Sunday, August 11, 2013

So what did we find? 2013 Edition

You may be wondering whatever happened at Poggio Colla this summer, since I failed to post any details during the season. Let me give you a quick run down then.

This season we did not excavate on top of the hill, but instead explored the north west slope. We did this in order to investigate the earlier Etruscan period (7th c. - 6th c. BCE), since we know there was a settlement somewhere on the slopes. This area has been heavily quarried  in recent centuries, with the result that the hillside has been dramatically reshaped, what with quarries, roads, work terraces, and so on. In my trench (NW 6), we got to investigate this activity in more detail because the bedrock cuttings that were our focus turned out to be part of a deep stone quarry.

Here's a view of the trench half-way through the season. Note the clear stratigraphy: behind Sam and outside the quarry you see a very yellowish soil, whereas next to her and inside the quarry you see extremely dark, rich organic forest debris soil. After the quarry was abandoned in the 19th c., it sat open in the forest and collected run-off, branches, acorns, leaves, and so on, all of which turned into a dirt that any gardener would be ecstatic to put into their flower beds.

Of course, floating leaves were not the only thing to land inside the quarry. Part of the quarry walls collapsed inside, dumping stones of all sizes there for us to painfully remove during the excavation.

Phil Perkins contemplates a huge chunk of fallen bedrock before pick-axing out a break line as prep for the sledge hammer.

The stones actually mixed with a dense clay that held moisture to an extreme degree. This meant that not only did we have to sledgehammer bedrock, lift gigantic blocks, and bucket out loads of smaller stones, but we also had to deal with standing water.

Danielle and Peggy uncover a mini-pond in the trench, the first time we found standing water. Note that they are still eager and smiling.

This was a first for me. Yes, a few times in years past our contexts have gotten wet from the rain, but in this case, the water would bubble up as if coming from an underground spring whenever we removed certain stones. So we bailed and bailed bucket after bucket of grey water. At the end of each day we slunk out of the trench, covered in a foul smelling muck that dripped and plopped off of our clothing and tools. It felt a lot like excavating a well, but without the kick-ass finds and bones and egg shells.

Days later. We still hadn't found the bottom of the muck.

In the end, though, we did uncover a totally cool stone quarry, with all manner of cuts, tool marks, and niches.

Pretending it's a tomb, complete with sacrificial victims. If only.

Watching the dirt go back in on backfill day wasn't the coolest, but the students participated in the age-old archaeological tradition of throwing something in with the dirt to alert future diggers of our own activity. A few coins went in, but so too did this note:


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