Project Specialist, Conservation

Conservation image

Growing up in Milan, Rome, and Sapri, a small city in southern Italy, Gaetano Palumbo was never far from archaeology. Family trips in Italy and abroad included visits to historic sites. Gothic cathedrals in France and Greek temples in Sicily are his first memories of imposing monuments. But Rome, his birthplace, is the city that he still likes the most.

At the University of Rome, he majored in archaeology, specializing in the Near East. He was particularly interested in human settlements at the periphery of early urban civilizations, and he wrote his master's dissertation on Bronze Age cemeteries in Palestine. From 1982 to 1984, he worked for the archaeological office of Rome, mapping archaeological sites threatened by development. This experience helped him appreciate the necessity of recording sites under threat and the importance of the surrounding landscape for understanding a site. He spent the next two years as a visiting scholar at the University of Arizona. Back in Rome, he worked on his Ph.D. dissertation, focusing on the end of the third millennium B.C.E. in Palestine-Transjordan.

In 1990 he moved to Jordan. Over the next four years he worked on an ACOR/USAID project to inventory the archaeological sites in the country, and he trained Jordanian professionals to use the database. In 1994 he worked as a UNESCO consultant with a team of professionals on the management plan for the Petra Archaeological and Natural Park. His time in Jordan taught him the difficulty of balancing preservation with the desire of people for modernization. Jordan was also where he met his wife Anna, an Italian architect working at Petra; the two were married in the Byzantine church on Mount Nebo.

In December 1994 he joined the GCI's Documentation Program. Building on his experience, he participated in the documentation of several GCI field projects. Now, as part of the GCI's Conservation group, he is a team member of the mosaics in situ and earthen architecture projects. He is working with other colleagues here in adapting geographic information systems (GIS) for use in conservation. He enjoys reporting on his work—he's authored 3 monographs and over 60 articles. But he knows that the recent birth of his son is going to have an impact on his writing output, and on sailing, another big passion in his life.