What we do

How can we achieve a broader, more inclusive understanding of European ancient heritage? AntCom tries to answer this pressing question by looking at heritage not as a monolith, but rather as a multilayered construction. Some layers are more evident, while others have disappeared or have been erased. AntCom targets precisely such obliterated and/or disregarded layers. Research and technological development will team up with communities to co-create knowledge and promote new memory practices. Fellows trained by AntCom will be ready to co-operate with society, through citizen-humanity approaches, and re-think current historiographical narratives and heritage policies.

AntCom will focus on:

  • material layers. Fragments and palimpsests tell stories about the communities producing them that were later washed out from collective memory.
  • linguistic layers. The presence of Greek and Latin in Europe is not only a story of power and hegemony but also one of linguistic minorities and resilience.
  • narrative and historiographical layers. Popularized narratives about ancient and medieval heritage are still largely shaped by national traditions, whereas ancient heritage is a transnational cultural force.

Manuscript Heritage – Textual communities

Digitization is both a benefit and a challenge to the sector of cultural heritage. The change of medium implied by mass digitization of manuscripts, in particular, raises issues of access, preservation and obsolescence. Furthermore, by preserving and memorializing “what is important to a community” digitization has contributed to questioning the very definition of heritage provided by the UNESCO and based on its “Outstanding Universal Value”. “Universal” is a problematic term and Critical Heritage Studies have shown that such an objectivizing definition may perpetuate biases and inequalities. European pre-modern heritage encompasses a variety of languages as well as local rather than “universal” traditions. Greek and Latin are part of and intersect with this wider network. To understand this network is key to re-centre exclusively hegemonic narratives of Europe’s pre-modern cultural heritage, restore a more inclusive image of the European past and promote a sense of belonging in present and future communities. By capitalizing on digitally informed technologies, AntCom aims to train fellows to retrace, reconstruct, preserve and make visible the signs of these negotiations. To this end, students will be trained to use and further develop multispectral and hyperspectral imaging. This is a form of non-invasive and non-destructive computational photography, which captures wave-lengths non visible to the naked eye, thus enhancing and making faded or obscured texts visible again. This procedure affords the chance to study how texts move in and out the dominant “layers” of cultural transmission, thus allowing to trace more nuanced heritage stories.

Linguistic Heritage – Speaking communities

Southern Italy is characterized by linguistic minorities (Greek, Albanian and French-Provençal communities) testifying to the intersections of cultures and populations that marked the area throughout the centuries. The literature flourished and transmitted orally in the Hellenophone area of Terra d’ Otranto known as Grecìa Salentina (Apulia) is an outstanding example of how linguistic phenomena first determined by imperial, expansive dynamics can turn into liminal, marginal(ized) heritage. Such heritage speaks not only to local cultural transformations but also to more recent processes of dissemination beyond the European space, due to the Italian diaspora from the 20th century. This line of investigation aims to trace, record, store and study oral traditions of the Griko-speaking communities, highlighting the potential intersections between popular and learned traditions. To this end, the tools of oral history are key. The notion of doing oral history on pre-modernity might sound paradoxical, given that oral history should provide first-hand evidence of the past. The Griko linguistic and narrative heritage, however, has been transmitted orally over centuries and still effectively contributes to build the sense of belonging of the local communities. Preliminary research has shown that approaching Griko speakers using strategies commonly deployed in oral-history interviews can unearth unexpected links with the learned classical tradition as well as memories pointing to the climate history of the region, thus providing useful data beyond the remits of purely linguistic inquiries.

Ritual and Narrative Heritage – Storied communities

In this line of investigation, we will reassess the role of ancient, Graeco-Roman legends – in the form of both erudite and popular narratives – created around pagan and Christian eponymous figures in the articulation of Galician territory and the creation of local identities. Research work is defined by the integration of verbal and visual narrative, monumental and intangible heritage, ritual and civic practices under the conceptual framework of storytelling. We will thus uncover the affective links created between local communities and specific Galician archaeological sites and landscapes. We will mobilize the collective memory of fishermen’s communities in Galicia, showing how engagement with ancient heritage shaped a sense of community. Research will combine methodologies drawn from ethnography (qualitative methods, participant observation) and methodologies belonging into demographic and geographic research (quantitative methods and objective observation). Just like for linguistic communities, moreover, oral history is extremely relevant to trace the story of artifacts and monuments. Both tangible and intangible aspects of a site (alterations, use, cultural significance, and meaning) are central. Oral history is very frequently disregarded when documenting historic buildings and sites, yet physical aspects are only one facet. Monuments have social, spiritual and ritual value and the oral record is therefore the main tool to access the intangible and grasp their sense of place.

Citizen Humanities

Citizen science is an approach to research that involves the public in the process of scientific enquiry, through the co-creation of knowledge. Citizens contribute by e.g. providing, collecting, storing, cataloguing data but also by bringing their concerns into the questions that scientists try to answer. Although the first citizen science toolkits were designed for the natural sciences, the practice of citizen humanities is becoming increasingly common, especially in the field of conservation, library and archival studies. Methodologies applied are also more and more sophisticated and granular. And yet Citizen Humanities still suffer from some drawbacks. First, as of today there is no formal training offering an overview of processes and methodologies. Resources are still patchy. They hardly encompass the multiple aspects involved in planning and implementing collaborative science projects and are still mostly geared toward STEM. Second, Citizen Humanities projects still lack broader visibility and institutions are often unaware of what citizen humanities projects could do to raise interest and bring science to the public. To meet both challenges, AntCom offers the first formal doctoral training in citizen humanities at European and global level. Students will make the most of both traditional historical, literary and philological research and innovative methodologies and techniques in both conservation and communication in order to develop a new approach to scientific investigation.