Metropolitan Museum, Conservator
Megan Emory, Conservation Assistant
Connor McMahon, Conservation Assistant
Bridget Marx, Cataloguer
Reports from the end of the field season
Left to right: Karen Stamm,
Megan Emory, and Connor McMahon at work in the lab in 2002.
Week Four - IRON CHUNKS
AND ATHLETIC HUNKS:
Due to the four-day break, this has been
a relatively short week, where we have been in the lab from Tuesday
morning until this moment, Thursday afternoon. Well, let me take
that back, we really haven't been in here the WHOLE time since
Tuesday morning; they do let us out to eat occasionally.
Despite the shorter work week things
have been hopping here in the lab. Finds are starting to come
off the hill and from the FOD at a rapid rate and we are just
now able to keep up. The conservators are constantly looking
over their shoulders at the growing pile of finds and despite
the large amount of work they eagerly embrace each new project.
Megan Emory and Connor McMahon busy in the conservation lab.
After viewing iron pieces on display
at other Etruscan museums, Megan has been eagerly awaiting all
newly found iron fragments from the hill. While the encrusted,
burly pieces had evoked such scorn in the hearts (and fingers,
since it is particularly difficult to clean) of past conservators,
she has fully embraced each iron piece. The hill did not disappoint.
Robert Vander Poppen, who was present at the initial introduction
of Megan and a discernable iron fibula in a Volterran museum,
sent Megan an entire bag of iron chunks. The rust colored, lumpish,
clumpish, frumpish hunks kept her busy for hours and cured her
of her deep desire to discover Poggio Colla's own discernable
Connor and Karen are continuing to work
on their bucchero projects from last week. These projects continue
not only because they are tricky, but also because of the time
and attention given to each new day's crop of finds from the
With Ann in the lab we have all been
enjoying a more academic atmosphere. She has had two of her students,
Candace and Andrea, with her in the afternoon reviewing black
glaze fragments. Joins to our kylikes have been made, and excitingly
they are of nude, male athletes! They have also discovered "new"
shapes for Poggio Colla's repertoire, mostly various types of
bowls and drinking cups. Ohh, those CRAZY Etruscans!!!! The students
will return next week to work on material from their trenches
where they are currently excavating and will integrate their
discoveries into their final papers. Ann's black glaze join finding
frenzy has resulted in work for Bridget and Marla.
Ann Steiner analyzing fineware
from previous seasons.
sherds from Poggio Colla under study by Ann Steiner.
Marla has been working on some beautiful
drawings of different bases, complete with the most intricate
palmette and lotus designs. Bridget has been working hard to
keep everything straight, as small fragments are moved from find
and sherd bags to catalogued objects, to joins with previous
catalogued objects, and finally like the prodigal son, back to
its original sherd bag (if the join doesn't fit).
Marla Ziegler drawing a black glaze rim.
Bridget Marx hard at work on the catalog.
Highlight of the Week: Our highlight
must be plural this week. Over the four-day weekend, each member
of the lab staff, despite having traveled independently, had
a moment of Etruscan "weakness." While either floating
down the canals of Venice, meandering across the Chianti wine
region, or embracing a pure Roman Holiday, each of us was suddenly
seized with the irrepressible desire to search for the nearest
Etruscan museum and then examine every detail of the objects
on display, mesmerized by their spell. Luckily many of the wondrous
objects were inspiring enough to encourage us to return to our
own little excavation and continue working, even despite two
of us having come face to face with an Etruscan cowboy.
Week Five - Lub dub,
lub dub, lub dub:
The magazzino, housed
in the lower level of a youth circolo, is the center of the town's
youth activities. Our ceiling is their floor. We have decided
to take a positive spin on the evening tuba lessons, but the
constant game of handball is a different story. At first the
rhythmic beat of the handball game had a tendency to keep us
in the groove all day long, but the steady staccato has taken
a turn to a frantic, frenzied crescendo. Due to the flooding
rains, all of Vicchio's youth have decided to head for the cover
of the youth circolo and partake in a handball tournament. As
we sit in the magazzino, lovingly mending Etruscan pottery, our
nerves are shot due to the constant lub dub, lub dub of the ball
hitting the walls and floor above. This steady lub dub was so
great in fact, that we were unable to hear the drip, drop, drip,
drop of the leaky light fixture in the side room of the magazzino.
It wasn't until Marla, our illustrator, felt water on the floor,
that we noted the important distinction between the drip drop
and the lub dub.
mopping (left) and surrounded by the tools of the illustration
trade while drawing (right).
The torrential down pour
was appropriate this week, for it mirrored the mood in the lab.
We were saddened by the departure of Ann Steiner, our black glaze
expert. She left first thing this morning, and it was a quiet
day in the magazzino without her, no more: "Ohh guys! Ohh
guys! Look at this!" as she would make important discoveries
amongst our black glaze. Our only reprieve from this gloom is
the fact that her students, Andrea and Candace, will continue
to stop in and look at our black glaze, and we presume they are
as charming as she is.
Ann Steiner shows her students, Candace Grove and Andrea Mall,
how to analyze black glaze ceramic finds from Poggio Colla in
As for the business side
of the lab: We are currently wrapping up several of our season
long projects. Megan's terracotta jigsaw puzzle (a pan tile from
PF 6, 2001) is now complete and being studied by Patricia Lulof.
Connor, while still working on the fills in the bucchero chalice,
has been keeping busy with other projects as well. The most interesting
being what at first appeared to be a giant lump of tile, but
has turned into a plastered terracotta
something, the jury
is still out on its original purpose.
McMahon sculpts filler for a bucchero chalice.
Karen, who supervises
from the back corner of the lab, has been clutching the same
bucchero vase for the past three weeks. While it might at first
seem long to work on one project, the results have been stupendous.
The oinochoe, from PC 18, went into the clasp of Karen in numerous
fragments, but has emerged from its cocoon in the unexpected
form of Big Bird, and therefore it is quite possibly not an oinochoe,
as originally thought. If she finishes it before the end of the
season Marla can use her new curvy tools to illustrate the vessel!
Karen Stamm reconstructing a bucchero vessel.
Bridget, meanwhile has
usurped the administrative intern for her own. Susan McIntyre
has been spending time in the lab working on projects for Greg
Warden and development issues of Poggio Colla. Unfortunately,
for her and fortunately for Bridget, any time Susan has a spare
minute, Bridget immediately hands her a project. Good thing Susan
has the ability to multi-task.
Susan McIntyre helping Bridget Marx in the magazzino.
Highlight of the week:
In the middle of the monotonous cleaning of iron, provided of
course by the built in metronome of the handball game above,
Connor's chair suddenly gave way. The left leg of the chair split
one way, Connor the other way, whereby he came just inches from
crushing a bucket of grotti. Thankfully the grotti's safe.
with her pan tiles; Connor McMahon and Ann Steiner discuss finds
Andrea Santoni examining our bucchero.
Week Six - The History
of Mr. Ceramic E. Sherd:
As the season draws to
an end, we thought it would be vital to provide a little glimpse
into the life of Mr. Ceramic E. Sherd. (Etruscan is his middle
(Dramatic music here)
Born from the earth, excavators as midwives, Mr. Sherd emerges
into the sunlight for the first time in over 2000 years, ready
to begin his journey from just a dirt covered ceramic fragment
into Super Catalogued Sherd Status. After being deemed interesting
and unique enough from all the other sherds, Mr. Sherd is tagged
by the trench supervisor as a find and given a preliminary find
number. Next, Mr. Sherd travels down the winding paths of Poggio
Colla and through the streets of Vicchio to the lab, where his
arrival is immediately documented by the Cataloguer. She records
every find that enters through the double doors of the lab and
then tracks its progress through conservation, cataloguing, illustration,
photography, research and finally storage. Mr. Sherd is no different.
After the initial record
process, Mr. Sherd is passed onto the Conservators for treatment.
The Conservators want Mr. Sherd to be cleaned so he looks his
best for photos, but it is more important for Mr. Sherd to be
a stable individual. If they find his black glaze, his only clothing,
is coming off they stop full nudity by consolidating the glaze
with plastic resin (Paraloid B-72 is a favorite). During conservation,
Mr. Sherd often reveals some of his more subtle attributes, like
some sexy rouletting. Conservators work with the Researcher and
Cataloguer to bring full light to these finer details so Mr.
Sherd can be known in all his glory.
Mr. Sherd is now more
than just a find. Returning triumphantly to the Cataloguer, he
is further documented in the Catalogue Database. His measurements
are taken, any flaws noted, his birth spot recorded and most
importantly he is described in full detail. Any tid-bit of information
that can help future archaeologists piece Mr. Sherd into the
greater historic fabric of Poggio Colla is recorded at this time.
Further recording takes
place in other ways as well. Mr. Sherd, as all proper gentlemen
do, has his portrait done by the resident Illustrator. She examines
every side of him, measures not once but twice, and finally prepares
a pencil drawing of the fellow. Once he approves, the drawing
is inked and completed.
photo shoot by Director
Shown is a bucchero vessel reconstructed by Karen Stamm.
The high life continues
with the photo shoot of Mr. Sherd. Bright lights, different cameras,
different backdrops and filters help to show off Mr. Sherd's
best side. He's photographed with both traditional black and
white print and color slide film in addition to digital images.
Mr. Sherd has entered the twenty first century.
After the exposure, Mr.
Sherd has a bit of repose, where he is shelved with the other
catalogued finds from his trench for the remainder of the season.
Occasionally he is visited by those that found him, occasionally
by those that admire him, occasionally by those that study him.
But this rest is brief, for at some point, Mr. Sherd needs to
have a hustled and bustled three days, as he is prepared for
his final and proper home, the museum basement.
is visited by experts: Prof. Daniele Vitali and archaeologists
This is where the lab
now finds itself, on the threshold of having to find a new home
for Mr. Sherd and all of his friends from his trench as well
as all of his neighboring friends from across the entire excavation.
Mr. Sherd is no longer alone in the lab, but part of a much larger
picture. First, he will be grouped together with sherds of similar
fabrics and then boxed. While he is settling into his new home,
the Cataloguer has to note on both the original entrance documentation
and within the Catalogue Database where Mr. Sherd finally ended
up. His drawing and photography records must also be noted as
well as the gussying up that he received in Conservation. He
is now a fully documented member of Poggio Colla and can be moved
with the rest of the sherds into the museum basement, where he
will spend the next nine months awaiting to emerge once again
and greet the sherds that will be born from the earth next year.
Highlight of the Week:
Mr. Sherd finds mate and joins with the soon to be Mrs. Sherd.
A little explanation
this week a bucchero ceramic sherd
was removed from PC 23. The ever-astute cataloguer noted that
a similar sherd was already in the collection and made a join
with a bucchero sherd from 1995.
is joined with friends. Presented by the lovely Megan Emory.
Week Seven - Final Report:
and Bridget Marx exhausted by the end of the season.
the conservation lab for the move at season's end.
It's truly amazing how
just 24 hours ago we were sitting in a room brimming with ancient
Etruscan bucchero chalices, terracotta roof tiles, fineware vessels,
and pithoi (which we kept tripping over) and now the same space
sits empty. Quiet. Still. No more afternoon drop offs of finds
from the trench supervisors, no more visits from the directors
asking: "so what's new?," no more of our local friends
stopping to stare in the window to see the daily progress, and
no more of that horrible dead fish smell wafting in from the
dumpsters right outside the window.
outside the lab awaiting move and avoiding smell of dumpsters.
As veterans of the Poggio
Colla Lab, and upon reflection from this time last year, Karen
and Bridget are pleased and proud of the way things have moved
and happened within the last few days. Because we were too eager
to please last year, we were pushed to our limits, conserving,
processing, cataloguing, and packing finds for long-term storage
in one night (and I'm talking from 6 PM until 3 AM here people).
That was just too taxing. This year things were different, sure
we might have made a few enemies by insisting that finds be turned
in a day and a half before the big move, but the welfare of the
finds was foremost in our thoughts and concerns. And rightly
so, all finds are now currently sitting in the museum basement,
safe, secure, and well ordered; plus we have our mental sanity,
unlike this time last year.
Of course we couldn't
have done it without a lot of help from others on the excavation:
Director Greg Warden returned to the lab as photographer and
helped to insure our most important finds were digitally documented.
The trench supervisors just took a load of our supplies to Guardia,
freeing our time to continue last minute paperwork and this web
report, and for that we thank them. The students, who although
having orders barked at them during the move, carefully and delicately
carried eight years worth of beloved objects into the museum
helping Bridget and the conservators move the magazzino into
the museum in Vicchio.
But most important, we
must do a "shout out" to our biggest joys these last
two weeks, Susan McIntyre and Lynn Makowsky. Susan, who was in
the magazzino space as Greg's intern, often found herself doing
Bridget's whimsies. She did data processing with a smile, organized
sherd bags without a complaint, stared cross-eyed at the computer
to process digital images and cut tags with swift fingers and
no grievances. Basically, all thankless tasks were done by her
and now is the time to say THANK YOU!!! And Lynn, we wish we
could have cloned her so she could continue working on the hill
and in the lab. The experience she brought with her was invaluable
and her "organizational intuition" was just what we
needed in the final days of the lab. We in the lab feel that
not only have we had the opportunity to work with two wonderful
volunteers, but also that we have gained two good friends.
outside the museum guarding boxes of finds.
And finally, we can't
go without thanking our two conservation interns: Megan Emery
and Connor McMahon. For the both of them, site work was a new
experience and they came through the frustration of working on
small sherds, incomplete vessels, and grotty bronze bits, knowing
that while the pieces are not museum quality, they are invaluable
to the great spectrum of Etruscan history. They were superb conservators,
who were able to continue working on objects while at the same
time preparing the lab for the end of the season. Karen and Bridget
would like to thank them for all of the help and companionship
that they have given to us over the past seven weeks.
Well, we hear the music
playing and we are well aware that we are running over our allotted
two minute "acceptance speech" time, therefore let
us progress with a bit of an end of season wrap up.
This past week has been busy in the lab because of the final
days of excavation on the hill and in the FOD. The most impressive
group of finds was also the largest. Justin Winkler over the
course of a few days managed to fill the lab with boxes and tubs
and piles of pithos fragments. Every time we turned around, Justin
was appearing in the double doors of the lab, waddling under
the weight of a pithos, and then after carefully setting it down
for us to examine, he would bound back to the Commune van for
more fragments. Although tough, the conservators had to resist
the urge to make joins and put the large vessels together right
then and there. All three pithoi (S, M, and L -- small, medium
and large) were properly document and stored for next year (the
pithos retrieval device appropriately became the pithos storage
Bridget Marx, and Karen Stamm display the three pithoi removed
from Trench PC 22.
Equal in weight was the
volume of roof tile extracted from PF 6 and 9 by Robert "Base"
Belanger. Thankfully, the tile fragments were stored both in
the field and then the pottery shed at Vigna before making their
final move to the museum basement. Everyone should also note
that the 30 + boxes of tile sitting on the steps of the museum
basement caused quite a stir during market day in Vicchio. Every
Italian walking by had to stop and examine the tile, impressed
with the ancient roofing system so similar to today's. We did
find humor in the one gentleman quite concerned about how we
were going to get the tile back to America. Thank goodness it
was only moving into the basement.
Students sorting boxes from the magazzino outside the museum.
And so, everything returns
to the basement, where we began our summer, we now end it. Objects
in the basement and an empty lab, both awaiting the promises
of what is to come next year.
Marx with empty shelves in the magazzino.
before a blank white wall in the magazzino.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK:
We were lucky enough to be invited to the re-opening of the Casa
di Giotto after a two-year renovation. The re-opening was celebrated
with a large four course medieval dinner and plenty of "entertainment."
While we enjoyed the jesters and jugglers, the readings of Dante's
Divine Comedy were a bit much, for not only was it read in Italian,
it was Medieval Italian to boot. AND it was read before dinner
for a good hour and after dinner for another hour. Everyone was
squirming in their seats, not just us Americans. But it was all
worth it, for not only were we at the opening of the house of
the father of the Renaissance (yeah yeah), but the jugglers,
while on stilts managed to zero in on the fact that our co-director
Dr. Michael Thomas is a dead ringer for David Hasselhoff.
Karen Stamm reconstructing the askos from Trench PC 18, shown
completed at right.
Mud brick from Trench PC 19.
Flanged roof tile from Trench PC 19.
Volterran skyphos fragments from Trench PF 6.
Kantharos rim from Trench PC 23.
Bowl profile from Trench PF 10.
Bowl from Trench PF 10.
Engraved gemstone from Trench PC 19.
Fragment of a black glaze vessel with rouletting from Trench
Meltdown of the Principessa.
Megan Emory places conserved and catalogued finds in storage.
Connor McMahon packs and labels boxes full of conservation supplies.
Marla Ziegler drew 138 objects this season.
Conservators' still life: tricks of the trade.
Karen Stamm, Megan Emory, and Bridget Marx present the Bling
Awards at season's end.