2003 TRENCHES PC 19,
22, & 27
Caitlin Vacanti, Field Supervisor
Field School Students:
This week we really got into the swing
of things despite the oppressive heat. The Mugello valley is
in the middle of a drought and heat wave, with temperatures reaching
over 38 degrees C almost every day. Luckily, the thorny acacia
trees serve one positive purpose and provide some shade on the
hill to relieve us.
Cort Hightower, Brandon
Gonia, and Jessica Galeano in PC 22.
In the southeastern locus of Trench PC
19, Jess, Cort and Brandon pounded out stratum four to find the
contours of the bedrock. Last week Rob Vander Poppen's trench
found what we believe to be a post hole carved into the bedrock
only 30 cm from PC 19, so we decided to uncover the formation
of the surrounding stone. In stratum four they found very few
artifacts (only a few pieces of bucchero) until Brandon excavated
an iron nail this morning.
Brandon Gonia, Jessica Galeano, and Cort Hightower
working in the deepening Trench PC 22.
Kacie and Jen beautifully cleaned up
the scarp (wall of the trench) of PC 19 northwest. In this area
the stratigraphy is quite clear and we plan to take many photographs
of it to support our theories of what happened here. Looking
at the scarp one can see a small dark brown layer of soil, followed
by a yellow layer roughly 20 cm thick, then a dark gray stratum
full of carbonized seeds that abuts reddish brown soil. The top
stratum is the topsoil, or recent deposition full of organic
matter. Stratum two seems to have been layed down after occupation
because it contains very few artifacts and covers stratum three
which contains most of the cultural material. Many vessels sat
in the dark gray soil of stratum three and were covered in part
by the reddish brown. We think that the dark gray color comes
from a fire in the area which burned seeds and the ceramics they
were in, while also preserving the mudbrick. The reddish brown
color comes from the later decay of the mudbrick after having
been exposed to high temperatures. In short, it is fascinating
to see how vividly one can paint a picture of what happened thousands
of years ago based solely on the color of the dirt. And we have
Jen and Kacie to thank for making that more apparent.
Jennifer Polguy and Kacie Coughlin master scarp maintenance in
Next week is, sadly, the last week of
excavation. We have to wrap things up in Trenches PC 19 and 22
because they will not be opened again next season. Rachel will
continue to excavate around the fissures in PC 22 to decipher
their role in the history of the site. We also hope to figure
out why the bedrock is shaped as it is, and whether or not large
rectangular stones found in the western loci are carved or natural.
Hopefully the clouds we had today will stick around to make things
a bit more comfortable.
Rachel Julis in Trench PC 19.
Left to right, front to
back: Jennifer Polguy, Kacie Coughlin, Jessica Galeano,
Rachel Julis, Cort Hightower, and Brandon Gonia, and Caitlin
too many hours, too close together in the pit has driven them
This week turned out to be quite an interesting
one for Trenches PC 19, 22 and 27. Due to an unfortunate cooking
accident last Sunday I was unable to excavate but, being the
enthusiastic team that they are, our trench rallied to wrap things
up before the end of the season.
Caitlin Vancanti's duct
Kacie and Cort dug in the northwest locus
of PC 19. There they found two large rectangular stones that
appear to be from the second phase of the building. Cort carefully
exposed the blocks while Kacie pounded away at the surrounding
dirt in order to finish the pass by Friday. I have not been able
to determine yet if the blocks are sitting in their original
position, but because of their deep elevation in comparison to
our other phase two stones, I suspect they are not and were moved
to this spot sometime between the second and third phases.
Cort Hightower and Kacie
Coughlin in PC 19.
In the northwest locus of PC 22, Jen
and Brandon both had great discoveries. Brandon found several
pieces of tile in stratum four, which is underneath the phase
three floor level. The tiles are composed of an earlier matrix
than those from the third phase and Brandon observed that they
had been pressed between uneven sections of bedrock. This led
us to believe the Etruscans reused the broken tile as packing
for the phase three dirt floor in order to support and flatten
it. This observation is a good way to end the season, for we
are now fairly certain about the full chronology of this storage
Brandon Gonia and Jennifery
Polguy working in Trench PC 22.
In addition to Brandon's news, Jen noticed
that the soil below our tile-lined pit was the color and texture
of the pit's fill, meaning that we had not yet reached its bottom.
After removing some dirt here, she discovered that the pit extended
further down a bit to the north. This extension is smaller than
the pit above, but at this point we think it is from the same
intrusive event. So far Jen has only pulled out a couple large
coarseware sherds from the feature, and its purpose remains to
be seen next season.
The tile-lined pit in Trench
Rachel excavated in another pit this
week that extends from PC 19 southeast into trench PC 23. While
she did not have any significant finds, Rob Vander Poppen noticed
that one of the large stones lining this particular pit was molded
and had been reused. Since the pit is covered by the very old
stratum four and Rachel found several pieces of bucchero in it,
we now know that the molded blocks date back to phase one of
Cort Hightower and Assistant
Field Supervisor Rachel Julis in Trench PC 19.
Last but certainly not least, Jess excavated
in the northeast locus of PC 22. There she found a new feature
characterized by a high concentration of carbon and bone inclusions.
Jess took out some large pieces of bone and teeth. She has some
experience with anatomy and was able to shed some light on what
the bones were. Interestingly, as she moved through the pass
she exposed a large, flat stone underneath this feature. Although
the feature is not quite black enough to prove a sacrificial
relationship, it is highly suggestive to find such remains on
top of a stone.
Jess Galeano excavating
in Trench PC 22.
On Monday we will prepare our final drawings
of the trenches and scarps. Tuesday backfill begins to protect
the architecture for future seasons. It's hard to believe the
season is over already, but it was quite productive and I really
enjoyed working with everyone in our trench.
View from the north of
Trenches PC 19 and 22.
Left to right: Jennifer Polguy, Kacie Coughlin, and Cort Hightower.
Jennifer Polguy and Rachel
Julis discuss the tile lined pit.
Left to right, front to
back: Jennifer Polguy, Kacie Coughlin, Jessica Galeano, Caitlin
Rachel Julis, Cort Hightower, and Brandon Gonia pose in one of
the pits in their trench.
We wrapped up the 2003 season this week
by drawing our final plans and backfilling all our dirt. It is
always a sad sight to see our trench and its beautiful walls
reburied, but we learned a lot in PC 19, 22 and 27 this summer
and plan to open it again next season.
So what did trenches 19, 22 and 27 teach
us this summer about the arx? We started off in June hoping to
examine more closely the stratigraphy in PC 19 and 22 in order
to decide on a chronology of wall construction. We anticipated
that these two trenches would be down to bedrock by the season's
end. We also wanted to learn about the intersection between the
northern, western and curvilinear wall by excavating in the new
trench, PC 27. We thought this information might tell us about
the use of the curvilinear wall while at the same time give us
a full view of the western half the monumental structure. In
seasons past, there has been much speculation as to why the southern
wall curves dramatically north and why the western wall is doubled.
Trenches PC 27 (lower left) and 19 (right) from the northwest
Well, some of these questions were answered
and others have been set aside for next season. We began the
season by opening up the southern locus of PC 27, and to our
surprise we found that the entire area was covered with stones.
At first it was difficult to distinguish walls in this high concentration
but after further excavation we determined that the curvilinear
wall and perhaps the western wall as well continue north, and
the northern wall processes west beyond the intersection. The
origin and purpose of all the other stones is arguable, but their
high degree of disorder along with the fact that there are no
stones underneath them suggest that they are wall spill. Interestingly,
we did not find that the northern wall curved in any manner;
it does not mirror nor does it mimic the southern wall's change
of course. We also did not find a doubling of the walls extending
westward as we did in PC 22. This led us to ponder further why
these anomalies would exist in our southern loci. However, due
to the fact that we had such a large area to work with, we were
unable to excavate the northern locus of this trench and thus
could not come to many conclusions. Next season PC 27 will be
re opened and miscellaneous stones will be removed. This should
clarify where the walls are, along with their relationship to
the other walls in the western end of the monumental structure.
Double wall and curved wall in Trench PC 19, as seen from the
In PC 19 and 22 we found that the western
walls doubling those of the main structure have several more
courses deeper into the ground and a seemingly different construction.
The "rooms" west of the main structure seem to have
been used for storage, as we found large pithoi here containing
carbonized seeds. Thus the walls clearly demarcate a separate
space from the rectangular structure. We have discussed several
different theories concerning this area. The most probable idea
is that there are in fact five or six phases to the site, rather
than the previously hypothesized three. According to this theory,
phase three of the rectangular structure was preceded by construction
of the western storage rooms, and the curvilinear wall followed.
Perhaps the curvilinear wall was part of a tower of sorts, built
to aid protection against invaders during the highly unstable
Hellenistic period. A brand new theory being discussed proposes
that the double wall supported a second story. This would explain
the sudden curve north of our southern wall just as it meets
the doubled wall: it would make sense to curve a wall in order
to buttress a pre-existing one. I think that we should excavate
to the west of these rooms next season. When we see if the other
walls are doubled and find out the extent of these western rooms
we will be better able to theorize about the sequence of construction
View from the north of
Trenches 19 (foreground) and 22, with western storage rooms at
One of the most important things we learned
this season is that there is no sterile soil on Poggio Colla.
The stratum formally known as sterile, which is characterized
by its yellow coloration and large sandstone inclusions, contains
pottery and tile from the earliest phase of the arx. Now we know
that we must excavate all of the trenches down to bedrock to
learn the hill's full history. This lesson forced us to slow
down during the season and carefully move through all strata.
We therefore were not able to finish PC 19 or 22, but I am confident
that next season they will be down to bedrock in just a few weeks.
Overall, I was very happy with the progress
made this summer. Our team worked hard to meet my expectations
and I want to thank them for that. I had a lot of fun and shared
a lot of laughs with all of them and I hope they all had a great
View of Trenches PC 19 (foreground) and 22 (upper right) as seen
from the northwest.
Trench PC 19 as seen from the west.
View from the southwest of Trenches PC 22 (foreground) and 17
(above and to right)
Left: Caitlin Vacanti with
trench plans. Right: Assistant Field Supervisor Rachel Julis