Supervisors: Thijs Nales and Robert Vander Poppen

Thijs Nales (left) and Robert Vander Poppen (right) in the field
with Kathleen Loyd Lambert, Emma Johnson, and Hilary Serra

 Opening Report  Final Report

Opening Report:

This year for the first time at Poggio Colla the field school students have the opportunity to participate in a survey project geared at exploring the context of our settlement in its larger landscape. The survey is planned as a multi-season project that will first concentrate on determining the archaeological potential of the areas immediately bordering the settlement. These areas on the lower slopes of Poggio Colla present a challenge for traditional survey methods due to the thick woodland cover of the immediate environs of the site, making it nearly impossible to use field-walking, a technique that examines archaeological features from their remains in plowed fields. As a result, we are surveying the hilltop using the technique of coring. Across the hilltop the students are taking core samples on a 20 x 25 meter grid using a gauge and an auger. The gauge is driven into the earth providing a clear picture of the layers of soil, and allowing us to look for preserved archaeological surfaces buried under later material eroded from the hilltop. When archaeological soils are found in the gauge, a second tool, the auger, is used to create a 10 centimeter diameter sample of the soil in order to secure material that can help us date the archaeological layers involved.

Coring Survey team at work in the Poggio Colla woods,
led by Thijs Nales and Robert Vander Poppen

Already in just a few weeks of survey the field school students have begun to reveal several features of the settlement. Erosion has played a significant role in the landscape especially on the north and south sides of the site, washing away any Etruscan remains that occupied these slopes. To the east the situation is far different, with evidence for a midden (trash dump) that may have been in use for several centuries. There are also traces of an early settlement that was phased out, as the Poggio Colla necropolis expanded. In addition, to the southeast of the acropolis of Poggio Colla there is evidence of two phases of habitation interrupted by a hiatus during which approximately 30 centimeters of erosional material was deposited atop the earlier floor level. In the weeks to come we will concentrate on detailing the history of the settlement along the western edge of the hill. The data will then be integrated into a GIS (Geographic Information System) model that will allow a reconstruction of both the geomorphological history of the hilltop and a reconstruction of the extent and preservation of the settlement.

Below: students take core samples, sift for finds, and record data


Final Report
Robert Vander Poppen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Thijs Nales, Bekker and de Graaf

This season at Poggio Colla the normal schedule of excavation has been supplemented by a program of archaeological survey. Over the course of the season students and staff have participated in research that is beginning to examine the long term history of the landscape around Poggio Colla, and as a result to see the major effects that later activity, both human and natural have had on the state of preservation of the archaeological remains in the vicinity of the arx. In many cases the effects of these processes have been extreme.

Erosion and mass slope movement have largely dislocated the soil of the northeast slope of Poggio Colla where a number of major drainage gullies are deeply incised in the hillside. As a result this area is nearly completely a blank slate in terms of archaeological remains. Here, artifacts are preserved within a major colluvial soil as a jumbled mixture, instead of in their primary use contexts. On the south side of the hill the picture is much the same with a majority of the hillside almost devoid of soil. In the area directly to the south of the arx, the reason for this lack of deep depositional layers is the steepness of the slope coupled with the historic deforestation of the zone associated with the cultivation of chestnut trees.

Further to the west along the saddle that connects Poggio Colla to the nearby hilltop of Montesassi, archaeological remains are absent for a different reason. Here extensive medieval and modern quarrying have nearly completely removed any archaeological layers that would have remained in antiquity. On the north side of the same saddle, preservation is also intermittent, but it is possible to trace the movement of material more clearly. Here the bulk of the Etruscan material is found in a pair of areas that represent the major water runoff valleys in the vicinity. It is possible that these deposits, in some cases as thick as 2 meters, were intentional middens placed strategically to fill in these once deep erosion gullies. A similar situation appears to have occurred on the east slope of Poggio Colla as well, where a core revealed yet another midden from a glass bead was recovered.

In contrast to these areas where preservation of Etruscan remains is less than ideal, a number of zones have yielded spectacularly preserved soils including floor and destruction levels. Particularly well preserved is the area to the northwest of Poggio Colla, a zone dominated by early settlement and the later necropolis. Preliminary study of the material from this area suggests that at least a part of the necropolis was being used as a habitation until the area for burial was expanded in the Hellenistic era. Further down the hill in this direction a coring revealed a pair of gravel pavements. The thick and compact nature of one packing suggests that it may be a preserved Etruscan road.

In addition two spots have revealed the remains of structures. On the first terrace below the summit of Poggio Colla, a floor level and possible wall have come to light, while off the southeast side of the hill a major destroyed structure of the Archaic Period came into use again in the Hellenistic Period after substantial erosion had buried the earlier site. Additionally, near the summit of Montesassi the debris thrown down from the upper ridge at the time of quarrying has preserved an intact occupation floor.

We have also learned a great deal about the defenses of Poggio Colla as a result of our topographic work. Beyond the circuit of fortification walls that enclosed the arx the residents of Poggio Colla likely relied on a series of natural scarps occurring in the local sandstone as a means of protection. Evidence of this natural cliff has been mapped on the south and east sides of Poggio Colla. Where this scarp is unstable, absent, or otherwise unsuitable as a natural defense it appears that the boundary was reinforced with walling of polygonal masonry.

The coring survey has also included the area surrounding the Hellenistic pottery production workshop in the nearby Podere Funghi. Work here in conjunction with a shovel test pit survey by Dr. Sara Bon-Harper has led to the discovery of a large clay deposit to the south of the structure. Surely, this clay source would have been of great interest to the potters nearby, and the evidence is beginning to suggest the existence of a vibrant community of small potting establishments in this zone away from the arx perhaps because of these very clays.

Further analysis of the finds coupled with GIS plotting of the data collected in the field will continue throughout the winter in order to produce a more detailed history of these processes and to make some suggestions about the nature of the zones of preserved archaeological material. The coring survey will also resume next season and expand into areas further from the hilltop itself.

Below: Megan Burns, Betsy Mahoney, and Marlene Johnson help
Robert Vander Poppen take core samples in the Podere Funghi

From left: Allison Lewis, Survey Consultant Thijs Nales, and Jessica Galeano