2004 CONSERVATION
REPORTS FROM THE END OF THE SEASON

Gretchen Meyers, Rollins University, Director of Materials
Ann Steiner, Franklin and Marshall College, Director of Research
Chris White, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Head Conservator
Esther H. Chao, Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Conservator
Bridget Marx, Southern Methodist University, Senior Curator
Sue Bird, Illustrator
Lilly Albritton, SMU, Lab Assistant

Week 4 - Gretchen Meyers:


Lilly Albritton and Chris White cleaning bucchero finds from PC 20.

This week in the lab we have begun several new projects, continued others and completed some tasks begun earlier in the season. We are very pleased that through the monumental efforts of Lilly Albritton we finished our reorganization of catalogued material from Podere Funghi and Poggio Colla, down to the newly adhered labels on the boxes! We have also made much headway in our survey of tile from earlier excavation years thanks to the attention of Nicole Berastequi, Andrew McClellan and Liz Bair.


Esther Chao and Chris White lifting a bucchero vessel spout from Trench PC 20.

The task of cleaning, organizing and cataloguing bucchero has occupied much of our time. With the wonderful addition of Esther Chao to the conservation team, our conservators have begun to tame the mountain of bucchero currently being excavated in PC 20. Esther was welcomed to the site on her first day by several bucchero vessels in PC 20, which she and Chris White carefully lifted on a visit to the field. We have also had several students working in the lab, dry brushing and cleaning bucchero sherds. Already keen eyes have been able to spot joins on our bucchero table and we look forward to examining a wide variety of vessel shapes and patterns as the season progresses.


Conservator Esther Chao cleaning bucchero from Trench PC 20.

Franklin and Marshall students continue to study the fine pottery from Podere Funghi. They are working on creating typologies based on clay, color, texture and vessel shape and size. The students' goal for the upcoming week will be to gain a baseline understanding of the pottery from the midden so that we can begin to make comparisons to the fine locally made pottery from elsewhere on the site, as well as to the black glaze fineware shapes so familiar to their professor and supervisor, Ann Steiner.


Ann Steiner, Lilly Albritton, and Chris White in the conservation lab.

To date nearly 275 finds have been received in the lab and I have examined and catalogued nearly 60 of them. Others are still awaiting conservation and cleaning. In the meantime, through the cooperative efforts of the field staff and the lab staff, our knowledge of both sites-Podere Funghi and Poggio Colla-continues to grow.


Gretchen Meyers cataloguing finds in the magazzino.

Week 5 - Gretchen Meyers:

This week our lab has benefited a great deal from the assistance of students. Again, the efforts of our student assistant, Lilly Albritton, have resulted in the completion of a monumental task--our inventory of boxes of non-catalogued finds and ceramic bags from the 2000-2003 excavation seasons. This inventory has allowed us to better organize all of our material, including our new finds, and to understand the important information that we have gathered over the years of excavation. Thanks to Lily's time and patience all ceramic bags and non-catalogued finds in our storage facility are now entered into a searchable database.


Lab Assistant Lilly Albritton.

A similar project that looks at our material from earlier excavation seasons is the tile reassessment project. This effort is concentrated on inventorying and re-evaluating the value of tile fragments preserved in the early years of the excavation. Student assistants, under my supervision, have been considering tile saved from our earliest trenches. This process of re-looking at tile from the past, has resulted in important information, including the discovering of important rare tile pieces that may elucidate the structure of our roof.


Sanda Heinz and Director of Materials Gretchen Meyers assessing roof tile.

Other students have been working on the cleaning and preserving of bucchero fragments from PC 20. Because of their efforts several new stamped and incised bucchero fragments have been found. These pieces have aided us in reconstructing several full profiles of bucchero vessels, in particular a bucchero chalice, a wing-handled cup and a large bowl. In addition, students and lab staff, have been working at organizing and studying the bucchero sherds from PC 20. As we have become more familiar with the texture and designs of the different fabrics, we have been able to make a number of joins and associations.


Liz Bair assists Head Conservator in cleaning bucchero from Trench PC 20.

Students working in the lab also include the students from Franklin and Marshall College, who rotate into the lab each work day. Their project, supervised by Ann Steiner, is coming along, as they continue to refine their typology of fineware from the midden of Podere Funghi. We eagerly look forward to their results!


Kamissa Mort and Ann Steiner look for joins in ceramic finds.

Our tireless lab staff, including myself and the conservators, Chris and Esther, continue to process the numerous finds uncovered in our six trenches. Chris and Esther have been working on cleaning and conserving a number of full profiles and nearly intact vessels, including a very interesting "cereal" bowl from PC 26 which Ann Steiner has suggested is perhaps a local version of a common black glaze shape, a bucchero chalice with two different stamped decorations and a nearly complete fineware vessel from PC 20. In addition we have many other interesting finds already catalogued from this season-at this point nearly 105 new catalogued pieces!


Conservator Esther Chao conserving bucchero finds.

Week 6 - Gretchen Meyers:


Senior Curator Bridget Marx returns to the lab.

 


Illustrator Sue Bird checks the impressive list of illustrations she completed in 2004.

Week 6 has been a busy one here in the Poggio Colla lab. As we near the season's end, we have begun to experience the inevitable comings and goings that mark periods of change. We have been glad to welcome back our senior curator, Bridget Marx, to assist with our end of season tasks and our illustrator, Sue Bird, who is completing her drawings of fineware from Podere Funghi and our examples of black glaze from both sites.


Ann Steiner and Gretchen Meyers examining bucchero sherds.

We are sad to have said goodbye to Ann Steiner, who has left to return to Franklin and Marshall College, having completed another season of black glaze study and overseen her students' research.


In Trench PC 20, Conservator Chris White lifts an iron spearhead
found by Brad Schneider, and defined by Brad Schneider and Robert Belanger.

 


Iron find from PC 20 in container for transport to the lab.

As our colleagues in the field continue to unearth new and interesting finds each day, we continue to process and conserve them… Recently there have been some particularly fruitful days, with more than 20 finds coming into the lab from single trenches on Poggio Colla, as well as some very interesting full profiles from trenches in Podere Funghi. In order to keep up with the pace of our field staff we have had to rely on the long hours and dedication of our two conservators, Chris and Esther. This past week they have been putting their conservation skills to work on a Phase 1 architectural block, a spear point and of course, bucchero, bucchero, bucchero… As the season draws to a close they are looking forward to all those last minute finds!


Conservator Esther Chao with one hand on a worked block, the other on a ceramic sherd.

Our lab projects are moving along. The tile project, which so many of our students have assisted with, is nearing completion. Our inventory of tile from the early years of excavation has brought back to our attention a number of interesting tile fragments, which will be studied in the next few years. We hope to be able to understand our buildings' roofing systems, as well as determine the different types of tile used on Poggio Colla and Podere Funghi in different building phases. Thanks to our students for all their hard work and diligent attention! The Franklin and Marshall students have completed their lab study and have moved to a phase of book research and reference. We are looking forward to their conclusions regarding the fineware from the Podere Funghi midden. Rob Belanger also spent some time with us this week, looking at fineware from architectural contexts in Podere Funghi and considering our fineware typology in light of these other examples.


Lilly Albritton entering new finds into the catalog.

And while it seems like we have just begun, we are painfully aware of how close we are to the final days of excavation and the packing up and storing of our artifacts. We have begun documenting all of our newly catalogued objects for 2004 (187 and counting!) with digital photography. I am thankful to the efforts of Lilly and Bridget for keeping on top of all the tasks that allow our catalog and storage system to work so well!


Daphne Meyers-Coonan gets an early start on tile scholarship.

 


Chris White looking for joins in bucchero fragments from PC 20.

 


Conserved bowl and the soil it covered from Trench PF 15.

 


Conserved bucchero finds from Trench PC 20.

 


Ann Steiner in the midst of her ceramic study area in the magzzino.

 


Director of Materials Gretchen Meyers.

 


Chris White cleaning finds.

 

Week 7 - Gretchen Meyers:

The conservation and research lab of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project is closed for the 2004 season. All of the material that we have conserved, cleaned and studied for the past seven weeks has been boxed up, labeled and returned to our storage facility where it will spend the next nine months.


Left to right: Gretchen Meyers, Jess Galloway, Sue Bird, and Chris White in the lab at season's end.

Our work with the objects has been considerable this season. 333 new finds entered the lab this season; 316 of them were catalogued and photographed. All objects (catalogued and non-catalogued) were conserved by our conservators, Chris and Esther, so we can rest assured that they are stable for the duration of time they remain in storage. In addition our illustrator, Sue Bird, documented approximately 150 other objects in drawings. Study pottery from the Podere Funghi and examples of Black Glaze, as well as some other important finds from the last few seasons, have been added to our illustration archives for further study and publication.


Esther Chao cleaning a find under the microscope.

 


Illustrator Sue Bird checks the impressive list of illustrations she completed in 2004.

Our most important work with objects this season has been study. This is an integral part of the archaeological process, when a scholar or student can assemble a group of artifacts and begin to understand their form, function and meaning, with the objects immediately available. As I have been discussing all season, we have hosted such investigative study of our objects this season-the Black Glaze by Ann Steiner, the ceramics from the Podere Funghi by Franklin and Marshall students and Robert Belanger and the roof tiles from both Poggio Colla and Podere Funghi by me.


A few of the hundreds of conserved and
catalogued bucchero finds from 2004 Trench PC 20.

 


Vessel fragments from PF 15 Feature 2 in the Podere Funghi.

However, because we only see our objects for a few weeks each year, our study and care of the objects must be of a different type in the off-season. In this upcoming year, I expect that all the students and scholars working in our lab will reflect upon the observations they made during these past weeks. They will re-examine photographs and drawings. They will read secondary material and published reports of other archaeological sites for comparative material. And then they will compile and write their ideas and interpretations of our objects into reports and articles for publication.


Illustrator Sue Bird drawing the smokehole cover from Podere Funghi Kilns 1 and 2.

The Mugello Valley Archaeological Project has been active for ten years and a great deal of artifactual material has been deposited in the lab and storage facility. With diligent study, such as we have seen this past successful season, the lab serves as a major research component of the project and complements the process of discovery occurring in the field under the direction of our colleagues. At this stage in the excavation's history we believe that this cooperative effort will produce a clearer understanding of the ancient structures and sites of both the Podere Funghi and Poggio Colla.


Gretchen Meyers, Director of Materials and champion of the catalog.

Certainly we owe the success of the lab to many people-especially Ann Steiner, our staff of conservators, our illustrator, and our student assistant, Lilly. In addition, the expansive space of our facilities for this year, donated by the Community of Vicchio, made our work possible. Thanks to all. See you in 2005!


Lilly Albritton.

 


Smokehole tile, fragments found in both Kiln 1 and Kiln 2 in the Podere Funghi.

 


Iron spearhead from Trench PC 20 conserved by Chris White.

 


Bone from Trench PC 27.

 


Completing illustration and research projects in the lab at the end of the 2004 season,
left to right: Ivo van der Graaff, Jess Galloway, Sue Bird, and Josh Moran.