A student’s archeological summer in Rome

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For decades, University of Dallas students have been traveling to Italy, bringing back bits of Florence, Assisi and Rome which become a new part of who they are and who they will become. One UD student, however, spent the summer leaving her own mark on Rome, unearthing the ruins of the ancient city of Gabii.

Gabii was an ancient and powerful Latin city that was often at war with Rome during the era of the Roman Republic. The Gabii Project, created by the University of Michigan, is at work with archeologists to uncover this city which has historical roots ranging from the Archaic to the Republican era of Rome.

Maria Miller, a junior English and Classical Philology major, worked with the Gabii Project in a five-week program this past summer, from June 13th until July 14th. From a very young age, Miller was interested in paleontology and geology and her love for discoveries of this vein blossomed into an interest for archeology.

Miller’s day in Italy would begin just after six o’clock in the morning, break for lunch, nap at midday and continue on into the afternoon so that Miller and her colleagues would return home by six o’clock in the evening after a long day of hard work. They would spend their days shoveling and sifting dirt, as well as setting aside artifacts they found on the site such as pottery or coins from the ancient city.

The manual labor was tough on Miller, especially in temperatures often above 100 degrees. “Definitely sweaty and hot and dirty and it just got tiring, kind of like monotonous,” said Miller. “But then you would have a good find and then you’d be excited again.”

Although Miller endured many hardships on the archaeological site, the discoveries she made seemed to make the work worthwhile. She also got to spend her evenings exploring Rome, picking up where she left off on her Rome semester, even getting the chance to visit the Due Santi campus again some evenings.

Miller was amazed at the variety of research going on at the site of Gabii. While the site was attended by classics professors in Miller’s own field, there were also scientists researching environmental aspects of the city’s culture and lifestyle. Miller was personally interested in the pottery of the civilization, having taken ceramics at UD.

Miller learned about the Gabii Project as a high school student: “I heard about it before I actually came to UD,” Miller said. “That was kind of part of the reason that I thought more about UD and the Rome program and archaeology.” Having always been interested in archeology, Miller was thrilled at the opportunity of relating this dream to her current studies in Classics.

As she continues her studies as an undergraduate, Miller is considering the possibilities for her future in archeology. “I would love to go to Egypt,” she said, although she would also be interested in working in Mexico or Greece. “Once you’re trained you can essentially go wherever you want because they always need volunteers to help dig.”

When UD students are on their Rome semesters, it may be tempting to forget the significance of the sites surrounding your studies. Walking through Rome, you pass a gelato shop and a cafe and the Colosseum, the building in which hundreds of thousands of people were executed. You pass tall obelisks pillaged from sieges in Egypt. You pass the Roman Forum, a place once bustling with the activity of the great Roman Republic.

We walk in the steps of lives lived many centuries ago in Rome, Pompeii and Delphi, but we also walk in much more recent footsteps. The Rome we are currently experiencing as students is a very different city than the one of twenty years ago. We are seeing a different city than the one our parents saw, and our children will see a still different city than the one we grow used to during our Rome semester. This evolution is all thanks to the help of scientists, classics professors and aspiring archeologists like Maria Miller.

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