The Centro Scavi over the years

The Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino (CRAST) was established as an autonomous development of the Centro Scavi e Ricerche in Asia dell’Is.M.E.O. e di Torino. It was founded on the initiative of Giorgio Gullini, Professor of Greek and Roman Archaeology at the University of Turin, with a constitutive act on 16 September 1963 by the University of Turin, the City of Turin, and the Province of Turin, later joined by the Region of Piedmont (until 2014) and the Fondazione CRT. The main aim was to support the archaeological research, especially abroad, conducted by the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Turin and, after its establishment in 1982, by the Department of Anthropological, Archaeological, and Historical-Territorial Sciences (now Department of Historical Studies). On 28 March 1972, the organisation was officially recognised with the D.P.R. nr. 702, and has been registered in the Register of Legal Entities at the Prefecture of Turin under nr. 683 since 16 March 2010.

The Centro Scavi Torino has always operated with the aim of ensuring the correct management and protection of the Cultural Heritage, reconstructing the historical contexts investigated, and presenting its scientific results to the public. In projects abroad, the Centro Scavi Torino also performs Italy’s obligations on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the framework of international cooperation agreements with various countries and institutions. These projects involve archaeological research, preservation and promotion activities, as well as training programmes for cultural heritage practitioners and specialists.

Over the years, the Centro Scavi Torino has developed research programmes on historical and archaeological topics such as the history of ancient Near Eastern civilisations, the cross-cultural exchanges in Hellenized Asia, and the formation of ‘Parthian art’ and its relations with Graeco-Roman culture, working in several countries in the Western Mediterranean (Italy, Tunisia), the Near East (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq), Iran, and Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Pakistan). In Iraq, which has always been the core of the organisation’s interests, the Centro Scavi Torino has promoted research in sites of primary importance such as Seleucia on the Tigris, Choche-Veh Ardashir, Babylon, and Hatra, and participated in international rescue projects on sites threatened by the construction of large water reservoirs in the north of the country. Currently, the Centro Scavi Torino has active expeditions in Iraq (Tulul al-Baqarat, Seleucia on the Tigris), Iran (Khuzestan), Turkmenistan (Parthian Nisa), and Mongolia (Kharkhorin).

In addition to scientific research and archaeological excavations, the Centro Scavi Torino supports initiatives that aim to protect and enhance the historical and archaeological heritage of the countries in which it operates, and engages in spreading knowledge and providing training both in Italy and abroad. These initiatives have become increasingly central and necessary, especially in light of the conflicts and instability that have characterised the political landscape of countries like Iraq in past decades. In 2009, the Centro Scavi Torino was awarded the Premio Rotondi ai salvatori dell’arte – Sezione mondo for its contribution to the recovery, restoration, and computerized cataloguing of artefacts of fundamental historical and artistic value in Iraq. Recent years have seen the undertaking of many projects showing the dedication of Turin’s archaeologists to the Iraqi Cultural Heritage. These include the reorganisation of three exhibition halls on the ground floor of the Iraq Museum, the reopening of the Italian-Iraqi Cultural Centre for Archaeology and Restoration in Baghdad, which offers every year Italian language courses fully accessible to the local population and training programmes specifically designed for the staff of the Iraq Museum and the SBAH (State Board of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq), and the refurbishment of the Sumerian Hall of the Museum, currently under development.

In terms of scientific output, the Centro Scavi Torino is responsible for the publication of two yearly journals (Mesopotamia and Parthica) and of three series of archaeological monographs (Monografie di Mesopotamia, Mnème, and Attività e Ricerca).

The presidents of Centro Scavi between 1963 and 2011

Giorgio Gullini

The founder of the Centro Scavi Torino, Giorgio Gullini, graduated at the University of Rome in 1944. He was Inspector in the Antiquities and Fine Arts Administration until 1952, and director up to 1956, when he was awarded the chair in Archaeology and History of Greek and Roman Art at the University of Turin, held until 1998. In this University, he was director of the Institute of Archaeology from 1958 to 1981, Head of the Department of Anthropological, Archaeological and Historical/Territorial Sciences, founded by him, until 1989, as well as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy from 1962 to 1972. He was also President of the Sector Committee for the Archaeological Heritage (National Council of Cultural Heritage) from 1976 to 1986 and Member of the National Council of Universities from 1979 to 1986. He was a national member of Turin’s Academy of Sciences and a correspondent member of Rome’s Accademia dei Lincei. One of the first aides of Giuseppe Tucci in the archaeological missions in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, from 1955 to 1961, Giorgio Gullini took part in the exploration of the city of Udegram, anciently known as Ora, founded by Alexander the Great, in the Swat, of the Ghazni palace in Afghanistan and of the Kuh-i-Khwaja complex in Seistan (Iran).

In 1963, together with Turin’s local government authorities and the University of Turin and with the support of the Cassa di Risparmio di Torino, Gullini promoted the creation of the Centro Scavi Torino, of which he was at first the Scientific director and then the President, until 2004, the year in which he died. In these roles, he outlined, developed and directed the research conducted by Turin’s archaeological school in Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Tunisia, as well as in Italy, in Locri and Selinus. Gullini’s research focused on great issues of antiquity, considering the development of the great Mediterranean cultures from the 3rd millennium BCE to the late antique period, as stages and aspects of an essentially homogeneous scenario.

His vast body of studies includes over 100 works and articles in specialized journals and ranges from classical to eastern archaeology. In 1966, Gullini founded (and directed for many years) “Mesopotamia”, a Journal of Archaeology, Epigraphy and Ancient Eastern History, supplemented by monographs dedicated to specific topics and especially to the final reports of the Centro Scavi Torino's researches in Asia. In 1969 he founded the Iraqi-Italian Institute of Archaeological Sciences and the Iraqi-Italian Centre for the Restoration of Monuments, innovative instruments of a continuous joint cooperation with local authorities through the application of the most advanced technologies for the management of cultural heritage. With the same intent he also created, through international agreements, the Italian-Jordanian Institute of Archaeological Sciences in Amman and the Italian-Tunisian Institute of Cultural Heritage Science in Tunis, whose scope of activities extends to the entire Maghreb region.

From the late 1960s, Gullini increasingly focused his attention on the contribution of physical, mathematical and natural sciences in the management of cultural heritage. He directed the CNR’s first Targeted Project “Science for Cultural Heritage” from 1978 until its end, and, in part, he contributed to the commencement of feasibility studies for the second project of the same name. As President of the Scientific Council, Gullini contributed to the organization and restructuring of the CNR’s “Institute of Technology Applied to Cultural Heritage”. In 1971 he received the Gold Medal for Scientific Achievements in Culture and the Arts.

Antonio Invernizzi

Alumnus of Giorgio Gullini, Antonio Invernizzi graduated at the University of Turin in 1963. He was Assistant Professor of Greek and Roman Archaeology and History of Art at the University of Cagliari in years 1967-1969. In 1970 he was awarded the chair in Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Turin. He was Scientific director of the Centro Scavi Torino since 1990 and President of the same institution in years 2007-2010. Since 2009 he is Professor Emeritus of the University of Turin. He was a national member of the Accademia delle Scienze of Turin until his demise in 2021.

He was involved in numerous archeological fieldworks in Iraq, Iran and Turkmenistan.In years 1968-1976 he was field director of the Italian Archaeological Mission at Seleucia on the Tigris (Iraq). He was then director of the Archaeological Survey in the Atrek valley in Khorasan, Iran (1975-1976), of the excavations in the Hamrin basin and the Roman fortress of Kifrin in Iraq (1977-1983), and of the excavations in Parthian Nisa in Turkmenistan (1990-2003). He was a member of the editorial board of the Journal Mesopotamia since its foundation, being in charge as director from 2004 up to 2010. In 1999 he founded the Journal Parthica. Incontri di culture nel mondo antico, and directed it until 2012. He was director of the series Mnème, which he founded in 2001 together with Giorgio Gullini.

His huge scientific production includes Mesopotamia, Iran and Central Asia, being mainly focused on the various aspects of the intercultural encounters in Hellenized Asia. Besides the seminal contributions on archaeology and history of arts, in the last years his sphere of interests has been expanding towards a new research branch, with the publication of documents and reports of journeys of the first European travellers through Asia.