Archaeological conservation in Tuscany, Italy

Populonia’s archaeological sites face threats from looters. On this applied learning program, you'll help researchers protect invaluable remnants from an ancient world.

Situated in a strategic part of the bay, next to a navigable inland lake and to the great Campiglia mines, Populonia was for centuries (from 900 BCE to 100 CE) one of the most significant centers of iron smelting and trade in the Mediterranean. The transfer of the city to Roman rule (250/200 BCE) did not halt its metalworking activities: iron exports supported the Roman expansion in Africa, and the Augustan ruling class (50 BCE - 50 CE) had important economic interests in the area’s industrial production and commerce.

The ancient maritime settlement of Poggio del Molino is located in the heart of the former territory of Populonia, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. This excavation aims to fill key gaps in our knowledge of the industrial history and coastal economy of Populonia and its region, from the early Roman period (250/200 BCE) to the early Middle Ages (600 CE).

The project results will offer a more profound understanding of the industrial aspects of Roman rule and territorial exploitation, given the site’s strategic position near natural resources. With treasure hunters, looters, and even development pressures threatening the integrity of the site, your help is needed to secure the past before they are lost forever.

The most impressive tombs found at the Baratti and Populonia Archaeological Park were buried beneath iron slagheaps between the 4th and the 1st century BC left by smelting work carried out in Populonia. The iron slag was excavated at the beginning of the twentieth century, but many tombs were partially destroyed by machines used to collect slag. At the project’s excavation site, it is believed that volunteers will help discover the remains of an industrial building used between the 4th and the 1st century B.C. and, underneath, a portion of Etruscan necropolis (7th-4th century B.C.).


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What to Expect?

Welcome to Tuscany, famous for its stunning scenery, food, and wine. The research site overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea, with a view of the Isle of Elba. Although many tourists make Populonia and its environs their destination today, the area still maintains authentic Tuscan traditions.

It also boasts a number of natural attractions. The Rimigliano Park, a strip of luxuriant coastal Mediterranean vegetation, abuts the research site. You’ll also be near the World Wildlife Fund reserve of Orti Bottagone, an important habitat for wild birds and amphibians.

Many towns that date from the Middle Ages dot the area, most of which are known for their traditional festivals, excellent food (especially game such as wild boar), and wine. Populonia’s location makes it an ideal jumping-off point for visits to Pisa, Florence, and other cities if you decide to spend time in Italy before or after the project.

You’ll stay in comfortable, modern apartments in the quiet village of Populonia Stazione. The shared bedrooms have twin beds, and the apartments will vary in size depending on how big the team is. You’ll make your own breakfast in the well-equipped kitchen every morning, and in the evenings staff members will treat you to home-cooked Italian dinners. You’re welcome to help out and try your hand at some of these authentic recipes.

The team will eat lunch at a local café, which also offers Internet use for a small fee. From the accommodations, you’re a very short walk to the charming center of Populonia Stazione, where you can visit a bakery, a pizzeria, and two small grocery stores.

During May and June, you’ll excavate the Etruscan coastal necropolis - a burial ground - of San Cerbone, at the Baratti and Populonia Archaeological Park. You’ll investigate a portion of the Park stratigraphically, verify the site’s history, and find out what structures have occurred. It is the most important place to discover and understand the lives of the people who lived in Populonia between the 7th and the 1st century BC.

From September to October, you’ll continue to help save a nearly-forgotten treasure trove of ancient Roman culture at the Roman maritime settlement of Poggio del Molino. You’ll fill key gaps in our knowledge of the industrial history and coastal economy of Populonia and its territory, from the early Roman period (250/200 BCE) to the early Middle Ages (600 CE) and enrich Tuscany’s archaeological heritage.

Expect one week costs around $2000 USD, including training, apartment accommodation and most meals.

  • Program ID: # 1826
  • duration:
    1 to 2 Weeks
  • location:
    Poggio del Molino Pisa
    43° 0' 9.5004" N, 10° 31' 49.422" E
  • Fitness level:
    Moderately Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Florence, Italy (FLR)
  • Costs From:
    $1500 to $3000
  • Program Type:
    Learn Abroad
  • Click Here for More Info

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