Art and Archeology: Art students travel, dig, draw

by Tyrel Filley

In a more ancient part of the world, history is buried beneath the ground. Bits and pieces of bygone eras await rediscovery by curious hands. Two sets of these hands belong to MSUM art students Kenny Bowling and Jordan Falkum.

Bowling, art senior, junior art education major Falkum in a month long expedition to Montelupo, Italy. From early July to August, the pair excavated, uncovered and sketched a menagerie of Tuscan history from an ancient villa nestled on the Arno river.

The duo was recruited for their ability to draw sketches and diagrams of pieces discovered at the dig site.  While much of the work involved digging in hopes of finding anything, Bowling and Falkum split their work between the shovel and the pencil.

According to Bowling, a typical day begins at 7:15 a.m. for breakfast. Work begins at the site located twenty minutes from Florence around 8 a.m. Between then and 4 p.m., the two dug or sketched.

The lion’s share of their sketching was of fragments. Often they drafted detailed diagrams of what the unfound portion of a particular piece looked like based on formulas applied to the discovered fragments.

Most pieces discovered were of pottery or chunks of bronze, Bowling said. Some of the more interesting finds could not be disclosed for fear of looters. Bowling recalled an instance where a looter stole a skull from a tomb after seeing it on Facebook. After that, findings became much more private.

The trip wasn’t strictly work, though. On weekends, the two were encouraged to explore the country. Trips to Rome, Florence and other historic cities took place. Falkum was particularly impressed by the “breathtaking” architecture. She notes that the cities feel much older. The architecture illustrates the advanced age of the country.

“There aren’t skyscrapers” Falkum said in comparison to American cities. “You can feel the history.”

The Italian way of life took a while to acclimate to, Bowling said. The biggest difference he noticed was the idea of time.

“The Italians tended to stay up very late, sometimes into the 3 a.m.  range, and still rise early for excavation,” he explained.

Bowling attributes their ability to live on such little sleep to the copious amounts of caffeine and nicotine ingested by his Tuscan peers.

Bowling and Falkum said the experience was incredible. Both recommend going on future excursions to their fellow students. No specific skillset is needed. 

Anyone willing to “play in the dirt” is welcome to join.

“The sights you’ll see and the people you’ll meet are worth it” raves Bowling.

Falkum added that the area they stayed in is “adventure wrapped in beauty”.

Anyone interested in learning more about a future archaeological expedition is urged to contact art professor Anna Arnar.

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