Today, we will focus on the birth of archaeology and namely on how archaeology has been treated in the past and even in the recent past, as a construction of the past memory and even of the recent memory of the humankind so how archaeological ruins have been treated in modern Europe and particularly in the Western World during the Renaissance and the 16th and 17th century as a part of the construction of the ongoing memory. And so, as we have seen in the previous lessons, and you have dealt with some of the fundamental behaviors of a great ancient civilizations of the Western World toward the past. And in particular first of all, as in the Pharaonic Egypt, the attention and interest towards the past due to the fact that the foundation of the present and the certainty of continuity in the future where identified in the past. And secondly, as in the Roman World, toward, for example, Greece the desire and willing of taking a possession of a culturally prestigious past, in order to make such a prestigious past their own past. And finally, as for the barbarian conquerors toward the Roman Empire or the Mongolian conquerors towards the Abbasid Caliphate, the effort and the decision of destroying the past to delete any trace of that past regarded as an enemy, and, thence hated and despised as a world of values to be rejected. And these behaviors towards the past, being positive or negative, always had a strong emotional component, although being moved by, more or less, grounded rational evaluations, being developed in the framework of politics, never had the establishment of a scientific discipline founded on an objective and systematic knowledge of the past as a consequence. In the Western World, several times historical conditions determining a strong interest toward the past have arisen, and these ones has positively influenced the cultural development of a given period, although it did not have as result the formation of a scientific discipline having its subject in the research of the reconstruction of the past on an objective basis. And, in fact, this was not possible to be achieved in the world, as the ancient Classical World, where history was basically conceived as the art of narration. And yet, during all the Medieval period, fortuitous finds of remains of the past were interpreted without any critical foundation, often trying to link such a discovery with the local cultural traditions. When in 1191, the Glastonbury monks discovered the tomb of the two individuals, a male and a female, they thought, based on an inscription, that this was the burial of the famous King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Obviously, such a false identification was successful due to the atmosphere of intellectual enthusiasm deriving from the recent publication of the successful Historia Regum Britanniae, the History of the Kings of Britain written by Geoffrey of Monmouth: as it happened, for the Merovingians kings of France, in this chronicle a legendary ancestry of the kings of Britain from the heroes of the Troy war was postulated, as, in the Ancient Rome, it had been done for the Julio-Claudian dynasty of the Roman Empire. And in the Middle Ages of the Western World, the frequent discoveries of precious antiquities were scrupulously preserved when they could be connected someway to people or episodes of the Christian War, but if they seemed to be simply pieces of evidence for the pagan times, and thence for a period of idolatry and sin, they were relentlessly destroyed. And typical of the beginning of the 11th century is the retrieval of precious building materials, of the remains of a sacred book of the ancient Britons, and of a manuscript of the life of Saint Alban recorded in a chronicle by Matthew Paris, taking place in a monastery at Verulam, the place of the Roman Verulamium. And these marbles were reused, the sacred pagan book was burnt, and the manuscript telling the story of St. Alban was fully transcript. Yet, in the Middle Ages, the fascination of the ancient Roman world and its presumed treasures was legendary. A 12th century chronicle recorded that around the year 1,000 AD at the time of the emperor Otto III, Pope Silvester II himself would have tried to look at the huge golden palace belonging to the emperor Augustus, that had appeared in the chasm opened in between the ruins of the Ancient Rome. The Pope, that in historical reality was a sophisticated theologian would have been stopped by the diabolic coming to life of a group of statues, golden as well. And such was in the widespread fame of the richness of the Roman past that an illustrious intellectual and brilliant architect as the French abbot Suger de Saint Denis, around the year 1140 AD, dreamt to be able to excavate once in the city of Rome to enreach his famous abbey and make it splendid. Since the Late Antiquity, the problems of the conservation and the preservation on the one hand, and of the reuse and looting on the other of the countless monumental remains
and materials present or emerging from the antiquities in the cities of the Roman Empire arose. And obviously, such a problem was huge at Rome itself for the extraordinary reachness of its temples, palaces, but also of the lavish residences of the very rich aristocracy. Thus, it happened that more than once, the authorities issued bylaws for the conservation of the ancient monuments and the looting of treasures, often in contradictory terms to our modern considerations. One of the earlier or such bylaws is that issued by the emperors Valens, Gratians and Valentian in the year 376 to forbid to build houses by reusing marbles and stones deriving from the looting of ancient monuments. Right before the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the year 455, a new imperial decree imposed to the prefect Aurelian to stop the destruction that were ever more frequent after the severe sacks of the Barbarians in the capital of the Empire, which had began with that terrible for the properties more than for the people, led by the Alaric, King of the Goths. When the Kings of the Barbarians took the power assigned to the Roman Emperors and any form of control of monuments among men vanished, the position taken over by the new lords on the remains of the Empire, at that time dismembered, became so ambiguous. And King Theoderic, although ruling his new barbarian kingdom from Ravenna, charged a representative in Rome “to keep the ancient things in their pristine splendor, and to see that they new will not damage the old, since, as for a respectable way of dress it is opportune that the clothes are all the same colour, a palace gains its splendor from the beauty of all its components”. And yet Theoderic himself in contrast to such measures, commanded that all of the most beautiful marbles and columns from Rome were moved to Ravenna to embellish his new royal buildings in the new capital and to face the continuous looting and treasure hunts that were carried on everywhere, but particularly in Rome, issued such a decree. And I quote, “Gold can exacted from tombs if there is no owner any longer: in fact, it's not an action of cupidity to take possession of something the loss of which will not be regretted by anybody”. End of the quote. During all the Middle Ages, the even more looted ruins of Rome would not cease to amaze visitors that, especially for religious reasons, came to the capital of the Empire. In the 12th century, Hildebert de Lavardin was amazed for the ruins of Rome and noticing how difficult it was for the modern city to develop among the looted but still imposing remain of the wonderful ancient city. And I quote “As numerous are the monuments still standing, as those falling apart, that there is no borough in the city in which it is possible to build, being those destroyed or restored”. End of the quote. And repeated that, although sporadic and destined to individual monuments, are the measures adopted by the civic authorities in Rome during the Middle Ages to protect buildings and artworks. That's the measures taken in the year 116 by Roman Senate towards the Trajan’s column, imposing imperatively to preserve the extraordinary evidence of the 2nd century Roman art, was somewhat less memorable and successful. And I quote, “We want that it stands intact and complete, as long as it will exist. Whoever will attempt to damage, will be convicted to death, and his properties will be seized”. End of the quote. And yet a completely new attitude compared to the Middle Ages started in the 14th century in Italy. thanks to the great poet and scholar Francesco Petrarca. It has been said about him, great expert in the reviewer of the work of Titus Livius and Cicero, that he was the first man of the Middle Ages to have a modern perspective on Rome and its antiquities. Someway with Petrarca the continuous decadence of the ancient ruins and the misunderstanding of the remains of the tradition came to an end, and, through a new taste and new curiosity, the idea was established that such ruins had to be searched for, visited, admired no longer as wonders as something incomprehensibly and mysteriously wonderful and fascinating, but as something that has to be considered, as we still say in the present days, in their own historical context. Petrarca differentiated the medieval city in which he lived sometimes, from the ancient city that emerged everywhere in the layout of the papal city and he maintained that the magnificent capital of the ancient world, had to be visited with the ancient writers’ works in hand, which was the only means to understand its historical reality. Such a concept, proposed by Petrarca, is totally different from the traditional one of the men of the Middle Ages, and it's deeply modern in its foundation, and directly foreruns the viewpoint of the people of the Renaissance. And in fact, at the mid-15th century Petrarca’s pioneer work will find its followers in the consideration of the ancient Rome according to objective criteria that even after centuries forerun the scientific concept. Leon Battista Alberti, for example, one of the most preminent architects of the Italian Renaissance, in 1432, designed the plan of the ancient Rome based on the measurement taken directly over the ancient ruins, and one of that great Italian humanists, Flavio Biondo published between 1446 and 1459, two erudite volumes on the Ancient Rome in a historical-topographic perspective, Roma instaurata and Roma triumphans. Time were ready, at the beginning of the 16th century for that the papal authorities paid attention to the preservation of the magnificent ruins of Rome that already emerged, scattered over ruler landscape of vineyards and gardens that everywhere cover the remains of the ancient glory of Rome. Interventions of the popes to protect the ruins of Rome had been made necessary by the massive reuse of the lavish ancient materials, particularly marbles, and by the use of stones to make lime for the new buildings. Thus, in 1515 Pope Leo X charging with divine talents, with the project of the new St.Peters church, he also entrusted him with the choice of what he need for the new church, particularly asking him to abstain from any instructions which had been authorized by the Pope in person. And towards the end of the century, that witnessed to the apogee of the Italian Renaissance, the person appointed by the Pope to the antiquities of Rome in the official documents of the pontifical administration was called, and I quote “commissioner in charged with the treasures, the antiquities and the quarries” end of the quote. It was thanks to these first studies and measures of protection of the antiquities of Rome in the early Renaissance that, in a few decades, promoted all over Europe, in different ways, interest towards different aspect, way by way antiquarian, topographic, or connected to the ancient world. In France, Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc, jurist, but also astronomer, philologist, mathematician, and naturalist, died in 1637 after a journey to Italy, became unanymously recognized as the greatest antiquarian in his country, since, as an expert of finds of the material culture and of ancient manuscripts, he, in fact, kept contacts with scholars all over Europe. And in Britain it was William Camden, who, after completing his studies in Oxford, based on continuous visits to places, also isolated, and of extended reading the Classics, in 1586 published a topographic history called Britannia, which gained huge success, and several editions, due to the quantity and quality of information on the territory. In Germany, a scholar, Nicolaus Marschalk, died in 1525, was able, based on accurate observations on the field, and of some excavations, to deduce that the wide “urn fields” often found close to a megaliths and tumuli should be cemeteries built by men, contrary to the old traditional interpretation diffused in the Middle Ages, according to which the urns cropped up by earth as plants, being simply a weird natural phenomenon. The difficulty to differentiate in the object buried in the soil between what had to have been produced by man and by the nature favoured the diffusion, especially in Germany, during the 16th and 17th centuries, of the so called Wunderkammern among the aristocrats and intellectuals. These were collection of artworks and wonders. The most famous were those of the Archduke of Tyrol, Ferdinand, the brother of the emperor, Maximilian II of Augsburg, kept in the castle of Ambras, of the dukes of Bayern Albert V and William V in Munich, and of the Austrian emperor Rudolph II in the castle of Hradschin, in Prague. Those extraordinary collections included the written document, statues, coins, painting, goldsmithry, medals, models and uncommon tools, vessels discovered in excavations, tools for fishing and huntings, ethnographic exotica, flints, shells, fossils of any sorts. The owner of the one of the richest of such rooms of wonders, the Danish Ole Worm, who traveled all over Europe, had a very wide interest in both natural science and humanities, and being also professor of Latin at University of Copenhagen, authored a work important for the creation of an autonomous discipline aimed at the historical-topographic reconstruction based on written documents and material data: Danicorum Monumenta Libri Sex. These were, in fact, six books on Danish monuments, published in 1643. The fundamental importance of Worm, who's certainly was still more an erudite of the Renaissance, an antiquarian in the broadest sense, rather than an archaeologist, can be understood in an assertion of his, that has a modern spirit: it is enough to observe the soil and to dig it, to revive people without history. And concluding, it was between the beginning of the Renaissance and the full Baroque period, that the peculiar continuity between culture and nature, according to the men of the Middle Age, was broken. That the fantasies of the past, populated by dwarves and witches, dropped out of the myths, that the erudites understood that the soils on which we walk keeps the secrets of a long distant past of the humankind, always the earliest ,and sometimes even the most recent and latest one.