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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Sikellis

Interview with Professor Helena Fracchia

Helena Fracchia is a Professor Emerita at the University of Alberta. She is currently excavating and conducting a field survey in Italy. Professor Fracchia has received a Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from UC Berkeley, a M.A. in Classical Archaeology from UC Berkeley, and a B.A. in Greek from UC Berkeley. Professor Fracchia has written many and contributed to many different books and articles. She has also led and been involved with many archaeological projects in Greece and Italy. In this interview, Professor Fracchia answers questions about her own unique archaeological experience and also about what cultural preservation means to her. Read the interview below:


What inspired you to get into the archaeological field?

>>As a child, I grew up in rural California on a farm on which there was a large Indian village long before, and I spent many many days walking the fields picking up arrowheads, etc.


What does your current work/ fieldwork entail?

>>Working on pre Roman and Roman rural Italy, both in Tuscany and in the south of Italy, in Basilicata.


In your entire career, what would you say is the most meaningful and important thing that you have found?

>>Two things from the pre Roman Lucanian site of Roccagloriosa, a bronze tablet that set out the governing structure for the site and a votive deposit within the largest house on that same site that established the divinity as a Lucanian deity.


Do you have any history with Greek archaeological sites?

>>Yes, I worked on ancient Greek topography with W. Kendrick Pritchett, and excavated at Nemea. I was a student at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens as well, and in Greece, worked on agricultural structures in the Argolid.


You have written/ contributed to many articles and books. What is that process like?

>>In theory it is fun to write articles and books, in reality it is a lot of very hard work in terms

of footnotes, citations, etc. What is fun is the thinking part.


Throughout your fieldwork, what do you and your team(s) do to ensure that culture

is preserved?

>>Excellent question. In Italy it depends on your relationship with the archaeological bureaucracy. That is, are you an independent researcher or are you a collaborator with the archaeological superintendency. I have always worked as a collaborator which means that the preservation of artifacts and in particular of architecture is the responsibility not of the excavator but of the Italian State as all material belongs to the State. While that absolves me personally from issues of conservation, restoration, etc. it is not really satisfactory because while some restoration is normally done on sites if the local authorities want the site to become public rarely is money allocated to upkeep, etc. A friend once said the worst mistake she ever made was agreeing to the restoration of a specific site instead of backfilling the entire excavated area: the problem was no provision for upkeep and wear and tear on the site itself so that the actual restoration condemned the site to fall to pieces.


How important do you think that cultural preservation is? Why?

>>Cultural preservation is absolutely fundamental. We have to remember that archaeology is a historical discipline and therefore attempts to answer historical problems. But archaeology is the most dangerous of the historical disciplines because it is so invasive and therefore easily manipulated. The archaeologist has a tremendous responsibility to the remains that are unearthed as historical documents. Often it is better, as the story up above illustrates, to cover up what you find, an excellent method of preservation.


What can the average person do to ensure cultural preservation in their local

communities?

>>Respect of archaeological sites or materials, an understanding that archaeology is a tool for history and historians, and promoting laws that pertain to trafficking of archaeological material.

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