Jessica Franceschini, Southern Methodist University
Alexander Till, Franklin and Marshall College

Jessica Franceschini - July 2008

Jessica Franceschini digging in Trench PC 36

It is the beginning of the third week here at Poggia Colla, and we have been learning all of the different aspects of archaeology. We spent the first week bouncing around to different trenches; there are 5 open this year, although PC32 is being reopened and not really worked on by students. On last Monday, we received our trench assignments for the rest of the season. I am in Dr. Robert Vander Poppen (VP)'s trench along with three graduate students, JoAnna Walton, Leu-Jien Ten, and Jen Whinney as well as two other undergraduates, Alex Feldman and Matt Elverson. We will be working in PC36, in the southeast part of the site.

Thus far, in PC36, we have removed the top layer of soil, the humus layer, to reveal the first archaeological layer underneath; we call this layer stratum 2. The way that we work is to make a pass through a layer and to remove the entire layer and the inclusions in it before moving on to the layers of soil below. This helps us to work backwards through the soil deposits and to give an idea of a timeline for when different deposits occurred.

Stratum 2 has posed some issues for us in our trench. It is an interesting layer in the fact that it is uncertain where it was deposited from, yet it is starting to seem like the most logical solution to this is that the layer is decaying mud-brick from the walls of the temple. The stratum 2 layer does not contain many inclusions, mostly small sherds of abraded pottery and tile. As we have been working through this layer, we hit a false stratum 3 to then find that the real stratum 3 was about 15 centimeters below that. Now we have been pulling back to stratum 3 and can already see that there are many more archaeological inclusions in it. Stratum 3 has quite a bit of tile and larger sherds of pottery that are sitting on the surface. We will further explore these in context when we start to pass through this stratum.

Beyond excavating, I have also gone to work on different survey techniques. I worked with Dr. Sara Bon Harper doing shovel test pits in a grid across the Podere Funghi, the field downhill where evidence for the site was first discovered. Through these test pits, Dr. Bon Harper is plotting where activity occurred in this field where kilns have been been found. I also worked with Ivo Vander Graaff and Thijs Nales on coring. Coring is another survey technique used to drill a small hole down to see the layers of stratigraphy below and to determine the habitation areas around the site. The data from these corings is being input into a GIS mapping system by Jon van Tol that gives a representation of where there was habitation and settlement on the hill.

Jessica Franceschini drawing in the illustration workshop

We have also spent time in the lab, working with paleoethnobotanists on floating soil samples to find seed and plant fragments used by the Etruscans, looking at different catalogued finds from previous years, and working with the conservators on washing and finding joins in pottery.

Alexander Till - July 2008

Alexander Till

It's now about two weeks into the field school here at Poggio Colla and I have already learned so much about archaeology and the process of excavating. I came into this with very little prior knowledge on the methods and application of the subject - I had only ever learned a bit about it in the classroom. It is truly an invaluable experience to be physically in the field, in the trenches and coming into contact with material as it is being found. The first week was a bit of an introduction. We had to clean up the site before starting the trenches, and then, when we started digging, everyone got a chance to work everywhere on the site. This past week, we were assigned to specific trenches for the rest of the season in order for us to understand more deeply the process, and this has created a certain sense of pride for one's own trench. All the students also come from different academic backgrounds. I am a classicist, so I tend to be more interested in the history and what the site can tell us about the Etruscans. However, there are also anthropology, art history and environmental science students here and this gives a good multidisciplinary feel to the project. At first, the entire thing seems a little overwhelming, but it gets easier quickly. I am already starting to think in terms of stratiography as well as the relationship my trench has to the entire site and other ways that had never occurred to me before I got here. I hope that the experience continues to excite me and teach me more about being an archaeologist.

Alex Till excavating in Trench PC 33