2007 TRENCH PC 32
Field Supervisor: Aaron Bartels, University of Texas at Austin
Field Supervisor Aaron Bartels
in Trench PC 32
Aaron Bartels and students
in PC 32 during Week 1
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.
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
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
Marlene Gray in Trench PC 32
high school student Chiara Boni studies a find in PC 32
high school student Caterina Manzani in Trench PC 32
Week 5: Marlene Gray, Chiara Boni, and Caterina Manzani in PC
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
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
Robert Vander Poppen draws scarps measured by Aaron Bartels and
Kathlene Loyd Lambert
Robert Vander Poppen making final drawing of scarps in Trench
2007: Trench PC 32 viewed
from the south at season's end
2007: Trench PC 30 viewed from the north at season's end