2003 TRENCHES PF 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, & 14
Robert Belanger, Field Supervisor


Field Supervisor Robert "Base" Belanger.

Week 5:

Field School Students:
Chad Fitzloff
Jennifer Leger
Samantha Mabry
Martha Reichert
Simone Van Rootselaar

The past week of excavation provided a number of exciting material and architectural discoveries, several of which have a direct bearing on the interpretation of the form and function of the hillcrest structure. It is to the credit of the excavators that these discoveries were made possible, especially given the recently exceedingly hot July temperatures.


Ivo van der Graaff and Simone van Rootselaar in Trench PF 5.

Architecturally, work progressed smoothly this week. With extra personnel available upon completion of the passes through the western two loci of Trench PF 14, the decision was made to renew excavation in locus 1 of Trench PF 5, in the area immediately surrounding the hearth. This decision was a result of work in locus 2W, which proved that a lower level of roof tiles had been used approximately 30-35 centimeters beneath the hearth as floor packing. This floor packing technique was utilized at a lower level throughout Trench PF 6, providing a solid level for a clay floor level which was not impacted by the ungulations of the natural sandstone bedrock. Excavation last year showed this to be the construction method preferred by the occupants of the Podere Funghi. However, given the differing depositional layering of stones throughout the packing level of Trench PF 5, and their relationship in the stratigraphic layer contiguous with both the hearth and presumed crosswall in Trench PF 6, it seems that a differing system has been utilized near the hearth. Judging by these finds, it seems that the presumed crosswall is not a crosswall, but rather a buttress portion of an upper terraced southern portion of the structure. In essence, the hillcrest structure now appears to be a single chambered, but split level, building.


Pan tile under foundation wall in PF 6.


Jennifer Leger and Simone van Rootselaar in Trench PF 5.

Work next week will concentrate on the completion of the updraft kiln excavation in Trench PF 9, where it has already been bisected and a number of interesting materials finds removed after in-situ documentation. These finds, while interesting, are better reported on next week when the kiln will be fully excavated and a proper context provided to understand the nature of the wares being produced in the Podere Funghi.


Samantha Mabry excavating the kiln in Trench PF 9.

 


Tile, pottery, and stones in the bottom of the kiln.

 


Martha Reichert and Chad Fitzloff working in Trench PF 9.

 


Left: Robert Belanger gazing into the kiln in his trench.
Right: Synchronized Asst. Field Supervising Team: Alvaro Ibarra and Ivo van der Graaff.

 


Martha Reichert in the Podere Funghi.

 


Tile stored next to the kiln in Trench PF 7.

Week 6:


Left to right: Fiammetta Calosi, Ivo van der Graaff, Simone Van Rootselaar, Chad Fitzloff,
Jennifer Leger, Robert Belanger, Samantha Mabry, and Martha Reichert.

This past week's excavation of the Podere Funghi has revealed some of the most interesting and intriguing finds in the site's history, two of which bear particular note.

The excavation of Kiln 1, the lightbulb-shaped kiln footprint quartered between Trenches PF 6, 9, 11, and 13, took a surprising twist when it was discovered that a great deal more of the kiln was preserved intact than previously thought. Although the upper half of the kiln had been subjected to the elements and destroyed by its more recent subjection to the thrashing motion of deep mechanical plows, the lower 60 centimeters, including the easterly-oriented flue, remained entirely preserved in a sealed ancient context. This lower area was bisected and the northern half excavated to bedrock, revealing that the original kiln interior was dug out and filled with a rubble mixture of stone, tile, mud brick, and pottery. Interestingly, within this fill deposition a stunning black glaze kylix was discovered approximately 60-70% complete, with all four handles and several body sherds scattered throughout the kiln. This find is particularly noteable in that not only has the surface glaze remained surprisingly intact, a miracle in itself in the highly acidic soil of the Podere Funghi, but also that the bichrome ceramic fabric and ring-base of the ceramic body are site specific. This information, coupled with the similarities in shape and fabric of the majority of other fineware sherds discovered, seemingly indicates that the wares manufactured in the Podere Funghi were ultimately intended to be glazed and subsequently distributed to the surrounding area, and not just exported as simple domestic wares.


The kiln in PF 9.

Renewed excavation in the hearth level of Trench PF 5 additionally revealed a plethora of stone, tile, mud brick, and pottery fill for floor packing, from among which the most surprising discovery of the week emerged. While excavating a tile cluster immediately south of the hearth, several small depressions in the surface of one small tile fragment were cleaned to reveal the footprint of a young child. Occurring prior to the ultimate firing of the tile, the child, estimated to be between the ages of 3 and 5 years old, left his impression after stepping in the wet clay, which was subsequently preserved by the high firing temperatures. This find, while small in size, is a visible reminder that the ancient objects which are being discovered in the Podere Funghi have an indelible human component not just in their creation, but also in the lives of those who were responsible for doing so. For this reason alone, it is perhaps the most important contextual find of this season.


Pan tile surrounding the hearth in Trench PF 5 may have been used for floor packing.

 


Simone Rootselaar working in the complex area around the hearth.

 


Chad Fitzloff excavating pan tile around the hearth.

 


View of Podere Funghi trenches from the south during Week 6.

 


Jennifer Leger and Robert Belanger in the south end of the building.

 


Animal teeth excavated by Robert Belanger.

 


Left: Florentine volunteer Fiammetta Calosi excavating in a Podere Funghi trench.
Right: Martha Reichert displays the black glaze pottery sherd she found.

 

Week 7:


Left to right: Fiammetta Calosi, Ivo van der Graaff, Simone Van Rootselaar, Chad Fitzloff,
Jennifer Leger, Robert Belanger, Samantha Mabry, and Martha Reichert.

With the completion of this year's excavation of the Podere Funghi, a number of new questions have arisen in addition to those posed at the beginning of the season. First and foremost, none of this would have been possible without the hard work of the crew charged with excavating Trenches PF 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 14, specifically Chad Fitzloff, Jennifer Leger, Samantha Mabry, Martha Reichert, Simone van Rootselaar, and Charles Sauvain. I am extremely grateful for their dedication and perseverance through one of the hottest Italian summers in recent years, and they are to be commended for their excellent work throughout the season.


Students work toward completion of the Podere Funghi trenches for the 2003 season.

Finally, I owe a particular thanks to my assistant Ivo Van der Graaff, who in addition to being an excellent excavator in the trenches, has been utterly invaluable in maintaining the administration of the site while out of them.


Asst. Field Supervisor Ivo van der Graaff at work near the hearth.

While it was initially hoped that this season would be the final year of excavation in the Podere Funghi, the number of featural discoveries made over the past few weeks quickly discounted any notion of closure this season. While excavation of the Podere Funghi in 2002 certified that there were at least two occupation phases of the site, until the developments of this past week in Trenches PF 9 and 14, the probability of buried lower architectural foundations had never fully been considered. Work in Trenches PF 9 and 14, where last week a northeasterly running coursing of stones with a strip of Stratum 2A soil in between was excavated, has brought with it the need for further excavation to understand the complete nature of this feature. Next season, excavation will resume in the interior of the structure as well as to the north to isolate the parameters of this new feature. It is thought that this coursing of stones may be an earlier foundation for a "skin wall" of wattle and daub set within vertical beams, but the possibility of it being the remnants of a subterranean drain for the lower area of the structure also remains, judging by soil staining and water movement. Regardless, further excavation will be required to ascertain the exact parameters of this feature in the seasons to come.


Podere Funghi trenches as seen from the northeast at the end of the 2003 season.

 


Northeasterly coursing of stones with strip of Stratum 2A soil.

The excavation of Kiln 1, quartered between Trenches PF 6, 9, 11, and 13 and commented on last week, was a particularly insightful look into the production capacity of the site during Antiquity. Although the kiln was dug out and filled back in with a post depositional fill matrix of stone, tile, ceramic, and scattered bone remnants, its stratigraphic relationship to the structure's western foundation wall denotes an earlier occupation of the site. The full exploration of this kiln's stratigraphic placement, judging by the placement of its flue easterly towards the northern gap in the foundation wall, requires an additional season to entirely excavate out Kiln 2 immediately to the north. By completing the excavation of Kiln 2 and the area abutting it to the west of the foundation wall, the architectural reuse of these kilns in Antiquity will be able to be viewed in a larger context. Additionally, if the ceramics finds in Kiln 2 are as indicative of the works being produced in the Podere Funghi as those of Kiln 1, then perhaps a larger understanding of the production specifics of the Podere Funghi can be determined. Even so, this relationship between the kilns and the presumed later western foundation wall certainly points towards the necessity of further excavation in this area as well.

Above and below: Kiln 1 in Trench PF 9.

Despite the questions posed by the excavation of these larger features, the full opening of the site's trenches containing the hillcrest structure's foundations provided a great deal of important information on other longstanding questions. First, the extensive use of terracing throughout the site was confirmed when the excavation of the area underneath the hearth level of Trench PF 5 revealed a heavy concentration of tile and stone packing to create the later floor level contemporaneous with the hearth. This upper area was built atop the lower tile fall excavated out last season in Trench PF 6, but contrary to thinking at the close of excavation at that time, the stone conglomeration dividing Trenches PF 5 and 6 does not seem to be a crosswall, but rather a stone buttress for the terracing of the southernmost interior space to provide the Hellenistic floor level on which the hearth rests. This helps to explain the heavier floor packing of the hearth area with stones and fuller broken pan tiles, while the lower northern area was packed down with smaller tile sections alone. Through these discoveries, a larger idea of the construction methods of this structure's interior space has seemingly been achieved, agreeing with traditional architectural terrace methods still preserved in the vernacular architecture of the Mugello Valley even into this day.


Podere Funghi trenches as seen from the west at the end of the 2003 season (hearth just right of center).

The puzzling small hooked outcropping of the southern foundation wall to cover the southern gap in the western foundation wall (in the immediate southwest corner of the structure) seems to also have found its architectural role for the structure. Although it may form a small nook to block the wind from entering the gap in the wall which is presumed to the threshold of the building, the primary use of this wall spur appears to have been crafted to protect the main body of the structure from heat. After a quick stratigraphic analysis of the depth of Kiln 3, immediately to the west of the wall spur, determined that the shallow footprint of the kiln made it contemporaneous with the wall spur, a more investigative look at the spur stones revealed a color change on their western edge which indicates that they have been subjected to high heat. Given their depositional placement next to the kiln at the same stratigraphic level as it, the physical evidence supports the notion that these stones have been placed in their current location to construct a fire wall to protect the interior of the building from the intensely high heat of the kiln. Although Kiln 3 will eventually have to be excavated out completely to certify that its stratigraphic level is indeed contemporaneous with the foundations of the wall spur, the present evidence is quite conclusive that the two are indeed built contemporaneously.


Kilns in the Podere Funghi.

Overall, this season has been highly informative and very rewarding, both in that it has raised engaging and provocative new questions and answered longstanding ones about the form and function of the hillcrest structure in the Podere Funghi. Based on the plethora of materials finds and the valuable contextual diagnostics from all seven trenches, the research opportunities presented this season promise to yield a great deal more of the understanding of the satellite communities ringing Etruscan hilltop arxes throughout northern Etruria. With that goal in mind, the expanse information garnered from the Podere Funghi, even more so as the excavation scope widens with each passing year, will continue to provide a better sense locally of its role in the Etruscan community in the Mugello Valley, as well as Etruria as a whole.


Podere Funghi trenches as seen from the south at the end of the 2003 season.

 


Podere Funghi trenches as seen from the southwest at the end of the 2003 season.