2007 TRENCH PC 32
Field Supervisor: Aaron Bartels, University of Texas at Austin


Field Supervisor Aaron Bartels in Trench PC 32

 Opening Report  Final Report

Aaron Bartels and students in PC 32 during Week 1

Opening Report:

Trench PC 32, the latest of Poggio Colla's trenches, promises to further illuminate the nature of our hilltop acropolis. We shall pursue a five by five meter swath of earth located on the south-eastern edge of the hill's plateau. Since the trench lies outside the last-phase courtyard walls, we expect to first find layers of broken tile and burnt pottery, indicative of the complex's final destruction spilling southward down the slope.

Although we have excavated other trenches nearby, PC 32 shall also hopefully explain how Etruscans at Poggio Colla terraced this edge of the hill. On the opposite side of the central courtyard, to the northern edge, in PC 20, we found deep terracing walls filled with used bucchero pottery and soil for leveling that area. PC 32 may also turn up a great amount of fill taken from an earlier phase of the main building's occupation.

Although we expect to find no interior spaces for storage or other activities this far from the courtyard, with such a magnificent view of Monte Giove (another Etruscan hilltop) and the valley below, I playfully imagine our Etruscans using this terrace for augury.

I am most excited about this year's field school students and I look forward to learning as much from them as I hope to teach them.

View of Trench PC 32 from the north during Week 3


Emma Johnson in PC 32


Jan Martin in PC 32


Becky Rolph shoveling sifted dirt from PC 32


Italian high school student Alex Lia in Trench PC 32


Students in PC 32 during Week 4, view from the south


Matteo Puglini (Italian high school student) and Anne Duray in PC 32


Dana Rowland in PC 32


Rosalba Filippini in PC 32


Week 4: Aaron Bartels exposing a column base in Trench PC 32


Chris White, Wendy Walker, Michael Thomas, and
Aaron Bartels discusses condition of column base


Students excavate around the covered column base in PC 32


Aaron Bartels


Marlene Gray in Trench PC 32


Italian high school student Chiara Boni studies a find in PC 32


Italian high school student Caterina Manzani in Trench PC 32


Week 5: Marlene Gray, Chiara Boni, and Caterina Manzani in PC 32


Nicole Hanna excavating in Trench PC 32 during Week 5


View from the southeast of Trench PC 32 during Week 5


Olivia Ybarra writes in her field notebook

Aaron Bartels informs students of key trench
features to explain in their field notebooks


Olivia Ybarra, Nicole Hanna, and Sarah Hartman in Trench PC 32


Sarah Hartman and Olivia Ybarrain Trench PC 32 (viewed from the north) during Week 6


View from SE: Sarah Hartman, Nicole Hanna, Olivia Ybarra and Aaron Bartels in PC 32


Column base in Trench PC 32 viewed from the southeast during Week 6

Final Report

Thanks to the tireless efforts of our Field School Students and the Italian Studenti, our excavation of PC 32 came to rewarding close this season. Their work has forever altered many assumptions concerning this southern end of the hilltop and Poggio Colla in general. Our trench cut into the soil further to the south of the main courtyard than any that came before. To our surprise, instead of finding simple terracing fill, fortifications or platforms, we discovered unexpected walls and cultural materials, all of which point to a complex history of building and occupation.

Although PC 32 only provides a small window into the past, we can begin to reconstruct the events that occurred here. First, when we began to unveil our lowest level of sandstone bedrock, it turned out to be quite weathered and uneven, rising higher in the east than the west. Our first sign of human occupation appeared on this eastern rise. Two post holes, half a meter apart, represented the outer wall of an early Italic hut. Huts like this were constructed throughout Italy during the eighth century BCE, and even include the famous hut of Romulus on Rome's Palantine Hill. We have found post-holes elsewhere at Poggio Colla, but these may be the first sign of an extremely early occupation near the hill's center.

Years of erosion removed any evidence of this early residence aside from the holes themselves. The architects of our monumental courtyard building then filled the post-holes with tile and pottery. Directly on top, we found a thin layer of black soil, full of burnt wood, fragments of animal bones and eleven small pieces of bronze. This layer may have rolled down from our votive bronze pit in the main building. However, Etruscans here may have made a minor sacrifice and votive to this early hut before building.

2007: Trench PC 30 viewed from the west at season's end

On top of this black layer we found a wide, single course of stones forming a wall foundation that oddly ran southward to the edge of our hilltop. Post-occupation erosion or unfinished building left us no mudbrick for walls or tile roofing above. Only future trenches may find where this wall leads and what structure, if any, it supported. In the southeast portion of the trench, our bedrock continues to rise higher but unevenly. Here, in the third phase of construction, a layer of rubble blocks filled in the gaps in the bedrock, forming a platform. On top we found another wall, albeit smaller, running directly eastward. Consequently, we have walls ending throughout PC 32 but little sense of what they connect to.

Our most exciting find this season was another wall, built in the northwest section of PC 32, roughly at the same time as our southward wall. Once Etruscans filled and leveled the area with new soil, they dug a more significant trench and placed a massive sandstone column base, with large blocks running to the northwest. We have only found three other column bases at Poggio Colla in years past. Two were ritually turned over and 'buried', another was also flipped and reused to pack a terrace wall. PC 32's base was also recycled, but it sits upright. Therefore, our new base possibly still served its original function, supporting a column at the end of a large wall. However, unlike our other bases, PC 32's was burnt and the majority of its carved edges were sheared off. It seems that in an earlier phase this base was damaged with the building's destruction or reworked. Then, in Phase III, Etruscans reused it, packing stones beneath to level the base on our sloping bedrock. We are excited to see whether this wall connects with our main courtyard building to its north.

With walls and soil for terracing fill in place, PC 32 revealed tantalizing evidence of the final major phase of occupation here at Poggio Colla. West of our southward wall, we found six pyramidal loom weights (for household or cult cloth-making). Each is a different size and all but the largest still sat upright on our ground-level, as if humans had intentionally left them as a group. Previous seasons have only found round, usually stone weights, which Etruscans placed to pack a wall or leave as a ritual gift or donation. I believe our weights were left here as part of a ritual devotion or domestic rite of passage since we also found six fineware bowls, imported from the Podere Funghi (our local pottery production site), between these weights and the column base. Otherwise, this western space served as a space for dining (bowls), cloth-making (loom), or at least the storage of such materials.

After this occupation, a massive fire destroyed most of our building, covering PC 32 with hundreds of liters roof tile intermixed with wall stones, burnt pottery and other materials. Yet even without a major building, Etruscans continued to visit the hill. We found a pit cut beside the column base with a large piece of iron inside. We also unearthed a Roman Republican coin next to a broken chalice. Whether visitors continued to recognize Poggio Colla's sacred nature with these votive offerings or simply wished to hide such belongings is uncertain. Nevertheless, PC 32 provides further evidence of continuities in cultural consciousness that bound even a building's destruction.

While closing PC 32 today and returning its soil during backfill, I realized what an honor it was to work with such brilliant students. Only with their help did we bring ourselves closer to understanding Poggio Colla's past.

Robert Vander Poppen draws scarps measured by Aaron Bartels and Kathlene Loyd Lambert

Robert Vander Poppen making final drawing of scarps in Trench PC 32


2007: Trench PC 32 viewed from the south at season's end


2007: Trench PC 30 viewed from the north at season's end