Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Photos and background . . .

What an amazing experience!  Before I post the photos, I would like to give you a little background on the dig site and the area.  Today's town of Populonia (where we stay) is located on the western coast of Tuscany.  I think that Populonia now has a population of probably about two dozen people (in 2009, the population was only 17), but the nearby seaport of Piombino is a moderatly sized town with many restaurants, bars, and other retail and from its shore - you can see the island of Elba.  The area, rich with various metal deposits, was of particular interest to the Etruscans because of its iron ore.  Although there is archaeological evidence dating back to the Bronze Age, our mission was to further investigate the iron ore smelting and production that occured between the 9th century BC and the first or second century AD (estimated) in the area known as San Cerbone off the Gulf of Baratti.  Professor Carolina Meagale from the University of Florence was contacted by the Superintendent of Archaeology about starting a new excavation directly across from the Necropolis (tomb area) that was excavated back in 1957.  This site is actually located within the Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia so this is a very exciting opportunity for Carolina and her team!

OK, here are the long-awaited images.  First, some maps to give you an idea of where we worked.

Although I frequently refer to the present-day town of Populonia as the "Hooterville of Italy", the nearby seaport of Piombino is quite lovely.  This entire area was occupied by the Etruscans and if you see the little town at the very left of the ancient map, you will see "Poggio del Mulino" (aka "the Villa") which is the dig site where we worked last year.

At San Cerbone, a new cut was made approximately 30 feet to the west of the Necropolis that was previously excavated in 1957.  
Our site is to the right of that "caution" tape that runs along the right side.

Both sites are right next to the road the runs along the beach.  That little shed is where we kept most of our equipment.

Here is a close up of the main tomb from the old excavation:

 As is often the case with archaeological dig sites, we uncovered more questions than answers.  For one thing, we learned that the entire necropolis has not been excavated as we uncovered several tombs near the old necropolis site.  One of the tombs appears to have been overturned by someone following the Etruscan occupation.  The bones were discarded around the site and this was where we found the two cranium.  Grave goods (so far) included the bronze mirror, bronze ring and the bronze cup.  Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of the bronze ring which was the first artifact that I uncovered.  This is the layer with the tomb prior to excavating the next layer (i.e. digging out the tomb):

These are the two craniums discovered approximately three feet from the "blackboard" in the previous photo:

And here is a photo of the bronze cup that I uncovered to the right of the tomb (from your perspective looking at the photo) in about the middle:

Further to the right of the tomb and downward (moving to the bottom of the photo and beyond) is an area covered in black/grey dirt.  The tomb layer is red and we believe that because the site slopes, we will find the red layer again underneath the black/grey area.  The black/grey area seems to be filled with old pottery, animal bones and charcoal suggesting that the animals were cooked here.  However, we also think it might be a trash site.  I wish we could have continued to excavate here for just a few more days but it will have to wait until next year.  Here is the photo of the largest piece of amphora that I uncovered:

I uncovered several amphora pieces here.  Stefano showed us the handle of this one and where the potter had made his "stamp" which is the imprint of his thumb.  According to Stefano, who is a pottery expert from the University of Pisa, this one was used primarily for wine.  Of course, I'll bet that you could probably say any jug, amphora, or vessel was used for wine and it would be a good guess.  Maybe not but wine is certainly not a surprise, right?  Other amphora pieces that I uncovered were cleaned:
The amphora pieces are the semi-circles on the right side and at the top.  I also uncovered these two large nails:

And a glass bead that did not photograph well.  (sorry!)  This site was extremely unusual because we uncovered artifacts every single day.  We expect to find grave goods when tombs are present but I was surprised at all the pottery uncovered and it took us several days to wash and tag it all.  By the way, I find washing and tagging pottery to be very dull.  I would rather slave in the hot sun than sit under a tree and wash pottery.

On the next to the last day, we all cleaned the site for the aerial photo:
So everyone starts at the top and works backward with a bucket and a small whisk broom.  It's crazy.  I argued for a big broom but apparently using a household size broom is not considered GAAP (generally accepted archaeological practice).   Yeah, I made that joke on site and no one laughed then either.

So if you take a look at the "cleaned" site above, you can see the tomb in the upper left hand corner.  Moving downward and to the right is the black/grey layer with all the pottery.  Moving further to the right is a wall and further down is the area where we believe the iron ore was produced.  The ground against that outer right wall is VERY hard and this is where I sliced my finger open, which is healing quite nicely now.  In fact, I doubt you will even be able to see the scar.  Overall, we are very puzzled by this site and looking forward to working there again soon.  In the fall, Carolina and her team will go back to the Villa to work for six weeks and won't return to this site at San Cerbone until next May.  I will be there - for the entire six weeks next year.

Clara, Melissa, me, Carolina and Ryan
(the remaining American students with Carolina & Clara)

So I hope you enjoyed this blog.  For those of you who pledged donations to the Archaeology Center at Columbia, I can't tell you how much we appreciate your support.  Archaeological endeavors are plagued by shortfalls and it's very difficult to find funds to finance projects, equipment, and research.  I want to thank you again for your most gracious and generous contribution.  Every little bit helps.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions about the site or anything else, please feel free to email me or post questions here.  I will be starting the Masters Program at Columbia in September, so the journey will continue . . . 

(Special thanks to Jane for helping me with the blog!!)