Southwestern students Georgia LoSchiavo and Katherine Maples are going to spend part of their summer working in a garden, but it’s not just any garden.  

It’s a garden that is more than 2,000 years old and may be the largest well-preserved formal garden ever found.  

The garden was located in an ancient Roman city called Stabiae that was buried with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Stabiae was a summer home for the Roman elite, who built massive, luxurious villas there.  

Thomas Howe, an art history professor at Southwestern, has been leading excavations at Stabiae since 1999 as coordinator general of the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Foundation.  

This summer Howe will be overseeing the largest excavation ever at the site. More than 100 students and researchers from all over the world will be participating.  

Howe said this summer’s efforts will focus on a garden that was part of the Villa Arianna, one of four villas that have been excavated at the site.  The garden is about the size of a football field.

“This is like the Rosetta stone of garden archaeology,” Howe said. “Every specialist in garden archaeology is coming.”  

LoSchiavo and Maples will be part of the team. Howe said they will participate in activities such as surveying and drawing.  

“I’ve been dead-set on becoming and archeologist for years” said LoSchiavo, who is a sophomore classics major. “But, despite wanting to, I have never had an opportunity to participate in a dig before. I think this is going to be an incredible experience.”

Maples just graduated from Southwestern with a degree in religious studies and hopes to attend a graduate program that focuses on religions of the ancient Mediterranean.

“I have wanted to be an archaeologist since I was six years old, so when this opportunity arose, I couldn’t say no,” Maples said. “I hope to get some great experience in archaeological field work, which will let me know if this is really what I want to do, and will give me better opportunities for a career. I also hope to meet some great contacts for future work or research. I have never been to Europe, so it’s exciting because I’ll finally get to see many of the great buildings, ruins, and artifacts that I have been learning about since elementary school. Not to mention I’ll also get to be digging them up first-hand!”

LoSchiavo and Maples will work with a team coming from the University of Maryland. Other researchers will be coming from Cornell University, the University of Arkansas, Brock University in Ontario, Canada, and the University of Birmingham in England. There also will be researchers from the Hermitage Museum in Russia.

In addition to working at the Villa Arianna at Stabiae, LoSchiavo and Maples will do some work at the House of the Large Fountain in Pompeii and have the opportunity to tour Pompeii. The program they are participating in runs from June 20 to July 9.

“It’s going to be three weeks of manual labor in a foreign country with lots of people we don’t know, but, for me at least, it’s a dream come true,” LoSchiavo said.

Maples said she feels the same way. “Even though we’re going to be working our butts off in the hot Italian sun every day, I think it’s going to be the best vacation of my life,” she said.


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