Preserving and reading place through stories and materials

with Elena Isayev
Riwaq, Ramallah
November 17, 2015 – 12 PM – 14:00 PM


What matters more the story or the material in making a place meaningful? What is it that allows memories to cluster? and How do we tell the story of sites without recorded memories, where only the physical materials remain? The aim of this workshop is to address these questions to better understand the role of heritage and preservation by using ancient Italy and Rome as a laboratory. The ancient Mediterranean was a highly mobile world without borders or nation states, where ideas of homeland and belonging could incorporate multiple sites. The imagined community was cantered on Rome, while simultaneously being scattered around the Mediterranean. Competing collective memories gave importance to some sites and monuments over others. These were to be preserved. But the ancient Roman concept of heritage did not place historical value and identity of a structure in its physical being. Debates about the essence of place fill the pages of ancient literature. This includes Rome itself, which the historian Livy had to argue could not be moved. In the same way as a site-specific work, it could not be Rome elsewhere, but several centuries later arguably Rome was moved. At many ancient sites all we have are the archaeological remains, we do not even know their names. Trying to understand what kind of a society inhabited them becomes more challenging. The complexity of what a city plan says about a community is evident in a number of sites in South Italy. What makes them stand out is that none of them have any public spaces or monumental features. Yet other evidence makes it clear that these were not primitive settlements, their inhabitants were powerful and linked into the latest cultural trends. The material remains reflect the priorities of what they chose to invest in, which differed from others around them at the time. They gave different value to the public aspects of the built environment.


Elena Isayev is an Associate Professor of Ancient History at University of Exeter. She is the author of Migration, Mobility and Place in Ancient Italy (Cambridge forthcoming); Inside Ancient Lucania: Dialogues in History and Archaeology (London 2007); and Ancient Italy: Regions without Boundaries (2007, co-edited with G. Bradley & C. Riva). Her research on migration in Italy shows a highly mobile world questioning the role of ethnicity and territoriality in conflicts. Current research focuses on public and common space, and the uses of citizenship. Her interdisciplinary initiative Future Memory (AHRC funded), brought artists, architects, and musicians into communities to explore alternative meanings of place, creating collective monuments in sculpture, painting and performance.




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Reading Materials

Harvey Heritage [ENG]

Harvey Heritage Past [ENG]

Livy Camillus speech [ENG]

Heritage, Memory and Identity [ENG]

Communicating Identity [ENG]