Sunday, July 14, 2013

Poggio Colla update from the Mugello Valley

We're two weeks into the season here at Poggio Colla, and it's time to give a proper update on life here in Vicchio. This year we are not digging on our usual hilltop, but down on the slopes, in the wilds of the forest. I'm the trench supervisor for the exciting NW6 (Northwest Slope trench 6), a gigantic hole in the ground:

The hill of Poggio Colla is covered with similar large pits because it was the site of mining during the last few centuries. Our interest in this pit grew, however, once we (i.e., Phil) recognized some noteworthy tool marks bearing a strong resemblance to those on our Phase 2 structure on the hilltop.

Digging a pre-dug pit is certainly beneficial because most of the work has already been done.  The problem, on the other hand, is that the terrain can be rather dangerous to those both excavating the edges of the trench and those simply walking along its borders. My fingers are crossed that my students continue to have good balance.

Attempting to avoid sliding into the Great Pit of Carkoon and the gaping maw of a sarlacc. Click to embiggen and enjoy Kenzie's fierce archaeology face.

Excavation is a bit slower than I hoped, with some unpleasant stratigraphy thanks to the more recent (non-ancient) individuals who dug the pit. We may not have reached the fascinating ancient finds that we all know absolutely await us beneath, but we have uncovered some real treasures nonetheless. Take, for example, Amanda's find. As she was scraping with her trowel, she excitedly announced, "I've found something!! I found something! And it has writing! It says...."

"Genuine Leather. Swiss."

A leather watch band, sans watch. I wonder which person on the excavation staff lost a watch during the last twenty years, so that it could wash down the hill and be found in our trench. Also exciting was that orange object Amanda's holding: a plastic shotgun shell. Thanks to Christina, we know that the artifact must date to the 1930s and after, since it was at that time that ammo makers began to employ plastic. A nice comparison piece came from Gretchen's trench: a shotgun shell made of lead, which our weapon's expert Christina dates to the late 19th/early 20th century.

Off-site things are pretty mellow.

Our front yard.

The especially rainy spring delayed the entire growing season. As of yet, the fields of sunflowers are simply fields of green, full of teenage plants not yet ready to show off their cheery yellow faces. I'm still in the lovely little apartment named 'Cantina,' talking archaeology trash with my house mates and carefully rationing my last Casa del Prosciutto chocolate cake (the beloved restaurant doesn't open again until the beginning of August, since the family is on vacation).

My house-mate Phil, eating a snack.

My temporary roommate Angela rigged up this amazing mosquito-free nest, in which she cocooned herself each night. I wasn't bothered at first, since the mosquito population was down given the cool weather at the beginning of the season, but now that it's warmed up, I've received enough mosquito bites in unmentionable places that I'm wishing Angela had left me her valuable real estate.

Living in the Tuscan countryside continues to be something strangely magical. Beautiful views, mysterious bird calls in the night, and sunrise over the Appenine's. Every corner has a surprise, including our own backyard. Yesterday I walked past a tractor to find a peach tree, laden with picture perfect fruit. Hot damn! Thank you, Mugello.

 The peach tree. Nom nom.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rain of Maggots

Yes. You read that right.

Today in my trench two cicadas crawled out of some holes, still in their skin. Throughout the day the noise got louder and louder. We joked that by excavating our pit we'd released a plague.

It was funny until a storm rolled in, and it started raining maggots.

As in, the larvae of flies. Turns out they like to hang out in the forest, munching on leaves, and when an occasional thunderstorm comes along, they get washed out of the trees onto the heads and shoulders of unsuspecting students.

I'm sure you can imagine the results. Absolute shrieking, running about, flapping of hands, total hysteria and tears.

Want proof? Have a look at our ride home afterwards:


Monday, July 1, 2013

Baracca tales

Several years back, the excavation of Poggio Colla invested in an aluminum shed in order to protect its field tools from the elements. As an object made of metal sheets, it proved a major trial to carry the bits to the top of the hill where the tools are actually used. Since then, the shed has survived in varying states of preservation from year to year.

Until last year, of course, when we arrived to find the baracca ('hut') totally upended. It took us a week to make it past the horror and rebuild the abused structure. Much sweat and love went into the making of it and it became what I believe is the strongest version yet to grace the hill top. It even has a earthen embankment to keep it sturdy.

This year I was sure that the baracca would be in perfect condition, but alas for human intervention. Someone decided to use part of the roof to build what we think is a deer blind.

But the real problem is that we aren't even excavating on the hill this season, instead we're much further down the slope. So far down the slope that its way too far to carry tools back and forth every day. And thus we need a new baracca.

Gretchen and Phil tie up some supporting posts for the roof.
So we stole back the deer blind piece, the door, and one or two extra sheets that we had chucked in the woods. Add a few logs from the old sieve tripods, knot some ropes, and voila, a pseudo-baracca that will have to do for now.

Let's hope there aren't any thunderstorms in the near future, as the new shed seems a bit open. In fact, it's been noted that it looks more like a tiki bar and could use a few strategically placed coconuts and liquor bottles. So far it's working, though, so wish us luck!