This past week has been an wild ride of new things for all of us on this trip. Two of us got sick and missed the dig for a few days, which put a lot of strain on those that remained. Luckily, we had a new pair of hands this week as well! This past weekend we welcomed an alum to our dig, who participated in this exact program two years ago. Ryan has been a quiet yet helpful member of the team this past week, and hopefully will continue to assist us this last week as well! The three of us American students went on another day trip to explore this area of Italy, which added yet another new experience to the week. We visited the archaeological site in Ostia (Ostia Antica), and boy, what a site it is! It feels like you’re walking through miles and miles of twisting, turning columns, brick and stone walls, mosaics – with dead ends at every other turn.
Unsurprisingly, I managed to get myself lost. Separated from the other girls for but a moment, I found myself in an actual maze of stone. I couldn’t find the others on the path we had taken, but figured they’d just gone a little off the path and would come back; they did not. I continued wandering, figuring I would text them and we would find a way to meet up. Hot, tired, and more than a little bit anxious, I made it to a kind of museum at one end of the site. This beautiful building is full of statues, tributes, and frescoes found from differing areas all over the site. All of the pieces are relatively in-tact, which is incredibly rare for this phase of the Roman Empire. I spent a while chatting with the lady who was in charge of the small space, and found out that many of the pieces housed there have actually been recovered from the black market! The illegal buying, selling and trading of archaeological artifacts has been a problem for centuries, but is finally being addressed and the perpetrators are being reprimanded and prosecuted for their crimes against heritage and history conservation. This museum takes part by housing the found pieces, putting parts together of the same piece that had been stolen separately, and helping the government and committees in charge of the archaeological artifact protection (specifically those that were located in and around the Ostia area).
This lonesome traveler story has a happy ending, no worries about that! I managed to find my way to the cafe and giftshop at the very end of the site, and waited in air-conditioned bliss until Tina and Sofi found their way to the end as well. Tired but satisfied, we took the train, metro, and another train that it takes to get from Ostia to Valmontone, and then yet another bus back to Artena. The walk up the mountain from the bus stop was more grueling than it would have been had we not spent the entire day wandering around the ruins of a once-prosperous ancient port city, but the adventure was well worth the hike.