back to news Aug. 9, 2012

The Field School in Medieval Archaeology and Bioarchaeology at Badia Pozzeveri

The Ohio State University and the University of Pisa, Italy have entered into an agreement to develop academic and cultural interchange in the areas of education, research, and other activities. The Field School in Medieval Archaeology and Bioarchaeology at Badia Pozzeveri (Lucca, Italy), an academic program aimed at training students in archaeological and bioarchaeological field and laboratory methods, is the cornerstone of this agreement.

“The joint Ohio State-University of Pisa field school is taking leadership internationally by providing students with perspectives on bioarchaeology and archaeology jointly and combining diverse perspectives that can be accomplished only by this special collaboration,” said Clark Spencer Larsen, professor and chair, anthropology, and co-director of The Field School at Badia Pozzeveri. “Badia Pozzeveri is the leading field school in bioarchaeology internationally, one especially engaging students in the excavation of human remains and in the wider context of archaeology and history.”

In the summer of 2011, a team of American and Italian researchers began an archaeological investigation of the medieval site at the church of San Pietro in Pozzeveri (Lucca, Italy), a monastery located along a major trade and pilgrimage route running from northern Europe to Rome. As an archaeological site, Badia Pozzeveri is extremely important to understanding health, culture, and population dynamics in Tuscany and Italy from the Middle Ages to modern times. Consequently, this site was selected as the primary setting for the field school.

“This collaboration is an important scientific endeavor that will allow us to explore life conditions in one of the most important settlements in medieval Europe,” said Gino Fornaciari, co-director of the field school, professor of history of medicine, and director of the division of paleopathology, history of medicine and bioetics at the University of Pisa. “By promoting the exchange and close collaboration of students, researchers, and faculty between the two universities, we foster high-end scientific results and strengthen international ties between scholars.”

Since 2011, undergraduate and graduate students from Ohio State and several other U.S and Canadian universities, as well as students from the University of Pisa, have participated in reconstructing the biocultural complexity in the region surrounding Lucca in the Middle Ages, shedding light on monastic subsistence, interregional trade, and pilgrimage dynamics. Students conduct research with experts in local archaeology from the initial excavation phases to the complete analysis of human skeletal remains, benefitting from extremely detailed information on the archaeological context.

Giuseppe Vercellotti, an Ohio State anthropologist and a field school instructor, believes that the Ohio State-University of Pisa partnership provides students with a once-in-a-lifetime experience not generally found at other universities. “This collaboration offers students a rare opportunity to learn all aspects of a bioarchaeological project by working side-by-side with international experts in the discipline,” said Vercellotti. “Students will not only be able to conduct research on the collections, but they will also have the chance to deepen their knowledge in specific aspects of bioarchaeological investigation, such as GIS, medieval material culture, and advanced paleopathology.”

For more information on the Field School Pozzeveri in Medieval Archaeology and Bioarchaeology, go to

Contact: Dr. Giuseppe Vercellotti at