2003 TRENCHES PC 19, 22, & 27
Caitlin Vacanti, Field Supervisor


Field Supervisor Caitlin Vacanti

Week 5:

Field School Students:
Cort Hightower
Jess Galeano
Kacie Coughlin
Jennifer Polguy
Brandon Gonia

This week we really got into the swing of things despite the oppressive heat. The Mugello valley is in the middle of a drought and heat wave, with temperatures reaching over 38 degrees C almost every day. Luckily, the thorny acacia trees serve one positive purpose and provide some shade on the hill to relieve us.

Cort Hightower, Brandon Gonia, and Jessica Galeano in PC 22.

In the southeastern locus of Trench PC 19, Jess, Cort and Brandon pounded out stratum four to find the contours of the bedrock. Last week Rob Vander Poppen's trench found what we believe to be a post hole carved into the bedrock only 30 cm from PC 19, so we decided to uncover the formation of the surrounding stone. In stratum four they found very few artifacts (only a few pieces of bucchero) until Brandon excavated an iron nail this morning.

Brandon Gonia, Jessica Galeano, and Cort Hightower
working in the deepening Trench PC 22.

Kacie and Jen beautifully cleaned up the scarp (wall of the trench) of PC 19 northwest. In this area the stratigraphy is quite clear and we plan to take many photographs of it to support our theories of what happened here. Looking at the scarp one can see a small dark brown layer of soil, followed by a yellow layer roughly 20 cm thick, then a dark gray stratum full of carbonized seeds that abuts reddish brown soil. The top stratum is the topsoil, or recent deposition full of organic matter. Stratum two seems to have been layed down after occupation because it contains very few artifacts and covers stratum three which contains most of the cultural material. Many vessels sat in the dark gray soil of stratum three and were covered in part by the reddish brown. We think that the dark gray color comes from a fire in the area which burned seeds and the ceramics they were in, while also preserving the mudbrick. The reddish brown color comes from the later decay of the mudbrick after having been exposed to high temperatures. In short, it is fascinating to see how vividly one can paint a picture of what happened thousands of years ago based solely on the color of the dirt. And we have Jen and Kacie to thank for making that more apparent.

Jennifer Polguy and Kacie Coughlin master scarp maintenance in PC 19.

Next week is, sadly, the last week of excavation. We have to wrap things up in Trenches PC 19 and 22 because they will not be opened again next season. Rachel will continue to excavate around the fissures in PC 22 to decipher their role in the history of the site. We also hope to figure out why the bedrock is shaped as it is, and whether or not large rectangular stones found in the western loci are carved or natural. Hopefully the clouds we had today will stick around to make things a bit more comfortable.

Rachel Julis in Trench PC 19.

Week 6:

Left to right, front to back: Jennifer Polguy, Kacie Coughlin, Jessica Galeano,
Rachel Julis, Cort Hightower, and Brandon Gonia, and Caitlin Vacanti:
too many hours, too close together in the pit has driven them to this.

This week turned out to be quite an interesting one for Trenches PC 19, 22 and 27. Due to an unfortunate cooking accident last Sunday I was unable to excavate but, being the enthusiastic team that they are, our trench rallied to wrap things up before the end of the season.

Caitlin Vancanti's duct taped fingers.

Kacie and Cort dug in the northwest locus of PC 19. There they found two large rectangular stones that appear to be from the second phase of the building. Cort carefully exposed the blocks while Kacie pounded away at the surrounding dirt in order to finish the pass by Friday. I have not been able to determine yet if the blocks are sitting in their original position, but because of their deep elevation in comparison to our other phase two stones, I suspect they are not and were moved to this spot sometime between the second and third phases.

Cort Hightower and Kacie Coughlin in PC 19.

In the northwest locus of PC 22, Jen and Brandon both had great discoveries. Brandon found several pieces of tile in stratum four, which is underneath the phase three floor level. The tiles are composed of an earlier matrix than those from the third phase and Brandon observed that they had been pressed between uneven sections of bedrock. This led us to believe the Etruscans reused the broken tile as packing for the phase three dirt floor in order to support and flatten it. This observation is a good way to end the season, for we are now fairly certain about the full chronology of this storage room.

Brandon Gonia and Jennifery Polguy working in Trench PC 22.

In addition to Brandon's news, Jen noticed that the soil below our tile-lined pit was the color and texture of the pit's fill, meaning that we had not yet reached its bottom. After removing some dirt here, she discovered that the pit extended further down a bit to the north. This extension is smaller than the pit above, but at this point we think it is from the same intrusive event. So far Jen has only pulled out a couple large coarseware sherds from the feature, and its purpose remains to be seen next season.

The tile-lined pit in Trench PC 22.

Rachel excavated in another pit this week that extends from PC 19 southeast into trench PC 23. While she did not have any significant finds, Rob Vander Poppen noticed that one of the large stones lining this particular pit was molded and had been reused. Since the pit is covered by the very old stratum four and Rachel found several pieces of bucchero in it, we now know that the molded blocks date back to phase one of the site.

Cort Hightower and Assistant Field Supervisor Rachel Julis in Trench PC 19.

Last but certainly not least, Jess excavated in the northeast locus of PC 22. There she found a new feature characterized by a high concentration of carbon and bone inclusions. Jess took out some large pieces of bone and teeth. She has some experience with anatomy and was able to shed some light on what the bones were. Interestingly, as she moved through the pass she exposed a large, flat stone underneath this feature. Although the feature is not quite black enough to prove a sacrificial relationship, it is highly suggestive to find such remains on top of a stone.

Jess Galeano excavating in Trench PC 22.

On Monday we will prepare our final drawings of the trenches and scarps. Tuesday backfill begins to protect the architecture for future seasons. It's hard to believe the season is over already, but it was quite productive and I really enjoyed working with everyone in our trench.

View from the north of Trenches PC 19 and 22.


Left to right: Jennifer Polguy, Kacie Coughlin, and Cort Hightower.


Jennifer Polguy and Rachel Julis discuss the tile lined pit.

Week 7:

Left to right, front to back: Jennifer Polguy, Kacie Coughlin, Jessica Galeano, Caitlin Vacanti,
Rachel Julis, Cort Hightower, and Brandon Gonia pose in one of the pits in their trench.

We wrapped up the 2003 season this week by drawing our final plans and backfilling all our dirt. It is always a sad sight to see our trench and its beautiful walls reburied, but we learned a lot in PC 19, 22 and 27 this summer and plan to open it again next season.

So what did trenches 19, 22 and 27 teach us this summer about the arx? We started off in June hoping to examine more closely the stratigraphy in PC 19 and 22 in order to decide on a chronology of wall construction. We anticipated that these two trenches would be down to bedrock by the season's end. We also wanted to learn about the intersection between the northern, western and curvilinear wall by excavating in the new trench, PC 27. We thought this information might tell us about the use of the curvilinear wall while at the same time give us a full view of the western half the monumental structure. In seasons past, there has been much speculation as to why the southern wall curves dramatically north and why the western wall is doubled.

Trenches PC 27 (lower left) and 19 (right) from the northwest corner.

Well, some of these questions were answered and others have been set aside for next season. We began the season by opening up the southern locus of PC 27, and to our surprise we found that the entire area was covered with stones. At first it was difficult to distinguish walls in this high concentration but after further excavation we determined that the curvilinear wall and perhaps the western wall as well continue north, and the northern wall processes west beyond the intersection. The origin and purpose of all the other stones is arguable, but their high degree of disorder along with the fact that there are no stones underneath them suggest that they are wall spill. Interestingly, we did not find that the northern wall curved in any manner; it does not mirror nor does it mimic the southern wall's change of course. We also did not find a doubling of the walls extending westward as we did in PC 22. This led us to ponder further why these anomalies would exist in our southern loci. However, due to the fact that we had such a large area to work with, we were unable to excavate the northern locus of this trench and thus could not come to many conclusions. Next season PC 27 will be re opened and miscellaneous stones will be removed. This should clarify where the walls are, along with their relationship to the other walls in the western end of the monumental structure.

Double wall and curved wall in Trench PC 19, as seen from the north.

In PC 19 and 22 we found that the western walls doubling those of the main structure have several more courses deeper into the ground and a seemingly different construction. The "rooms" west of the main structure seem to have been used for storage, as we found large pithoi here containing carbonized seeds. Thus the walls clearly demarcate a separate space from the rectangular structure. We have discussed several different theories concerning this area. The most probable idea is that there are in fact five or six phases to the site, rather than the previously hypothesized three. According to this theory, phase three of the rectangular structure was preceded by construction of the western storage rooms, and the curvilinear wall followed. Perhaps the curvilinear wall was part of a tower of sorts, built to aid protection against invaders during the highly unstable Hellenistic period. A brand new theory being discussed proposes that the double wall supported a second story. This would explain the sudden curve north of our southern wall just as it meets the doubled wall: it would make sense to curve a wall in order to buttress a pre-existing one. I think that we should excavate to the west of these rooms next season. When we see if the other walls are doubled and find out the extent of these western rooms we will be better able to theorize about the sequence of construction here.

View from the north of Trenches 19 (foreground) and 22, with western storage rooms at right.

One of the most important things we learned this season is that there is no sterile soil on Poggio Colla. The stratum formally known as sterile, which is characterized by its yellow coloration and large sandstone inclusions, contains pottery and tile from the earliest phase of the arx. Now we know that we must excavate all of the trenches down to bedrock to learn the hill's full history. This lesson forced us to slow down during the season and carefully move through all strata. We therefore were not able to finish PC 19 or 22, but I am confident that next season they will be down to bedrock in just a few weeks.

Overall, I was very happy with the progress made this summer. Our team worked hard to meet my expectations and I want to thank them for that. I had a lot of fun and shared a lot of laughs with all of them and I hope they all had a great experience.

View of Trenches PC 19 (foreground) and 22 (upper right) as seen from the northwest.


Trench PC 19 as seen from the west.


View from the southwest of Trenches PC 22 (foreground) and 17 (above and to right)


Left: Caitlin Vacanti with trench plans. Right: Assistant Field Supervisor Rachel Julis excavating.