past affects our daily choices. As stated by the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, aka the Faro Convention (Council of Europe 2005), the value of everything, even of history, is determined by citizens: nothing has intrinsic or absolute value.

Reach out to the past

There is no better way to appreciate the past, than experiencing it first-hand: touching the piece of pottery that the archaeologist has just brought to light, or the mosaic pavement that is emerging from the earth, or the stone of an ancient mill. Reaching out to the past puts us immediately in touch with the people who used those very objects thousands of years ago. Long and exhausting explanations are not really necessary at first; all it takes is a spark of emotion that immediately triggers an endless series of inquisitive questions, and at that point explanations will make sense, too. This is what a Community Archaeology Park – for us, simply PArCo – is about: it is a revolutionary idea, which we want to test at Poggio del Molino, but nothing prevents from being replicated elsewhere. A place where everyone can spend a fun day outdoors, and reach out to the past.

Archeostorie is contributing to the PArCo adventure also with a series of historic tales. The first of them, by Mariangela Galatea Vaglio, is available in the Archaeotales section.

Council of Europe 2005. Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society. Available at: https://www.coe.int/en/web/ conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/199

Dal Maso, C. & Ripanti, F. 2015. Archeostorie, Manuale non convenzionale di archeologia vissuta. Milan: Cisalpino Istituto Editoriale Universitario.

De Tommaso, G. (ed) 1998. La villa romana di Poggio del Molino (Piombino – LI). Lo scavo e I Materiali. Rassegna di Archeologia 15. pp. 119-348.

De Tommaso, G., Ghizzani Marcìa, F. &  Megale, 2010. La villa romana di Poggio del Molino e il Progetto Archeodig: un nuovo approccio all’archeologia sul campo. In Baratti, G. & Fabiani, (eds), Materiali per Populonia 9, pp. 163-180. Pisa: Edizioni Ets.

Francovich, R. 1999. Materiali per un progetto di parco nell’area del Promontorio di Piombino e Populonia- Baratti. In Francovich, R. & Zifferero A. (eds), Musei e Parchi Archeologici, pp. 227-247. Firenze: All’Insegna del Giglio.

Insolera, I. & Romualdi, A. 1988. Il parco archeologico di Populonia. In Amendolea, B., Cazzella, R. & Indrio, L. (eds), I siti archeologici. Un problema di musealizzazione all’aperto, pp. 76-83. Roma: Multigrafica Editrice.

Megale, C. 2015. Anche gli archeologi fanno crowdfunding. In Dal Maso, C. & Ripanti, F. 2015. Archeostorie, Manuale non convenzionale di archeologia vissuta, pp. 147-154. Milan: Cisalpino Istituto Editoriale Universitario.

Megale, C. 2015. Il forte tardo repubblicano di Poggio del Molino: controllo e difesa di un territorio. In Di Cola, V. & Pitzalis, F. (eds), Materiali per Populonia 11, pp. 245-257. Pisa: Edizioni Ets.

Megale, C. & Genovesi, S. 2012. Economy and production in Late Republican Settlement of Poggio del Molino, Populonia. In Bombardieri, L. et al. (eds), Identity and Connectivity: Proceedings of the 16th Symposium on Mediterranean Archaeology, Florence, Italy, 1–3 March 2012. BAR International Series 2581 (II), pp. 901-908. Oxford: Bar Publishing

Megale, C. & Genovesi, S. 2016. The Roman Settlement of Poggio del Molino: the Late Republican Fort and the Early Imperial Farm of Poggio del Molino. Preliminary data. FOLD&R. n. 347. Available at: http://www.fastionline.org/docs/FOLDER-it-2016-347.pdf.

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