Sarah Evans, Franklin and Marshall College
William Gilstrap, University of California Long Beach


Sarah Evans -- Week 2:

Now that we have almost finished two weeks of the field school, we have learned the ropes and are starting to fall into a routine. Things are a little bit different this year since it is a study season and so we have been spending less time excavating and more time in the lab (as compared to previous seasons). We alternate working in the labs and up on Poggio Colla each day and so we have grown familiar with each trench as well as with the different stages of excavation. The trench supervisors have done a great job of guiding us through the processes of excavation and manage to make the dull and sometimes painful task of sifting entertaining. So far there have been no major finds but we have become well acquainted with coarseware pottery and roof tiles.

Sarah Evans (far left) with Professor Ann Steiner (right) coarseware group.

When we are not in the field, we have been down in the lab working in different groups on specific research projects ranging from museum design to roof tiles. My group has been dealing with less glamorous coarseware pottery that was meant for everyday use. So far, we have gone through the numerous boxes of coarseware that was found but never catalogued to get a sense of the different vessel types we have, noting various clay bodies, vessel sizes and shapes. Eventually we hope to record and catalogue sherds with suggestive shapes (such as a rim or handle) so that they can be referenced easily in the future.

Our time here has been productive and entertaining so far and we are looking forward to learning and experiencing more over the next couple of weeks.

William Gilstrap -- Week 2:

Because this year is a study season, the life here at MVAP is slightly different from that in previous years. We spend half of our time up on the hill excavating and the other half in the lab working on research projects. It took a few days to get used to the life and the chore list, but after that it became second nature. The students have been divided into four different groups, each group working on a separate research project. The research projects relate to the most important issues concerning our particular site. Although it has only been two weeks, it is rather apparent that everybody has learned something that interests them. Between the excavation, lab exercises, and field trips to other related sites, there is something for everyone who is interested in archaeology.

Dr. Gretchen Meyers (upper left) and William Gilstrap (upper center)
with the 2006 roof tile research group.

They have only opened three trenches up on Poggio Colla since this is a study season. Each trench has been chosen strategically to get a better understanding of the stratigraphy of the site by comparing stratigraphic data from this year to that observed in years past. Each time we are on the hill the trench supervisors provide us with the basics of excavation techniques and inform us of the important ethical issues involved in archaeological excavation.

Although we are only two weeks into the field season, we have seen lots of exciting things. I mean, there is nothing better than tearing out a large stump that has been in your way all week while trying to excavate to down to the next stratum. Besides that, we have seen fine and coarse ware pottery and lots and lots of roof tiles and an occasional deposit of metal. Each day, whether in the trench up on the hill or in the lab, there is something new that is being discussed or discovered, something that is not only important to the site but to the Etruscan civilization as a whole.

I am very excited to be a part of this program. The program not only aids its students in gaining field experience, but also provides us, through lectures and hands-on exercises with material remains, a chance to feel connected with the Etruscans who left this site behind.


Sarah Evans -- Week 4:

It is hard to believe that we are already at the end of week four of our time in the Mugello Valley and that we are starting to wrap our work up for the season. Things were a little slow for all of us in the first couple of weeks as we got used to the routine around here and learned our way around the site and the lab. Now that we're experienced excavators (thanks to our awesome trench supervisors) and we've been working hard on our research projects, things have really become interesting around here. Up on Poggio Colla we've reached the destruction level of the site in all three trenches, which contains most of the exciting stuff that comes from this site. Last Friday we had a lot of interesting finds that included three coins and some really nice sherds of pottery. Tuesday revealed what we believe to be the eastern edge of the site's notorious metal pit. Veterans of previous excavations were not very surprised at the number of the finds in this area but it was pretty exciting for us as students to watch them come out of the ground.

Sarah Evans using Munsell color chart to identify stratigraphy.

All groups have been working hard on their respective research projects while they aren't up on the hill. My group, affectionately known as team 'niiice', has been inventorying uncatalogued coarseware in order to understand its relation to its context in the Podere del Funghi, which is a site that is probably associated with pottery production. So far we have identified a few common types, present in several trenches throughout this site, that were probably used as storage vessels. There is a lot of interesting material from Trench PF 5 in the Podere Funghi, where the hearth of the architectural structure is located: a larger variety of shapes and types of vessels. We also recently discovered a small sherd of stamped coarseware that reveals a simple design on the rim. This was a very important find because it is the only evidence of stamped coarseware on this site. We are very excited about what we are finding and are currently working on interpreting our discoveries.

Sarah Evans holds the prism pole to survey finds in a trench in 2006.

Our time here is coming to a close rapidly and we are trying to wrap up our work as quickly as possible. Hopefully we'll be able to reach our goals both on the hill and in the lab.

William Gilstrap -- Week 4:

So we've been here about four weeks now, but it wasn't until last week that the excavations became really interesting. Last week we started to get down to the destruction and occupation layers of the last phase of the site. Things like coins, unidentifiable bronze, lead, and iron lumps, and lots of pottery and roof tiles began to be exposed. It's not always exciting to sit and dig in the same area for hours, but as soon as someone pulls out a large piece of bucchero or a coin everyone gets really amped and the progress seems to go at a much more rapid pace. The trench supervisors are very informative and can usually answer any question about the site in particular and the Etruscans in general. Besides being on top of the subjects and queries at hand, the supervisors are also quite fun to talk to and joke around with. I really feel that I have learned a lot about the actual excavation process and the various techniques that archaeologists use on a daily basis to detail, pedestal, and lift artifacts. Once down from the hill, it's fun to sit down and wash the pottery and tile that we brought down with us. The music is playing, everybody is stoked to be back at Vigna and it feels like we actually accomplished something that day because we can see what we dug up.

William Gilstrap taking a pass in Trench PC 1 during Week 2.

When we aren't on the hill we are in either the conservation lab, the research lab, or for the Teggalisti, down in what I like to call the Dungeon. The Dungeon is actually the basement of the museum/library in Vicchio. This is where lots and lots of the finds are stored. I spend a lot of time down there studying the variability found in the roof tile remains from the Podere Funghi and from Poggio Colla. It sounds boring, but there is a lot of really interesting information you can get from a roof tile. It's true, I swear. Lab days start later and finish later than excavation days, but sometimes you get to go into town and get a cappucino or a pastry or something. Lab days are also used for field trips to various other sites that are known to have been occupied by the Etruscans. We use these trips to get parallels for our own projects. It's pretty awesome because besides the educational stuff, it gives us a chance to see regions of Italy that most folks would never get to see.

William Gilstrap in the museum.

At this point I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. What I mean is the excavation is coming to an end, and I think that I can speak for most of the students by saying that we wish we had more time because there are so many questions to answer and so many more to ask. Although I have investigated various elements of Etruscan studies before coming to this program, I now have a much more intimate connection with the Etruscans as a people. I can also say that I now have a better idea of what an archaeologist is and what one actually does.

Oh yeah and I forgot to mention in my last entry that we have the best cook in all of Italy!! It makes one feel kind of spoiled to have an Italian grandmother cooking your meals everyday. Beppina and Monica you rock! So I guess it's like V.P.'s former advisor always said " There are plenty of sites, but never dig at one where the food is bad." Here at MVAP we will never have to worry about that. Ciao.