Over the summer, two Hiram College students had a once in a lifetime experience working in Sardinia, Italy. The students, Colton Allen ‘23 and Kevin Karl ‘26, spent five weeks on the island of Sardinia working with the Tharros Archaeological Research Project (TARP). The project, which is sponsored by the University of Cincinnati, aims to understand how the Punic-Roman port city of Tharros developed through major phases. These phases include the Roman conquest of Sardinia from Carthage in the third century BC, the growth of the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries AD, and finally the city’s abandonment in Late Antiquity. The two Hiram College students were accompanied by Matthew Notarian, Ph.D., director of study abroad and assistant professor of classical studies. 

The Hiram students helped with work focused on two main excavation areas within the ancient city. One is suspected to be a temple, which had been previously excavated by Italian archaeologists, allowing the current researchers to explore the city’s early life. The second zone, atop a hilltop, was dug from topsoil, allowing them to see the city’s final phases leading to abandonment. 

This summer’s international team consisted of Ph.D. students, faculty, professional specialists, and undergraduate students from U.S. institutions such as Hiram College, Princeton, and UC Berkeley among others; as well as staff from Germany, Sweden, and Australia. 

Allen and Karl were on site every day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. assisting with excavations by digging, screening soil, bagging artifacts, and regularly adding to the project database. Each student was also trained in a specific skill or task to aid at the excavations. Allen was trained to take photographs for a process called photogrammetry, which is used to create 3D models of excavations. He was also taught to fly the sites’ drone to further document the site and create 3D models.  Karl documented and recorded the project’s spatial data by digitizing various archeological features uncovered by the excavations. To do so, he was trained to utilize geographic information system (GIS) software for specialized mapping. 

For Allen, the opportunity to participate in TARP fulfilled a lifelong goal. “When I was in Rome in 2014, I spent a day walking through the city and the thing that stuck out to me the most was the archeology that was happening right there. That is not something you get in Cleveland,” Allen said. “I remember looking down off the side of the road and seeing people digging up the city underneath the city, and I knew if I ever had the opportunity to do that, I would take it.” 

Upon arrival in Sardinia, the Hiram trio had no time to worry about acclimating to the new culture, as they were quickly set to work and social obligations. Nevertheless, they still had plenty of opportunities to enjoy the traditional Italian lifestyle by attending a local goat festival and taking a boat ride along the island’s east coast during their stay.

If you ask Allen about his time in Sardinia, it becomes clear how life-changing this type of experience is for students. “The country is beautiful, the food was delicious, the weather was idyllic, the people on the dig were great, and the work we did left me feeling very fulfilled for the majority of days on site,” Allen said. “I remember the thrill of finding cool artifacts, discovering exciting constructs meters underground, and sharing in the intrigue of a trench mate’s cool find. We speculated as a group what the item was, what it might have been used for, and when the last time another human touched it was.” 

Hiram College was able to send both students to participate in this project thanks to the generous donation of Tom and Linda Grey. 

Learn about Hiram College’s study abroad programs.

Learn more about Hiram’s classical and medieval studies minor.

By Taylor Cook

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