2015 TRENCH PC 48 (2, 8, 14, and 36)
Field Supervisor: Cameron Turley
Field Supervisor Cameron Turley
Trench PC “The Fruit Stand” 48’s season is in full swing. We have opened an immense unit more than three times the size of those we are accustomed to here at Poggio Colla. Excavating an area this large allows for an unparalleled view of change through time and numerous contemporary activities, but this more open area style of excavation comes with challenges beyond those normally encountered when digging small units. I am happy to report the PC 48 team is up to the task.
PC 48 Trench Team: Katherine Eadie, Cameron Turley, Marisa Infante,
Domenic Zirilli, Sam Miller, Sally Schwartz, and Sucel Sanchez
Several of the crew’s discoveries in this sprawling hole add significantly to what we think we know of Etruscan activities this commanding acropolis. Our team has identified and excavated a posthole that still contained a large, burned (think charcoal) fragment of the original wooden post. This is the first posthole positively identified as contemporary with later phases of construction at Poggio Colla, and, thus, offers insight into how the non-extant walls were constructed. In another portion of the trench a single, small, seemingly insignificant sherd of Bucchero ceramic gave us a clue as to the date of construction for the first monumental temple at the site sometime after the early 7th century BCE.
Our season is not over, there is still dirt to move, and many processes of the Etruscan world await discovery. As a team we now look to an area we interpret as the later phase sanctuary courtyard where we will explore activities related to religious and secular life, followed by excavation down into an area we suspect is the interior space of the original monumental temple.
Onward and downward.
View of Trench PC 48 during Week 2 of 2015
Trench PC 48 during Week 4
Phase I blocks in Trench PC 49 during Week 4
The 2015 field season of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project and Poggio Colla Field School has all too quickly come to a close. This ultimate season has seen some of the finest student excavators I have known; it is to them we give much of the credit for the amazing work and near incredible discoveries on the hill this year.
Following the mid-season report, work in PC 48 continued produce exciting evidence of cultural processes and events on the hill. In the interest of brevity we will only discuss two findings here; fuller, integrated publications by the directorship will follow. Through careful excavation the now-confident crew discovered the remains of what we currently interpret as a foundation for a column base that was removed at some point in antiquity, probably preceding the construction of the more recent sanctuary buildings. Rather unremarkable looking at first glance, this small foundation—in conjunction with artifacts and foundations excavated this year in PC 49—has given us the final clues needed to roughly determine the size and shape of Poggio Colla’s Phase I temple, the earliest monumental construction on site. Defining the temple is a goal we’ve sought to accomplish for many seasons and now we can check that box.
Field Supervisor Cameron Turley contempates the stele, conservator
Lewis cleans the surface, architect Jess Galloway draws the profile
News of one major find in PC 48 has spread like wildfire throughout the sphere of Etruscan studies. Our core group of student excavators, along with visiting Italian students, found a curiously shaped stone incorporated into a newly uncovered segment of the same Phase I temple’s wall foundation. Our initial thoughts of what this stone was (A reused podium block? An unfinished column base?) were proven wholly inadequate during Sam Miller’s exploratory digging on one side of the wall. We better defined the shape of the stone, he noticed the first hint of an inscription, and we finally recognized it for what it was: a stele. We know then this monument predates even the first temple complex. After days of careful excavation and exploration we confirmed the presence of numerous characters inscribed along the edges of the stone. Within hours the news spread to Florence and beyond. Two days later, on the last ever day of work at Poggio Colla and under the gaze of many visiting Etruscan scholars, a professional crew of art movers and conservators removed the stele (you can see the images of the production below) to Florence where it is currently undergoing extensive conservation. Since then more than 75 characters have been found on the monument making it an exceptionally long example of Etruscan writing. Every crewmember of PC 48, Sam, Katherine, Marisa, Sucel, Sally, and our assistant supervisor Susan, played a role in excavating the stele and all should be proud of their excellent and professional work.
Conservation team, field team, Poggio Civitate visitors, Michael Thomas, Greg Warden,
and Jess Galloway gathered around the stele just before its removal
Finding an Etruscan stele at all is remarkable. Finding one with such an extensive inscription is almost incredible. This artifact then has the potential to rewrite much of what we think we know of early Etruscan literacy. Time will tell. I would also stress that as amazing as this find is we cannot lose sight of the broader picture. Studied as an isolated thing the stele has much to tell, but considering it as one thing in a larger coming together of things (what we call an assemblage) in every trench dug every year of excavation—from broken pieces of ceramics to animal bones and the stele itself—is where the story, and this discipline of archaeology, really gets interesting. Our job now is to look at all these things—pot fragments, bones, walls, monuments, everything—and temporalities and a imagine what kind of world must have existed to allow the things we’ve found to come together in the way we’ve observed them. How and why did people create this world? How did this world and these things create and change the people who interacted with and moved among them? These are the more difficult and ultimately more rewarding questions to which we now turn.
PC 48 students holding their breath while watching the extraction
The Poggio Colla Field School is over. Writing these words and feeling the finality of them is moving. This site, the faculty and staff, and the many groups of students I’ve come know have been significant parts of my life for more than seven years. Everyone involved in this project, especially Sam, Katherine, Marisa, Sucel, Sally, and Susan, all of whom I’ve been so lucky to work so closely with, have made this 2015 season one to remember. Thank you all and good luck.
See you out there.
NW Slope Director Phil Perkins and Photographer
Richard Bidgood documenting the inscription
Conservator Allison Lewis inspects stele condition while
Jess Galloway makes a rubbing of the inscription
Professional art/artifact moving crew, referred by our region's
archaeological inspector, preparing to lift the stele
Every step of packing, removing and hauling was executed with
care, aided by input from Head Conservator Allison Lewis
Wrapping the stele for sled transport down the hill
Stele slowly lowered downhill under the watchful eye of Allison Lewis
Safely loaded for transport to the Florence Archaeological Museum
Trench PC 49 team sweeping for final photos
Above and below: Jess Galloway completes hand-drawn site plan;
Cameron Turley defines scarp for students' field notebook drawings