Field Reports from the end of the 1999 Field Season
TRENCH PC 18
Assistant Field Supervisor Robert Belanger

Week 4: July 23


Robert Belanger (left) writes in field book while
Robert Vander Poppen prepares to photograph Trench 18.

Trench PC 18 is a prime example of the salvage archaeology which is often necessary in an area threatened both by the elements and man. On Saturday, July 17, local archaeologist Andrea Santoni discovered several ceramic sherds embedded in a section of eroded earth in the middle of a dirt road leading up to the arx of Poggio Colla, along its northern face. The location of the pottery was in a road constantly busy with vehicular traffic and within the path of a natural drainage channel that had caused the earth to erode so that the pottery was exposed. Bringing these ceramics to the attention of Director Gregory Warden, it was decided that a 1 x 1 meter trench would be set up and a crew would begin excavation immediately.

The excavation crew was comprised of Field Director Michael Thomas, Assistant Field Supervisor Robert Vander Poppen, field student Christopher Parrott, and myself. After some initial brush clearing to the south of the road by Rob, Chris, and me, the trench was setup and excavating commenced with the removal of several impasto pieces directly in the center of the trench, pieces which we believe to be a lid. The lifting of these pieces was carefully completed by our Conservator Ellen Salzman, and is an excellent example of the benefits of having a Conservator on site. Additionally, several other small bucchero sherds were removed on Saturday, after Rob and I excavated the lightly sloping northern half of the trench down to the level of the center. The presence of such early pottery suggested to us that this could possibly be a Villanovan pozzo tomb, and by the end of the day we were very optimistic that this was the case.


Locus I Level I of Trench 18.

When excavation resumed on Monday, July 19, Rob and Chris returned to the duties of their respective trenches and I was left to excavate Trench 18 on my own, under the guidance of Michael Thomas. Over the course of the next four days, I proceeded to excavate the trench down to bedrock in all areas in two arbitrary passes. Since the trench was completely in an eroded washout area, there was no clear change in stratigraphy, excepting the difference between the earth and bedrock. This made the excavation rather straightforward, although tedious, because of the conditions of the earth, whose acidity caused the already fragile pottery to be very friable. Additionally, within this earth layer were several rocks which were removed to reveal more pottery crushed beneath them. This leads us to believe that these rocks were pushed downhill to the east by tractors using the road, overturning the vessel and spilling its contents out over the bedrock to be exposed by the recent rains. The discovery of several impasto rim sherds on each day with a similar wall curvature of approximately 45 degrees additionally supported this idea that a single vessel did exist at one time.

Wednesday’s discovery of a similarly textured impasto wall fragment with a handle join, also possibly a lid, seems to suggest that this was indeed a cinerary urn which was overturned. The large carbon deposit in the center of the trench, around which most of the ceramics have been discovered, is an important clue which seems to fit this hypothesis. However, I excavated other types of pottery, most notably a small bucchero base on Thursday and a large coarseware wall sherd on Wednesday, located under the large stone which protrudes into the western scarp of the trench. These could be washout artifacts from the above road area carried down by the rains, but their positioning under some of the impasto fragments leads me to believe that they were in some way connected with the large impasto vessel, possibly as accompanying the urn in a pozzo tomb.

Upon completion of the excavation of Trench 18 on Thursday, July 22, judging by the positioning and context of the artifacts unearthed after reaching bedrock throughout the entire area, it seems that an impasto cinerary urn was disturbed from its position in the southwestern quadrant by increased road traffic and crushed with the objects around it. Its contents spilled out downhill, scattered by the breaking of the vessel, lying on top of the bedrock only to be uncovered by the rains washing down the road. I believe that the only way to discern whether or not this is the case is to continue excavations in this area, especially under the large rock to the immediate west of the trench, but nonetheless the evidence here does point towards the remnants of a pozzo tomb. Either way, without our intervention, the discoveries we have made over the past six days would most probably have washed away after another series of rains, and for that reason alone it has been a successful venture.


Robert Belanger casts his shadow over Trench PC 18
near the end of its excavation down to bedrock.

 

Field Reports from the end of the 1999 Field Season

Director's Diary

Field Director's Diary

Trench PC 13

Trench PC 14

Trench PC 15

Trenches PC 16 & 17

Trenches PF 2 & PF 3

Conservator's Report

Student Diary

After December 2000, see the 1999 Annual Report for the season summary by Professor Gregory Warden.