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Jessica Nowlin Examines Funerary Sites in Central Italy During the 8th and 7th Centuries BCE

March 20, 2014
Tumulus at the necropolis of Campovalano
View of the Apennine mountains from the Adriatic Sea at Ancona
Monumental tumulus from the necropolis of Fossa
Grave goods from a tomb at Terni
Jessica Nowlin in her study in front of illustrated material from the necropolis of Campovalano
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Jessica Nowlin is the winner of the Frank Brown/Samuel H. Kress Foundation/Helen M. Woodruff Fellowship of the Archaeological Institute of America Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize in Ancient Studies and a Ph.D. candidate at the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University.

What part of the United States did you come from?

I was born in San Antonio, Texas and grew up in Austin, Texas from the age of two.  For my undergraduate I went to the University of Texas at Austin and for the past five years I have been braving northeastern winters in Providence, Rhode Island as a graduate student at Brown University.

Why did you apply for the Rome Prize?

One of my first excavation directors and advisors at the University of Texas, Adam Rabinowitz was a Rome Prize fellow and always spoke fondly of his time here.  As a Ph.D. student focusing on central Italy during the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, I wanted to be able to see the material I was studying first-hand and look at the imported goods in their local context, so Rome and the Academy was the perfect place for me to work on my dissertation.

To what extent, if any, has your proposed project changed since your arrival?

The fundamental premise of my dissertation has remained the same. However, after meeting with Italian scholars, I have benefited from their knowledge of the local material and have been pointed to other case studies that contribute to my central question. These sites are especially important for my project because they have not received sufficient attention in Anglophone scholarship, which I hope to remedy with my dissertation and later publications. Additionally, my conversations with fellows who specialize in modern Rome and Italy have led me to consider the important relationship between the historiography of the so-called "Orientalizing" period and political ideology in modern Italian history.

Have you had any "eureka!" moments or unanticipated breakthroughs in the course of your work here?

I was driving around the Apennine mountains through a blinding rain storm in my little Fiat 500, trying to find the archaeological site for one of my case studies that has not yet been formed into an archaeological park, and I was able to find it by asking people in the tiny town and exploring the back roads.  Getting to see the funerary mounds and the landscape that the site was surrounded by helped me contextualize the nature of the journey of imported material from the coast to a site this far inland. It turned out to be a fun and productive adventure!

What's surprised you most about living in Rome?

In the past I have only lived in Rome while excavating, so it’s been really nice to have the time to explore more and see the city outside of the crowded, hot summer months.  I have really enjoyed the quiet of winter and the slower, more relaxed pace of the city. It has surprised me how comfortable it can feel to live here, how the monuments seem to meld into a tone of continuity that the whole city exudes, and how easy it is to be woven into that fabric.

How have you managed the balance between your work (time in the studio/study) and engagement with Rome and Italy (travel, sightseeing, interactions with locals)?

It has been really difficult not to be constantly tempted to go out, especially being surrounded by so many knowledgeable people at the Academy and in Rome who know so much about the city.  The pressure of trying to finish the dissertation keeps me in my study, close to the computer and my research, but it has been wonderful to take work breaks either by going on our weekly walks or just to wandering through a new part of the city I haven’t seen before.

What is your favorite spot at the Academy? or in Rome?

My favorite place at the Academy is the desk in my fourth floor room that looks out of the tall windows to the tops of the umbrella pines in the garden.  You can hear the fountain down in the cortile and you can watch the clouds of storms roll into the city from the north.  It’s a perfect, peaceful work environment. My favorite place in Rome is the park of Doria Pamphili.  I love running past the people taking a Sunday morning stroll and the smiling faces of the dogs enjoying a day at the park.