2004 TRENCHES PF 5, 6, 9, & 14

Robert Belanger, Field Supervisor
Bradley Schneider, Assistant Field Supervisor

Field Students:
Krishawna Brown
Virginia Lewis
Ludo Zywczak
Vounteer: Giuseppina Marras

Left: Field Supervisor Robert "Base" Belanger. Right: Assistant Field Supervisor Brad Schneider.

Week 4:

Krishawna Brown and Virginia Lewis working in Trench PF 5.

Excavation has moved swiftly over the past week due to the enthusiasm of my field crew and the near perfect excavation conditions in the Podere Funghi. As previously reported, the previous few weeks concentrated primarily upon the isolation and definition of particular architectural features and in the process yielded new information about the structure's internal stratigraphy. The more numerous material finds of the past week complement this information by providing a more intimate look into the function of the structure by its occupants.

View of Podere Funghi Trenches PF 5, 6, 9, & 14 from the south.
Robert Belanger sits behind the hearthand in front of the kilns.

In Trench PF 5, a number of interesting discoveries were made in the final pass through the structure's later Hellenistic habitation level. In the lowest levels of floor packing, especially in the southwest corner of the building, a high yield of bone was discovered amid a thick layer of scattered carbon. These finds included two large animal teeth set in a partially preserved jawbone, a long bone with the socket joint still preserved, and several sections of decayed bone unable to be positively identified. The location of these finds amid a rich carbon deposit mere centimeters from the edge of the hearth lends further credence to thinking that this section of the structure was dedicated, at least in part, to a more domestic rather than workshop role. The absence of bone finds in such quantities, if at all, in other excavated trenches of the Podere Funghi provides an equally compelling case from a depositional perspective as well.

Robert Belanger working on his field notebook. View from the west with hearth at far right.

The material finds of the same pass in Trench PF 5 tend to support this assessment as well. Although a large quantity of fineware and coarseware fragments have been unearthed which are typical of the floor packing level, several diagnostically important sherds indicate a more domestic context. Earlier today, several fineware sherds with equidistantly spaced drill holes were discovered which share characteristics to cheese, mead, and wine strainers from other locations. These sherds, combined with the several highly degraded, lipped coarseware sherds unearthed in the same corner as the bone, suggest an area of food production and/or consumption. Whereas the strainer suggests refinement of various staple foods in the Etruscan diet, the thick coarseware sherds find parallel with medium sized cooking and food storage vessels from Poggio Colla and Poggio Civitate, among others. Regardless, the presence of these wares are an indicator of a complex economy involving the growth, preparation, consumption, and storage of both simple and complex foodstuffs.

Krishawna Brown holds the fineware sherd with drilled holes found in PF 5.

Finally, work in Kiln 1 was completed a few days ago after the southern, unexcavated portion reached the lowest documented level of the 2003 excavation year. With the discovery of a mud brick parallel to that removed at the end of last season, and subsequent stratigraphic information from the kiln walls themselves, a firing level seems to have been established for this anomaly. This may possibly lead to the discovery of the original ground level for the kilns upon subsequent excavation of the surrounding levels later on this year or in the years to come. The final discovery of the lowest level was another fragment of the black glaze kylix excavated at the end of last year. Such finds literally and figuratively help to provide for a better understanding of the role of both the kilns and their materials, and fit them into the overall framework of the Podere Funghi and ultimately its role in the ancient Mugello Valley. For this I owe a thanks to my excavation crew for their hard work over the past week, and the constant excavation and administrative assistance of my assistant along the way.

Krishawna Brown excavating Kiln 1 in the Podere Funghi.

Podere Funghi Kiln 1 Level 1.

Podere Funghi Kiln 1 Level 8 with vertical mud brick.

Week 5:

Robert Belanger, Field Supervisor.

Excavation in the Podere Funghi has accelerated rapidly over the past week despite the intense July heat wave which recently settled into the Mugello Valley. This excavation period yielded two particularly important discoveries amid work in Trenches PF 5, 6, 17, and Kiln 1 which have provided tantalizing clues to the nature of the structure's form and function from an architectural perspective.

View from the south of Trenches PF 5, 6, 9, 14 and 17 during Week 5.

Work through Trench PF 5 was completed early on in the week with minor fineware, coarseware, and tile fragments emerging from the remaining pockets of earth slightly above the structure's original floor level. While these materials are typical of the stratum, the stratigraphic profile that emerged from the floor level showed a unique dichotomy between the southern and western foundation walls. The southern foundation wall - with its large, ordered blocks, multiple coursings and extremely linear façade - has a clear foundation trench cut into the original floor level where it was set. In contrast, the western foundation wall - its differing construction of single coursing filled with rubble in a more haphazard manner - has no foundation trench and actually sits atop the later floor packing level. This was discovered during the final wall cleanup for the pass and seems to suggest that the western foundation wall may not be original southern and eastern foundation walls. The stratigraphic and architectural evidence point towards this interpretation, but only excavation into the other side of the wall (located in the backfilled Trench PF 7) will be able to verify this for certain.

Southern foundation wall with foundation trench (at right).


Virginia Lewis, Krishawna Brown, and Robert Belanger excavating Kiln 2 in foregound.
Giuseppina Marras, Brad Schneider, and
Ludo Zywczak excavating Trench PF 17 in background.

With work in Kiln 1 completed at the end of last week, attention finally turned toward the excavation of Kiln 2 in earnest. While much more shallow than Kiln 1, preliminary evidence from prior excavation years pointed towards a contemporaneous filling based on stratigraphic evidence. This theory was certified yesterday afternoon with the discovery of the complete upper right hand corner of an anomalous diagnostic pan tile. The central section had a finished edge including a unique notch with a centrally drilled hole characteristic of Etruscan smoke hole tiles from Acquarossa. Upon returning to the lab at the end of the day, it was discovered that this section joined a similarly anomalous diagnostic pan tile of the same style from Kiln 1. The resulting joinery provided the complete upper 1/3 of a smoke hole tile, including the full 53 centimeter width. The diagnostic value of such a unique tile aside, the depositional information of a joining tile from two different kilns ties together the refilling and reuse of the ceramics kilns as an architectural element well after their use. Through such discoveries, a better understanding of the western edge of the structure has resulted, involving both stratigraphic and materials evidence.

PF Kiln 2 Level 2 of excavation.

As a final note, work in Trench PF 17 concluded with a final pass into entirely sterile soil, with no evidence resulting for further extension of the lower stone feature in Trenches PF 6, 9, and 14. This information seemingly ends questions about the structure's northern end from an excavation perspective, though the coming weeks the interpretation of these materials and the work in the other excavation Trenches will seemingly pose more.

The low stone feature ends at the edge of PF 17, shown from the north.

Overall it has been an extremely informative and highly rewarding week, and one which has been made possible by the continued hard work and enthusiasm of my excavation crew. With the final weeks approaching, such discoveries and information bode well for the remainder of the excavation year.

Week 6:

Standing: Krishawna Brown and Ludo Zywczak.
Seated, left to right: Robet Belanger, Bradley Schneider, and Virginia Lewis.

Excavation in the Podere Funghi moved quickly over the past week, on account of the growing skill of my excavation crew and the near-perfect excavation conditions caused by a blissful streak of cool mornings, cloudy afternoons, and rainy evenings. Although the work which was accomplished during this time was not nearly as rich in material finds as in previous weeks, the information garnered from it was of inestimable value towards understanding the larger issues surrounding the Podere Funghi.

Brad Schneider, Krishawna Brown, Robert Belanger, and Virginia Lewis.

The excavation of Kiln 2 was completed early on in the week, reaching a shallow bottom after only three short passes through the interior soil. The thin, degraded kiln walls were heated in accordance with the same firing characteristics as in Kiln 1, with a vitrified blue-colored lower level capped by a higher pink-colored upper level. While Kiln 1 showed evidence of this lower blue burn level with a substantial amount of the pink layer intact, Kiln 2 encountered the blue level almost immediately. The burn patterning, finds, and construction methods of these two kilns indicate their similarity in use and design, and coupled with the eventual stratigraphic elevation, show Kiln 2's construction further downhill from Kiln 1. This provenience subjected it more to the plow, which unfortunately seems to have destroyed the vast majority of its undoubtedly eroded upper portion. These factors permitted a quick and fruitful excavation of the interior space to accompany the data for Kiln 1 in the MVAP Podere Funghi archives.

Excavation of Kiln 2 in progress in the Podere Funghi.


Excavation of Podere Funghi Kiln 2 Flue Level 1.


PF Kilns 1 and 2 from the south.

The remainder of the work in the Podere Funghi concentrated on the completion of excavating the lower stone feature in Trenches PF 6, 9, and 14. In the northwest quadrant of Locus 1 in Trench PF 14, the central earth channel between the two northeasterly running linear stone formations was excavated into to reach the lowest level. Although stratigraphically sound in this location between the packed stones of the northernmost extremity, the more southern levels in Trench PF 9 were not nearly as conclusive. Here a lower course of stones was detected beneath the presently exposed ones and a deep trough of earth was begun, with no end in sight for reaching the same level as the north. Next week's excavation should hopefully reach the lowest level, and determine finally whether or not the lower stone feature is an earlier foundation wall or the drainage channel it appears to be.

View from the southwest corner of Robert Belanger's Podere Funghi trenches.


Lower stone feature of Trenches PF 6 and 9.

Overall it has been a good week in the field, and one which has again been made possible by the continued hard work and enthusiasm of my excavation crew. With the final week approaching, it is my hope that new discoveries will answer some of our longstanding questions about the excavation trenches open this year, as well as about the form and function of the hillcrest structure in the Podere Funghi on the whole.

Hearth in Trench PF 5.


Robert Belanger's team working in his Podere Funghi trenches.


Standing: Ludo Zywczak.
Seated: Robet Belanger, Bradley Schneider, Virginia Lewis and Krishawna Brown.

Week 7:

Robert Belanger and Krishawna Brown lifting pan tile from PF 6.

Excavation in the Podere Funghi moved quickly over this final week, and now that all these units have been filled back in, the year has drawn to a close. At the offset of this final report, I must immediately thank my excavation crew-- Krishawna Brown, Virginia Lewis, Giuseppina Marras, and Ludo Zywczak --for their hard work and enthusiasm over the past two months. None of the achievements in Trenches PF 5, 6, 9, 11, and 14 would have been possible without them. Additionally, I must acknowledge the superb work of my assistant, Brad Schneider, whose excavation and administrative assistance has been absolutely integral to the success of this season. Now, a few final notes and observations on the 2004 excavation year.

Several important architectural, featural, and materials finds were made this season which have influenced thinking on the construction phases of the hillcrest structure of the Podere del Funghi. Based upon the evidence available at the close of excavation, the interior dimensions of the building appear to remain at 7 x 4 meters at two phases, the most recent datable to the Hellenistic period. The widespread use of terracing throughout the site modified this interior space by utilizing a high predominance of excess stone and tile floor packing fill to raise the ground level of the southern half of the structure up to that of the preserved Hellenistic hearth. Depositional evidence and the lack of interior post pads points to a single chambered structure with a distinct upper and lower area provided through terracing of the structure's interior with tile in the lower northern half and tile and stone in the elevated southern half. These assertions were confirmed upon the discovery of the foundation trench for the southern foundation wall, which now provides an understanding of the method in which the interior space in the southern half of the building was constructed. The original ground level of the Podere del Funghi appears to have been leveled out, then dug into from the interior to set the solid stones of the southern foundation wall. After this wall was constructed the remaining trench seems to have been refilled and the entire area packed first with tile and stone, then capped with larger pan tile fragments (from an earlier building or phase perhaps) to provide a solid packing layer for a dirt floor. Finally, the northern edge was demarcated by a solid stone and rubble terracing buttress spanning the width of the structure. In such a way this portion of the interior space was raised above the space below, which appears to have been constructed only with the large fragmented tile layer directly atop an intentionally sloped earthen channel with stones lining it.

Final photo of Trenches PF 5, 6, 9, and 14 as seen from the south.


View of Trenches PF 6 (foreground) and 5 from the west (hearth at right).


Foundation trench at base of wall in Trench PF 5.

These discrepancies in construction methods also highlight a seemingly intentional separation of northern and southern space in the structure during Antiquity. The high predominance of bone, thick coarseware sherds, and fineware strainers in the upper hearth area points towards a definitive use of the area in a domestic capacity rather than production. The extremely low amount of bone and higher concentration of fineware sherds in the lower areas to the northern interior of the building both point towards a more industrial use for this area. The latter is additionally supported by this year's excavation of the northeasterly running lower stone feature. Set almost perfectly in the center of the building and presumed to be a drainage channel based on the evidence outlined in previous reports, a ceramics area is a prime candidate for a natural runoff channel to divert excess water usage from creation processes. The natural angling of the sub-floor-packing earth in this area to the center towards a northeasterly running line of graying Stratum 2A soil, which both matches the dimensions of the Trench PF 9 and 14 stone anomaly and intersects it, is an excellent indicator that this is more than feasible. Regardless, the materials finds alone allow for a designation between the domestic and industrial zoning of the structure's terraced interior levels, although this is not discounting the mixing of the two with each other. For the southern profile of Trench PF 6 is highly suggestive that the channel may have reached into the raised southern space of the structure's interior levels. Further excavation in this area may reveal the answer to this question for certain.

View from the north of lower stone feature in Trenches 6, 9, and 14.


Detail of lower stone feature shown above.

The excavation of PF Kilns 1 and 2 has provided requisite evidence that these dug-out features were post-depositionally filled with the same floor packing material used in the interior space of the Hellenistic floor level, stratigraphically placing them at the same phase as an architectural element with the western foundation wall. The discovery and joining of the smoke hole pan tile portions discovered partially in each kiln asserts that the two kilns are directly related and contemporaneous at least in their fill in date. Observations on the depth of PF Kiln 3 in Trench PF 7 places the kiln contemporaneous with the western wall foundation and the western wall spur, the burning of the western edge of the latter suggesting that the wall spur's role was as a heat shield for the interior of the structure in front of the threshold. Although the kiln was later built over for a later wall spur outside of that, the terracing of the structure as a whole suggests that this later post depositional alteration of PF Kiln 3 was in response to new problems to the threshold which have yet to be discovered. In either case, the digging out of the subterranean kilns and their subsequent reuse as architectural elements is an additional factor in determining that multiple phases of the site do in fact exist.

Podere Funghi Kilns 1 and 2 from the west.

The discovery of the black glaze wares over the past two years inside of Kiln 1 and the greater predominance of them in all levels, including earlier geometric and later imported Volterran wares, are of particular importance to the function of the site outside of its domestic capacity. The kilns themselves are of the type used to fire fineware ceramics in Antiquity, and the discarded midden trench wares indicate that a wide variety of types were being intentionally produced. Of particular importance are the bichrome fineware vessels found in both the midden, kiln, and structural depositions of the site of Podere del Funghi as a whole. Until this past season, contemporaneous discoveries of bichrome sherds on the main arx of Poggio Colla to the northwest had pointed towards export of the wares to other sites in an undecorated form. However, the discovery of the black glaze kylix in Kiln 1, whose interior fabric was in fact visible through the missing glaze sections as bichrome, has called into question whether the wares emerging from the Podere del Funghi during the phase in which the kilns were actively being used were intended to be glazed wares. The greater predominance of black glaze wares at lower levels of the structure, buffered by subsequent bucchero discoveries, suggest that site production may not have solely been limited to simple domestic wares. The solid wall foundations and earlier imported extravagant ceramic wares point towards a more refined element driving the site's production capacity, indicated by contemporaneous discoveries of site-specific wares within the rich arx of Poggio Colla in the hilltop above the site.

Podere Funghi Kiln 1 from the west.


Podere Funghi Kiln 2 from the north.

Overall, this season has been highly informative and very rewarding, both in that it has raised engaging and provocative new questions and answered longstanding ones about the form and function of the hillcrest structure in the Podere del Funghi. Based on the plethora of materials finds and the valuable contextual diagnostics from all five trenches, the research opportunities presented this season promise to yield a great deal more of the understanding of the satellite communities ringing Etruscan hilltop arxes throughout northern Etruria. With that goal in mind, the expanse information garnered from the Podere del Funghi, even moreso as the excavation scope widens with each passing year, will continue to provide a better sense locally of its role in the Etruscan community in the Mugello Valley, as well as Etruria as a whole.

View of Trenches PF 6 (foreground) and 5 from the north.


West wall of Podere Funghi building with kilns to left.


Shelf supports in Podere Funghi Kiln 1.


Podere Funghi Kiln 1 from the northeast.


Robert Belanger (in trench) explains his trench during final tours in the Podere Funghi.


Backfilling trenches in the Podere Funghi at the end of the 2004 season.


Survey plan of all Podere Funghi trenches
(prior to addition of hand drawn details)
showing building, kilns, and hearth.


For photographs of key finds from trenches in the recent season, see Finds.