Helen Healey

Documentary Filmmaker for an Archaeological Excavation

Working in the lab (from left to right; top: Alessandro Conti and Helen Healey, bottom: Rita Solazzo and Stephanie Idlebird-Rive
Working in the lab (from left to right; top: Alessandro Conti and Helen Healey, bottom: Rita Solazzo and Stephanie Idlebird-Rivers)

Vulci, Italy: Summer, 2018

Through a generous grant from the Classics Department, I was able to spend one month this past summer working on an archaeological excavation in Vulci, Italy. This project, established and run by Duke University, brings students together from universities all over the world to experience hands-on archeological work. The team consisted of students of all ages and skill level. There were undergraduates with diverse academic backgrounds who were experiencing archeology for the first time and there were Masters and PhD Archeology graduates who are making this field their life's work. Each person brought their own expertise and opinions that added immense depth and diversity to the project. 

The project in Vulci is being led by Duke and has been for the past several years. The Vulci project is unique because it is using various new technologies to minimize ground and artifact damage that can occur during the excavation process. This is important because one major lesson I learned this summer is that Archaeology is inherently destructive. The use of new technologies allows Duke to move towards creating a virtual excavation of this site, working towards changing the future of archaeology. 

My role in the project was to work with the team in Vulci as their documentary filmmaker. I spent my time getting to know the excavators, learning the ins and outs of archaeology and capturing their work in the lab and in the field.  Each day a variety of tasks were completed to document the progress of the digging. We found many items dating back over 2000 years including sherds, lamps, rings and hair pins. I immersed myself in this field of work and got to know all the people involved. I documented their progress, their experiences and their individual stories as archaeologists. My work there will culminate in a short documentary about the team and the project. Thank you to the Classics Department and to all those who helped make this experience possible for me.