Week 1 of digging.

So I keep forgetting to tell this story so it will start this post even though it happened over a week ago. We were touring around the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum last Tuesday and we had just gotten to the Arch of Titus. I was taking a picture of the Menorah scene and talking to Brit about it when two men approach and show me a coin. They say “look we brought this from Israel just like Titus” The man gives me a 10 cent piece with a menorah on it. I was dumbfounded, and the man continues that he was copying Titus. He left telling me to keep the coin. You meet the strangest people when traveling.

So this week was the first week of excavating and at the same time the first half of the season. It is amazing how much dirt a small group of dedicated people can move, after opening the trench on Monday we moved about 1 meter of dirt in a 2 meter x 8 meter trench, that is a lot of dirt. Our goal of this season is to find the next column in a line of columns that are for a portico. The columns and portico is from a 2nd century occupation phase of the site (around the time of Hadrian, we would like to say it is the villa of Herodes Atticus but cant yet). This 2nd century phase is underneath the 4th century Maxentian building and all of its associated destruction layers. It is a sweet site with tons of different material coming out of the soil, we are finding marble, bricks, mortar, fresco fragments, and mosaic tiles. These are on the other end of the spectrum from what I am used to at Poggio Civitate. There was also a 18th to 20th century fill layer on top of all the ancient layers when farmers leveled the hill for fields so for the first 2 days we found modern plates, pill bottles, clam shells, left overs from peoples picnics, a lira or two. Not something I have done at PC, although this year with the change of excavation locations we will most likely find a lot of that stuff in the playground.

We did make it down to the layer that the column should be at only to find an ancient robber trench there. It looks like someone dug through the Maxentian debris to re-use the bricks and tufa used in the construction of the column. BUT we may have a water channel block still in place. We have to finish digging to see if this guess is correct.

Since some people have asked I will share with all what a normal day looks like for me. I usually get up around 6-6:30 eat something for breakfast that Barbara left us and then get to the bus stop by 7:15 to catch the bus at 7:20ish (and I mean ish in all senses of the word since the bus could get there as early as 7:16 and as late as 7:29). Then it is up 3 stops to the Via Cecilia Metllo to walk 15 minutes to the site (if I didn’t take the bus it would be a 50 minute walk one way each day). Work starts around 8 and we go till 9:50 when we leave to get 2nd breakfast/lunch at the only cafe near the site. We start back to the site around 10:45. We dig again till 1 when we have a half hour lunch on site and start around 1:30 again. Then we work till 3:30-4 and are done for the day. It is really great working with Italians, the don’t have the same idea of rushing around that we do. Cam and I then take the bus home wish can come as early as 4:05 or late as 5 (that was the time it came on Friday). We haven’t traveled a lot after digging the girls are usually tired, the traffic is a pain, and the bus is unreliable. I tried to get to Rome on Friday but was hamstrung by the bus. Hopefully this week I will get to see some of Rome in the late afternoon.

This weekend we headed out to Herculaneum and Pompeii, but I will save that for another post.


About handyatmurlo

I am a Latin teacher at Regis Jesuit High School. I earned my MA at CU Boulder and my BA at UMass Amherst. I have spent my summers working in Italy as an archaeologist at three different sites. One I have worked at for 10 years at Poggio Civitate at Vescovado di Murlo. I have worked at the Villa of Maxentius in Rome for 2 years, before the project ended. I also spent 2 summers at the FSU excavations in Cosa.
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