The weekend has come and gone, and now we are back to work in the trenches for our first full day, (meaning we all woke up at 5:30am and left the hill at 3:30pm). We continued to excavate the new area that we prepared on Saturday and go deeper into the dirt. This proved to be somewhat difficult because throughout the soil, there were rocks and roots holding everything in place. The rocks (we hope) have a greater significance than just being rocks, but the jury is still out on that one. We did this for most of the day and found several large pieces of terracotta in addition to a piece of glass that looked ancient-made (but again, we aren’t sure.) We got through most of the top soil by a little bit after lunch, and we started to level out the trench so that it aligned with the one from last year. This is something that we will continue tomorrow because we didn’t finish today. All in all, it was a good continuation of the dig, and the rest of the week should be just as exciting.
Another fantastic day today! Mr. Carroll cooked the most delicious breakfast of sausage, eggs, and breakfast potatoes which made a great start to the day. After our wonderful breakfast, we headed into Murlo for mass. Fortunately for us, there happened to be two baptisms taking place, so we got to enjoy that experience. After mass, we all made plans to spend the rest of the day in Volterra, looking at the towns Etruscan Museum, Roman Theater ruins, and the Etruscan Archaeological Park. The museum was amazing, and did an excellent job highlighting local tomb artifacts, in particular an inscribed bucchero cup that archaeologists at Poggio Civitate used to translate another cup of similar inscription. After the museum we walked around the ruins of the towns old Roman Theater which was interesting in its unusual seats that were built into the side of a hill. From there, we went to the Etruscan Archaeological Park to see the ruins of the Etruscan Acropolis. The lower walls of the buildings were fantastically preserved, and it was fascinating to see the remains of the old city surrounded by current buildings. As an addition, we got to see some examples of Volterra’s famous alabaster sculptures as we walked around the city. Spending the day at the museum was a nice change from our days of backfilling, but I cant wait to get back up to the hill and continue our own excavation tomorrow morning.
Today was Saturday, so the college kids and staff had off and didn’t have to work. Naturally, this meant that Mr. Carroll made us work alone on top of Poggio. Granted, we only had a half day of work, and it was actually fun. Because we were finally done with de-backfilling, we got to open Mr. Carroll’s trench for the season. We started off by expanding his previous year’s trench north and loosening the top soil so we could look to see what was there. Similar to yesterday, we were sorting dirt and rocks. There were some fairly large terracotta pieces, but the real find was made by Rudy who came across a piece of pottery with a blue-ish glaze on it. Mr. Carroll identified it as something that was most likely medieval in nature because of this glaze. It was marked as a “special find” and sent down to the Mag (also called the Magazzino which is the Italian word for “store room.” This is where people try to reassemble the terracotta pieces that are found and analyze the findings.) After that we continued to sort through the dirt until we got down a couple more centimeters and decided to call it a day. We came home to a lunch of pizza and had a restful afternoon which was much needed after this very full week.
P.S. For all those wondering, we have not yet found dinosaur bones.
It has been a full week since we’ve landed in Rome but it feels like a long time ago. After a week of exploring museums and de-backfilling trenches we finally began to do some archeology! Not to say that exploring museums or de-backfilling is dull, but nevertheless digging up artifacts dating over two thousand years is very exciting. But before we could do that, we had to finish digging out trenches from last year’s excavation. This last trench that we dug out was by far the deepest, widest, longest, and for all intents and purposes, the biggest. What started as a small task turned into a massive project with half the work force concentrating on this one are. So large was it, in fact, that the group split into two and worked towards “meeting in the middle”. Lunch came shortly after uniting the two openings. Lunch gave us that extra boost to finally complete the trench and clear out the remaining debris and mud. After finishing this great venture, we were able to start excavating near an Etruscan well. At first it was a bit disheartening to sort dirt from rocks but it soon became interesting after finding fragments of pottery. Sadly this was towards the end of the day and soon we had to leave, but the good news is that we can continue to dig tomorrow.
We had another fantastic and productive day on the hill today. We started our morning by having breakfast with all of the university students and getting to know them. After a short meal, our delegation went up the hill to continue working on de-backfilling the trenches from the 2014 season. We spent about two hours pick-axing, shoveling, and clawing up the dirt to be moved away to a “dumping site” with wheelbarrows and buckets. It was physically exhausting work, but it felt really good to watch the tarp marking last seasons trench depth slowly grow larger in area. We were then joined by another small group of college students who helped us excavate the dirt for another two hours or so. After that, we took a short and well earned break for lunch and to rest and look out at the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. After lunch, we joined up with the group of first year students for a talk on the history of Poggio Civitate and a tour of the local archeology museum in Murlo. It was amazing to see just how many artifacts from Poggio Civitate were displayed, and it makes me really excited to think that I will have the opportunity to add to a collection almost 50 years in the making. After a very exhausting day, we are all looking forward to enjoying a delicious bowl of gelato.
Today was our second day at the dig, and we got to actually dig, as the name might suggest. First we wrapped up what we had been doing yesterday by clear cutting a large area slightly behind all the trenches to store our dirt in. Nowhere (except in archeology) will you find a place especially designated for storing dirt. After wielding our machetes and axes to make a sufficiently sized clearing, we began to empty all the old trenches from last year’s dig that they were planning on continuing this season. These had previously been filled with rocks and dirt from the last dig, so the combination of that, new vegetation and Murlo’s abundance of rainfall in the down season made the task only slightly more difficult. It may seem somewhat counterproductive to refill a hole when you are simply going to be digging in it again next year, but for safety reasons (and hunters wandering in the woods), the trenches need to filled when there is no dig going on. In between the dirt-shoveling, Mr. Carroll took us to one lone nail in the ground (not very exciting) and explained how archaeologists grid out a site. Apparently, that nail was grid point (0,0), the very center of the Poggio Civitate site (a little bit more exciting). We even helped set up a baseline grid using both modern day tools and ancient principles that the Romans might have used. After one long day of dragging, shoveling and generally demolishing anything that stood in our way, we declared success and marched back down the hill. While we may be tired, it was a very productive day that will help the rest of the season go smoothly. Once the trenches are clear, we can really get down to digging (with smaller shovels) in hopes of finding something cooler than dirt.
It came sooner than all of us expected, but today we started working on the site! “Scujo” definitely helped going up and down today. The site was so much bigger than we thought. The ruined structures were more distinct than person than in pictures we had seen. Even Mr. Carroll was astonished today during the site tour. Down the hill, major harvesting had occurred, leaving behind a large exposed area. Shortly thereafter we returned from the hill and we helped with rolling up the tennis court carpet which was heavier than looked because of the all the soil that had washed up on it. This is an area of excavation happening in conjunction with the excavations on the hill. Lunch finally arrived and the pasta was gone in no time. Back on the hill after lunch, Mr. Carroll assigned us to move fragments from Etruscan terracotta roofing from a future dig spot to a more sterile spot on the site. The task did not seem so difficult, because it wasn’t , it was just very tedious. It was tedious to differentiate the terracotta from the rock. By the end we were experts at determining the difference between terracotta and rock and at avoiding various subterranean insects. But this endeavor was not fruitless as it may seem; we gained experience at categorizing items for when we begin excavating as well as moving the terracotta fragments. The rest of the day was spent clearing vegetation from site. We even got a chance to swing an ax to fall some of the trees. In the end, we were tired and a little exhausted, but more importantly we were excited for more.