This is mostly a place for my students to write and report on their activities but here I want to muse on things.
Well my students have come and gone. Here is a short collection of thoughts I had about my program this year.
1- I really hate the road signs in Florence. It took us an extra hour and half to get out of the city because of a lack of road signs. I said last year I wouldn’t drive in again, this year I was feeling cocking. Next year no more driving. I will have to spend some extra time planing how to get them there in time before the museum closes.
2- I am so happy with how hard the kids worked. One way of gaining or losing “excavation cred” is your work ethic. These kids went above and beyond what was expected of them and it showed too, every night they were in bed by 9. But all the staff was really impressed at how hard they worked, how curious they were and how fast they learned. Steve, the conservator, said they were some of the best students he had in the first week and he only had them for half a day. I am so glad for their energy on the hill.
3- Living in an apartment was a fabulous change from the hotel. While the hotel is great and you get to see everyone, there was something nice about being off in our own area. They had a fantastic opportunity to live and work in a mixed group of people who are not their family. They learned how to share a shower with 6 people, cleaning and cook and just work with each other despite their own exhaustion. It was wonderful to help them learn some valuable lessons on sharing space before they take off for college.
4- My last point of reflection is more on how I’d like to see the program evolve and really are just musings of a tired teacher. Right now the program is more about experiencing archaeology and Tuscany and I want to move it so the students are participating in research and producing something they can share with their classmates. 20 days is too short to learn everything and research at the same time. I wonder if setting time to do that is the fall might help or if we dedicate more time in the spring to it. I don’t buy the excuse that since they are high schoolers it is hard for them to do quality research, I think given the chance they will produce wonderful products. It is a matter of figuring out the ideal conditions to help them flourish and share what they know. Maybe it starts off as more summative or literature review type work, maybe it is small projects that multiple seasons work on. I am not sure but it is where my thoughts are wandering now.
Well that is a lot of reflection, especially when I could be sleeping. If you have questions, comments or ideas please feel free to share them with me.
The last night at Vescovado di Murlo was sadly the end of our time at the dig, but the beginning of our time at Rome. The past two days have gone by extremely quickly, so quickly in fact, that it has felt like one continuous day. After leaving from Vescovado, we headed towards the Tarquinian necropolis, an Etruscan burial site. The entire hill was littered with subterranean tombs, many of them containing intact frescoes. Tarquinia was definitely worth seeing, but it did not compare to Rome. Yesterday we got a glimpse of Rome, and already it was mind blowing. For me, seeing the coliseum for the first time was almost dreamlike, it was too amazing to be true. The Roman Forum, the Victor Emmanuel Building, and the Pantheon were also a lot to take in. That was just one day. Today began with Holy Mass at the Pantheon itself. After Mass, we were able to see the interior of the Pantheon and see Roman genius in its design. From there, we went to the Roman forum, which in itself contained history from the monarchy of Rome to the Republic and to the end of the Empire. We were able to see the Arch of Titus, an arch that we talked about in Latin countless times. Afterwards we went to see La Chiesa di Gesu, the Church of Jesus, the church that Saint Ignatius built. All around, the church was a beauty. Next stop was the interior of the Coliseum, which was more amazing to see in person than in books or on television. It’s crazy to think that that was once a center in which thousands came to see bloodshed. Our time in Rome has gone by quickly, yet it feels like so long with the sheer amount of things we’ve seen in a short amount of time.
After working in the Mag yesterday and conserving artifacts, we got back on the hill to find some more. Because it was our last day, Mr. Carroll wanted to make sure that we all had a chance to find something exciting, so he sent us to different trenches. (He continued to excavate his trench where the most exciting things are rocks and a very large tree stump.) While Matt got to work in a trench nearby Mr. Carroll’s with a potential wall and pottery, Rudy and I got to go to the well trench with Mr. Lechuga and Mrs. Gorman. By the end of the day, we had dug a collective 1.6 meters down total and hit sterile soil, meaning we weren’t finding anything except dirt. Once this was declared, we took a ton of measurements and photos before we broke into the bulk wall that the well bordered. This was an attempt to open up a portion of the well to preserve it’s structural integrity as it is being excavated. All in all, it was a great way to end our excavation. We still have a couple days left as we head off to Tarquinia and Rome, but today marked the official end of our archaeological adventures. It’s amazing all the things we have learned in these two weeks about archeology, and it was definitely worth it in the long run.
Today was very different from what we normally do, but it was honestly one of my favorite days thus far. We worked a half day up on the hill, all in different trenches. It was Rudy’s turn to help in the well, and that trench filled another 11 milk cartons of pottery! Emma and I helped in two different trenches, but we were both working to dig further down into the soil as well as continue to bulk the walls of the trenches. After our four hour shift on the hill, our group went down to the magazino and met Steve and Beth (the sites conservators). They taught us the methods of archaeological conservation, and we spent another five hours in the mag working on dry brushing, wet brushing, and swabbing artifacts to clean dirt off of them and prep them for cataloging and eventual storing inside the magazino’s artifact room. I personally really enjoyed this aspect of archeology, and my favorite part of the day was getting to clean the dirt off a glass bead that turned out to be an awesome shade of blue. Since today was Palio day and most of Murlo was away for the race, we all had a quiet and relaxing dinner at Libridinoso, with a delicious strawberry tiramisu for dessert.
Apologies for not posting yesterday, but yesterday was a big day. The first half of the day consisted of continuing the excavation of our trenches. With the exception of terracotta, nothing special was found. However, the suspected wall did become more defined. After work we cleaned up and drove towards Siena to see il Palio, or at least a practice run. Il Palio, translated as the banner, is a horse race in which ten of seventeen of Siena’s contradas, or factions, compete to win a banner to hang in their local church as a symbol of pride. Massive amounts of money are spent by the contradas to hire the best jockey, bribing other jockeys, and sponsoring contrada dinners. We only went to a practice race but il Compo was flooded with spectators, many of whom wore a banner of their contrada on their back. Before the race, the locals segregated into their respective group and chanted taunting songs to each other. And after half an hour in delays, the race began. The race itself was thrilling especially seeing the horses so close. Immediately after the race, one member of a contrada insulted another about the race and moments later they jumped out of their stands yelling and approaching each other. Some men tried to stop them but their were at least 30 of them on either side. Soon the contradas of Owl and Unicorn clashed into a street brawl. Mr. Carroll immediately led us out of the piazza. Once we were at dinner he explained to us how important il Palio is to the people of Siena and that it isn’t just a show for tourist. He didn’t expect one of the practice races to get so crazy. Today we woke up and went straight to the hill. Again we were moved into new trenches. Emma and I moved into relatively sterile trenches whereas Matt was moved to the trench with a well in it. Just today, they found enough pottery to fill fourteen milk cartons! The last two days have been an experience.
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.