Back to menu

THE EARLY 20th CENTURY: DANTE VAGLIERI

Truly scientific research started in 1907 by Dante Vaglieri. He had been excavating on the Palatine in Rome, but after a disagreement with colleagues was demoted to Ostia. He was the first excavator who lived in Ostia, a few days a week, in the Rocca. The Rocca was also still used as Antiquarium, although the important finds were taken to the Museo Nazionale. His main collaborators were inspector Raffaele Finelli, architect Italo Gismondi, and - from 1912 - Guido Calza, while the French scholar Jerome Carcopino also made important contributions. Vaglieri was, in the words of Olivanti, confronted with a battlefield: scattered pits from which material had been extracted to be thrown in lime-kilns or taken to private collections and museums, often without registration of the findspot and Ostian origin. The only positive thing about these excavations was, that the pits were usually filled with earth again, so that at least the ruins were protected. The north-east part of the city was excavated systematically by Vaglieri, employing some 50 labourers. The work was well documented and proper attention was paid to the stratigraphy. For the removal of the earth he acquired, in 1908, a "ferrovia Decauville", a small, easily demountable railroad with mining carts, named after the inventor. Photographs were taken with equipment owned by the excavators. They were probably taken by Vaglieri and Gismondi. During these excavations the winged Minerva on the Piazzale della Vittoria was found, a statue that became a symbol of Ostia. Vaglieri died in 1913, at his desk in the Rocca. The year before, the first monograph about Ostia had been published: "Ostia, Colonia Romana", by Ludovico Paschetto.



The ruins as they appeared after the First World War. Photo taken from a balloon. From the south-east.
Olivanti 2001, fig. 3.




Dante Vaglieri (left) and Raffaele Finelli at work in Ostia.
Olivanti 2002, fig. 4. SAOA neg. P 62.




Part of a page of the Giornale degli Scavi from 1915, kept by Raffaele Finelli.
A few years earlier the diary is handwritten; Vaglieri had bought a typewriter.




Part of a page of the Giornale degli Scavi from 1915, kept by Raffaele Finelli.