Digging dilettanti
The first Dutch excavation in Italy, 1952–58
in Communities and knowledge production in archaeology

Dutch collectors, antiquarians, academics and (museum) archaeologists have explored the ancient heritage of the Mediterranean for over four centuries. Nevertheless, the institutionalised practice of archaeology in these areas is a relatively young discipline. This chapter deals specifically with the birth of Dutch archaeology in Italy. The first Dutch excavations, under the aegis of the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR), started in the 1950s and continued for more than a decade. This chapter examines the disciplinary infrastructure and the social, political and intellectual contexts of the first Dutch dig in Italy. Two issues are central in this research. One is to understand better the changing social, intellectual and political networks that commence and evolve during the process of an archaeological fieldwork project in a foreign country. The second is to place the many narratives produced by these academic networks in their contemporary contexts. This chapter deals with the questions: In which political context did foreign archaeological practice in Italy emerge? Who were the Dutch scholars that started the first excavation project? Which institutional context made the first Dutch excavation in Italy possible? Why dig beneath the Santa Prisca church?

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