Saturday, August 21, 2010


Currently I am in Campania and the sky is the never-changing cloudless blue that I became familiar with in Greece. A few weeks ago, though, it came as a shock to find that excavations sometimes actually have to deal with rain. Sure, I knew rain fell on British excavations and on Jamestown and stuff; but having never experienced it myself, it didn't seem like an archaeological reality. I was spoiled in Greece, where it stops raining in early June and then, well, that's it - no more moisture for the rest of the summer. The Mugello Valley, on the other hand, turned out to be wetter than I anticipated.

At first I was a the whole covering-the-trenches-with-tarps-at-night thingy. And then I found out why it was necessary.

Bailing out PC 40.

In the end, the tarps were not wholly effective and some trenches got a bit...damp. This was especially unfortunate for those students digging through a deep layer made up of dark, ashy soil. Which turned into a gruesome greyish-brown ooze. They ended up having to sift the mud by hand.
Robert of PC 41, covered in black slime.

A PC 41 bucket. Yuck.

Alas, my own PC 42 did not escape unscathed, either. Yet somehow my students were awesome enough to stay relatively clean despite it all.
PC 42's sparkling clean Jack and Cassie excavate a muddy rubble pit that turned out to be a robbing trench for yet another wall, removed and filled in during the Hellenistic period.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Where's my motorino helmet?

The student diggers of Poggio Colla have no idea how lucky they are.

Why? Because they get a four-day weekend in the middle of a six-week season. This luxury is generally unheard of. But the best part, of course, is that since the students get a four-day weekend, so do the supervisors.

As much as I love the Mugello Valley and its greenery, I felt it was time to get out and to do something touristy and beachy. Thus I took off for a sunny holiday on the Tuscan island of Elba with Angela Trentecoste, the site zooarchaeologist (animal bone specialist).

Yes, that Elba.

Perhaps because I've gotten more elderly, it's been a while since I've had any haphazard Mediterranean adventures - my days of island hopping by myself in the Cyclades are nearly ten years past. But Elba and Angela provided plenty to make up for it. Such as:

Campeggio. We borrowed some camping gear (thanks, Phil!) and set up our little tent in the rather interesting Camping Aquaviva. This involved crushing a pillow over my head at night to keep out the blaring 'Macarena' and likewise crushing a pillow over my head to keep out the ear-plug defying pigeon cooing directly above our tent at 6am. (At least I could throw rocks at the pigeon).

We rented a motorino and toured the north and west of the island. This involved various adventures such as driving on a windy cliffside road in the dark with no real headlamp and getting entirely lost in the steep cobbled medieval alleys of Portoferraio, until some nice angel of mercy led us out to freedom on her own motorino.

There was plenty of swimming to be had and I actually got to do some diving, something I'd not yet done in the Mediterranean. There was a decent bit of wildlife, to my surprise: eels, baracuda, octopus, manta ray, grouper, etc.

Don't think, of course, that it was all fun and games. I got the requisite share of antiquities in at medieval Marciana, perched on a hill, where we were able to visit sparse 13th-century chapels and the island's little archaeological museum.

Sure, this pottery doesn't look like much, but I've spent the summer obsessed with these bowls and their sharply outturned rims. Many of them rest on pedestal feet and have elaborate profiles, including the fancy one we found in our trench. They're called piatelli.

And somehow, by complete accident, every place we stopped to eat had drop-dead-benissimo food and gorgeous views.

Dinner and a view at the little harbour of Enfola.

I probably wouldn't recommend Elba to visitors since it was a tourist mecca more than anything else, but for a four-day escape from the Mugello, it perfectly hit the spot.