2010 STUDENT DIARIES

 

Rachel R. Fox, Southern Methodist University:

Wow.  That's all I have to say.  Excavating on the Poggio Colla site has been the experience of a lifetime.  Not just the excavating itself, but the entire life one leads in rural Vicchio, Italy.  The people, the place, and the program are what really make this trip amazing.

Starting with the people--during this program I've forged some of the most intimate friendships I've ever had.  You don't really bond with somebody until you're down on your hands and knees sweeping dirt off of dirt so it looks "clean."  But seriously, the quality of individuals attending the Poggio Colla field school is unparalleled.  I never want this trip to end!  I want to continue living with nineteen other individuals in tiny rooms at Vigna!  Seriously though, I do.


Rachel Fox (foreground) working in Trench PC 41

The place.  Oh, the place.  Vicchio is one of the most picturesque places I've ever had the good fortune to lay eyes upon.  I've become so used to the natural splendor, sometimes I have to pinch myself, look outside, and consciously remind myself, "I'm living on a vineyard in Tuscany, wow."  The food is also just absolutely decadent.  Two of the best cooks you'll ever meet, Bruno and Beppina, live under Vigna's roof with all of us.  Talk about being spoiled.  Dallas Italian food is going to pale in comparison when I return.  Until then I'm going to gobble down pesto gnocchi like nobody's business!

And finally we come to the program.  Dr. Greg Warden and the rest of the senior staff keep this program running as smoothly as butter.  Which is quite difficult considering the crazy maladies that inevitably pop up on this trip!  The junior staff who serve as our trench supervisors and assistants are also some of the most quality human beings I've met to date.  They're your teachers and friends.  And they'll squat down in the dirt with your and furiously excavate a 5m x 5m space with trowels smaller those used for gardening.  That's some devotion.  Devotion is really what this program is about: a dedication to finding and preserving history, a commitment to educating the world's future archaeologists, and most of all, the drive to doing it all while having a really, really good time.

 

Amber Rose, University of North Carolina:

A Typical Day of the 2010 Field Season at Poggio Colla

The alarm goes off around 6, and if one saunters into the hallway, they are greeted with the medley of half a dozen other alarm clocks bleeping from the other sides of closed doors. By 6:45 twenty students are waiting for announcements from Dr. Warden, Dr. Thomas, or Brandon (our operations manager). If it’s a lab day, 10 students are dressed and ready and 10 more heads pop out from the second story windows of our argiturismo since their day won’t start until 8.

It will be strange to go back to our lives elsewhere and get up every morning without immediately getting into a packed van/car and taking a BUMPY ride across Vicchio and up the mountain to Poggio Colla. And depending on your arrangement and which day of the week it is, you wake up to the sounds of Fat Boy Slim, Led Zeplin, or… Brandon’s ipod selection.

But if the amusement park ride up the mountain wasn’t enough, then you grabbed some buckets, or a lunch bag, or a 15 liter jug of water, or whatever else is in the trunk and take a hike.  Occasionally the slow line up the trail hummed a tune or two until we had only enough breath to carry us the rest of the way.
Sweatshirts peeled off and it was time to dig! The first week was confusing and thrilling and nerve wracking. Most of us had never been on a dig yet and we were unsure of what to expect. But eventually we got it down. “This is a scarp” “This is how you scrape” “This is how you sift” – the basics.  But our supervisors were so patient with us as we repeatedly mistook sandstone for tile and rocks for pottery.  By week two, we were tossing rocks out of our screen like nobody’s business.


Amber Rose and Director Michael Thomas on Poggio Colla

Our 5 meter by 5 meter pieces of dirt began to get deeper and look more and more like real trenches.  No matter how mundane an artifact seems, nothing is more exciting then jumping down into a trench and pulling up a piece of pottery, bronze, bone, bucchero, you name it.  To be the first in a couple thousand years to hold that piece is absolutely thrilling.  One thing I learned for sure – to be an archaeologist you need an imagination.  Why was this here? Who made it? Who used it? How did it end up in this spot for me to pull up with my own hands? And what will it tell me about everything around me?

On several occasions our dig day was interrupted by the grumblings of thunder – clouds rolling in from all sides and colliding above the Mugello. No wonder the Etruscans placed a temple on the top of Poggio Colla! What a terrifying and awing experience!  A second thing I’ve learned about being an archaeologist – duct tape is a precious resource. Especially if you don’t want to be bailing water and mud out of your trench when your tarp fails.

Things you might hear on site during a typical day:

“Get back to work!” – After cookie break
“Stop hoarding tile!” – If you were too lazy to put it in your tile bucket and stacked it on the baulk
“Sift like the wind!” – If dirt was getting moved fast, fast sifting is required to keep up.
“Anybody have the clippers?” – When roots were ruining your straight scarp
And in some cases “I need the ‘Cindy laupers’” – for the BIG roots
“Dear diary…(fill in the name of some other supervisor) is soooo dreamy!” – When a trench supervisor sits down to write in his trench notebook.
“Eww! Look at this massive scorpion/spider/grub/beetle, etc.”
“If you don’t work hard enough you’ll get buried in PC25!” – A threat given by the demanding Daphne – future trench supervisor and 7 year old daughter of Professor Meyers.

Things we loved to hear at Poggio Colla:

“Bronze!”
“Stamped bucchero!”
“Lunch!”

Things we heard too often at Poggio Colla:

“Don’t break the string!”
“Your scarp is way off!”
“Ritual breakage”
“Don’t sit on that feature!”
“We forgot the cookies for cookie break!”

But at the end of the day, we were ready to be in some other position rather than squatting (preferably lying down for a nap before lecture and dinner). Pottery washing gave us a better look at all the neat things we’d found and we became semi-pros at sorting coarseware from fineware and identifying a base, a rim, a handle. Then a race to the showers, scrubbed twice, and still rubbed dirt off with a towel!  After a while we gave up trying to be thoroughly clean…but we’ve decided dirt is the best thing for skin! An excellently home cooked Italian meal every night, fun with friends, and sleep got us ready for the next day when returned to that pit or pithos or piatello we were dying to finish uncovering.

Closing in on our 6th week it’s beginning to hit me how much I’ll miss this place. How much we’ll all miss the friends we’ve made in each other, our supervisors, and our directors. How much we’ll miss getting up early for a cardio workout. How much we will miss not having to go to the gym because we get our workout lifting buckets, squatting, and hand picking all day.  How much we’ll miss singing along to our favorite summer songs in the car ride to and from the hill.  How much we’ll miss watching the sunset while we enjoy dinner. But especially how much we’ll miss the excitement of unearthing a piece of Etruscan history and sharing it with each other and with the community.

 

Kristen Moran, Franklin and Marshall College:

Before I came to Poggio Colla I was both nervous and excited about what the summer would hold for me and my fellow students. In the picturesque town of Vicchio, I felt like Vigna was a home away from home. I have always been interested in archaeology but I am not a morning person. Unfortunately for me, wake up call is 6:00 AM and off to the hill by 6:45 AM. After the early start we have to climb the very, very steep hill to work in trenches…at 7:00 in the morning. I have to admit my first thought when I got here was what have I gotten myself into? Everything was very overwhelming and I felt that information about the site and assignments were daunting. But after the first week of excavation I could not wait to get up at 6:00 AM to get to the site to see what new artifacts would be revealed that day.


Kristen Moran (right) excavating in Trench PC 42

After the first week of trench rotations I was assigned to work in PC 42 and I could not ask for a better trench. Of course in addition to doing our work and uncovering crazy stratigraphy and awesome architecture such as a wall of a building, my trench mates and I are constantly in stitches from sharing stories and telling hilarious jokes. Although I play a college level sport, I was not prepared for the amount of physical exhaustion I felt after my first week. Sore hands, knees, and backs became part of the routine, but everyone always had a smile on their face.

This field school has been one of the best experiences of my life and I feel I am getting the full archaeological experience. In addition to excavating in the trench and perfecting the archaeology squat, everyone fills out paper work about different finds, features, and new strata in the trench. We also get to work in the lab to see the finds (after they have been freed from the dirt and cleaned) that come from our trenches.

I am so happy that I decided to participate in this field school because of all the great people I have met who are interested in archaeology and, of course, getting dirty everyday to better understand the Etruscan culture.

 

 

See Field Supervisor Katie Rask's personal blog about Poggio Colla at:
http://antiquatedvagaries.blogspot.com/