il Palio and 4th of July- Poggio Civitate Week 1

So another week has come and gone here at Poggio Civitate (or Scavi as we call it- n.b.-that is just the Italian word for excavation). It is amazing how much and how little we end up doing in a week. We have at least a 40 hour work week here, plus all the documentation that goes into each trench, plus it was il Palio and the 4th of July this week and at the same time I feel like life has slowed down a lot and that days are lasting longer. It is nice to come to an town in the middle of nowhere (although Mitch claims Idaho has that honor) and just be forced to walk every where and deal with the fact that sometimes things don’t open when you want them too, it keeps you from rushing through life.


Things are going well up on site. The rain has stopped and the sun is finally coming out in true Tuscan fashion. This week we came upon several rock features in our trenches that look very linear. Because of that we extended the boundaries of the trenches to try and expose all of the rocks, but only this week will tell if we will be successful in finding them. It is always hard to say what we find this early in the dig since we still have so much more to go.

The Palio this year was awesome. I stayed in Vescovado and watched it from the hotel bar where shade, beer, and a bathroom were all in easy reach, although the students who went into Siena had a great show. Several riders got thrown from their horses and one of the riderless horses almost won. The local man who rides in the Palio made a last minute switch from one contrada to another which ended up with him getting beaten and stabbed by the members of the first contrada. The other local rider just got beaten up (not sure of the reason for that). I have said this before il Palio is the intensity of the superbowl compacted into a single city and given a history several hundred years old (it has origins in the 16th century). This year Oca (the goose) Contrada won. Tony has described them as the Yankees of contrade since they have all the money to get the best riders, so needless to say many people were upset about this. Lupa (the wolf) contrada almost won and started to riot at the end of the race, and we aren’t talk Umass type riots after a Boston team wins their respective sports contest, we are talking full out brawling. In 2007, I was in the middle of Nicchio (the shell) doing the same thing, it is both amazing and terrifying to be apart of something like that (which is why I watch from a bar 26 km away.


This year is my 7th in a row of missing the 4th of July. Since we try not to be the annoying Americans all the time, we always keep the celebrating to a minimum. Taylor, Ryan and I grilled burgers and dogs and veggies. This year they even got the big grill from the sports club for us to grill on. Not too many people were hungover the next day.


Also this year Tony has decided to start making short exhibitions to display some of the artifacts that we have found in recent years but that have not made it into the museum storerooms yet. This year it is about writing. There have been several inscriptions found recently (one on a spool and one in a old bag of bones that was being re-cleaned but was missed in the 1970s) and also several studies done on tile and ceramic marks. I was asked to put together some easels for posters for the exhibit (not an easy task when a professor goes and buys you the supplies and fails to get any tools good for drilling or cutting wood). However, even with the hack saw and masonry drill bits, I was able to get them together and they turned out beautiful (okay I cheated a little a got a wood drill bit but not before trying to get the masonry one to work). We installed the exhibit yesterday and I got to help put together the bucchero case. It looks fantastic for a bunch of archaeologists who had never done something like this before with homemade stands in a room that wasn’t built to house exhibits like this. The opening is this afternoon and I will try to get some pictures of it to show.


The sieve I talked about building last Sunday worked so today I have to build some more, so that is where I am off to now. Hope everyone is doing well back home.


Ciao for now.


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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