Through excavations in Yugoslavia, Werner sheds new light on Roman history, while in Albany, he works to stay a step ahead of construction projects that might destroy valuable artifacts of the city’s rich past.
This summer, UAlbany classics professor Michael Werner will excavate with a team of University researchers and student archaeologists at the ancient Roman Legionary Base at Viminacium, on the Danube River in Yugoslavia. The Roman military base dates back to A.D. 33 as a Roman encampment and may, have been used by subsequent military forces, including the fifth century’s Attila the Hun. The excavations were interrupted for 12 years when the United Nations introduced sanctions. Before that, for some 25 years, UAlbany collaborated with Yugoslav institutions and international agencies on projects of historical and archaeological importance.
"We’re very excited about returning," said Werner who has taught at the University at Albany since 1978 and is director of the University’s Mediterranean Archaeology program. "This is a significant archaeological site on an empire-wide basis, and we’re gratified to be back in Yugoslavia to learn and contribute. It feels like coming back home." This time around the team will utilize magnetic resistivity and ground-penetrating radar devices, all non-destructive procedures, to initially identify certain types of remains. "Our students get invaluable hands-on experience at these Roman sites," said Werner.
Recently, Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings appointed Werner to serve as the city’s official, but unpaid, archaeologist. "The University at Albany has a component for community service in our job, and I see this as a specialized form of community service," said Werner.
Two years ago workers building a garage in the city discovered a Colonial-era rum distillery and the year before the remains of a 17th century Dutch trading post were uncovered during the construction of a state building downtown. "Now," says Werner, "we can anticipate in advance of the bulldozer."