The origins of Archaeology

Scholars Read the City

By the fourteenth century, Italian intellectuals were becoming fascinated by the physical as well as the literary relics of the ancient world. Rome, of course, had the grandest of all ruins, at which medieval pilgrims had long marvelled. The Roman in the street was happy to provide misinformation about sites and statues, but in the Renaissance, scholars began to measure, excavate, and identify the statues and buildings that had long amazed travellers. True, much was lost forever. When Poggio Bracciolini and a friend climbed the Capitoline Hill in 1430, the vast view that opened out before them was a desert; the ancient forum was populated only by pigs, deer, and vegetables. But by the end of the fifteenth century, Roman scholars had identified the sites of many lost buildings, compiled notebooks bulging with information, and begun to recreate the ancient city.

Continue the exhibit with From collection to Reconstruction, go back to Archaeology or take the route back to the main hall.