Archæology in Italy

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    Abstract

    THE final rejection by the Italian Government of Prof. Valdstein's well-advertised project for an international excavation of Herculaneum gives the Rome correspondent of the Times food for reflection with regard to the alleged Chauvinism of Italian archsvologists, who will allow no foreigner to take part in Italian excavations, notwithstanding the fact, which they admit freely enough, that Greco-Roman antiquity is the property of the whole world, and not of Italy alone. While admitting that the postponement of the excavation of Herculaneum until such time as Italy can do it by herself does not much matter from the scientific standpoint, since “the treasures which lie beneath Resina are in safe keeping, and might remain undisturbed for centuries,” the correspondent remarks that this is by no means the case with regard to other sites, which cry aloud for speedy excavation, for valuable evidence is in their case being destroyed daily by the “march of modern improvement.” To do the work, Italy can muster neither suflicient money nor sufficient men, especially the latter. Yet she will not invite foreign aid, which would willingly and gratefully be given by archaeological students all over the world. As the Times correspondent is obliged regretfully to admit, “The foreigner is at liberty to pay his lira for admission to museums and other places; he may even give a round sum for the completion of some work in which he is interested, as long as he does not wish to help in carrying it out himself; he may. turn his talents to such use as advertising the achievements of Italian archleologists or translating their books into another language; he may show an intelligent and devoted interest, but it must be from a discreet distance. That, at least, seems to be the moral of all the recent relations between Italy and other countries in the archological questions which have come to the front during the last twenty years or so. One would willingly believe it otherwise; one would gladly put a more literal and liberal interpretation on their professions of confraternity; but how is it possible to do so unless Italian archaologists support their words by actual deeds? One simple fact outweighs all their written and spoken titterances. Nowhere in Italy is any foreign enterprise at work, and never has any foreigner been invited to give his time and his talents to what is, in their own admission, a common cause. If Italian archaologists would pay to other nations the graceful compliment of employing, now and then, their students as assistants; if those derelict excavations on the shore of the Gulf of Taranto-whose need is so pressing and whose secrets are so necessary to history-could be, even temporarily, confided to foreign institutions; then, and not till then, their assurances would carry weight."

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