May 25, 2022

New and Very Cool! Readers Can Virtually Explore Italian Archeology Dig In New U. of Michigan Press Publication

From U. of Michigan Press

A team of archeologists has published its first volume about the Gabii Project, a large-scale dig of an ancient city in Italy, in a first-of-its-kind online format.

Gabii was a settlement located just east of Rome that, like its more famous neighbor, emerged as a major city in the 8th century B.C. At its economic height, Gabii jockeyed for position with Rome, according to Marcello Mogetta, managing director of the Gabii Project, which is housed at the University of Michigan and sponsored by U-M’s Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. The city eventually receded as Rome rose, and waned almost entirely by the late 3rd century A.D.


In the new online publication by the University of Michigan Press, called “A Mid-Republic House from Gabii,” readers can wander through a 3-D rendering of the excavated layers as well as a reconstruction of an elite house within the city that the archeologists have been excavating since 2009. Readers can pause over a representation of an archaeological feature, click on the image and read about how the archeologists suspect it was used.


Gabii Project field director Anna Gallone and managing director Marcello Mogetta uncover the remains of a lead coffin.“We’re able to provide the reader with the experience of the actual excavation,” said Mogetta, who is also an assistant professor of Roman art and archeology at the University of Missouri. “You can kneel down just like the excavator…depending on the level of engagement, you could re-excavate what we excavate.”

In addition to the virtual walk-through, the researchers catalogued every artifact lifted from the dig and entered them into an online database. Casual readers and researchers alike can access the database from within the publication and use information from it for their own research.

“It’s not very common for archeological projects to publish the entire excavation archive. In a traditional print book, you’re talking about hundreds, if not thousands, of context sheets, forms and tables. Publishing all that would be absolutely daunting,” Mogetta said. “This would be a great tool for a doctoral student writing a dissertation, say, on coinage in central Italy.”

In that example, Mogetta says, the student could adjust his or her search within the archive to extract data in very specific ways. The doctoral student writing a dissertation on coinage is able to search the archive for information relevant only to his or her research needs. Photos, artifacts, samples, maps and descriptions are all tied to a unifying number, and those are linked to the place in the dig—the layer or wall—where an artifact was found.

“Typically, even in contemporary excavations, you might have to flip through a folder or a stack of 500 photographs to find the one you need,” Terrenato said. “We’ve structured this archive so that you can search by keywords, and if a photograph shows two layers—a wall and the ground—the photo will appear in both records so that you always retrieve all the relevant images.”

Direct to Complete Resource: A Mid-Republican House From Gabii

Learn More About the Project, Read the Complete U. of Press Announcement


About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.