The School of Post-Graduate Studies in Archaeology at the University of Salento is one of the foremost schools of its type in Italy. Founded 35 years ago by Cosimo Damiano Fonseca (1979-1984), and developed first by Dinu Adamesteanu (1984-1988), and then by Francesco D’Andria (1988-2013), its lecturers and students can boast innovative fieldwork around the Mediterranean, the Near East, North Africa and the Black Sea.
Its curriculum is broad based, extending from Palaeolithic to Modern times, and covers not only bioarchaeology, landscape archaeology and ancient topography, but also art history, numismatics, museum studies and dating techniques. Recent additions to the syllabus include human ecology, cultural heritage management and economics. The School is also actively involved in investigating the effects of environmental change and increasing cultural tourism on our unique heritage. I personally believe all this work to be particularly important in this day and age of financial restraints and unsettled conditions in much of the Mediterranean.
The School’s offices and lecture rooms are located within the Department of Cultural Heritage buildings, which also contain various specialist laboratories and one of the best archaeological libraries south of Rome. The Department also manages the University’s archaeological museum (MUSA) and the archaeological park in Cavallino. The Department, itself, is close to the centre of Lecce, whose Baroque old town was one of the features which has boosted Lecce’s candidature as European Capital of Culture 2019. In fact, much of the School’s fieldwork, which gives our students valuable experience, is concentrated in and around Lecce.
This is the Salento, the heel of Italy, and geographical centre for cross-cultural links between East and West, North and South, and, in particular, with Greece and the Balkans. For this very reason, the inaugural lecture last February was held by Cyprian Broodbank, eminent scholar and author of the highly acclaimed book on “The Making of the Middle Sea”. Cyprian’s was the first of a lecture series that intends to make the most of Lecce’s privileged position and standing, and the series has already been honoured by other speakers of international repute, such as Mamoru Ikeguchi, Elizabeth Shepherd, Richard Hodges, Clementina Panella and Marco Valenti.
During my tenure as director I will focus my efforts on encouraging as many leading scholars as possible to visit our School and to speak about their research, and it is in this spirit that I have proposed Lecce as the venue for the 2015 National Congress on Medieval Archaeology, to be held in autumn 2015. To keep staff, students and friends much more up to date with the School’s activities, I have already begun work on redesigning the website to make it more user-friendly, and have created a page on Facebook.
The School is looking towards the future and faces both exacting and exciting times; and it is my pleasure and duty, as it is of all its staff and students, to make the most of the opportunities that it has to offer.