Prof. Valerie Higgins
Professor Valerie Higgins is currently Associate Professor of Archaeology and Program Director for Sustainable Cultural Heritage at The American University of Rome.
Her areas of research include the heritage of Rome, antiquities crime, cultural heritage in conflict and post-conflict areas and community heritage.
What first sparked your interest for archaeology?
I have been interested in history since I was in primary school but I discovered archeology when I was a teenager and this suited me better than text-based history because it is more active and also more social. As a student and during my early professional life when I worked in local government as an archaeologist, I loved the camaraderie of a dig. Unfortunately in my current role I don't get to experience this much now, but hopefully one day I'll get back to being in the field more.
If you can – which is your favourite archaeological site?
My favourite sites are the ones that are isolated and usually deserted. I don't know that I have an absolute favourite but one site that I always look forward to visiting is Alba Fucens in Abruzzo, Italy. This was a Roman colony, it is set in the Apennine mountains and if you visit in spring, there is usually still snow on the surrounding mountains. The whole town was excavated by Mertens, a Belgian archaeologist, in the middle of the 20th century. These days it is quite unusual to excavate a whole town so Alba Fucens is particularly valuable and is unlikely to be replicated anytime soon.
What does archaeology mean to you?
When I began archaeology I saw myself very much as a scientist saving knowledge about the past for future generations but now I found myself more interested in working with communities in the preservation of their local heritage. The rapid pace of development has threatened many communities sense of identity and an archaeological project is a brilliant way of bringing people together. It gives people a sense of pride in their community, it can provide an economic stimulus and it is something that can involve every member of the community.