2008 TRENCH PC 36
Field Director & Supervisor: Robert Vander Poppen, Rollins College
Field Supervisor: Jessica Galeano, B.A., Franklin & Marshall College

 


Field Director and PC36 Supervisor Robert Vander Poppen

 Opening Report  Midseason  Final Report

Opening Report:

Students: Matt Elverson, Alexandra Feldman, Jessica Franceschini,
Leu-Jiun Ten, JoAnna Walton, and Jennifer Whinney.

This year we have decided to open PC36 to explore the eastern end of the courtyard building present in the 3rd and early 2nd centuries B.C. atop Poggio Colla. We are excited about this trench for a number of reasons. First of all, the trench will provide much needed knowledge about the activities that took place at this end of the courtyard and allow us to determine whether the same types of activities took place throughout the whole courtyard, or if there was a spatial patterning of activity with the western end of the courtyard serving a different function than the eastern. The trench is also important because it will allow us to ascertain whether the ritual deposit located to the west of our monumental altar actually extended farther to the east. Perhaps most importantly, this season in all of the trenches we are focusing on working out the sequence of events that surrounded the final destruction of the last phase of the building in detail.

So far the students have all been learning excavation technique (mastering the art of troweling and working with a hand pick axe) as well as beginning to recognize artifacts. We have also been working on learning to take absolute levels and drawing finds and archaeological plans. So far all of the students have shown a great degree of talent and the season looks to be a promising one in PC36.


Students excavating in Trench PC 36 during Week 2

Midseason Report


Assistant Field Supervisor Crystal Rosenthal and Field Supervisor Jessica Galeano

Welcome to PC 36 and week five of excavation at Poggio Colla! My name is Jessica Galeano and I have continued supervising excavation of this trench in the absence of Robert Vander Poppen. I was previously working on the paleoethnobotanical research for the first half of the season with Lynn Makowsky. I just joined the trench last Tuesday, July 15th, and a lot has happened since then. First and foremost, I have a wonderful team of undergraduate students (Jessica Franceschini, Matt Elverson, and Alex Feldman) and graduate students (Jen Whinney, JoAnna Walton, and Leu-Jiun Ten). Plus, I have had the pleasure of working with two great assistants: Megan Burns in week four and Crystal Rosenthal week five.


PC 36 Trench Team: Jess, Jessica, Matt, Leu-Jiun, Joanna, Megan, and Jen

So here's what's been happening in PC 36. When I came last week we began removing the third layer of soil (Robert Vander Poppen excavated the first layer which was topsoil and the second layer which was the post-destruction of the site). This was quite exciting as we had a dark black stain in the southwest corner of the trench, which we soon found out was a fire pit. The dark charcoal of the fire pit could clearly be seen in the vertical wall of the trench. This means that this is the first point we have encountered Etruscan activity in our trench! While it is the first time we see Etruscan activity in our trench, archaeology happens in reverse, meaning the first layers we excavate are the last layers of activity on our site. Therefore, this fire pit dates to the last phase of habitation in our trench at Poggio Colla. We also found lots of pottery and tile in this layer. Below this in the fourth layer we found a lot of burned tile that was part of another destruction layer from an earlier time. The intense heat is indicated by burnt tile, a reddish layer of soil from the building walls that collapsed, and even burnt rock. We have had a lot of metal finds in this layer that also show evidence of extreme heat. We have found numerous bronze and iron lumps, two iron nails, and some well preserved pieces of pottery vessels. Our goal is to complete at least this level throughout the excavated portions of the trench. As part of this we will be removing the large tiles that fell during the earlier destructive event in the fourth layer.


View from the south of Trench PC 36 during Week 4

 


Detail of tile fall (view from north)

I am excited for the removal of the tile to occur and to see what information we can glean from this layer and the rest of the trench. With only three days of excavation left we have a lot to do. Stay tuned for the final update!


PC 36 team triangulating points in the tile fall

 


Left: Matt Elverson studies a find. Right: Leu-Jiun Ten sweeps the trench prior to photos

 


Matt Elverson and Alex Feldman sweeping the trench for photos

 


Jess Galeano, Leu-Jiun Tem, and JoAnna Walton triangulate points

 


Crystal Rosenthal writing narrative in the field notebook for PC 36

 

Final Report


Director Michael Thomas and Field Supervisor Jess Galeano

 

I can't believe how quickly the season has gone and that we have just completed week six. I have had such a great experience working with Crystal and the students in PC 36! Everyone has improved tremendously throughout the season. Leu-Jiun is very meticulous and has an eye for detail. JoAnna has a great eye and is very good at following changes in stratigraphy. Matt (Iron Man) is the fastest double-broom sweeper and can excavate a locus in record time. Alex also has a great eye for detail and is fantastic at making a level pass. Jessica is our scarping genius who can also move dirt quickly and is the site's best trench dancer. Jen is the trench MVP; she can move dirt quickly, scarp, find and follow stratigraphy, and perform excellent detail work. Crystal has been so amazing the past two weeks that I have viewed her not as an assistant, but as a co-supervisor. I am grateful to all of the students and Crystal for their hard work and dedication to PC 36. Additionally, they have made our work in and out of the trench a joy and have been a lot of fun!

Since the mid-point of the season we have had some interesting discoveries. For starters, PC 36 does not have any architecture since we are located in the interior courtyard of the site. Since we do not have any walls, it makes out trench difficult to date. Therefore, we have relied heavily on the stratigraphy in our trench to guide our interpretations of how the site was used over time and neighboring trenches previously excavated. While we often joked that we had a box for a trench, or a dig in a box due to the lack of architecture, we gleaned a lot of information from our depositional events, or strata, alone. Reading each of the strata, we have been able to piece together the history of our trench more thoroughly from the middle of the season.

Like all of the other trenches, our first stratum consisted of the modern humus, or dead leaves and organic matter, which accumulated over time. Our second stratum also correlates to the rest of the site, as it is the post-destruction layer, all of the sediment that was deposited since the site was last abandoned. Currently, we are not sure how this stratum formed, as multiple events could have produced it over time. Probable theories include decay of the mud brick building on the site and sands brought in from strong winds. We had an interesting stratum three, which has evidence for a potential fourth phase of habitation at Poggio Colla. An ancient fire pit was found cut into stratum three and a coin was found next to the fire pit. This marks the last time ancient activity occurred on Poggio Colla in our trench. We are not sure when this fire pit was created, but we are certain it was after the Phase III destruction. We know this is the Phase III destruction since there is a wall slightly north of our trench running from east to west in PC 15 that is composed of Phase III architecture. Since the tile and the wall are at the same level, we can attribute them to the same phase. Stratum four consisted of intense burning and a lot of tile and rubble from the Phase III building's roof collapse and destruction.

The tile pile provided the most evidence for the destructive event of the Phase III building in our trench and helped us to describe the other phases as well. The soil around the tile was stained reddish due to the burnt and decaying mud brick. We believe a fire occurred, thus compromising the integrity of the Phase III building. As the fire burned the walls of the building, the mud brick began melting and spreading onto the surrounding soil. The fire must have reached extreme temperatures, which is evidenced by the tile. Once the wall became too unstable to support the roof, the tile slid off of the roof into a pile. The pieces that fell first landed on the bottom and received the most heat energy from the fire. These pieces of tile became vitrified - meaning the heat from the fire was so strong that it caused the tile to expand and turn gray. Tiles that fell on top of the vitrified tiles were burned, but not vitrified. Tile falling on top of the burnt tiles were relatively unharmed from heat, albeit broken from the fall. The tile fall was not constant throughout the north end of the trench, which may be attributed to the theory that after the destruction of Poggio Colla by the Romans, the defeated Etruscans came back to take any usable tiles not damaged by the heat to reuse on a new building located somewhere else in the valley. The destructive event was so intense it masked the habitation level of Phase III. Only two small patches of the Phase III habitation level were found below the destruction, one located below the tile pile, and the other along the middle of the west scarp.

Stratum five was full of sandstone and did not have many artifacts in it. This appeared to be a fill created to level off the site for the Phase III floor level after the destruction of the Phase II building. A bronze pit was found in the southwest of our trench cut into stratum five. Perhaps, this was left as an offering after the Phase II destruction and in preparation for the Phase III building. Due to time restrictions, we were not able to excavate the bronze pit this season, much to the dismay of my students. Additionally, we were only able to excavate stratum five in the northeast portion of the trench. Below this, we were able to expose, but not excavate stratum six which may be the floor level for the Phase II building.

The stratigraphy in our trench has proven insightful and has helped to reconstruct the events on Poggio Colla. I'm hopeful that PC 36 will be reopened in the future in order to excavate the bronze pit and excavate the entire trench to bedrock in order to receive a comprehensive look at all of the phases of habitation in this area. Again I would like to thank my trench for such a wonderful season and wish them the best in the future!


Leu-Jiun Ten in Trench PC 33

 


Alex Feldman and Jessica Franceschini complete a pass in PC 36

 


View from the south of Trench PC 36 at the end of the 2008 field season