History Matters – Wine in Ancient Rome

This week we’re proud to highlight how history matters for our undergraduate majors.

Over the summer, senior Andrew Ring joined a group of students led by Dr. Ivancica Schrunk in a historical archeology adventure in Croatia. Andrew details some of his amazing experiences below.

In addition to providing a transformative experience of study abroad, Andrew’s work has led to two research opportunities: as a Young Scholar Grantee he presented his findings in Inquiry at UST event this fall and his paper has been accepted for the Phi Alpha Theta – National History HonorSociety  2016 Biennial Convention.

Read below about how historical research can lead you to winemaking on the shores of Croatia!

Ring-In Vino Veritas

Andrew Ring presenting “In Vino Veritas: The History of Wine in Ancient Roman Dalmatia”

My journey began with multiple exhausting flights flying out of Minneapolis going to Philly, then to Frankfurt, and finally Split. While in Split I was also with other students from UST including Pierce McDowell, Meg Walter, Abby Smith, Caitlin Woodard, and later in the month Tyler Gordon. We had a few days to explore the city and Croatia and really get to know each other before beginning work on Sv. Klement.

The first thing we checked out in Split was Diocletian’s palace. The palace is at the ancient core of the city. It was built between the years 295 and 305 CE. Upon its completion the Emperor Diocletian abdicated the throne due to health concerns with his arthritis, and lived out the rest of his life there. Diocletian was an important figure in Roman history for a couple of reasons. The first being he introduced the tetrarchy to Roman imperial rule. Under this system the Empire was divided between East and West where both were governed by their own emperor. Under these two emperors served two junior emperors. The other important thing to remember about Diocletian is he was the last emperor to persecute Christians. Christianity wasn’t legalized till 313 with the Edict of Milan decreed by Constantine I. He was so despised by Christians that long after his death Christians chucked out Diocletian’s bones from his mausoleum and converted the building to a church.

In addition to exploring the winding and labyrinth-like streets of Split, we also got to venture out to see the breathtaking waterfalls of Krka, the mediveal city of Sibenik, and we also went to the beach almost everyday. We also explored local nightlife w/ other foreign travelers but none of that stuff has to do with ancient Rome, so who would want to hear about that…

Anyway, on the 4th we stopped at Hvar to gather and supply before heading out to the expedition on the smaller near by island of Sv. Klement. Our accommodations on the island were modest, but the food was amazing every time. On our first day we cleared the weeds and began a 4x4m trench hoping to find the remains of a foundation wall indicated by earlier magnetometeric surveys. A few days later we opened up another 2x2m trench expanding on a dig from the past that found a corner of a watertight floor.

As the days progressed our trenches slowly became deeper and deeper, centimeter by centimeter. As our bathtubs of dirt slowly drained, ceramic sherds of roof tiles, amphorae, and often finer more expensive pieces of dinnerware turned up along with numerous bits of mosaic called tesserae. Soon after the wall emerged in the main trench. In the other 2×2 trench we discovered what most likely was a cistern for collecting rainwater in situ with the sealed floor completely intact. Upon reaching the floor, the dirt could simply be lifted off like sod, since the roots of the plants couldn’t penetrate the mortared floor. One of the most important finds from the dig had to be the amount of fresco that we found. As we reached the bedrock, we discovered a bonanza of flat painted plaster, most of which were white, but some were red or had black or red stripes. I even discovered a huge chunk of fresco in the pile of discarded dirt from the trench on the last day when we were back filling. Back filling the trenches was maybe the only part of the job that went the fastest, as our crew was itching to finish early. Even our site director was amazed at how quickly we filled the holes. The next day we took an innovatory of the tools, bagged our finds, packed, and relaxed to enjoy our last night on the island.

If I could, I would go back in a heartbeat. It truly was a life changing experience. I’m so grateful to have gotten the opportunity and the funding from UST to work in a totally different part of the world and with such an amazing group of people on this project. Now, I get the whole summer to continue conducting research related with the excavation back here in St. Paul.

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