Accepted Paper:

Lapis Specularis mines: when the history breaks into nature  


Andrea Benassi (Simbdea Società Italiana museografia e i beni demoetnoantropologici)

Paper short abstract:

The gypsum's Park is created for preserve the landscape from contemporaney mining extraction. This create a different perception between original landscape and a mining one. What happen when an archeological discovery transform the natural landscape in an ancient mining district of Roman Empire?

Paper long abstract:

This paper starts from an ethnographic fieldwork done in an Italian Natural Park: The Romagna's gypsum mountain park. A place where geology and rocks have a special identity and heritage status. With the creation of the Park, the gypsum as a rock becomes a valuable geological landscape in itself: a perception and vision that coexist with a large quarry of the same mineral; a presence able to generate an antithetical mining's landscape. In this perspective there is a dialectical conflict between different actors. Farmers, politicians, environmentalists, cavers, tour operators and government officials are competitors in imagining the true nature of gypsum and drawing up a moral code. The anthropological fieldwork has led to an unexpected archeological discovery that give a new temporal dimension about landscape and mining activity. Places thought as pristine Nature, have changed their status becoming archaeological sites of an intensive pre-industrial and long-time mining activity by the Roman Empire. The entire territory of the park appears today as the ancient site of extraction of a particular kind of transparent gypsum, called by the ancient romans Lapis Specularis. A rare and precious material used in place of glass in the windows of all imperial luxury houses. This ancient trans-mediterranean trade shifts in the deep time the mining vocation of the area and totally changes the perception of natural and un-natural geoscape. The Lapis Specularis, from geological object becomes historical actor, able to link different times and have agency in the contemporary human relationship and policies with the landscape.

Panel P100
Revisiting the culture/nature divide under the conditions of global forces