Antiquities & Archaeology

Attempts to secure funding for British archaeology abroad

Keep British archaeology great

The annual British School at Rome lecture given by the outgoing director Professor Richard Hodges presented a detailed report on the various archaeological projects that the School engaged in during 1993-94, but ended with a heartfelt plea to the British Academy, whose budget is derived from the Treasury, not to cut funding to British Schools and Institutes abroad. In 1994-95 the Rome School obtained £675,000 from the British Academy, this year they received £690,000 and are raising £600,000 from other sources. The annual overall budget is around £1,250,000. The Academy is currently conducting a review of the schools both as individual institutions and as an overall pattern of activity in countries abroad, particularly in the Middle East. The report is due to be published at the end of this year.

The audience at the British Academy at the end of March heard first about the site of Butrint in Albania (see The Art Newspaper No. 47, April 1995, p.19) where the first season of excavation was launched in August 1994 and continued this Easter.

The joint project with Professor Riccardo Francovich of Siena University to excavate deserted mining villages on Elba uncovered several typical miners’ dwellings, establishing a standard plan. Two iron workshops were also excavated, dating to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, with iron-working debris and iron-working tools.

The School’s principal excavation is at San Vincenzo al Volturno, the site of an early medieval Benedictine monastery in the regione of Molise (see The Art Newspaper No.25, February 1993, p.11). In 1993-94 the apse and painted annular crypt were revealed, as was the overall Constantinian-Gregorian plan reinterpreted in a Carolingian guise. San Vincenzo is now seen to be a monastic city which covered 6-10 hectares. One recent discovery was of a Samnite cemetary dating to the seventh century AD.

Professor Hodges ended by saying “Archaeology, given its propensity to identify not only those who made history, but those denied it, must be transacted upon a scale that serves these purposes”. But this cannot be done, he argued, on limited funds which only permit trial trenches or field surveys. Amalgamating schools, or denying them resources, would not maintain the currently pre-eminent reputation of British archaeology abroad.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Keep British archaeology great'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 48 May 1995