Sunday, July 3, 2016

Goodnight, Cosa

Goodnight, shovel, trowel, and pickaxe swings.
Goodnight, soil, roots, and finding things.

Goodnight, plumb-bobs and elevations.
Goodnight, feature articulations.

Goodnight, buckets and dirt pile.
Goodnight, rocks, brick, and tile.

Goodnight, trench and baulk-walling.
Goodnight, sweeping and drawing.

Goodnight, bedrock and collapse.
Goodnight, soft broom handle taps.

Goodnight, sketches and photography.
Goodnight, maps and magnetometry.

Goodnight, cookie-break-time and wheelbarrow naps.
Goodnight, quick calculations on paper scraps.

Goodnight, drone flights and aerial shots.
Goodnight, 3D models, plans, and plots.

Goodnight, washing of sherds and stones.
Goodnight, brushing plaster and bones.

Goodnight, counting, weighing, poking bags.
Goodnight, writing all the tags.

Goodnight, museum, staff and visitors.
Goodnight, guest scholars and conservators.

Goodnight, Micia, the site cat.
Goodnight, Mt. Argentario with its hat.

Goodnight, streets, walls, and floors.
Goodnight, pools, drains, and doors.

Goodnight, ladders and deep carved steps.
Goodnight, underground cistern complex.

Goodnight, road system and city planning.
Goodnight, paperwork and digital scanning.

To backfill, backhoe, and site,
To all of Cosa (until next year!),

Thursday, June 30, 2016

First Encounters of the Cosa Kind

Having only dabbled in classics as an undergraduate, my experience with archaeology up to this summer consisted of reading books in air conditioned libraries and sauntering through the well lit galleries of museums. To me, archaeology was all crisp, clean prints and polished marble. But this summer I committed myself to getting to know the earlier stages of the archaeological process, the ones full of dirt and long days in the sun. My two and half weeks at Cosa was gave me just what I was looking for.

A view from my first day at Cosa

I came to Cosa with a fairly clear idea of what excavation would entail, lots of shoveling, troweling, and sun burns. Being the shoveling enthusiast I am, I began the dig eagerly, maybe even a little too eagerly. What I had not anticipated (although in hindsight this seems an obvious point) was the care with which everyone would dig. After half a day of overzealous pick axing and shovel work, I began to notice the nervous looks on the faces around me. People were concerned for the dirt that I was moving with such wanton abandon. 

I saw many times the loving way that the other excavators would dig down a layer or articulate a wall. It seemed there was a great respect for the dirt and stones that were being moved and the potential finds that might emerge. After a week or so the message finally began to sink in. The pick axe stopped flying over my head and I started listing to the sound of the dirt, getting to know the soil of each layer through which I dug. I found digging in such a mindful way thoroughly rewarding. My sense of the site grew and I was actually learning about what I was digging up.  

When the dirt is treated with its due respect, I'm sure that it gives something back in return. Everyone at the dig was full of energy, working hard all day long and spending nights full of exuberance at our lengthy dinners. I was fully convinced of the rejuvenating gift of the dirt while down in the cistern with Darby. Darby started digging at Cosa before I was even born, yet he digs with a methodical and tireless intensity. I think Darby found his fountain of youth, and it is full of Italian dirt and sherds. I felt the power of the dirt myself, and I plan on taking it with me. Not only caked on my boots and deep under my fingernails, but also in my heart.

And lastly, a special shout out to Matt for introducing me to Cosa! Everyone here is wonderful and I'm so glad I've had such a great first experience with excavation.

Matt (right) and I at the Cosa party 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Our Trip to Polveriera Guzman

On Thursday afternoon we were treated to a viewing of Polveriera Guzman, the Orbetello archaeological museum, by Camilla Moretti.  

Camilla and Jill discuss jewelry

The museum has fantastic displays, but unfortunately due to the bureaucratic and financial woes which plague the humanities everywhere it is temporarily closed.  We sure were lucky to get a private tour!

Nora and Leif admire some cases
Rebecca, Emily, Sophie, and Evan check out the displays

The collections range from Etruscan bronze vessels (7th-6th c. BCE) to Roman stamped bricks (2nd c. BCE to 3rd c. CE) to a modern cannon.  

Matt prepares to make a 3D model of the canon

(**pushes my glasses up the bridge of my nose**) My favorite were probably the cases with Etruscan bucchero vases illustrating the different possible vessel shapes and forms.

At the end we got to enjoy some spectacular views of the Orbetello lagoon and Camilla took a group picture for us.  Can’t believe it’s just one more week until this great crew disbands until next year!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Logistical challenges and creative thinking

Archaeological excavations will always be somewhat unpredictable—if we knew exactly what was underneath the dirt, we wouldn’t have to dig it up to find out! One of the ongoing challenges in any season of excavation is figuring out how to handle unexpected hurdles when they emerge in the middle of the season without wasting the limited time that’s available for digging each summer.

Can’t see all of the trenches at once? Andrea solves intervisibility issues by standing atop the elevated cisterns to survey the whole bath complex

While these logistical challenges can cause frustrating delays, they also result in some of the most impressive examples of creative thinking on site by forcing everyone to come up with interesting workarounds and on-the-fly solutions. For example, although the olive trees dotted across the landscape of Cosa are lovely scenery and provide welcome shade from the midday heat, they also make it very challenging to take trench photos with even lighting. In order to cover the entire area being photographed, different trenches have experimented with a variety of techniques for suspending the sunshade/tarp (“Tarpeia”), including climbing trees…

…and tying it to shovels, rakes, pickaxes, and/or the measuring rod for the laser level.

In the Street “N” Probe trench, our standing architecture has provided a series of interesting challenges as it emerged during the course of the season. As we removed increasing volumes of soil from the southern part of the trench and discovered more and more of the walls, it became much harder to enter and exit…particularly when we came down on a degrading cocciopesto floor that couldn’t support the weight of a ladder.

When the flooring gets fragile, the shoes come off!


After exposing and cleaning all of the floor surfaces in the southern half of the trench, we turned our full attention to the northern portion, where we confronted the difficult task of excavating between two walls separated by a narrow gap of approximately 30-40cm. As this area gets deeper, it becomes increasingly difficult to fit an archaeologist in with the archaeology:


...and requires some pretty creative poses to excavate the soil from between the walls...

...or to check if something happening on the exposed side of the wall is also happening on the much-less-visible side...

...or to consult about a barely-visible artifact some 60cm down between the walls.

Will we ever reach the bottom of the space between our walls? Will we ever let Emily out of the deepening crevasse? Check back in to find out!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Buon Giorno!

It's week 3 on the project, which means we've hit the middle hump, have survived our introductory pains/blisters, and recovered from the Torrre Plague. For some (semi-older) folks on the project, this also means that we have been away from partners and spouses for a month or even more. Excavation seasons present growing pains that all partners in an archaeologically oriented relationships struggle with, where one half goes off to exciting new places and trots through the Mediterranean, while the other is left at home with normal life realities. Even if this is often acknowledged in wedding vows, accepted after just a few months of dating, or discussed during career planning, it's never easy to say that last good-bye at the airport departure gate. So, what is it that we do when we peace out for a summer abroad and leave our better halves in PA/FL/MA/MI/MN/Turin/UK?!?

Well, it's a whole different world than the usual schedule of grad classes, research, library time, writing, and stress of our academic semester. This is what we live for... and it's an experience that few others than our adopted dig families understand. We get far dirtier than we'd like to admit, drink just a little too much, and fantasize about finding walls, roads, and floor surfaces. 

This summer, being married just under a year (shout-out to my husband, Happy 1st Anniversary, Trevor!) I agreed to tackle social media, which I have avoided with much more success than the Torre Plague, in the hopes of sharing a dig season remotely from a Roman bath house to Philadelphia. Dillon so eloquently provided the Twitter version earlier this season... So, here's a day in the life of Cosa, Instagram style... @vivaterlingua 

My back already hurts, I need coffee, and shoot, it's already Ann's 20-10-5 minute warning for site departure. #nutellaforbreakfast #archaeologymakesmefeelold #thankyoumokapot

Welcome to Cosa, stand back for the running of the archaeologists! #Ineedmorebuckets #rushforthebestbroom #squeakywheelbarrel

Eureka, we've hit a new stratigraphic unit! #soilchange #elevationsneeded #plumbob #Silonbeeps #paperworkrequired

Finally......... we've made it to our very necessary SNACK TIME #x-trachocolatecookies #isit10:30yet!?!?! #drinkmorewater

"You've been Munselled!" is a much cooler way of saying "I've measured the geologic color of the soil in your trench, and it's Strong Brown" #browndirt #darkbrowndirt #strongbrowndirt 

Pottery washing has commenced... Our finds: before and after #doNOTdrinkthewater #drybrushingfordays #bucketsonbuckets  #prunehands #isthisarock?   

 What's for lunch? Pizza, sandwich, juice box, fresh fruit picked at the Agritourismo and condiments from our trusty Egg Bag. #prayitsnotsardines #wheresthemustard #freshapricots 

Caffeine refill, thanks to Cafe Magazzino! #andreasbusinessplan #espressoooo #totallyworth50cents

Back to pick-axing upper levels, and wheel barrow races #momentumuprockpile #pickandrotate #intenselyhydrate

Transmission of Radio Magazzino on the walkie-talkies lifts spirits and begins our final hour of excavation on site. #Mulan #singalong #RadioMagazzino

Buena Sera Cosa... Time to turn in the finds to the Magazzino #Closingtime #thanksChristina #thanksEmily #archaeologyispaperwork

In proper archaeological five-o'clock style... Gin and Tonics! #ginoclock #thewhitegoose #donedigging 

Dinner at the Pink Panther, with many many courses of wonderful food! #toomuchpasta #passthewine #bedtimesoon


Monday, June 20, 2016

Rustic Chic

Saturday afternoon, the Museo was transformed. After a tireless week of work excavating, our team joined with the staff, friends, and neighborhood community to relax and celebrate all things Cosa. Trowels, artifacts, and dirt were left aside (for a moment) for flowers, food, and wine!

A warm buzz of conversation replaced the sound of brushing artifacts, as the clinking of glasses did the clanking of picks and shovels. The party simply rocked!
Of course we didn’t forget, in all our Bacchic revelry, to contemplate more reasoned, Apolline matters. Three speeches were delivered (Landon, Andrea, Darby) on the theme of Cosa past and present--with a skill that would make even Cicero blush. In brief, together, we are all Cosans!
After enjoying ourselves and making new friends, we had the bittersweet task of saying goodbye to longtime Cosans, Landon and Leslie for the summer. Where will we be without them! (A certain trench will lack defined walls for the foreseeable future).
Thanks to Landon, Leslie, the Sanfelice family, and everyone who made the party such a smash, and to all the love and support for our hilltop city by the sea!

~Evan Waters

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Day The Rock Ramp Died (and more)

It was an eventful day!

In our trench (Sophie's trench), we continue to dig up lots of collapse; -- big rocks, medium rocks and small rocks. Nothing worth saving. They all need a place to go. First the wheelbarrow and then the rock pile. The rock pile is an important (but uncelebrated) feature of the dig.

You should see our "rock schleppers." They have to start jogging down the hill to get some momentum before they push the wheelbarrow up the ramp to make their deposit. No hesitation allowed.

Around lunch today, our rock pile ramp died. See what I mean? Can you find the ramp?

Enter Alex.

He spent a HUGE part of the afternoon re-creating our original rock ramp. Success! Here he is...
(no, wait, isn't that a picture for an album cover?!)

You may think it's weird for me to focus on something as silly as a rock pile when there were important discoveries today. But, I want everyone to know that it is sometimes the "uncelebrated things" and "behind-the-scenes people" that can really make a difference at the dig. 

Other news of the day:
Allison and Rebecca found stunning pieces of marble in many colors. (red, yellow, blue & white)
Evan found an inscription. (Will Andrea buy him a bottle of wine? Stay tuned...)
Landon was interviewed on Italian TV, Grosseto Local Channel.
I worked on the cornerstone of a wall. Check it out...

And Andrea hosted a group of local, Italian high school students who got to tour the site and dig in the forum. You won't believe what happened...they found the most beautiful vessels! See below...

That's why, tonight, all of us are trying to figure out how to become high school students again!

Drop It Like It’s Hot: The Evolution of a Trench

As we’ve reached about the halfway point of the season (see Liz’s post!), I thought it might be fun to take a look at the trench I’m in and how far we’ve come. I’m working in Ann’s trench, SNP (“Street N Probe,” or, more affectionately, “SNAP!”). So far, the trench has two walls, one in the northern end and one in the southern end, along with some brick stamps, large chucks of marble, a loom weight, drain pieces, and all sorts of neat finds. I’ve been taking pictures for my personal* use on most days, so let’s embark together on a little journey through the last two weeks!
*hence the bad shadows in some photos and the portion of my finger in another - sorry!

Ahh, our humble beginnings - the southern end of the trench on Wednesday, June 1st. What would turn out to be the southern wall is just starting to peek through! That root also gave us lots of problems, as would many others as we dug down. 

Thursday, June 2nd. Progress on the southern wall! And more giant roots!

Monday, June 6th. The northern wall is making itself known while we continue to reveal the southern wall. We focused on the area between the two walls from this point on!

At roughly the one-week mark on Wednesday, June 8th! You can see by the baulk wall how much we’ve been able to drop the trench – and look at that nice corner on the northern (right) wall!

Monday, June 13th. A few days are missing in between this and the last picture because of the two rain days we had on the 9th and 10th. We got back to work on Monday and continued investigating in between the two walls. The walls continued as we went down, and it was a lot of fun to define them! At this point the southern wall stretched the full length of the trench in the east-west direction and was starting to look pretty nice.

Also Monday, June 13th, this time the northern wall. It appeared, at this stage, that the large rocks near the baulk had crashed through the wall.

Tuesday, June 14th. The southern wall just keeps going down! It turns out there is stone below the brick coursing. The arrow is pointing to a small portion of wall that is abutting the southern wall.

Here’s the northern wall on Tuesday, June 14th. The rocks that we thought broke through the wall were removed, and it turns out that the wall has a finished edge - as does the small wall portion in the previous picture!

Here’s a view of the two walls, at either end of the picture, with the two smaller portions of walls with finished edges coming toward the center of the photo. Do we have a threshold of some sort in between these? Hopefully we can find out in the coming weeks!

 Here are two pictures of the trench and the walls as we left them this afternoon!

To conclude, here’s a couple of pictures of some of our cool finds!
A cassetta with some of our finds – the large curved portion in the bottom of the photo may be part of a drain pipe!

A (slightly blurry) picture of one of the brick stamps found in our trench (plus my chipped nail polish!)

I hope you enjoyed these photos – we can’t wait to see what else we find in the SNAP trench!


P.S. Bonus Features!
This post was originally supposed to go up on Wednesday, but due to technical difficulties it's going up Thursday! Here are two updates from today:

 We did find some sort of surface between the two walls! It may be cocciopesto.

To the north (outside) of the northern wall is a feature that may be a drain...  stay tuned!