Sounds of the hill

Sorry for the long absence from the blog. I have been busy with my high school student program and then documentation from the 3 trenches I have started this summer. This past weekend was a slow one for me full of sleep and food. If you are interested in what I did for the 20 days that my high school students were here you should check out the blog posts they wrote here: I have a final thoughts post in my draft folder that should be done soon.

I know normally this blog is reporting what I have done and seen here in Italy while digging. And I have done and seen a lot but today I wanted to share some musings I have had recently on site. If you read my blog you are either a fan of archaeology or of me (Hi Mom!), but I was thinking that not many of you have ever been to an archaeology much less worked on one. While defining rocks on site, it occurred to me that maybe a trip though the senses would be an interesting punctuation to my more didactic posts. So today we start with the ears.

The noise of Poggio Civitate will change depending on the time of day. In the morning you can hear sheep bleating and their bells ringing as they are driven to pasture or the rumble of a tractor that has come to collect the freshly harvested timber to fend off the winter cold. Mid-morning there is the chatter of students who are wondering about what people did last night, who got drunk, what people are doing tomorrow night, and sometimes even about the archaeology. But really my favorite sounds happen after lunch. Normally this is around 1:00pm when the temperatures range from 85-105 depending on the day (luckily this year it is closer to 105 and we have been able to excavate without any rain problems). At this time everyone is still full from lunch and a little tired from the full morning they have put it. The heat keeps the talking to a minimum with only the question of “Is this pottery?” or “Do you have a special find tag for my vitrified terracotta?” (Vitrified Terracotta is a tile or pottery fragment that is starting to become glass like and is very light).

The heat allows for the real sounds of archaeology to come through. The scraping of a trowel across the clay floor of a trench, the thud of an ax as a root is chopped off a stump. The wosh and krush of a bucket of dirt being poured into a wheelbarrow. The glugs of a water being poured into a thirsty students nalgene. There is the clink and clank of pick axes breaking up soil and hitting bedrock and the grunts of a person running the wheelbarrow up the dirt pile. There is also the pop and groans as one of the archaeologist gets up to dump their overflowing bucket or find their clippers to snip at a root. These sounds are the ones that are the real sound of an archaeology site and ones that bring me utter joy when I get to sit outside the trench scritching and scratching away in my trench book and just listen to them while I form my thoughts.

Well hopefully this hasn’t been too boring. With the kids gone I’ll try to get more posts up.


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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One Response to Sounds of the hill

  1. Mom says:

    Sounds very similar to a day in my flower garden…would your staff be willing to come help with my gardens pre-dig next year?! It would be excellent practice and I would provide Italian meals too!!! 🙂

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