2003 TRENCHES PF 10, 15, & 16 AND TRENCH BS 1
Katherine Blanchard, Field Supervisor

Field Supervisor Katherine (Katy) Blanchard.

Katy Blanchard with Estelle Reddeck and Alvaro Ibarra overlooking Podere Funghi trenches.

Week 5:

Field School Students:
Wes Court
Rachel Hock
Benton Keith
Nat Kerr
Elizabeth La Duc
Charles Sauvin

This week brought not only a change to our trench team, but also to our trench location. Our seasoned student Nat has departed (mach schnell) for Berlin and Charles Sauvin has joined us from the University of Paris.

Charles Sauvin, new student from the University of Paris, working in the Podere Funghi.

Alvaro, Benton and Charles have finished the final pass in PF 15, bringing us no definite answer to our interesting theories of last week. What we have are "suggestive" amounts of rock and tile rubble. While this trench has unofficially closed for the season, the locus of PF 5 adjacent to our suggestive matter is being opened and we hope that this will help us determine the function of this space.

Alvaro Ibarra, Elizabeth La Duc, Rachel Hock, and
Charles Sauvin working in Trench PF 10.

Rachel and Elizabeth have worked the past few days on defining our walls in PF10 and the one just out of PF 16. Their work allowed us to see a lower coursing we did not expect. Wes, in the meantime, has discovered his dormant scarping skill and spent much of Monday at strange angles perfecting corners.

Rachel Hock and Elizabeth La Duc smoothing a pass in PF 10.

Wednesday also brought about the start of an exploratory trench across the valley. While the students are rotating through two at a time in Trench BS 1, Alvaro has assumed responsibility of the remaining work and the students. As of the writing of this report, work has simply continued in the FOD with no new ideas being discussed.

Michael Thomas and Katy Blanchard discuss the location of trench BS 1.

Visible from the Podere Funghi is a Medieval Castle. This castle now serves as the only shade, after about 7pm, for the new site across the valley. With the promise of harder dirt, more sun, no shade, and most important to some students: no music, Benton and Wes volunteered to be the first two students in Trench BS1.

Medieval castle above Trench BS 1.

BS 1 (named after the family whose land we are on, the Bartolini-Salembene) is set up as a result of the resistivity survey performed by Dario Monna and Ivo Brunner during the first weeks of this season. They tested this field due to the surface finds of a walking survey in 2000.

Resistivity survey of the Bartolini-Salembene field by Dario Monna and Ivo Brunner.

Monna and Brunner found a point of High Anomoly; meaning, as they sent waves into the earth, one point was much shallower than the others. Sometimes this proves to be clay [see last season's PF 12]. Sometimes this proves to be a vineyard ditch from the early part of the 20th century [see the 2001's season's PF 8]. This season, we have no expectations as to what we will find or what period this anomaly will date to [the surface finds were considered of Roman date, because of the identification of Arretine Ware; but at the same time we must remember we are literally in the shadow of a Medieval castle].

Benton Keith, Wes Court, and Katy Blanchard opening Trench BS 1.

The trench is set up as a 1m by 5m trench, with the southernmost meter being set on the anomaly point. While we have only excavated for two days, we have come upon the anomaly. Wednesday, Benton and Wes took a 40 cm pass with the big picks through dirt harder than we imagined. Our finds included a rim, grotty bits, a chunk of concrete, something that I would date as an early 20th century ceramic, and possible fragments of Arretine ware. But, this is plowzone and so it is to be expected that there will be mixture of time periods. By noon, the anomaly had been found: a group of rocks in an unnatural pattern. The rest of the day and all day today were spent cleaning and defining and pulling the trench back at this level and what we have found is that we have a lot of rock. Placed that way by a human. When, we do not know. Why, we do not know. I am not willing to say that it is a wall at this point, but am willing to say that we have found the anomaly. We have one more week to discover what it is, and when it was constructed.

Katy Blanchard displays the first find from BS 1, a fineware rim fragment.

I look forward to the final week of excavation in both the FOD and the new location.

Week 6:

Left to right, front to back: Rachel Hock, Elizabeth La Duc, Katherine Blanchard,
Benton Keith, Wes Court, and Alvaro Ibarra, (Nat Kerr volunteered earlier this season).

The final week. Full of expectation and just not enough time. There is one more day remaining of excavation as of the time of writing this report; that is, unless it rains all night and into the early morning (as the forecast predicts, bad for archaeologists, but good for the farmers as it hasn't rained since April around here). If that is the case, today was it for our season.

View of Trench BS 1 at the end of excavation.

What has our final week brought us? First of all, the close of the exploratory trench, BS 1. As the week progressed, more and more rock was found at deeper and deeper levels. What we didn't find was a lot of pottery to clue us into what time period this rock feature dated. By the end of Tuesday, the students had excavated through the heavily clay filled second stratum over 1m in depth and had defined what turned out to be two walls. Our biggest clue as to when these walls dated was Find number 7-28-03-1, a large ceramic base with a marblized pattern. We believe it dates to the early 20th century.

Ceramic base with marblized pattern, found in Trench BS 1.

What does this mean? Simply that we found the anomaly. My theory is that these walls belong to some sort of shed-like building as the lack of pottery likely means that the structure was not inhabited. And so trench BS 1 closed less than a week after it opened. But it gave the students a challenge in excavating in unknown stratigraphy, and gave us all a lot of time watching the sheep in the field across the valley.

Sheepdog guarding the sheep in the field across from the trench.

In the mean time, while I was in the Bartolini-Salembene field with two students, Alvaro was leading the excavation of the eastern half of Locus 2 in Trench PF 5. This is the corner of that trench that was adjacent to our trench PF 15, and all season long we were eager to see how the two related. Throughout the week, I would hear of the interesting finds coming from this wedge being excavated. These included a trapezoidal loom weight, and several full profiles on both coarse and fine ware vessels. This meant that there was a lot of activity on the eastern side of the wall, and we had to think about whether it was dying out before it reached PF 15, or if it was actually still occurring as heavily at lower levels.

Katy Blanchard and Alvaro Ibarra (at right) keep students busy in newly acquired Trench PF 5.

I returned to the trench yesterday afternoon and watched as they carefully found the bottom of the wall, and what we are technically calling a "circular carbon feature" but are colloquially calling a posthole. By the end of today we have found five (and the edge of a sixth) "circular carbon features" and they appear to be sitting on what we are now calling the floor level of an earlier building. Up until this point we did not know there was an earlier phase FOD building, but this week Robert Belanger also found some walls of an earlier building and now it will be next season before we see how this relates.

Bottom of wall exposed in Trench PF 5.


Wes Court and Elizabeth La Duc working in Trench PF 5.

The end of the season and suddenly we have discovered that what we have normally called sterile soil is actually more correctly low-activity soil. We have evidence of an earlier building. And we now have a lot to think about for next season.

Benton Keith , Wes Court, Elizabeth La Duc, and Rachel Hock in PF 5.


Left: Katy Blanchard sweeping the edge of her trench (camo-skirt provided by Bridget Marx).
Right: Assistant Field Supervisor Alvaro Ibarra with friend and guest Michael Larvey.

Week 7 - Final Report:

Left to right, front to back: Rachel Hock, Elizabeth La Duc, Katherine Blanchard,
Benton Keith, Wes Court, and Alvaro Ibarra, (Nat Kerr volunteered earlier this season).

The season has officially ended, with the students literally throwing the dirt of the past seven weeks back into the trenches that they so carefully excavated. And so we reflect on what we have learned from our trenches and also from the Podere Funghi as a whole.

Professor John Clarke and Estelle Reddeck visit Trench BS1.

Since it is a tangential site, I will address the Bartolini-Salembene field first. Within one week we were able to get to a level below the walls and properly assess the finds and the structure. As I stated last week, our largest and thus datable find was a modern piece of pottery and we then dated the structure to the earliest part of the 20th century. As we went up this weekend to do our final plan and profile drawings we discovered 30 inches of standing water which had collapsed part of the wall. Strangely enough, right after the rain of last week there was no water in the trench but due to its depth and location to ground water, it slowly collected and remained water-tight because of its high-clay content.

Final photo of Trench BS 1 at the end of the season.

Our original goal for the trench was to discover the anomaly point. It was the high concentrations of Roman pottery that directed the location of the resistivity survey that positioned this point. While our excavation did not yield a Roman building, it did yield a corner of a structure that helps to ascertain the use of this field. We know now that plowzone is approximately 40 cm and that the soil matrix has a very high clay content even at the aerated levels. We also know that things were being constructed in this field into the last century.

Dario Monna and Ivo Bruner's resistivity survey map of the
Bartolini-Salembene field with trench BS1 location superimposed.

I feel confident in saying that these wall foundations, or even walls, were not built for a human-inhabited structure due to not only the lack of associated pottery mentioned last week, but also now that we have seen them crumble in water we can see how unstable they truly are. This was likely some sort of out building of sorts or something animal related. With only a small fraction of the structure we cannot say more about it at this time. This field will be plowed this coming fall and a walking survey is scheduled to be performed shortly afterwards. This will help us pinpoint more closely the concentrations of Roman pottery and perhaps explore those areas next season.

Surviving wall foundations of the Podere Funghi building shown from the northeast.

As for the Podere Funghi, our original goals changed over the season. This was planned to be the last season of excavation and thus we opened PF 16 to pinpoint the end of the structure and activity to the south. We opened PF 15 to the southeast to ascertain what kind of activity was occurring on what we then called the outside of the building. PF 10 was only reopened to excavate out the final parts of a large burned feature and help us understand their purpose. As the season progressed and even only with in the last few days, we realized that we cannot close the FOD at the end of this season.

Podere Funghi trenches as seen from the southeast at the end of the 2003 season.

PF 16 did indeed pinpoint the end of the structure and activity as we dug through a plowzone with few pottery inclusions and then immediately to a soil we have always called sterile, stratum 2B. While in other parts of the FOD we are discovering things under this stratum, by comparing the size of sandstone inclusions from this trench to other trenches, I think we can safely say that we will not find anything lower. We know definitively where occupation of our structure ended.

Podere Funghi trenches as seen from the south at the end of the 2003 season.

PF 10 had been reopened oh so many weeks ago while the Discovery Channel was filming to simply finish a small project from last year. The two remaining carbon pits were full of animal bone, and identifiable animal bone even to an arm-chair osteologist like myself. We very early on realized that we found the refuge pits from the interior hearth, here on the exterior of the building. As the season progressed we then took several passes through stratum 2B to locate the lowest coursings of the walls. And this we did successfully as well.

PF 15 started and ended with many puzzles. Was this area utilized as part of the structure? Does this rubble scatter suggest anything concrete, or are we looking too hard at the material for evidence of terracing or walls? Even when we tentatively closed the trench as we opened BS 1, our questions just remained. There is still a large amount of material visible within patches of not only stratum 2B, but also 2A (our habitation soil). What does this mean for this trench in particular? That we need another season to see what relationship these pottery sherds, tile fragments, and stone have to each other and the structure, if any.

Wall and postholes in Trench PF 5 during Week 7.

What will shed an amazing amount of light on our goals for PF 15 is the findings of the last week in the eastern portion of PF 5. While being excavated mainly by R. Belanger, PF 5 is easily divided into the eastern and interior sections. He has concentrated on the interior section while the eastern portion is more related to what our team has worked through for the season. PF 15 had closed at a slightly lower elevation than the existing level of the previously excavated PF 5. We believed this to be a floor level due to the discovery of the "Honey Pot" from 2000 standing upright. As this confined area [between the Eastern wall and PF 15] was excavated, the stones and material deposit that laid at that level were removed and it became clear that while that area might have been used during the structure's occupation, more interestingly was what laid below. We found the series of circular carbon features and what we are now calling a floor level of an earlier building. This level is visible in the scarps of PF 15 and thus gives us something to look forward to in that trench. With such a small area exposed [literally 1/3 of a locus] I do not feel comfortable even asserting the size, shape, or purpose of this earlier structure. There is a lot of thinking to be done in the next day or so before my final report is due.

Postholes or circular carbon features in Trench PF 5.

This season these sections of the FOD structure, the southern and eastern portions, have proven to us that we have only scratched the surface of what is actually going on in this field. We have a definite southern end, and yet we now have an earlier structure that I cannot assert a date for at this point due to the small amount of finds and the small area exposed. I can, however, clearly state that there is much more activity on the eastern side of the existing structure than previously thought, and PF 15 will prove very interesting next season.

The Podere Funghi structure viewed from the southeast at season's end.

Before the season ends, I would like to extend thanks to my trench team, Elizabeth, Rachel, Benton, Wes, Nat and Charles, who worked diligently through a lot of sterile soil with laughter and good attitudes. They moved with me to the peripheral site asking the right kinds of questions and humored my fascination with the sheep migration patterns. But I would especially would like to thank Alvaro, as without his leadership abilities, I would not have felt nearly so comfortable leaving behind half of the team as I went to the other side of the valley. I believe it was an interesting and successful season; I would like to think that they would all agree with me.

Large loom weight from Trench PF 5.


Spur wall in Trench PF 5.