2002 TRENCH PC 23
Robert Vander Poppen, Field Supervisor
Reports from the end of the field season
of Trench PC 23, Robert Vander Poppen.
Week 4 has been an exciting one atop
Poggio Colla, and especially in Trench PC 23. The numerous finds
along with the rapidly revealed stratigraphy within the trench
have begun to help piece together a narrative for the activities
which took place there. At the beginning of the week, we were
still wondering about the nature of the mudbrick spill that lay
across the two western-most loci of the trench. Now, at week's
end, I can clearly say that the mudbrick is indeed a fallen wall
rather than a floor packing. Definitive evidence came midweek
in the form of a number of finds. Josh, Sarah and Tamee excavated
a scatter of sherds belonging to a pair of vessels that were
smashed when the mudbrick wall fell onto the floor. Occasionally,
when digging, a rock or a piece of dirt is removed that allows
an excavator to clearly picture the events which occurred in
the formation of an archaeological deposit. The discovery of
these vessels was one such moment. As they lay in the earth it
was possible to imagine them sitting on the floor level when
the wall collapsed and broke them into pieces, trapped underneath
the mud brick until we uncovered them. Liz and Lyn, a volunteer
from the University of Pennsylvania Museum, uncovered a further
piece of evidence both for a floor level and for the vessels
having stood upright at the time of their destruction in the
form of hundreds of seeds scattered in the soil near the smashed
vessels. These finds are incredibly important, as we have been
looking for evidence of the floor level of the building for numerous
seasons, and now we have definitive proof.
Sarah Titus, Liz Wallace, and Tamee Bollinger in PC 23.
In the other end of the trench we have
learned a great deal as well. Nat and Mike have now expertly
removed the deposit surrounding our large blocks in the eastern
portion of the trench. The deposit was comprised of dark, greasy
black soil, indicating that some kind of burning of organic material
had been a part of the creation of the layer. This layer surrounds
the blocks and penetrates all the way down to the depth of the
bedrock in this area of the trench. In addition, the bedrock
immediately surrounding the blocks is a bright red color instead
of the typical golden-green. This too is indicative of a heat
related formation process. All of these signs point to the interpretation
of the blocks as an altar or central fire pit within the monumental
building atop Poggio Colla. If we had only discovered this much
about the blocks it would have been a great discovery. However,
in addition, Nat and Mike discovered that Stratum 3 does indeed
cover the dark soil surrounding the blocks, a fact not yet clearly
ascertained. This means that the event which formed the burned
deposit was occurring before the deposition of the third stratum.
What exactly that tells us will have to be sorted out in the
Further definition of the
large blocks in Trench PC 23.
Mike Glover (back) and Nat Kerr excavating in Trench PC 23.
Overall, the last week in PC 23 has made
for very exciting excavation. We are now beginning to answer
some of the questions which were not answered at the end of excavation
last season. Hopefully, the weeks to come will tell us more about
the nature of the deposit around the clandestino pit, and further
refine our understanding of the chronology of the strata within
Left: Liza Wallace excavating in PC 23. Right: Nat Kerr places
small finds in a bag to send to the lab.
Tamee Bollinger and Sarah Titus digging in PC 23.
Left to right: Nat Kerr, Josh Moran, and Tamee Bollinger sifting.
View of PC 23 from the east. At work in the background: Liz Wallace
and Josh Moran. In the foreground: Nat Kerr and Mike Glover.
Field Supervisor Josh Moran and Field Supervisor Robert Vander
discuss strategy for Trench PC 23, while Mike Glover digs behind
Field School Participants:
The beginning of week
5 in PC 23 was a roller-coaster ride. Late last week we received
another crewmember, Lynn Makowsky (a keeper of the collections
from the University of Pennsylvania Museum). Lynn brings an excellent
knowledge of Etruscan pottery and culture to the trench. On a
less enjoyable note, the week has been one of the rainiest and
coldest in the history of the excavation. Monday's weather was
a torrential downpour, but due to the dwindling number of excavation
days, the directors decided to excavate anyway. Monday's deluge
directly on to the exposed soil of PC 23 has created approximately
4 inches of sludge in the southern three loci of the trench.
I expect that they should finally dry to the point of allowing
excavation by early next week. On Tuesday rain was less certain,
and we excavated throughout the day in intermittent showers.
Luckily, again on Tuesday it was the southern loci that flooded
due to their lower elevation. This left the northern loci sufficiently
dry to continue excavation.
PC 23 at work in spite of heavy rains. Pictured are Tamee Bollinger,
Lynn Makowsky, Josh Moran, Sarah Titus, Liz Wallace, and Mike
For the remainder of
the week we concentrated in this area of the trench, taking passes
in two of the three northern loci. This week's excavation has
served to confirm the identification of our floor level. Underneath
what appeared to be the floor level, we began to excavate a packing
of earlier fill used to provide a stable base for the beaten
earth floor of the building. This floor packing has yielded as
much information about the earlier phases of the building as
it has for the phase to which the floor belongs. Inside the packing
we have discovered a number of diagnostic finds which have helped
to define the material culture of the earlier phases of the site.
Josh, Lynn, and Justin (a volunteer from Franklin and Marshall
University) all uncovered loom weights. Tamee has been unearthing
a number of bone and metal fragments from the soil, and Mike,
Sarah, and Liz have excavated out the densest area of the packing
in the north end of the trench. Here they have been uncovering
a number of black glaze vessel sherds and carbonized seeds.
right in front: Sarah Titus, Liz Wallace, and
Mike Glover, with Josh Moran behind Sarah.
The next week of excavation
in PC 23 will be our last, and I am hopeful that we will be able
to take the trench down to the level of sterile soil across its
entirety. Our focus in the coming week will turn to the excavation
of the clandestino pit in the center of the trench, and the ancient
pit associated with it. Hopefully our final week of excavation
will yield as much information as the five previous weeks.
Sarah Titus and Liz Wallace in Trench PC 23.
2002 Trench PC 23, left to right: Lynn Makowsky, Mike Glover,
Sarah Titus, Joshua Moran, Robert Vander Poppen, and Liz Wallace.
This week has been exciting
and dry in PC 23. The rain has finally departed and work returned
to its normal schedule. We have continued to concentrate on the
area to the north of our large blocks as well as the central
area of the trench. Near the area of the blocks Sarah, Tamee
and Lyn all removed pieces of a large terracotta object which
may be an architectural element. In addition, the stratigraphy
now seems to favor the association of the blocks with the second
phase of use of the building. In addition to this feature, we
have also discovered a large circular patch of soil to the north
of the blocks. This feature appears to be a footprint related
to an object once heated to a great degree. Possibilities for
the function of this feature include a burned out post or a ritual
basin. The idea that the feature represents a post base is supported
by the discovery of one block that extends below the feature.
However, the circular, bowl shaped depression seems to fit the
profile of a ritual basin far closer. One final pass in the locus
should reveal whether the remainder of the feature indeed sits
on top of a stone base.
View of Trench PC 23 from the east during Week 6.
The other area of the
trench which has received work is the central portion. Here we
have also had a productive week. Tamee, Sarah, and Liz uncovered
what seems to be another layer of decomposed mud brick at the
bottom of Stratum 3. This line of decomposed mud brick may represent
the floor level of the second phase of the building. If so, the
correlation between the floor level and the blocks would be very
attractive in that the blocks would then have been exposed to
a depth of about 5 to 10 centimeters above the floor. To the
north we have now exposed the extent of the ancient pit. Mike
and Josh have defined its limit and begun to peel back the soil
around the feature. We have also begun to discover badly corroded
bits of metal from the ancient pit, suggesting that this is similar
to the material removed from the trench by the clandestini. Hopefully,
one final pass in this area will reveal more about our robbery
two seasons ago.
Circular feature in Trench PC 23.
View of Trench PC 23 with Liz Wallace, Sarah Titus, Joshua Moran,
Lynn Makowsky, Mike Glover, and Susan McIntyre taking a pass
during Week 6.
Vander Poppen dressing for success.
Liz Wallace holds the prism pole for the Total Station
survey which locates finds within the trench and
overall site plans. Josh Moran digs in the foreground.
View of Trench PC 23 from
the east (with PC 19 and 22 in background). Left to right:
Tamee Bollinger, Sarah Titus, Josh Moran, Liz Wallace, Susan
McIntyre, and Lynn Makowsky.
Tamee Bollinger excavating around the large blocks in Trench
Sarah Titus taking a pass in Trench PC 23.
Vander Poppen drawing profiles for his field notebook.
Trench PC 23 exists no
more. The final shovel fulls of backfill were reinserted into
the ground yesterday afternoon, and now we must spend the next
ten months making sense of what was accomplished this season.
This year's excavations in PC 23 have helped to begin to move
us in a more concrete way toward defining the nature of the building,
and the pattern of activity that took place on top of Poggio
Colla almost 2500 years ago. At the present moment the trench
stands as the largest section of excavated terrain within the
inside of the 2nd and 3rd phase foundations, and as such is in
a unique position for providing information on the use of the
building. PC 23 has been successful in revealing some of the
facts associated with this activity.
This season we uncovered
our first definitive evidence of the Phase 3 floor level beneath
our mud brick collapse in Locus 4. This discovery has answered
one of the primary questions we had upon entering the season:
whether the mud brick feature represented the collapse of a wall,
or packing for a floor. The severely burnt patches of dirt in
conjunction with the vessels smashed by the mud brick confirm
that the spill is indeed wall fall. In addition, we have also
uncovered possible evidence of an earlier Phase 2 floor level
in the form of a red stain from decomposing mud brick that occurs
between Strata 3 and 4. Now with evidence of these two levels
of occupation, it is finally possible to begin to associate the
other features within the building to specific phases of use.
View of Trench PC 23 from the east at the end of the 2002 field
season. Locus 4 is in the upper left corner.
One of the other questions
of the season concerned the function and date of the large blocks
in the southeast corner of the trench. It is now clear that the
blocks are a Phase 2 feature, which was reused in Phase 3 as
part of the floor. However, it is also clear that the activity
taking place near the blocks, and forming the deposit of dark
soil around them had ceased by the time of the installation of
the Phase 3 floor. The function of the blocks is much harder
to ascertain than their chronology. Several possibilities for
their purpose still exist. A number of large terracotta pieces
decorated with plaster were discovered nearby, indicating that
the blocks may have been used as a decorated statue base or altar.
Another possibility has also been suggested by Patricia Lulof
of the University of Amsterdam. She believes that the blocks
represent a support for a post that would have aided in bearing
the weight of the central ridge beam of the roof. Michael Thomas
has also suggested that the blocks may represent the foundations
for the corner of a smaller building which would have faced north.
Both of these suggestions will only be confirmed or refuted by
the further excavation of the remainder of the interior of the
building on the hill of Poggio Colla.
Large blocks resting on
bedrock in Trench PC 23.
We also discovered and
excavated yet another unexpected feature within Trench PC 23
in the past week. To the north of the large blocks, we discovered
a large circular patch of red stained earth. After excavating
the north half of the feature in order to examine its internal
stratigraphy, it is clear that the feature is an ancient fire
pit. I believe it to fit into a period of chronological disuse
of the site in the gap between the destruction of Phase 2 and
the construction of Phase 3. The pit was incorporated into the
packing for the Phase 3 floor and was covered by the Phase 3
floor level. Thus the feature was created during the period contemporary
to, or possibly after the use of the Phase 2 building. The one
find from within the pit, a broken bucchero rocchetto would seem
to argue for an early date for the pit. Luckily the pit contained
a number of large pieces of carbon that can be analyzed in order
to work out a range of dates for the feature.
A well-camouflaged Lynn Makowsky sweeping near the fire pit in
Feature 6, the fire pit, in the east end of Trench PC 23.
The final mystery we
hoped to solve this season concerned the episode of robbery of
the site by clandestini in the spring of 2001. Last year Gretchen
Meyers, then excavator of PC 23, suggested that the clandestini
had disturbed an ancient pit with their own modern one. After
another season of exploration it is certain that her conclusion
was correct. A pit was installed in the ancient period, most
likely before the insertion of the Phase 3 floor, containing
a densely included soil. The pit contained fragments of metalworking
byproduct such as casting runners, lumps, and partial sheets.
Now, having excavated the majority of the ancient pit, it is
possible to make some educated guesses about what the clandestini
removed from Poggio Colla. It is most likely that they removed
a number of the typical finds from the area: lumps, sheets, and
runners, possibly in order to use the ancient metal for recasting
into counterfeit ancient art objects. Having gained all of the
information about the ancient pit disturbed by the looters, we
can finally take a sigh of relief due to the fact that we were
able to recover at least a majority of the information destroyed
by the looter's pit.
View of Trench PC 23 from the south at the end of the 2002 field
The clandestini pit was in the lower left locus in this photograph.
PC 23 has been a highly
successful trench due to the fact that for the first time we
are able to piece together the more extensively excavated exterior
portion of the building with the stratigraphy of the interior.
Unfortunately, weather and time did not allow for the completion
of the trench and it will be opened again next year for further
exploration and to again reevaluate the conclusions reached by
this year's excavation.
Trench PC 23 making final passes before the close of the season.
Left to right:
Susan McIntyre, Mike Glover, Lynn Makowsky, Josh Moran, Sarah
Titus, and Tamee Bollinger.
Lynn Makowsky measures strata in scarp for Joshua Moran's final
Assistant Field Supervisor Joshua Moran
drawing profiles for the field notebook.
Robert Vander Poppen directs the backfilling of Trench PC 23.
staff shovel dirt into buckets and wheelbarrows for the trip
from sifter pile to trench.