2006 TRENCH PC 1
Field Supervisor: Robert Vander Poppen, University of North Carolina


Field Supervisor Robert Vander Poppen.

 Opening Report  Final Report

Opening Report - Robert Vander Poppen, Field Supervisor:

This year we have taken the opportunity of the study season to revisit the original trench excavated atop Poggio Colla. PC 1 was excavated during the first four seasons of exploration and provided some of the most important evidence for activity atop the hill. The trench is located on the southern side of the hill and contains the south wall foundation of our courtyard building. We have evidence here for both Hellenistic phases (4th-2nd centuries B.C.) of our monumental building. The foundation wall for the earlier building runs at the southern end of the trench about a half-meter inside the later wall. The earlier wall was constructed of a series of large well quarried blocks, while the later wall bears the characteristic rubble construction of our last phase atop Poggio Colla. The trench also produced the first votive context uncovered at the site, containing a small bronze head of the god Apollo.

Robert Vander Poppen and students working in PC 1 during Week 1.

We began the season by removing the backfill put into the trench at the end of previous seasons in order to protect the architecture contained within the trench. This long and tedious task concluded with the removal of the landscape mesh laid down in the bottom of the trench and the students' first glimpse of the walls and scarps (vertical profiles at the edges of the trench). Once this task was accomplished we cleaned up the trench, sweeping and scraping the soil to reveal the characteristic stones, pottery, tile, and carbon that give us clues about the nature of the particular layer of soil we are examining.

Our goal in revisiting this trench this season is twofold. First of all, we will to continue to excavate the trench to the north and west in order to reveal evidence for activity in this section of the building courtyard. The trench also provides us the unique opportunity to reexamine some of our earlier interpretations of the soils accumulated with each period of occupation in light of the knowledge about the site that we have gained in the past several years. In other words, we can compare our original perceptions of the soil, formulated at the beginning of the excavation, with the benefit of hindsight.

Students working in Trench PC 1 early in the 2006 field season.

Along the same lines, we have the opportunity to proceed deeper in this trench in order to see if some of the layers are associated with either the construction of our Hellenistic building or the use of the Archaic period (7th-5th century) structure that preceded it. This should give us a far better understanding of the activity that occurred on the south side of the hilltop in the Archaic period, something for which we have little evidence currently.

Trench PC 1 from the southeast during Week 2.

Already we have cleared the humus (a soil comprised of the decaying plant matter of the local vegetation) from the trench and also a layer created after the destruction of our last building on the hilltop. Just this limited amount of excavation has produced a number of surprises. We have already discovered a large spread of roof tile and stones that appear to extend across a portion of the trench. Over the course of the next week or so we will seek to define its limits and also to determine if it was laid down to provide a stable surface for the building floor, or if it represents the collapsed roof of the structure.

View from the south of students working in Trench PC 1 during Week 2.


Students sifting for small finds in dirt from Trench PC 1.

Student watches Robert Vander Poppen draw in notebook.


Candace Vaden and students traingulate points in PC 1.


Roof tile uncovered in Trench PC 1 during Week 3.


Robert Vander Poppen supervises his crew in Trench PC 1, Week 3.


View of Trench PC 1 from the south during Week 3.


Lisa Mabli and Jason Doran excavated a vessel sherd in PC 1.


Robert Vander Poppen's field notebook.


Week 3 view from the south of Robert Vander Poppen with students in Trench PC 1.


View of PC 1 from the northeast during Week 4.


Candace Vaden working in Feature 1 in Trench PC 1.

Final Report - Robert Vander Poppen, Field Supervisor:

We have now come to the close of our 12th season of excavation at Poggio Colla. Despite the slightly shortened field season due to a heavy emphasis on research, we have managed to accomplish many of the goals laid out for PC 1 at the beginning of the season. Our primary goal was to reevaluate the sequence of soil deposition of the southern end of the Phase II and III buildings on top of Poggio Colla. This trench allowed us to compare our original impressions of the stratigraphy in light of the knowledge we have gained from the extensive excavations of the interior of the central courtyard that have been conducted over the past five years. We were interested to see if our greater familiarity with the stratigraphy of the courtyard interior of our Phase II and III structures would alter the way in which we would read the occupation history as represented in the first trench excavated at Poggio Colla. Our second goal for this season was to carefully excavate a small section of the Phase II and III walls in order to produce a deep cross-section that would aid in determining more clearly the sequence of construction of the two buildings, as well as the methods of construction employed. A third goal for PC 1 in 2006 was the evaluation of the remains of any layers associated with Archaic activity in the southern section of the building. Previous excavation of the area had failed to reveal such remains, but the discovery that stratum 6 (stratum 4 in PC 23) was not a sterile soil lead us to doubt that we had excavated to a deep enough level in PC 1 in order to reveal such activity.

Final photo of stratigraphy in north scarp of Trench PC 1 at season's end.

The 2006 campaign of excavation in PC 1 was successful in answering a number of the questions that we posed at the beginning of the season. We were able to successfully reevaluate the stratigraphy as seen by supervisors in 1995-1998, and largely confirmed the sequence of layers that they had observed. With the benefit of the knowledge of the past five years of excavation we were able to assign far more specific dates and to give more detailed interpretations of the layers than was possible last time that PC 1 was opened. We were also able to produce a deep cross-section over the Phase II and III walls and to discern the method of construction employed in laying the foundations for both structures. Due to the constraints of an abbreviated season and a small excavating team this season we were unable to excavate completely through stratum 6 anywhere within the trench in order to see if any evidence of Archaic activity was present at the deepest levels of the trench.

View from the east of Trench PC 1 at season's end.

The deposition of soils within PC 1 reveals the details of the construction and use of the Hellenistic (Phase II and III) buildings atop Poggio Colla in great detail. The earliest soil we were able to uncover is a layer comprised of rock and degraded sand that was brought in as a leveling fill upon which to build the Phase II walls. It appears that the builders of the earliest courtyard building laid the blocks for the wall directly on top of this layer of soil. After the construction of the building, another layer of soil was built up throughout the period of use of Phase II.

View from the north of Trench PC 1 at season's end.

Eventually the inhabitants of Poggio Colla decided to slightly expand and reorganize the building on the hilltop. A new set of rubble foundations was constructed. The sequence of construction was similar to that of the Phase II building. Again no foundation trench was placed for the foundations. Instead, the rubble masonry was laid on the surface of the ground approximately 20cm to the south of the Phase II walls. A fill packed with elite female items used in weaving was inserted between the walls as a support for the rubble foundations. A layer of roof tiles and broken coarse ware pottery sherds was spread out across the trench as a packing on top of which the beaten earth floor for the building would have been placed. Such a packing would have aided in maintaining a level surface for the floor as well as preventing settling.

Floor packing visible above foundation wall in the west scarp of PC 1.

We uncovered little evidence for the destruction of this latest phase of construction in PC 1. We may not have evidence of the destruction here either because the walls collapsed in the opposite direction away from the trench, or because the area bordering the trench was unroofed. Whatever the reason for a lack of destruction debris, it is clear that the third phase building came to an end at the beginning of the 2nd century BC and little activity occurred atop Poggio Colla until the Italian excavations from 1968-1972.

This season has been an incredibly successful one at Poggio Colla despite its shorter duration and this is largely a result of a highly competent and eager group of students. Thanks to all who helped to answer many of the questions we had about PC 1 in particular and life at Poggio Colla in general.

View from the southeast of Trench PC 1 at season's end.


Robert Vander Poppen and Jess Galloway make final drawings of PC 1.


Robert Vander Poppen explains PC 1 during trench tours.