The Gabii Project
The ancient Latin city of Gabii lies 11 miles east of Rome and it grew in parallel with its more famous neighbor for the first few centuries of their life. Groups of mud huts occupied it in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE and gradually a well laid-out city, with stone temples and rich houses grew and peaked around 250 BCE. While Rome was well on its way to defeat Carthage and become the biggest city of the Mediterranean, its ally Gabii was slowly but surely drained of people and resources, presumably because of its proximity to the capital of the new empire. By the first century BCE it shrank to a station along a major Roman road, with shops and baths mainly aimed at passing travelers. In such a reduced state, it continued its life down to the collapse of the empire, with only a rural church surviving for several centuries, only to be abandoned too, as a result of the spread of malaria in the region. The site remains deserted to this day.
The target of some treasure hunting in the 1700, Gabii remained entirely unexcavated until the 1950s, when Spanish archaeologists explored the great temple of Juno, whose remains were the only that had always remained visible. In the last 25 years, several new excavation projects have been launched, conducted by (or under the aegis of) the Italian State Archaeological Service (https://www.soprintendenzaspecialeroma.it/). The University of Rome 2, the University of Michigan. the Louvre Museum and the German Archaeological Institute, among others, have conducted extensive surveys and excavations, which have produced a mass of new data about the entire urban history of Gabii. Since 2007, the Gabii Project has been focusing on an area in the center of the ancient city, at the intersection of its two main roads. Eleven seasons of fieldwork in an area of over two acres have revealed traces of all the phases of habitation.
The Gabii Project has always striven to innovate archaeological methods rather than simply conforming to best practices. The excavation was preceded and guided by geophysical surveys of the entire city, which revealed the geometric layout of the block and allowed the maximization of results. Once the excavation areas selected, layers are individually peeled off after having been recorded in full 3D with photographic quality. Descriptive information is entered in a dynamic database that is updated and backed up in real time. Artifacts and other inclusions are systematically retrieved by sieving, while soil samples are collected for environmental investigations. Standing structures are also recorded by means of photogrammetry, resulting in an entirely paperless excavation. Given the complexity and interconnectedness of the records, only a 3D-enabled online publication can do justice to them. The Gabii Digital Reports, published in digital form only by the University of Michigan Press represent a cutting edge new form of archaeological communication.