My sleep cycle has finally started to reach a normal routine. At 10pm, I put on the soundtrack to American Splendor (jazz fans, pick this record up…it’s fantastic) and hit the sack. At 6:30am, I wake up, shower and get ready for the day. This strict routine helps both my OCD tendencies (which have been inflamed by being in a foreign place) as well as my homesickness.
Today was the first day of filming for the mini-series. I arrived at the Piazza Duomo and found out that I had to go pick up Dan, our videographer, and his equipment from his hotel. Claudio, one of the directors of the school, gave me a ride in his van. He apologized for the smell of gasoline that reeked inside of the car. Apparently, one of his gas cans had leaked the night before.
I had met Dan previously when we had to film the glassblowing segment of the film so I was able to spot him quite easily. His sandy-red hair stuck out like a sore thumb in a sea of brown-haired Italians. The fact that he had three cases full of film and sound equipment also made him quite conspicuous.
Claudio agreed to drive us to Lugnano with Dr. Soren and Noelle following behind us. The noxious fumes from the gasoline mixed with yet more beautiful hill-top towns and the rolling hills of Umbria made for an interesting dynamic. Lugnano is only ~40km away so it didn’t take long for us to arrive. The curator of the museum met us at the entrance and took us down to a display that holds what Dr. Soren refers to as “his babies.”.
A little background about the dig in Lugnano: between 1987-1991, Dr. Soren was the head of an archaeological excavation near the town. He discovered a late Roman (~5 century, I believe) infant cemetery with over 40 infants and prenatal fetuses. This epidemic, he discovered, was caused by a strain of malaria called Plasmodium falciparum. This strain of malaria has since been considered a significant contributor to the downfall of the Roman empire. The malaria not only made adults very sick but also quickly killed young children and caused mothers to suffer an abortion. A fun fact: Dr. Soren was the first to use DNA testing in an archaeological investigation and he used it here at Lugnano.
A few of the better preserved remains are kept in the museum we filmed in. One fetus (pictured here) is almost compete after significant reconstruction. Roman citizens considered this epidemic a curse and blamed it on “bad air” (a common diagnosis for malaria at the time). The infants were buried in common amphorae (jars) which were, ironically, shipped in from North Africa where the malaria had originated. Around the cemetery, burials of sacrificed puppies, a frog and a raven’s claw were discovered. This was very interesting to find because it showed cult practices were still in use at a time when Christianity was wide-spread and state-sanctioned.
We were able to lift off the glass and film very close to these bones which is why I was able to get such fantastic pictures. It was a very unique experience and made my inner-archaeologist quite giddy. We filmed an interview in the museum with Dr. Soren and then rode around the city shooting some buildings and landscapes. Dan gave me the second camera and had me shooting which was quite cool. Seeing someone with multiple Emmys relinquish some creative control was pretty inspiring to see.
We got back to Orvieto around 2pm and Dan took me out to lunch. We talked about a few of his other projects he is working on. It turns out he flew directly from Brazil where he is working on a series for PBS and a few other networks in France and Germany.
After lunch, Dr. Soren took me down to the scalo so I could get a mobile broadband key that allows me to have internet at my apartment (or anywhere, really). For €45, I was able to get the internet key itself as well as a free month worth of internet usage (usually €23). The speed is 7mbps which is about 6x faster than the internet I pay $35 a month for at home. The United States continues to look more and more primitive.
Tomorrow we travel out to Archeosperimentale to film.
research / travel / musings
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