With the New Year having just arrived and preparation for the next excavation season underway, now is a good time to reflect on the past season and offer public thanks again to everyone who has made this program possible. 2014 has been a big year of growth for high school student archaeology. First and foremost, thank you to Dr. Tuck who gave me the idea of bringing a group of high school students to Italy. I also need to thank Mr. Carruthers and the rest of the Regis Jesuit High School Admissions who gave me permission to take students with me. A huge amount of thanks goes to Mr. Lechuga who was co-chaperone on the trip, without his presence this trip would not have been as successful as it was (and parking would have been 100 times worse). I also need to thank Ms. Friedman, Ms. Glennie, and Ms. Etter who all provided different components to the classroom part of the course.
A huge amount of thanks goes out to everyone who listened to my ideas and offered guidance to me, there are too many of you to thank hear (and I also worry that I would forget one of you). But know that I took every conversation to heart and used your advice to shape the program.
Thank you to the students who joined me on our first year in the field. You were an amazing group and were so flexible as we worked out the kinks (or just drive home from Florence).
It is an exciting year ahead of us. I will be presenting a poster about the program at the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America down in New Orleans this week (stop by on Friday if you are in town). I will also be a member of a round table for at concurrent meeting, Building a Strong Future for Archaeological Outreach and Education, and share what I have learned with other teachers. There will also be a talk during the Classical Association of the Midwest and South Meeting in Boulder this March about the program.
Looking even further ahead, we will have another 4 students joining the project this summer and we have expanded it to include girls as well (now that we have figured out the housing logistics). We have also extend the program to allow for more days in the field.
Thank you again to everyone who has helped in whatever small way you could. I truly am so thankful for having such a wonderful community to help me. If you are curious about how the program went last summer and haven’t read through the blog posts you can check out the following articles. This one, HERE, was written by two Regis Jesuit Students and this one, HERE on page 11, was published by Regis Jesuit Communications office.
2015 is going to be another great year for the program. Stay tuned to the blog for updates.
Well the boys have been put on a plane and sent back to the states and I have returned to the town of Vescovado. Today is my day of catch up and clean up (both literally and electronically) . I figure since I started the blog posting for the season I may as well end it. You all have been reading posts written by the boys (just in case you haven’t figured that out yet) and while they were good at letting you know what happened, I feel that they lacked a little oomph in letting you know how they felt about what happened (then again most electronic means of communication tend to lack the subtleness of the human voice). And I am not saying I will do any better but I will give it a go.
This program was a huge success. With every museum, or site, or event we did the boys were constantly in awe of their surroundings. They learned to appreciate the pace of Italian dinners and how to fill the time we both silly and thoughtful conversations about life, school, and video games. They were thrilled when we got to visit the hill and finally got to work (they actually kept saying they wanted to do one more pick pass and were really bummed when I called work for the day on Tuesday). They all were really open to trying new things and foods that they normally don’t have from liver bruschetta to prosciutto e melone. Finally they were all blown away by the beauty and simplicity of the rooms of St. Ignatius and the Church of the Gesu. Finally all the questions the boys asked of me showed genuine curiosity about what we were looking at and an appreciation for being present in the moment (which is not always easy to get boys to do and that for me was amazing). These are just some of the highlights of emotions and events they had in Italy. The entire trip was a constant barrage of new experiences and emotions for them which I am sure they will be processing for a lifetime. And that is exactly what I wanted to happen.
So, now the question being asked of me is this: Would I do it again? The short answer is yes, in a heart beat.
I was really worried about the success of the whole trip and tried to plan as much as possible. Somethings went smashingly well, others got scraped, and others were tweaked. I couldn’t be happier with how the trip went and how few hitches there were in the program. But just because a program is well planned doesn’t mean it should happen again. So what would I do it again? Well the boys would like to believe it was them that made the trip and they constantly reminded me of this. While that is partly true I did get to pick them so I will always be able to make sure the group of students is a good one.
I think what made the trip so successful for me was the simple act of being able to share something I have loved for 8 years with them. It is hard to describe the emotions that I felt when I drove into town the first time with them, or when walked them up to the site, or when I took them into the Gesu. It was a mixture of excitement, joy, pride, and just plain old happiness. With every place I took them, with each question they asked I got this brief but amazingly strong indescribable feeling of what could be simply just called happiness.
For all the stress, for all the planning, for all the worrying, for all of the work that went into it, I would do this trip again just to be able to enjoy that brief moment happiness connected with sharing with the students the experience of excavating in a small rural Tuscan town.
Well that is all for now with this blog, I promised the boys continued updates about their trench on my own blog: https://handyatmurlo.wordpress.com/ . Feel free to also continue following the Poggio Civitate Archaeological Projects 2014 season there.
Arrivederci all’anno prossimo.
We spent our last day in Rome. It is an extremely beautiful city, full of people and wonderful buildings and street vendors and statues and one column that even said Clemens! The only downside was that it smelled, but we got used to that pretty quick. We then walked through the Roman Forum. This was an amazing series of buildings. Domitian’s palace, the Arch of Titus, about a million shrines and temples, and a hallway where Nero supposedly committed suicide. So many buildings in such a small area is incredible to see. After the Roman Forum we went to see the Coliseum. That was a fun place, really cool to see the entire dug out bottom that Domitian made. Then we went to the Gesu, the very first church that St. Ignatius founded as a Jesuit. That was extremely relaxing. I enjoyed the Gesu the most, I think. Our last tourist stop in this trip was to the Pantheon. This was easily the most aesthetically impressive of our four main stops. The giant dome from the inside is incredibly cool. We wandered the city for the few more hours after the Pantheon and had the most satisfying pasta dinner of this entire trip. That was our day. It was very walk-heavy, my feet hurt, I’m exhausted, but I couldn’t be gladder I went on this trip. Thanks for everything Mr. Carroll and Mr. Lechuga. You guys are the best.
As all enjoyable and wholesome activities do, our brief but exciting time in the trench ended today. However, the day was not without some great finds. Teddy discovered a pieced of bronze, which could have been worked. Mr. Lechuga, summoned a rare piece of coil pottery, perhaps from the iron age. Closing the trench was an poignant time for us, for each bucket full of dirt had deepened not only the trench, but our bond with the hill and each other.
After cleaning up as much as four teenage boys would be expected to, we returned to Siena. We revisited the quintessential medieval town to view the preliminary races for the Palio: a horse race between the 14 “neighborhoods” of Florence. We were packed as closely as two metaphors in a novel by Hemmingway. It was sweaty, rowdy, loud, and most importantly, a blast! Thereafter, the gang dinned in a restaurant, whose quality of food will be sorely missed back home, and returned to Vescavado, ready to take on Rome tomorrow!
Day 10: Volterra
Today started as a late day following the people watching of the pig roast, where I was introduced to, and horrified by, Kanye West videos. We dressed in our Sunday best and trooped off to attend an Italian mass in Vescovado, unfortunately however, the mass for today had been canceled. We decided instead to load into the mighty Scujo for a trip to Volterra, a small town about an hour away. Along the journey the fierce rivalries in the Eni/Agip game, where gas stations named as such are called, reached an all time high with Mr. Lechuga eking out a victory in the end. In between looking for gas stations, we were afforded amazing views of the Tuscan countryside and its rolling hills and winding roads.
Approaching Volterra itself afforded an amazing view of the medieval walls of the town and the towering Medici fortress, which has since been converted into a prison. Volterra has seven gates into it, one of which was named the Porta Etrusco and has stood since around the third century BC. The town is typical of medieval style in its meandering streets, the longest straightway lasted maybe fifty meters. The alleyways and windows of Volterra are littered with arches, some spanning the gap between two buildings, others from one part of the same building to another.
Since we had missed mass in the morning, we decided a visit to the local Duomo was in order. The cathedral of Saint Maria Assunda features murals adorning all the walls and crests along the upper portions of the walls. From the cathedral, we marched off to the Roman Theatre ruins where the seats were clearly visible above the hill and the columns of the stage and backstage area soared in front of a forum like area, where, in classic Roman style, modern art was featured alongside the ruins.
In his anger at the selfishness of Mr. Lechuga’s archaeology processes, Joey forgot to mention that yesterday was the birthday of our esteemed Rob. He turned 17 yesterday, just as I did today. In other news, we dug quite a bit in our little trench today. It gave me a small birthday present and presented two small shards of pottery. Mr. Lechuga, thankfully, did not dash our dreams among the dirt as much today as yesterday-he only found about half a million pieces of terra cotta today. We only dug for about half a day, but apparently that was enough to keep everyone asleep when it was clearly museum time. It’s like these guys hate fun. We only had Teddy disappear once today on some adventure through Vescovado, and he left the room key with us. Progress, Teddy, progress is being made. Mr. Carroll impressed us all with his culinary skills, cooking an amazing pasta dinner with peppers and sausage. It was a great day.
Since the plants had taken enough punishment, today we broke ground. We dug our 4 by 2 meter trench using a pickaxe to break up the ground and our hands to sort through and remove the dirt. Since we only got through the topsoil for the most part, not many artifacts were expected. We found 15+ pieces of terracotta roofing tiles and a few pieces of pottery.
Mr. Lechuga discovered a disturbingly large amount of these, and we have agreed that he is the worst, simply the worst. What man in his late twenties would mercilessly dash the preverbal dreams of children into the cold hard trench? Lechuga.
Though it is hard to get past the trauma perpetrated by the monster outlined above, we had a blast! Mr. Carroll was assigned two second-year students to learn from and assist him. They are a wealth of information offering the finer points of Archeology, from how to dig properly to “Don’t step there!”
I believe I speak for us all when I type, “Tuscany is a soothing country with an atmosphere that is complex, but undeniably picturesque, encompassing striking landscape with delicious native food.” Everyday we grow into fuller people, appreciating this adventure, our loving and supportive parents, and the benevolent Imperator Carroll. All the while preparing to take Mr. Lechuga down for his unprecedented, and perturbing ability to find terracotta. After all accidents happen all the time with such sharp tools around.