In the summer of 2015 I was privileged to join four other Grove City College students and Dr. Mark Graham, professor of history, on an experience of a lifetime. We spent 25 days traveling the globe (literally, we had a layover in Moscow) and not only saw incredibly ancient artifacts but were lucky enough to handle them.
We spent our first week in Belmonte, Italy (where the Rape of the Sabine Women occurred) learning what exactly we would be doing. The six of us, along with 11 other students and professors, spent our mornings in classrooms and our afternoons scraping thin layers of paint off of marble with scalpels. The goal was to not scratch the marble. For some of us, this task was fairly easy; others really struggled.
When we left Belmonte, we headed to Sardinia to begin the work we had come do to. We were extremely fortunate to be selected to work on the Monte Prama statues. These statues were buried for a millennium and a half after being completely destroyed by the Carthaginians. The majority of these statues had been found in the 1970s and restored by Dr. Roberto Nardi and his wife in 2007, who we were studying under. Another grouping of these statues’ fragments were found when excavation continued in 2014, and those were the fragments we were working on. They were made of limestone and over seven feet tall. It is still unclear just what these statues represented, though there has been much guesswork done on the subject.
What was special about this particular project is the way the restoration took place — in the public’s eye. Dr. Nardi and his wife are very concerned about the preservation of cultural heritage, but they also really want to make sure that those people whose heritage this is truly care. Because of this, we did all our restoration work in a museum where many groups of children, grandparents and everyone in between came to see us. This project had so much meaning to the world that international television stations came to interview us and see what we were doing. It was really special to see and understand just how much the history of a people, which few know about, mattered.
I learned two things on this trip. First, I have known since I was in the fifth grade I wanted to go into archaeology, but it is such a big field I needed to narrow down a specialty. This trip helped me do just that. Second, and more importantly, I realize how important it is to save our cultural heritage for posterity. Because there is so much history out there, it is difficult to know what is important to pass on and what is not. That is part of the job of the historical conservationist. In so many ways, Dr. Nardi and his wife have protected incredible history so that future generations can see where they came from, and that gives them an identity. That is why historical conservation is important and why I am now so interested in the field. It was a huge blessing to have the opportunity to go on this trip, and I hope that I can return next summer.