Come to Rome and engage history: exploration, archaeology, and conservation!

See the new Wall Street Journal article featuring AIRC’s excavation in Parco dei Ravennati!

The American Institute for Roman Culture’s Summer Archaeological Field School is an intensive, accredited five-week educational program in Roman archaeology led by AIRC faculty and affiliated expert archaeologists. The program offers students a unique combination of (1) one week of specialized academic instruction on the topography and development of 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) four weeks of hands-on fieldwork at an important archaeological site in the city and environs. In 2016 the program will be held from June 6 through July 10 and will take place at Ostia Antica, the harbor city of ancient Rome.


Get a broad perspective

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.

Gain valuable experience

During the fieldwork 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 conservation of the material remains of the past.

Live in Rome

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.

Make friends

The Summer Archaeological Field School also offers the chance to meet, and make lasting friendships with, like-minded people representing a wide range of majors at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels from all parts of the United States, and even the world. The 2014 program included participants from the University of Southern California, California State University – Fresno, University of Pittsburgh – Greensburg, Gettysburg College, Rhodes College, Texas A&M University, Smith College, Dartmouth College, Boston University, and University of Vermont. They were joined by students from the University of Manitoba and Western University in Canada, University College London and the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, Lund University in Sweden, and the University of Western Australia.

Pursue graduate study

Thanks to their training in Rome, many graduates of the Summer Archaeological Field School have pursued, or are currently pursuing, graduate studies in Archaeology, Art History, or Classics/Classical Archaeology in rigorous programs around the United States and the United Kingdom, including Boston University, New York University, University of Kansas, University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto, Brandeis University, Bryn Mawr College, University College London, Oxford University, and Durham University.


The dig

AIRC is seeking 40 participants for the third campaign of an 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, AIRC associate), who have obtained the excavation permit from the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, the AIRC project will clean, excavate, and document 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 late 1960s, 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.

See also the formal description of the project in Fasti Online.

The experience

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.

Images from the 2014 season (Flickr)


The schedule

The project runs from Monday through Friday, 8:00-4:30. The typical working schedule is:
8:00 arrival at site
8:00-8:30 set-up
8:30-10:00 work
10:00-10:15 snack (cookies and fruit)
10:15-12:15 work
12:15-1:00 lunch (pasta or meat/vegetable dish, drink, and gelato)
1:00-4:00 work
4:00-4:30 break-down


Ostia Antica is conveniently reached from downtown Rome via a 25-minute commute on the Roma-Ostia Lido train line, which departs every 10-15 minutes from a dedicated station connected to the Piramide metro stop. In order to reach Ostia Antica by 8:00, participants must catch the 7:30 train. The same train line can be used to get to the beach at Ostia Lido during free time and weekends.

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 mentally challenging.

Educational requirements

Whether you’re a postgraduate or undergraduate, archaeology or art history 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.

Project bibliography

A very thorough and up-to-date bibliography on Ostia Antica is available here.



Participants are expected to bring an archaeological trowel, cut-proof gloves, a pair of pants, and steel-toed safety boots. All other equipment and tools are provided by AIRC.


Three hours of credit for the Summer Archaeological Field School are provided by California State University, Fresno’s Division of Continuing and Global Education (transcript fee included in the program cost; course name HUM 101). 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).

University of Southern California students can earn 4 units of university credit by enrolling in a course (AHIS 325) specially created by Dr. John Pollini, Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology at USC and tied specifically to the AIRC summer program. For further information contact Prof. Pollini.

Program cost and details

Cost US$4600 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.
Lunch and a snack are provided on-site from Monday to Friday. All other meals are at the participant’s expense.


Due date: March 31, 2016. After March 31 a late fee ($100) will be assessed. The last date for accepting late applications is April 15, 2016. Interested persons are encouraged to apply early, as 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, in a standard text format (.rtf, .doc/.docx, .pdf);
– one letter of recommendation from a professor, supervisor, or employer who has worked with you, in a standard text format (.rtf, .doc/.docx, .pdf); the letter must be sent by the recommender;
– a copy of your curriculum vitae/resume including relevant coursework taken (in Classics, art history, history, archaeology, and anthropology), interests, and skills, in a standard text format (.rtf, .doc/.docx, .pdf);
– a brief phone or Skype interview with AIRC project staff (February-March).

All inquiries and application documents should be submitted to: studyabroad[at]romanculture.org AND albert[at]romanculture.org.

The American Institute for Roman Culture will offer one unpaid intern position as part of its 2016 Summer Archaeological Field School in Ostia Antica outside of Rome. The ideal applicant (1) is a veteran of a previous AIRC Summer Archaeological Field School OR (2) has at least one season of experience at a Roman-period archaeological site in Italy. Applications that do not meet these criteria will be considered, but such applications should demonstrate significant compensatory education, experience, or training

Program dates

Monday, June 6 to Friday, July 8. In order to be considered for an intern position, applicants MUST be available for the ENTIRE period (5 weeks).

Description and responsibilities/Duties

Assistant to the Artifact Specialist: this intern will assist the project’s artifact specialist in all aspects of managing the material remains recovered from the site, including washing and cleaning, sorting, labeling, data recording and cataloguing, classification and analysis, visual documentation, and storage. This intern will be expected to supervise and train the field-school participants in the handling of artifacts on an occasional basis. Specific experience with artifact management is an advantage but not a requirement; some on-the-job instruction will be provided. The intern will be expected to assist AIRC faculty during the first week’s mini-topography course and to perform occasional urgent project-related duties that will be assigned by AIRC staff and faculty as needed during the course of the program (e.g., transporting documents and materials between Rome and Ostia). When not actively engaged in his/her primary duties, the intern will be expected to participate in the ongoing activities at the Ostia site, including excavation, documentation, and conservation work. The intern will work under the supervision of the coordinator of the Summer Archaeological Field School (Alberto Prieto) and report directly to him and to AIRC Executive Director Darius Arya.


AIRC will cover the following costs for the intern position: welcome and farewell dinners in Rome; local transportation in Rome and between Rome and Ostia on working days; mid-morning snack and lunch (Monday-Friday) on-site at Ostia (weeks 2-5). Successful applicants must provide for all other meals, transportation costs, and other expenses. AIRC will NOT provide accommodation in Rome; successful applicants must arrange their own lodgings. AIRC can provide limited assistance in searching for lodgings online. Alternatively, housing can be arranged through ACCENT International with the Summer Archaeological Field School participants, in which case successful applicants must be able to pay the student housing fee assessed by ACCENT.

Application instructions

The application consists of:
up-to-date CV/resume listing all pertinent education and experience (esp. archaeological experience);
– a personal statement (maximum 400 words) specifying the reasons/motivations behind the application. Why do you want to work at Ostia Antica? Why are you applying for an internship in artifact management? What are your short-term and long-term academic/professional goals, and what do you expect to take away from this experience that will contribute to them (specific skills, knowledge, connections, etc.)?;
– brief telephone or Skype interview.

The application materials must be submitted to AIRC”s Associate Director of Archaeology, Alberto Prieto: albert [at] romanculture.org.
Applications must be received by March 31, 2016. Notifications will be sent by April 7, and successful applicants must respond by April 14.