Saturday, June 27, 2015

Last Day

Ahhh, the final day of the season. Once again, Hannibal's gold has eluded me. This marks three years, old foe.

As always, there is little to do on the final day of digging. The morning was spent productively cataloging, cleaning trenches for photographs, and piecing together all of the pot sherds found during the course of the season. When you think about, half of archaeology is a lot like kindergarten: They give you cookies, juice boxes, and you get to spend all morning putting together puzzles. Or maybe this is just Ann and Allison occupy me to keep me out of everyone else's hair.

Actually, all of archaeology is like kindergarten, since the rest of the time is just spent playing in a giant sandbox under adult supervision. And by "adult," I mean Ann.

After lunch was less eventful. Most of the afternoon was spent waiting for the correct sunlight for photography. Meanwhile, others continued to catalog and sort finds. This resulted in an abundance of people standing around without things to do. Here are some photos of this phenomenon in action:

Allison, Rebecca, and Ana happened to look like a Christian rock album cover, so I took a photo:
Allison and the Magdalenes: "I Dig God;" available July 7th in stores everywhere and on iTunes.
And then Megan caught Matt and me doing...Well, I don't know what we were doing:
"Well, we have all this fancy photography equipment. We might as well make some extra money on the side, right?"

Here's a nice photo of Rebecca:
"No Climbing" signs are no obstacle for Rebecca. Neither is illiteracy!

By contrast, here's a photo of the grown-ups doing grown-up things:
The amount of Excel spreadsheets in this photo bores my mind to the extent that I can't even think of a clever caption.

So closes another year. Role credits.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Digital Cosa - On the Site and on the Site

The Digital Cosa Project is an initiative to rigorously digitize not only the current excavations, the excavation process, and the many artifacts in the Cosa museum, and standing ruins themselves, on the site of Cosa, but also to establish an online presence on the Cosa website to allow visitors far and wide to experience the many stunning views, beautiful finds, and picturesque ruins Cosa has to offer.
View of the Arx, looking East
View of the Arx, looking North-East

With a combination of techniques and technologies, ranging from simple digital photography by hand, and aerial photography and videography with a UAV, to more complicated endeavors such as creating an accurate 3D topography model of the entire site and highly accurate 3D models of each excavation trench at key points during the season, the Digital Cosa Project hopes to bring the archaeological process, and the long history of Cosa itself, to life for visitors, students and scholars.

Orthographic image of the central part of the site, including the Arx, at low resolution

50% crop of the Baths portion and the large cistern, taken from the above ortho-image.
One new technique being implemented this year is the generation of orthographic images of each trench, along with a highly accurate 3D model, at key points during excavation: Opening of the Trench, Closing of the Trench, and various points throughout the dig at which important finds are unearthed or stratigraphic units entered.

Orthographic (perpendicular bird's-eye-view) of the Eastern Puteal 1 trench at closing (June 25)

In addition to all of the above, digitization and modeling, etc.., the excavations are proceeding with much excitement and many new discoveries about the bath complex, even in these final days.  All of the trenches have come upon architectural elements that make the diggers cry for another week of work and lament the impending closings and back-filling.  But these, alas, dear readers, are stories for another BLOG POST.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's the Final Countdown!

Hi, everyone! It's our final full week here at Cosa for the 2015 season, and of course so many exciting things have been happening. Today we finished excavating the Central Sounding 1 trench, which had three different floors at the bottom!

 Evan and I happily working in Central Sounding 1.

The Laconicum 2 trench was also closed today, after it yielded many tessera pieces from fragments of mosaics, two fragmentary Campana plaques, and an abundance of cow bones. They also revealed a wall and tile floor!

  Campana plaques.

Ann and Nora have been digging in a pit feature of the Puteal trench, which has yielded a large amount of material, including many fragments of a thin walled ware vessel I've been putting together eagerly in the afternoons. They also found many animal bones, decorated plaster, tesserae, a glass pyxis, and numerous lamp fragments.

Jay checking out the thin walled ware vessel after lunch.

What I've put together of the thin walled ware vessel.

The Eelevated Cistern 1 trench has also yielded a tremendous amount of material! Just today they found a burn layer, a fragment of a marble statuette, a fragment of a stone door jamb, and a fluted column fragment.

A view of Elevated Cistern 1.

Overall, it has been a very productive week thus far for the trenches, finds processing, and general documentation.

Christina diligently tagging a special object from the Elevated Cistern 1 trench.

Matt working on the photos he took with his drone this morning.

A busy a productive afternoon in the magazzino: Matt is processing his photos and Emily and Benedetta are labeling and processing artifacts. 

And for a special treat: Credit to Matt for snapping these beautiful photos of the site!

Entrance to the Forum

 View of the Landscape from the Site

Sadly, today was Christina's final day. We will miss our fearless leader of the magazzino!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

18 June 2015

Elevated Cisterns 1 and Laconicum 2 expanded this morning in an attempt to uncover more of the semicircular feature found in Elevated Cisterns 1. The expansions yielded a cocciopesto floor in Elevated Cisterns 1 and rubble within void in Laconicum 2. Further explorations will be done soon.

The bulk between Central Sounding 1 and Western Cistern 2 continued to be taken down and hopes of flooring are rising. Work will continue on this section tomorrow.

Eastern Puteal 1 discovered a fragment of decorative marble that seems to be part of a decorative bathtub, furthering the interpretation of the area as a bath complex.

In an exciting turn of events, we had a visitor to the site, Giulio, who is a fellow colleague at Florida State University of many of the students here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rain Day

Due to thunderstorms overnight, our trenches were totally undiggable today.  Instead, we used our time to catch up on documentation and do some work in the magazzini.

Christina (one of our fearless leaders) and Rebecca reprocessing finds from Summer 2013 inside the Magazzino.

Emily (our other fearless leader), Benedetta, and me processing the finds from yesterday.  Emily and Andy (just out of the frame) were counting artifacts and writing out identification tags.  Benedetta tied the bags and I had the *most important* job of poking holes in the sealed bags so that the artifacts can breathe.

Jill hard at work identifying not only the bones we are pulling out this year, but also those discovered in the 2014 season after she had left.  In the background you can see Nikki and Liz patiently scanning old artifact catalog cards.

Clean cassette freshly labeled, care of Rebecca, awaiting our new discoveries (hopefully tomorrow!).

Darby sits down for a rest and a chat with Graziano (one of the museum employees and a good friend to the excavation).

Finally, the museum cat, Misha, supervises and offers morale boosts during our rain day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Today we continued excavating in areas that had been opened in the past weeks and another, new area near the Laconicum. In the bucket room, the excavators hit water, which may indicate that they are near to the floor, which is exciting news!

Sophie and Evan explored the magazzino, searching for past, as well as recent finds.

Ana's trench near the Laconicum produced the remains of a wall that appears to be in conjunction with the walls of the Laconicum uncovered two years ago.

Allison, Rebecca, and Landon opened a trench near Ana's, also in the vicinity of the Laconicum. While things were looking unappealing at first (early in the excavation of the trench, there seemed to be a piece of fallen vaulting that constituted a large portion of the trench), the situation quickly turned around in the afternoon. The "vaulting" now looks to be an apsidal wall with pieces of marble facing peeking from the soil.

A terracotta plaque was also found in this new trench, which depicts two male nudes dancing!

Until next time,


Monday, June 15, 2015

Cosa: Week 3

The third week of excavation began with the arrival of multiple new members, and the opening of new trenches. We are pleased to have Benedetta join us for the following two weeks from the University of Florence in order to work with Matt on digitizing and documentation. The excavation would also like to welcome back Jill,  a returning bone specialist. Her arrival was well timed as a number of large animal bones, which she has identified as a cow, were recovered from the bucket room. Landon and Leslie Thorne also have returned to work with the excavation for the week. Landon aided in the removal of the dirt from the bucket room, and Leslie is working with Sophie on revealing the wall.

Two new trenches were opened today. Ana's team opened a new trench by the entrance to the Laconicum.
Soon after they were joined by an additional trench opened in the same area by Allison's team. Work continues in Sophie's trench further defining the wall and removing the baulk wall which separated Anna and Sophie's trenches.
Work continues in the bucket room in an attempt to discover the original floor level. The level of the soil was dropped today over 50 cm, but the floor level has yet to be reached. A layer of rubble composed of large worked stones and pieces of concrete has been revealed, as well as a number of bones, pottery, glass, and iron nails.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Halfway Point

The second week of excavation concluded with an action-packed day as we worked against the clock to finish various projects before the weekend! Before our day was abbreviated by intermittent cloudbursts, the team in Central Sounding 1 was very excited to find fragments of opus signinum (some in a better of state of preservation than others...) and patches of plaster still attached to our wall. The day was mostly spent on the delicate task of revealing and cleaning those findings so they can be fully documented, and the group became very familiar with our selection of brushes--naturally, material that has been buried in soil for many centuries can be a little temperamental when it is suddenly exposed to air and sunlight, so caution was the order of the day! Laying aside the pickaxes that had helped us move efficiently through layers of topsoil and dumping, the Central Sounding team switched to careful troweling and brushing before covering our new findings with a protective layer of geotextile when it began to rain lightly in the afternoon.

Sophie uses a soft paintbrush to remove soil from delicate fragments of wall plaster
It's amazing to look back at pictures from the first week and see how much soil has been removed from the 3m x 3m trench! The wall near the south edge of Central Sounding 1, Wall E, provides a useful measuring stick for our progress--its height increases in proportion with the depth of our trench since the highest preserved course of stones in the wall was uncovered almost immediately below our topsoil layer.
A view of the wall when it first began to emerge last week...
Looking a little more wall-like at the beginning of this week...
And as of Friday, Wall E is now almost waist-high!

Updates from elsewhere on site:
  • The Western Cistern 2 team has become almost invisible as their trench walls are now above head level and they must enter the trench via ladder! They continued to clean their lovely herringbone floor and a wall with traces of plaster and marble facing. Since fragments of the same washbasin base have been found in both Western Cistern 2 and Central Sounding 1 over the past week, both teams look forward to the possibility of investigating the relationship between their trenches!
  • Taking a temporary hiatus from their own trench, the members of the Eastern Puteal team joined in the increasingly complex efforts to remove excavated material from the Bucket Room, which grows deeper by the day. As several people are now needed to ferry buckets of soil and rocks from the bottom of the trench into daylight for sifting, their help is much appreciated!
  • The team in Facade Sounding 5, now expanded to the south, has seen the payoff for days of pickaxing and uncovered the edge of the road which connects to their staircase and threshold!

With two weeks of digging left to go, spirits are high and we're looking forward to seeing what new discoveries await us in the second half of our season at Cosa!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cosa Update: Day 9

The Cosa expedition is developing nicely; today was our 9th day on site and we had another exciting day of discoveries.

In Facade Sounding 5 the crew uncovered that the street immediately outside the bath complex was in-line with the overarching Cosa grid plan. This helps us understand the relationships between the bath complex, the forum, the housing insula and the remainder of the site. In addition to the street paving, Allison and her team further defined the entrance to the bath complex and uncovered a few column bases suggesting that the entrance to the baths had a portico, just like the Applebee's down the street in the USA. Great job everyone in Facade Sounding 5!!!

Excavations continued in Central Sounding 1, with Sophie and her team delicately tilling the soil and finding a few joining fragments of a fluted labrum stand that (likely) accompanies those from Western Cistern 2. The Central Sounding 1 crew continues to excavate along their section of wall, uncovering new answers and formulating new interpretations of the rooms within the bath complex. Excellent work Central Sounding 1 crew!!!

The crew in Western Cistern 2 further defined the herringbone floor discovered yesterday, though sadly without the assistance of Megan 'Big Africa' Moulos. We missed you today Big Africa!!! Ana and her crew were joined today by the very helpful use of a ladder and have dug approximately 2 meters down from their starting point. Very impressive work Western Cistern 2 crew!!!

Progress in the Bucket Room continues, which is incredibly important for helping us understand the primary mechanism for water delivery into the bath cisterns. In this trench the excavation depth has also reached approximately 2 meters, with Andrea and Darby doing most of the work with varied assistance throughout the day from the other trench crews. An early afternoon bulk collapse led to a valiant effort to recover lost tools and pride in the Bucket Room, which was successfully completed later in the day. We look forward to learning more about the Cosa bath complex from this trench and thanks for the amazing progress so far!

Last but not least, Ann valiantly led the team in Eastern Puteal 1 to continue their journey through the ever-changing soil color schemes in the trench. This morning we excavated "Stanley," an ashy deposition layer that revealed a new void-like feature abutting the Puteal cistern wall in the southern sector of our trench. The waning afternoon hours allowed a few moments to further define the ashy layer and peer deeper into the void. After generating a lot of excitement early on, the ashy layer seems like it could prove to be a significant hurdle in our endeavors to understand the purpose and relationships of Eastern Puteal 1 to the Cosa forum, the bathing complex, and the housing insulae. Well done Eastern Puteal 1 team, keep it up!!!

Overall, spirits remain extremely high (as long as the afternoon clouds continue to move in) and everyone gets incredibly excited to hear the sound of the imagery drone in the air. Many crew members have even begun to look into the air and wave when it comes zipping by. Several folks from the excavation crew have also endured the pilgrimage to the Mithraeum near the forum in an attempt to understand some of the religious and cult functions of the site. Stay tuned here for more information and further developments from Cosa as the excavation season continues to march along!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Herroring Tale of Bone

Fire. Blood. Sweat. Tears. All on offer today as a reward for our labors, picking and panting in the bright Cosan sun.

The Tyrrhenian Sea seductively glistens in the distance as we unload another bucket, another wheelbarrow, and maybe, with the gods on our side, another layer of the past.  One trench of archaeologists ('Western Cistern 2'), in particular, groaned heroic sighs, facing endless stretches of broken rock and dreams. Since the expedition began, they hoped to reach the floor of the ancient room, and walk where the ancients walked, and see what the ancients saw: but the obstacles were endless. Would rock and grime forever greet them, embrace them, mire their bodies and souls?

But wait, what ho! One of their number, Megan, with a dexterous slash of her trowel revealed the long sought secret of the trench: a beautifully preserved floor graced with a herringbone pattern! Even more,whispers of original colour remained. Here a buzz of yellow, there a murmur of red, both holding a dialogue which, although faint, was audible for the first time in centuries.

On sighting, Trench-master Ana, recognized in this vision the toil and courage of her troop, Megan, Megan, and Andy, and was filled with pride. Then, she let out a victory shout that shook the very cistern below, gladdening the hearts of all.

Evan Waters

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mortar She Wrote - Day 2 of Week 2

The trenches are getting deeper and the finds are piling up! Christina and Emily continue to arrange the many, many artifacts on site. All of us on the hill continue to dig diligently hoping to better understand the baths. Western Cistern 2 is almost two meters deep, and we hope to hit a floor level within another 10 centimeters. We have cleared a LOT of mortar and rubble in Western Cistern 2, although some of the mortar is colored with beautiful blue, purple, and pink hues. The relationship between the Puteal and Central Sounding 1 is becoming more clear as both teams clear what seems to be a common wall between them. We can't wait to see what the rest of the week brings! 

Sophie defines the wall in Central Sounding 1.
Rebecca uses a handpick to expand Facade Sounding 5.
Enthusiasm is high and picks are flying!
Megan removes a rock in Western Cistern 2. This trench is getting deep!
Ann, Nora, and John cleaning the Puteal.