Rodolfo Lanciani

Rodolfo Lanciani was one of the great 19th century excavators in Rome. His Forma Urbis Romae is one of the great achievements of the topographical tradition and still extremely useful today.

A worn copy of “The Ruins and Excavations of Ancient Rome”. Photo: TMK, March 2006.

Some of the most fascinating accounts in Lanciani’s books are his first-hand descriptions of the excavations in Rome in the 19th century. Many of his observations are quite useful when working with the fragmentation of sculpture. For example, he tells us that “the five or six hundred heads discovered in my time were all, except a dozen or two, without noses” (1901: 46). He also commented that most statues found in Rome during his work were carefully hidden rather than disapprovingly disposed of. I enjoy finding such observations on context and deposition by 19th century archaeologists, even if they’re often rather more anecdotal than one could wish for.

Lanciani, R. 1901. The Destruction of Ancient Rome. New York: Arno Press.

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