2006 TRENCH PC 29
Field Supervisor: Ivo van der Graaff, University of Amsterdam

 



Field Supervisor Ivo van der Graaff

 Opening Report  Final Report

Opening Report - Ivo van der Graaff, Field Supervisor:

Trench PC 29 is an entirely new unit in our excavation. Located along the western fringe of the hill, it has been deliberately planned to study the archaeological layers related to the site's perimeter wall. In antiquity, this structure probably performed the dual function of a terracing and a fortification wall. In the former case, it held back the fill brought on site to level the hill for construction activities and in the latter it acted as a defensive structure against any outside aggression.


Ivo van der Graaff with students in PC 29 during the second week of excavation.

Presumably the wall's construction date can be traced back to the last phase of activity on the hill. According to the evidence uncovered thus far, this would roughly place the date of its construction to the 4th century B.C. Historically, it is in this period that the Romans started to pose a substantial threat to the Etruscan domain from the south, while Celtic tribes simultaneously crossed into the Mugello valley from the Northern Apennine passes. In this picture of general unrest it is easy to understand why a need to reconstruct or reorganize the defenses may have been felt.

To better assess the wall's construction date and technique however, the trench has been planned so that we can excavate the associated depositional layers present on the inside and outside of the perimeter. Since the internal layers were probably deposited behind the wall after its construction, their analysis will probably yield important information as to when it was built, while excavation outside of the perimeter will reveal evidence pertaining to the wall's construction method and use.


Angela DiMaggio digs with dental tools in PC 29 (photo: Lisa Mabli).

After much initial clearing of the underbrush growing in the trench, the excavation process is now proceeding at full speed. I am therefore confident that we can achieve the goal of better understanding the outer walls before the season's end.



Sifting for small finds from Trench PC 29.

 


View from the east of Trench PC 29 during Week 3.

 


Ivo van der Graaff, foreground, works with his crew in PC 29.

 

Final Report - Ivo van der Graaff, Field Supervisor:

The location of Trench PC 29 was chosen to uncover the arx's perimeter wall on the western part of the hill. As we scouted the area it quickly became apparent that we had stumbled on a portion of the site where a clandestine robbers pit had been dug some years earlier. A close examination of the pit revealed a wall running east-west through its northern edge. Since we had uncovered a perimeter wall featuring two parallel structures reinforced by perpendicular cross walls in PC 20, the decision was made to use these unfortunate circumstances to see whether such a construction method had also been used on this part of the site.


View of Trench PC 29 from the southeast during Week 2.

The first two weeks were spent removing the humus and soil overburden which in time had naturally collected over the trench. I also concentrated our efforts on excavating the eastern locus of the trench where I hoped we would uncover the main evidence pertaining to the date of the perimeter wall. In fact, since the perimeter wall probably doubled in function as a fortification and terracing structure, the fill brought in behind it once it was constructed would give us the best evidence for dating it. Our activities in this part of the trench also uncovered the remains of the wall mentioned above, and revealed the remains of a possible similar structure in the scarp along the northern portion of the trench.


View from the east of Trench PC 29 during Week 3.

At the start of the third week however, since the main perimeter wall still eluded us, I decided to concentrate our efforts on uncovering its remains. Soon enough we hit its top courses and I quickly realized that it was in a very bad state of preservation. Given its location along the edge of the arx terrace, most of the structure seems to have collapsed downhill since the site was abandoned. As digging in the area continued, we also started to uncover the front of the wall. It quickly became apparent that many of the top blocks were dislodged and out of place, making the task of discerning the original wall face very difficult. A small portion, however, was still preserved on the southern edge of the structure and gave me a small insight into its construction method. This method involved the stacking of large irregular blocks on top of each other without the use of mortar, while the interstices were filled in with smaller stones. Furthermore, we uncovered a small outcrop of bedrock on top of which the wall was founded, giving me hope that we have at least partially found its bottom.


View of Trench PC 29 from the south during Week 4.

 


Trench PC 29 from the north during Week 4.

Meanwhile, our efforts continued in the eastern locus of the trench where we excavated the rear face of the wall. We also encountered several strata pertaining to the settlement's urban development. The primary east-west wall mentioned above proved to be only three courses deep and can be associated with the last habitation phase of the site. Just below this feature, we uncovered a stratum which was somewhat red in color due to the many pieces of burnt mudbrick it contained. Crude mudbrick, in fact, tends to fire itself when it is exposed to the temperatures of a destructive fire. As we continued its excavation it became apparent that we were dealing with a possible floor level on top of which the structure of a building had collapsed during a fire. This layer can therefore be associated with the destruction of the settlement's second habitation phase in the early 4th century BC.


East locus of Trench PC 29 viewed from the northwest at season's end.

The season ended after we took a pass in the stratum underneath the floor level mentioned above. This stratum seems to have been a leveling fill used to accommodate the structural reorganization of the site. As far as the wall's construction date is concerned, I can confidently say that the main perimeter wall was constructed at least in conjunction with the second phase of the settlement. This seems to be the case as, up to this point, no foundation trench pertaining to its construction has been exposed in the uncovered strata. These layers of fill were therefore deposited behind the wall after its construction and hence such a date can be ascribed to it. I look forward to continue excavation of the unit to in future years to further ascertain the wall's date and function.


View from the east of Trench PC 29 at season's end.

 


View from the south of Trench PC 29 at season's end.

 


View from the west of Trench PC 29 at season's end.

 


Ivo van der Graaff and Candace Vaden take levels for final drawings.

 


Ivo van der Graaff explains Trench PC 29 to students and staff during trench tours.