Research Project Supervisor: Jenifer Neils, Case Western Univeristy
Director of Research: Ann Steiner, Franklin & Marshall College

Phil Perkins and Jenifer Neils discuss a bucchero sherd

2007 Bucchero Project Report
Ann Steiner, Franklin & Marshall College:

Over the past 11 years of excavation, Poggio Colla has produced a very large quantity of bucchero pottery, the characteristic fine ware of the early Etruscans. Because of the very large quantity recovered and our preliminary assessment that our repertory of shapes was exciting and even novel, Directors Warden, Thomas, Steiner, and Meyers determined that the 2007 research season would focus as a top priority on a preliminary study of the bucchero. Fortunately, two experts on ancient pottery, Professors Phil Perkins (Open University, UK), a specialist in bucchero, and Jenifer Neils (Case Western Reserve University), were available to join us for several weeks to help design the project and to help guide the field school student experience. Gretchen Meyers and her excellent staff including Courtney Brasher and Lauren Jackson were instrumental in supporting the project in myriad ways.

Ann Steiner (left) and Lauren Jackson (right) with students
Maureen Jackson, Marlene Grey, Betsy Mahoney, and Megan Burns

We decided to focus on a particularly rich deposit of bucchero excavated in 1997, 2004 and 2005 from the Poggio Colla North Terrace, south of the south wall, from Trenches 3, 20, and 15. Sixteen undergraduate and 11 graduate students worked in three research groups, each spending a total of 7 day-long sessions in the lab. The project began with inventoried examples and quickly moved to the extremely large quantity of context pottery. Students learned how to distinguish diagnostic shape components, such as rims, feet, and body fragments. They succumbed to the temptation to play jigsaw, and became experts at making joins, often between and among sherds excavated years apart. Shapes were reconstructed in the conservation lab and drawn by our site draftsperson, Annie Hooton. The students quickly determined that three shapes were most prominent in the evidence, representing the vast majority of fragments: cups, with wing or strap handles, plates with conical feet, and bowls with incurved rims.

Foreground: Hilary Serra, Jack Carlson, and Tracey Drayer
Background: lab staff Courtney Brasher and Lauren Jackson

Students then broke down each shape into smaller units based on characteristics of form and decoration. Each undergraduate will complete a research paper on a discrete group of similar vessels, assessing the parameters of the shape and its precise find spot in the deposit. Overall, when all the projects are complete, we will have established a full typology for three of the most common bucchero shapes at Poggio Colla.

Preliminary research on the geochemistry of some bucchero fragments from the site, carried out by Isaac Weaver and Dr. Stan Mertzman of Franklin & Marshall College in 2004, suggests that some bucchero from Poggio Colla has the same geochemistry as the locally-made fine and coarse wares. Further study, based on fragments from the deposit we are considering in 2007, will allow us to draw further conclusions about the extent of the local bucchero production.

Sarah Hartman, Franklin & Marshall '08, will include some of this bucchero deposit in her residue analysis study during 2007-2008. Working with Dr. Ken Hess of the Franklin & Marshall Department of Chemistry, Sarah will employ the highly sensitive and selective technique of liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LCMS) which has only recently entered the arsenal of analytical methodologies applied to archaeological problems. Earlier studies of bucchero (N. Garnier, et al./ Analytical Chemistry, 2002, 74, 4868-4877) have suggested that beeswax was applied to bucchero to act as a waterproofing agent or a fuel, and Sarah and Dr. Hess will now have the opportunity to add to the scholarly conversation on this exciting topic.

In sum, 2007 has seen some important milestones in our understanding of the bucchero recovered at Poggio Colla.


Above and below: One of three student
teams working on the 2007 bucchero project


The bucchero research group with bucchero expert Phil Perkins


Phil Perkins and Mat Ferron checking a bucchero rim fragment


Students working on the bucchero project in the lab


Jocelyn Cooper and Michael Arnold measuring bucchero finds


Dana Rowland and Lucy Van Essen-Fishman recording data


Mandy Olson and Nickie Riley with bucchero sherds


Nicole Hanna and Nickie Riley comparing finds


Mat Ferron and Erin Bradley mesauring bucchero sherds


Ann Steiner with Maureen Johnson and Olivia Ybarra


Andrea Summers and Rachel Dorfman listening to Ann Steiner


Becky Rolph, Jennifer Staggs, Kathleen Loyd Lambert, and Nickie Riley


Hilary Serra joining bucchero fragments


Anne Duray recording data on bucchero finds


Kathleen Loyd Lambert and Nickie Riley measuring bucchero finds


Emma Johnson measures a vessel fragment for the bucchero project


Becky Rolph and Jennifer Staggs measuring sherds in the lab


Tracey Drayer working on the bucchero catalog

Research Projects