Kimberly Bowes (2006 Fellow) arrives in Rome to begin her three-year tenure as Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge of the School of Classical Studies on July 1. We recently asked Bowes to discuss how she became interested in archaeology and to tell us about some of her current projects, and more.
Beyond being a Fellow in 2005–6 when you spent a year in Rome, what other ties do you have to Italy?
I’ve been excavating in Sicily and in Tuscany for four years, and I work with lots of Italian colleagues on these projects. We also just finished building a house in Umbria—a project that took five years and introduced us to lots of great people.
Would you tell us about some of your current projects?
I codirect a project in Tuscany called the Roman Peasant Project. It’s the first project of its kind to try to investigate the lives of the Roman rural poor—by excavating their houses, understanding their diet and agriculture, and examining their relationship with the environment. We work with a lot of brilliant people, specialists on everything from ceramics and animals bones to geology and archaeo-botany. I’m also the codirector of a project in Sicily that looks at the flip side of the social coin—the economics of wealthy estates—by studying the landscape around the great villa of Piazza Armerina.
Has technology impacted any of these projects?
Both projects rely heavily on new technology, especially the Roman Peasant Project. We use hyper-accurate mapping techniques and aerial photography to speed the process of recording. This allows us to excavate our sites quickly and accurately, which in turn allows us to return the land to agricultural use after one season—something the owners really appreciate!
AAR’s Arthur and Janet C. Ross Library was being renovated while you were a Fellow. Is there any particular aspect of that library renovation that will help make your research easier?
The library has always been a splendid place to work. With the new renovations it’s now able to accommodate more readers in those busy summer months, and it makes great use of its cool lower-ground spaces—all while remaining wonderfully true to its original design.
What is your favorite Roman spot and why?
Far and away, it’s the Crypta Balbi Museum. This great little museum near the Largo Argentina, which tells the story of a city block from the age of Augustus through to the present. That block evolved from a Roman theater to a church to a rest home for prostitutes. It really makes you aware of the layers of time we all stroll over when we walk through the streets of Rome. And the presentation is fantastic, using these amazing reconstruction drawings that give you a real sense of the grittiness of ancient life.
Any thoughts on the Walks-and-Talks and Fellows’ Trip for next year?
Like some of the Fellows, I first came to Rome with zero knowledge and lots of uncertainty, so I’d like to start with a traditional chronological overview of the city as it developed. Then in the spring I’d like to use the Fellows’ interest to develop some thematic walks—on urbanism and poverty, religion, or industry.
What are you looking forward to the most about your tenure as Mellon Professor?
When I was a Fellow, the Residents and Mellon Professors made me the great gift of introducing me to the world of Italian academia, to people who have now become my friends and colleagues. Aside from being a city of great monuments, Rome is a city of great minds. Helping the Fellows discover their counterparts in the Roman universities and the other foreign schools will be a real pleasure.