• Ing. Carlo Maurilio Lerici Foundation

    Safeguarding of archaeological and cultural heritage

    Photo by Andrea Pistolesi ©2013

  • Archaeology

  • Conservation

  • Prospecting

  • Management

  • Training

About us

The Foundation

The Foundation is a non-profit organization established and legally recognized in 1947, at Politecnico di Milano, founded thanks to the commitment of Eng. Carlo Maurilio Lerici. It is an Institute under the High Supervision of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. The statutary bodies are the President, the Director, the Administration Board (composed by 5 members), the Board of Auditors (3 members), and the Scientific Board (5 members).

The intense prospecting activity – more than 800 campaigns carried out in Italy and abroad, has provided a world unique wealth of experiences and a specialized archive. From 1996 the activity of the Foundation has mainly focused onto multi-disciplinary UNESCO projects in South-East Asia, where it contributed significantly to the nomination as World Heritage of the following sites: Wat Phou in Laos (2001), My Son in Vietnam (1999), Pyu Cities in Myanmar (2014).


Research areas

The basic aim of the Foundation is to put its knowledge and skills on service of national and international bodies responsible for safeguarding the Cultural Heritage, working in the following research areas:

  • geo-physical prospecting, remote sensing, geo-archaeology, archaeological research;
  • underground exploration in urban context;
  • studies for the rehabilitation of archaeological areas and historical centres, in cohordination with the Departments of Architecture and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano;
  • Master Plans and Management Plans processing, in particular for UNESCO;
  • territorial data processing with the Site Manager Data Base – SMDB/GIS software.

The Founder

Carlo Maurilio Lerici, born in Verona in 1890, got his degree in Industry Engineering in 1913 at the Politecnico di Torino. Making his own financial assets available, in 1947 he established the “Applied Geophysics Institute”, as a gift to the Politecnico di Milano, in order to train the new generations towards new innovative goals. In 1954 he gave a start in Rome to the “Archaeological Prospecting” section. In december 1954, at the Public Education Ministry, a plan is illustrated for a systematic use of geophysical prospections in archaeological research. Since then started what Lerici called “the most fascinating adventure of my life”, that is “seeing through the underground” by using geophysics. In the meanwhile, on request of the Minister of Italy in Stockholm, a building was started – in collaboration with Arch. Gio Ponti and Eng. Pier Luigi Nervi, due to become the head office of the Culture Institute of Italy. The Institute, gifted by Lerici to the Italian State in 1958, today is still an active cultural bridge between Italy and Sweden. On 1981, August 12th, Eng. Lerici ceases to live: but the Foundation keeps on going the moral commitment of his founder, aimed at research and teaching.


Lerici Foundation around the World

The Foundation has carried out research and investigation projects in a notable number of archaeological/monumental sites around the World: fourteen in Europe, ten in the Middle East, seventeen in Asia, two in Africa and two in South America. Alle the projects were implemented in agreement with the local Culture Ministries or with the UNESCO, aiming at research, at Capacity Building and Training for collegues on the following disciplines: archaeological research, geophysical and geo-archeological prospecting, databases, archaeological risk assesment, monuments and archaeological finds restoration, museology.

Lerici Foundation around the World

Main projects

Researches for the nomination of My Son as UNESCO World Heritage.

1997 - 2003

Because of the heavy damage and destruction of My Son Site in August 1969 caused by the USA bombing of Vietnam war (1965-1973), followed by an imposing restoration project from the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture along with the Polish Government as collaborator and supporter (1985-1996), UNESCO and the Vietnamese Government asked in 1996 for collaboration from Lerici Foundation, in order to start a tri-lateral project aiming to support with new research the nomination of My Son as UNESCO World Heritage, which happened in 1999.


UNESCO. Project Safeguarding My Son World Heritage – Demonstration and Training in the Application of International World Heritage Standards of Conservation at My Son Group G Monuments.

2004 - 2016

After a step devoted to research and new mapping of the site, UNESCO together with the Vietnamese Culture Ministry invited the Foundation to participate in the above mentioned project, in order to spread in the Culture Ministry, along with the Culture Departments of Vietnamese Provinces the international standards for preservation as well as new methods for the Management of the Archaeological/Monumental sites.


Vocational Training Centre for conservation of Cultural Heritage, Vietnam, Tam Ky.

2017 - 2019

Over the past few decades, the tourism industry has developed remarkably in Vietnam, in general, and in Quang Nam Province, in particular. The touristic boom in Quang Nam Province has been driven especially by Hoi An ancient town and My Son archaeological site, which were recognized World Heritage by the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Concentrating on these two heritage sites acknowledged by UNESCO, the Government of Vietnam together with the People's Committee of Quang Nam Province have taken a number of important steps to improve local economic conditions focusing on the development of the tourism industry.


Pyu Cities. Birth of urbanisation in South-East Asia.

2002 - 2019

After decades of isolation of Myanmar (formerly called Burma), the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Italy in 2002 authorized the start of a Myanmar Cultural Project entitled “Pyu Cities. Birth of urbanisation in South-East Asia”. The historical-archaeological study of Pyu Cities is part of a broader research programme the Foundation was developing in South-East Asia: a study on the beginning of States in the Indo-Chinese peninsula. The study started with the birth of the Khmer State (Wat Phou project in Laos) as well as the Cham Kingdom (My Son project in Vietnam). Actually, the historical-archaeological theme of Pyu Cities is of greatest importance, because they are the most ancient case of urbanization in South-East Asia (I-IX centuries A.D.). In its former phase the project was intended neither to direct preservation interventions, nor to restoration of monumental remains, but aimed at devoting the available resources to explore the archaeological area, to geomorphological and historical-archaeological studies of the area, to investigate the static conditions of the monuments, along with establishing a data bank managed by a Territorial Information System, and last but not least, the training of local staff.


Geo-archaeological survey of Russian Medieval Towns. A non-destructive research at the discovery of the urban origins of Russia.

1996 - 2000

A bilateral project between the Italian and Russian Governments under law n. 212/26.02.1992 stating: "Promoting collaboration in Science and Culture fields among Italy and the East-Europe States, to support the European integration process, to consolidate the democratic values of pluralism, by enhancing human and natural resources." Several prospecting campaigns were performed in Moscow as well as in diverse towns/sites of the Golden Ring like Vladimir, Suzdal, Stari Ryazan, Nerl and others.


UNESCO Nomination. Wat Phou, Laos.

1993 - 2012

Wat Phou Complex is located in the Lao Province of Champassak, on the right bank of Mekong River, at about 100 km. North from the Khone Falls marking the South boundary with Cambodia. The temple, an important example of pre-angkorian settlement and architecture, is spread at the foot of the Holy Mountain Lingaparvata, where other religious monuments in Classical Khmer style were also built (XIth-XIIth centuries).


Site Manager Database

Since the mid-1990s the Lerici Foundation and Politecnico di Milano have developed a Data Base/GIS system (previously called Odysseus) for cataloguing and the evaluation of the Archaeological Risk. The database complex was inspired by the much more complex system developed by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage since year 1980. Subsequently with the collaboration of the Department of Structural Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, in addition to an update of the cataloguing system, a preliminary method of obtaining a quantitative assessment of risk factors was developed. From the mid-2010s the system has been revised, expanded and rewritten.


Lerici Foundation in Italy

Lerici Foundation has carried out more than 700 prospecting campaigns in Italy under the supervision of the State Archaeological Superintendence at first, Regional later. The specific aim of such campaigns was to protect the buried archaeological heritage from possible damages due to construction works of infrastructures as well as from the several criminal excavations. Moreover, the geophysical/geo-archaeological prospecting have been very often used by Municipalities as predictive methods for correct urban planning.

Lerici Foundation in Italy

Main projects

'60 - '80

Lerici Foundation and the Etruscans

Within the archaeological prospection activities of the Foundation, in 1957 professor Bartoccini, then Superintendent of Antiquities of Southern Etruria, requested a range of sistematic researches in Monte Abbatone, Bufolareccia, and Banditaccia necropolis, near Cerveteri. From that time, and nearly continuously up to 1965, the Foundation took over explorations leading to the discovery of nearly 650 elements and graves, extracting more than 10.000 finds many of which are now preserved among the collections of the Villa Giulia Museum in Rome, and of the Archaeological Museum in Milan.

Through the years

Historical pictures

  • All
  • 50's - 60's
  • 70's - 80's
  • 90's
  • 2000's