Penn Museum and Italy

From the Director

By: Richard Hodges

Originally Published in 2011

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Froelich Rainey (at right) and others survey with underground detecting equipment at Sybaris, Italy, ca. 1965.Penn Museum Image: 195316
Froelich Rainey (at right) and others survey with underground detecting equipment at Sybaris, Italy, ca. 1965.
Penn Museum Image: 195316

The archaeology of Italy, the bel paese or beautiful country, has long held a deep attraction for archaeologists and members of the Penn Museum. As early as 1895 the Museum engaged Arthur L. Frothingham, Secretary of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome (forerunner of the American Academy), to excavate the spectacular Etruscan warrior tombs at Narce and Vulci in Latium. A decade later Lucy Wharton Drexel funded Leonard Woolley, future excavator of Ur-of-the-Chaldees, then an assistant keeper at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, to excavate the Roman baths at Teano in Campania. In the 1930s, at the height of the Depression, the Museum found the prospect of sharing the finds from the massive urban excavations at Minturnae, also in Campania, irresistible. From there came a rich array of busts and statues that today set the grandiose tone of the Museum’s Roman Gallery. After World War II, Director Froelich Rainey was no less seduced by the treasures of the peninsula, and collaborated with the Lerici Foundation in a ground-breaking geophysical survey of ancient Sybaris (Calabria) in southern Italy—a great Greek colony that is now an archaeological park.

But just as the emphasis towards science engaged Museum expeditions in the 1960s, replacing the pre-war lure of statuary and armor, so today with a 21st century generation of archaeologists—as this issue of Expedition illustrates—contemporary projects are focusing upon big historical questions about the past. Methodological and theoretical advances in archaeology have been adopted by modern practitioners in Italian archaeology, making the bel paese one of the most exciting places to be engaged in archaeological research. Endowed with a long and endlessly fascinating history, Italy, it seems, will always hold a special fascination for those interested in new directions in world archaeology.


Richard Hodges PH.D
The Williams Director

Cite This Article

Hodges, Richard. "Penn Museum and Italy." Expedition Magazine 53, no. 2 (July, 2011): -. Accessed June 13, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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