2008 Investigating Etruscan Ceramic Production at the Podere Funghi
Dr. Sara Bon-Harper, Monticello Dept. of Archaeology

Sara Bon-Harper directs shovel test pit survey in the Podere Funghi

The Podere Funghi is a ceramic production site discovered by MVAP archaeologists when artifacts were brought to the ground surface by deep plowing in the late 1990s. Several seasons of archaeological investigation since 1998 have revealed a building with four ceramic kilns, and a nearby kiln dump. Artifact scatters elsewhere in the field have also been identified, but the field itself had not been systematically sampled for other remains until the commencement of this spatial sampling project in 2006. The potential for other significant elements of Etruscan occupation in the field is good, since the known kiln dump is uphill from the recently excavated workshop building, and the last seasons of plowing in the 1990s also produced a scatter of artifacts on the ground surface in the field's southeast corner. In addition, associated research has revealed at least one ceramic kiln in an adjacent field to the north (see below), and opportunistic observation of buried strata in another adjacent field imply that there may be still other, more deeply preserved ceramic kilns nearby. It is possible that the low hills around Poggio Colla were the locus of multiple ceramic producing workshops, either diachronically or at a given point in time.

Retrieving Spatial Patterns
Plowing of archaeological sites, while frequently responsible for site discovery, also has significant impact on archaeological remains and their interpretation by archaeologists. Plowing disturbs archaeological deposits, mixes strata vertically, and displaces artifacts horizontally. In spite of that, the artifacts in this plowed layer, or plow zone, may still retain some of their spatial relationships with each other, and should reflect the various activities that occurred across the field, either related to the known ceramic production, or not. Our project intends to recover available spatial information from the plow zone, furthering our understanding of occupation on this site and Etruscan ceramic production in northern Etruria.

In Italy, as in other parts of the world, actively plowed fields are often studied through surface collection. The Podere Funghi is no longer under cultivation, and fairly tall vegetation covers part of it, which means that artifacts are not routinely brought to the surface in by the plow, and that surface visibility is patchy, and overall somewhat low. In order to systematically evaluate the presence and absence of artifacts, we take sub-surface samples at five meter intervals across the field. The sample is screened, and all artifacts are collected. Our sub-surface samples are in the form of shovel test pits, or STPs, which are not often employed in the Mediterranean, where surface visibility usually allows sufficient collection. STPs are often used in regional survey the eastern United States for site detection, but our use of them in intra-site spatial sampling of plow zone is fairly innovative. The use of STPs in the Mediterranean at all, is quite rare, if not unique to this project.

STP Results at the Podere Funghi
The spatial sampling project began with reconnaissance in 2006 and a brief testing season in 2007, which suggested that there is additional occupation outside the ceramic workshop, both immediately adjacent to the building, and in the southeast corner of the field. This information corroborated what had been observed in previous years, when surface scatters had been visible due to plowing and reduced surface cover. The 2008 season should complete testing in the field and provide an understanding of the extent and spatial structure of past activities on the site. In addition to its stand-alone results, this sampling project may guide future excavations at the site, if areas of high interest are identified.

Layering of Research Methods
Geophysical survey on the site indicates that the artifact dump near the workshop may also be the locus of an additional kiln (Sternberg et al. 2008). Further research in 2008 will include student projects using a range of geoarchaeological techniques, including archaeomagnetism, downhole magnetic susceptibility, geomorphology, chemical testing, and continued magnetic survey. Together, these methods should provide a complex understanding of the Podere Funghi, the extent of occupation, and its temporal and spatial variability. The site itself has great significance because it adds to a small body of knowledge about the social and economic systems of Etruscan ceramic production in northern Etruria. The project's work on the surrounding landscape is also crucial, providing evidence for the local context of this ceramic production, including at least one additional workshop.

In addition to sponsorship and support from the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, spatial sampling in the Podere Funghi is funded in 2008 by an Etruscan Foundation Research Fellowship awarded to Sara Bon-Harper. This research and the additional geoarchaeological work is further supported by the Keck Geology Consortium, which provides field training and independent research opportunities for undergraduates in the geosciences, six of whom will be conducting this work under the direction of Rob Sternberg and Sara Bon-Harper.

Sternberg, R., S. Bon-Harper, and E. Bradley (2008). "Intra-Site Testing Using Magnetometry and Shovel Test Pits in the Podere Funghi near Poggio Colla (Florence, Italy)." Poster presented at the 37th Annual Symposium on Archaeometry, Siena, Italy.

Above and below: Sara Bon-Harper instructs students in the field




Test pit with sifted dirt and bagged sample


Sara Bon-Harper entering data on finds from STP's


Graph on Sara bon-Harper's laptop

Teams of students dig shovel test pits in the Podere Funghi in 2007