Ben Hollenbach
Poggio Colla Student Blog Post, 2012

Ben Hollenbach excavating a ceramic find in Trench PC 45

Although I journeyed to Italy several weeks ago with my head full of conceptions of what the Poggio Colla field school would require and entail, I have come to realize that this type of hands-on encounter with the past must be experienced to be fully understood.  In what is, for many of us, an introduction to the practice of archeology, this summer has given us the opportunity to challenge ourselves on both a physical and mental level.  Waking up at 6:00 a.m., field students greet the day by climbing a very steep hill to what remains of an ancient Etruscan site near the gorgeous Tuscan town of Vicchio, going to their individual trenches in the hopes of both understanding the site at a deeper level and uncovering precious artifacts for the first time in millennia.  After working a full day, and certainly getting our exercise through vigorous excavation, we journey to the secluded Casa della Vigna, a restored farmhouse in which we get our much-needed sleep and eat some of the most delicious home-cooked Italian meals many of us have ever experienced.

Ben Hollenbach (red t-shirt, in center) and the 2012 Poggio Colla Field School group

As already stated, I have found Poggio Colla to be the perfect opportunity to challenge myself physically and mentally in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  As the kind of person whose academic experience usually consists of many hours in the college library a week, the prospect of sitting in the dirt all day was a bit overwhelming at first, but quickly became a lot of fun.  I have been assigned to trench PC45, in which myself, five other students, and our supervisor work around the remains of what very well might be an ancient Etruscan altar, surrounded by what was once a walled courtyard.  Every day in PC45 has included exciting discoveries, including numerous pieces of metal (bronze, iron, and even gold), ceramics, and architectural features.  Even though the excavation has been a great experience, sore limbs and backs are inevitable, and we tend to keep up our enthusiasm through a series of increasingly-ridiculous inside jokes. 

Jess Galloway and Gretchen Carlson teach Ben Hollenbach to use survey equipment.

Working at Poggio Colla is hardly limited to digging, however, as each day involves informative lectures on both the basics of field archaeology and specific aspects of ancient Etruscan culture.  A few of us are also working on individual projects in conjunction with our work on the site, ranging from conservation and cataloguing of finds to independent research.  For example, I have spent the last few weeks comparing specific artifacts of ancient textile production from our site to similar artifacts from a nearby necropolis, exploring how specific groups of material evidence may be related to specific genders.  Perhaps this pursuit of new and unexplored aspects of this fascinating culture is the most exciting part of the field school, as every piece of information we uncover brings us one step closer to a better understanding of not only this region of Italy, but of the ancient world as a whole.  I have enjoyed my experience here immensely, and am looking forward to heading back to the U.S. in a few weeks with an increased appreciation for the Etruscans and a better understanding of archeology. 

Ben Hollenbach working on research project


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