Marc is our playful “resident bug expert.” He can often be found with his arms crossed and a laughing grin below his sunglasses or with a piece of hay in hand, tickling the necks of our more squeamish students to tease them. The freshly fifty-six-year-old lives with a heart full of curiosity and vitality—he constantly aids his peers on site without needing to be asked and uncovers treasures without complaint, only excitement. I remember our very first interaction on site, where he coined me as “his lucky charm” after every time he stopped to talk to me, he seemed to find something new hiding in the soil. In the subsequent weeks, I remained bound to him over small finds: Marc was always eager to show the artifacts that he found, and standing by his side, with his hands outstretched to reveal what he held gingerly within them, became a prime location for myself and the other students to gather new information and share in Marc’s contagious enthusiasm for the work.
Marc’s knowledge on the finds and structures that he uncovered seems the knowledge of one with formal education and field experience—he always came equipped with a magnifying glass to better analyze finds such as coins, and he was often the first in the trenches at Podere Cannicci to identify the use and chronology of pottery and small finds or predict the past life of a newly discovered context. Thus, when I discovered that Marc had never, in fact, received a college education and that this year with the IMPERO Project was his very first time doing field work, I was shocked. He achieved his position, prestige, and freedom of study through his intelligence, work ethic, and personal research alone, and he now does museum work for the University of Queensland and is able to secure opportunities such as his lab analysis collaboration with our pottery specialist, Dr. Massimo Brando, in two winter field schools where he classified and catalogued materials, with ease. His museum work has likewise benefitted him greatly on site by lending him a keener and better-trained eye for recognizing the dates and uses of pottery and determining their significance in the sea of ceramic shards. He is particularly proud that he was able to identify one piece of pottery as being from a votive offering and another as an architectural piece because he works often with those kinds of artifacts, both of which would slip past the untrained or inattentive glance. In Marc’s words, “the knowledge of one job compliments the other,” and regardless of the type of work, all of these “very enriching and very rewarding” experiences were full of life, music, laughter, life-changing exchanges, and lasting relationships. Either under the sun performing physical labor or indoors in the lab, Marc believes that the quality of one’s experience at a field school boils down to the mindset they enter with: If you come ready to work hard, open your mind, listen to others, and believe in your capacity to learn, grow, and perform, then you will leave with beautiful memories, knowledge, and connections.
He attributes much of his success and mindset to the many books that he has read in his life, which allow him to navigate a multitude of professional and casual contexts and feel at home in any conversation. To house these sources of knowledge, Marc has begun work on the magnificent library of his dreams. In this space of comfort, he hopes to achieve his “main ambition in life [which] is to read at least twenty-five percent of [his] books before [he] dies.” Even on site, this introspective reader would often choose his much-needed “me time” of reading, relaxing, and recharging over leaving the estate. Serving to pass on his wealth of knowledge and love of learning to the next generation, Marc currently works in a primary school “with early-age literacy programs, teaching first-graders to read and to improve their vocabulary.” His ability to bond with even the youngest of learners allows him to connect effortlessly with those of all ages in his work; at Podere Cannicci, Marc spent a large majority of his time side-by-side in a waist-deep trench with Mason as friends and colleagues although he is even older than the student’s parents, and the age gap between himself and another student, Michael, never prevented the two from teasing each other constantly or living peacefully in the same apartment at the Monteverdi estate.
“Despite the heat” and his wonderful lab experiences in the past, Marc fell in love not only with the people of our team but with the labor of the field and prefers it. Inspired by the movie “The Bucket List” and a serious health scare, Marc said to himself: “If I don’t do the things that I want to do, that I always wanted to do, now, I may never get the chance.” Spurred by this sense of urgency and his life-long dreams, the avid learner joined the IMPERO Project after connecting with Dr. Sebastiani through his other field schools. Marc had always wanted to be an archaeologist, “digging around in the backyard…always…finding stones and fossils,” and now, with nothing but his ambition and the world at his feet, this charismatic book-lover looks forward to more moments of the pride and joy that he felt when gazing at our director’s face after this “ultimate amateur” presented the architectural piece that he unearthed.
Text by: Elisabeth Woldeyohannes
Photo by: Riley James