2012 TRENCH PC 45
Field Supervisor: Katie Rask


Field Supervisor Katie Rask

Opening Report:

Before the students arrive at Poggio Colla, the field staff climbs the hill to the site, laden with axes, machetes, and clippers, to face hordes of rampaging acacia saplings, humongous bramble patches, and throttling prickly grasses. It’s always an activity resulting in battle wounds of one sort of another, but this year we were saddened by the especially depressing fate of our trusty excavation shed, the baracca:

With a little spit and ingenuity, however, we turned the shed into a fortress of strength and solidarity, ready to hold our excavation tools as the season began.

The view from PC 45: The students take a breather after climbing
the hill first thing in the morning, the shed in the background.

After a week of removing backfill, the students were assigned to their trenches. PC 45 was happy to receive Lily Frank, Benjamin Hollenbach, Tim Landon, Sierra Moisier, Samantha Owens, and William Schiedel.

Our trench was opened last year and dug down to the floor level of a courtyard. This meant that 2012’s students got to start with the fun stuff all ready to go. For example, they’ve been busy excavating parts of a huge, collapsed storage vessel, as well as roof tiles and plenty of other pottery.

Ben Hollenbach draws artifacts fromPC 45 in his field notebook.

The trench has already produced some notable finds, such as bronze objects, coins, and iron artifacts. One of the most exciting areas of investigation will be the beautiful altar in the center of PC 45, which we hope will tell us new and important things about the fascinating religious history of Poggio Colla’s sanctuary. The three walls in our trench should also provide some vital information about the architectural phasing of the hilltop.

Popsicles and sparklers on the 4th of July

It hasn’t been all hard work and no play, of course. PC 45 is a shady oasis for part of the day, but we have certainly gotten to work on our tans as well.  On the 4th of July, Darryl Wende, our Operations Manager, surprised us all with a little slice of home: ice-cold popsicles and sparklers. Best of all, PC 45 even acquired a beloved mascot and pet, Bruce the mouse, who lives in the trench over night and runs scampering into a bolt hole when we uncover the tarps every morning.

Our mousey friend’s nest, complete with a sleepy bed indentation.

On top of that, the students have already developed an Etruscan mythology for our trench, complete with a dread goddess driving a chariot pulled by wild boar (cingale).With this sort of supernatural protection, Bruce the mouse as our good luck charm, and a trench chock full of information and goodies, everyone in PC 45 is anticipating a productive, exciting, and definitely entertaining season.

Students in PC 45 during Week 3; view from the south.


View from the northwest of previously excavated Trench PC 23 (right) and
Trench PC 45 (left; opened in 2011, reopened in 2012)


Students working in the north end of Trench PC 45 during Week 4


Lily Frank excavating small bronze flakesin PC 45


Gretchen Carlson and Samantha Owens excavate bronze flakes in PC 45


William Schiedel excavating a possible post hole in PC 45


Excavated possible post hole in the south end of Trench PC 45.


Katie Rask and Excavation Assistant Gretchen Carlson with PC 45 team members
Sierra Moisier, Lily Frank, Samantha Owens, William Schiedel, and Tim Landon.


Field Supervisor Katie Rask explains discoveries in PC 45 during Trench Tours


Lily Frank holds survey prism pole in PC 45


Samantha Owens taking a pass in PC 45 during Week 5


Michael Thomas, Interns Hillary Halik and Sarah Montonchaikul, and student
Samantha Owens look on as Conservator Allison Lewis prepares a bronze rod
for block lifting from Trench PC 45 during Week 5
of the 2012 season.


Final Report:

We’ve finally come to the end of the season and it was certainly a busy one. The trench had some surprises for us this time around that made life nothing if not eventful. First was the new wall discovered south of the courtyard. No part of it had ever been found during the hill’s excavation, so finding it out of the blue was an unexpected shock.

Team at work in PC 45 at the end of Week 6.

We also got to open up the previously excavated half of the altar, found during the excavation of PC 23. It was great to see both halves together at the same time. Of course, seeing the broken half of the structure was an ego boost for PC 45’s students who, upon viewing our own beautifully preserved half, dubbed PC 23’s version the ‘Inferior Altar.’ Take that, PC 23!

Altar in PC 45 (left) and 23 (right) viewed from the north.

Another major activity over the season was the excavation of the ‘field of bronze’, as we call it, a stratum of red soil containing numerous bronze lumps. All the students got lots of experience using tiny tools to carefully excavate tiny green pieces out of the soil. Some of them, however, were not so tiny. Take for instance, the so called ‘triangle of importance,’ which the conservation staff came to the hill to block-lift, a special procedure which creates a casing for the object and removes it together with its surrounding soil. We had no idea what the bronze piece was, only that it was triangular in shape. After several days of careful excavation in the lab, it turns out the artifact is actually a thick strip of bronze folded over on itself (which is how it got the shape that so mystified us).
Having the conservators up on the hill digging with us in the trench didn’t happen only once, but twice, when we found another extremely large piece. No one is yet sure what it is, but ideas have included a pin, the arm of a scale, and a wand. The last notion obviously appeals to the Etrusco-Harry Potter fans amongst the trench. The thin bronze piece came from some exciting floor levels that we uncovered north of the courtyard, one of which provided a fabulous fragment from a bucchero plate, decorated with griffin stamps.

Excavation Assistant Gretchen Carlson and Conservator Allison Lewis
excavating small bronze finds in PC 45 at the end of Week 4


Katie Rask, Sarah Montonchaikul, and Allison Lewis discuss
strategy for removing small bronze finds from Trench PC 45

The season was the hottest that I have yet experienced in my time at Poggio Colla, with a major drought and not a drop of rain during the entire six weeks. Perhaps it was that, combined with the never-ending bronze, that made PC 45’s students (and supervisor) loopy on a number of occasions, resulting in much hilarity, falling-down-crying-with-laughter, and quite a few stories already retold time after time. Our wildlife was also something to draw the attention, what with Bruce the mouse (including his constantly recreated and transported little nests) and a gigantic toad slowly crawling his way across the altar. He must therefore be a sacred toad?

Katie Rask (in trench) teaching her students to draw scarps.

PC 45 protective tarp in place for backfill on last day.

Today was the last of our backfill days, during which we covered PC 45 in green mesh and refilled it with all that dirt that we had so carefully and diligently removed. After two grueling days in the sun, with wheelbarrows, shovels, and bucket brigades, we once more put PC 45 to sleep for yet another year. Thanks to my awesome team this year – Sam, Lily, Will, Ben, Tim, and Sierra!  PC 45 4Life!

Trench PC 45 Team. Seated left to right: Samantha Owens, William Schiedel,
Sierra Moisier, Lily Frank, Benjamin Hollenbach, and Tim Landon.
Standing: Field Supervisor Katie Rask and Excavation Assistant Gretchen Carlson.


Sierra Moisier and Ben Hollenbach fill out PC 47 find tags.


Tim Landon and William Schiedel in the south end of PC 45 in Week 6.


Lily Frank takes a pass in PC 45 at the end of Week 6.


Ben Hollenbach holds prism pole for find survey; Katie Rask and Samantha Owens digging.


Field Supervisor Katie Rask drawing PC 45 scarps at the end of the season.


Final photo from the east of the south end of PC 45 showing south courtyard wall.


Final photo from the northeast of the south end of PC 45 showing south courtyard foundation with pithos rim.


Wide angle view from the southeast showing south and north courtyard foundations and altar in PC 45 and 23.


Final photo from the east of the altar in the central section of PC 45 (front) and partially destroyed in PC 23 (back).


Final photo from the north of the north end of PC 45 showing north courtyard foundation.


Final photo showing tool marks on stones on the south side of the altar in PC 45.