The Shift

Another excavation season has come and gone and it is now time for me to shift hats and become Latin teacher Andy again. I think this shift, more than the jet lag, is my biggest challenge mostly because I have so little time between the field and the classroom (i.e. zero days, I was in the classroom less than 24 hours after landing). These transitions are some of the worse things about my summers. They are abrupt and jarring and throw me through a loop. It is strangly fitting that our faculty retreat is focused on change today.

There are many things that happen with this shift, no longer am I making sure people drink enough water or looking for subtle changes in soil composition or trying to put together a complex Harris Matrix. But one of the big things about the shift is the lack of connections with my fellow school teachers and the loss of my dig people. I just spent 10 weeks with some of these people, and I mean with these people. We woke up together (not in that way you filthy minded reader), we broke bread together (sorry it is a Catholic school retreat), we worked, sweated, and bleed together and suddenly these people who were in my life 24/7 are gone. Now I am at school where everyone just goes to their own home after work and I to mine. I miss being able to clean up after work and then go have a beer with my fellow archaeologists.

Sure, time apart can be a good thing. I mean I’d be lying if I said that no one was bothering me at the end of the dig season. Sure people’s idiosyncrasies were starting to wear on me. But it only took a few days to reset and be ready again. I miss them and the data creation we did together. It is such an intense environment and the bonds created are so strong that this quick seperation is really painful.

I know we will all be back together soon but I’ll miss them until then. It is one of those feelings that you can never fully explain to a student going through their first field school but that is so viscerally apart of this whole experience. It is sad that some never get to experience it, but I am glad that I’ve been apart of it.

Posted in 2016 Season | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pest Town

Today Konstantina and I ventured out across the Danube river to Pest. We walked up to the Parliament building where we visited the underground memorial to the 1956 Uprising and the lapidarium of stones from before the building was refurbished. We then tried to go in but it was a super long line and with only a day left we decided that it would be better spent else where. We did find a small free exhibit that showed the growth of legislation in Hungary and enjoyed walking through that more than waiting in line.

2016-08-09 10.52.54

Parliament Building

Afterwards we stopped so Konstantina could have a croissant, which has its origins here during the Ottoman rule, before moving along to St. Stephen’s Basilica. The church is truly an amazing one to visit. It is a huge 19th century neo-renaissance building that is simply breathtaking in its decoration and overwhelming presence. Gold leaf and marble is everywhere in the building, along with amazing mosaics. We then headed to the roof which offered more spectacular views of Budapest.


Finally after a stop for ice cream presented in the shape of a rose (fyi- gelato is huge here and done almost as well as Italy) we made it to the Nagy Vásárcsarnok, the Central Market Hall, a 19th century market place built like Pike’s Place or Reading Terminal. It was a wonderful area full of many different wares and food (if just a little overwhelming in the amount of people there). I really like visiting places like this since it helps me learn new words since usually the food is labeled (like I learned gomba is mushroom).

After a few beers there (which I am getting skilled at ordering), we headed back to the hotel for a quick rest before dinner along the Danube again. We made it to the place that we were supposed to eat a last night (those street greeters are tricky) and then came back to the hotel for a night cap in the bar below the hotel.

Budapest has been a wonderful trip and one that I recommend to others to come a visit (although when haven’t I suggested people to visit places I’ve been, I try to go to awesome places). Beyond the frustration of not easily being able to understand the conversion rate, it was a very easy city to visit and navigate and really cheap.

Hope you enjoy the travelogue Mom and aunts (and anyone else).


Posted in General Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buda Hill

I know my travelogue from Italy was lacking (sorry, hopefully I can get some pictures posted later). But I am in Budapest right now and on vacation so I have some time to sit and write (and lord knows if I don’t take time here I won’t have time at school).

Today my friend Konstantina and I walked around the south side of Budapest in the area of Buda. It was hilly (but nothing like Tuscany so I was prepared). We rode the funicular car up to Buda Castle and walked around the grounds there. In the gallery was a Picasso exhibit that we visited. It was actually the first time I have seen any Picasso’s not in a book and it was wonderful. They did a great job of presenting the artist and his methods and I was able to walk away with a better appreciation of him as an artist. Although the museum was clearly in the old school style of stand away from the art and be quiet unlike the museum hack idea of interacting with your art (which I really ascribe to in the museum world). But it was still a well laid out exhibit and has wonderful panels to help guide you through the art.

Then we walked around and found Matthias Church and the Fishermen’s Bastion. They were both wonderful. Matthias’ church was fantastic! It was a catholic church with heavy eastern influences, there was so much painting on the inside. It was beautiful and they had great little stands that explained the different parts of the church which was so nice having come from Italy where even the big churches have almost no education panels. They also had a lovely little museum talking about the refurbishment in the 19th century and the coronation of the last king of Hungary.

2016-08-08 13.10.18.jpg

Inside of Matthias’ Church

Then we went outside and walking around the Fishermen’s Bastion (which is above) which offers wonderful views over Pest and up and down the hillside. It was a really beautiful limestone neoclassical structure but I don’t know much about it. However after lunch (goulash and beer) we stumbled into a bookstore (dangerous grounds for us both) and I found a book in English about the Bastion so I will know more later tonight.

But now that my postcards are written and my feet are rested it is time to head out again and find dinner and other sites in Budapest!

Till tomorrow


Posted in General Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Summer of Loss

Sorry for so long a hiatus on the blog posts, usually it only lasts for as long as the high school students are here but circumstances beyond my control took hold of my summer.

Here we are at the end and I’ve had a wonderful summer again. This year I got to visit many different archaeological sites and museums with wonderful friends. I finally saw Vetulonia with Eóin and Steve, and headed back to Orvieto and Cortona to see the museums there with Ann, Nora, Beth and Dillon. I walked around Chiusi beyond the museum and saw Assisi for the first time. And I also had a wonderful time in Siena by myself discovering new and different parts of that city which I love so much.

But it has also been a season fraught with loss for me personally. It started well before the dig began. We lost a form member of the excavation in February which hit close to home for me.

But then while leading the students through the tombs of Tarquina a thief was leading himself through our belongings. The worst part of the whole ordeal was not the lost money or electronics but the loss of gifts the students had worked on to give their parents and my bag with all the passports safely tucked away from pick pocketers. We were all safe and we got our passports back after a few days and then the flights were rebooked. It certainly gave an experience to the students and but it also dampened my mood. I did learn from the whole time that you can plan for everything and shit will still hit the fan. I was also reminded about how amazing a family Scavi is, Tony and Jason really came through and helped me keep the kids feed and housed for the few extra days. And in a really weird way I was reminded that things are everything- sure the gifts are gone but the stories remain for the kids (it was funny I had a chance to go to mass at St. Clement’s across the street from our AirBnB while in Rome and the gospel was about living a more simple life that week).

Returning from that ordeal, I finished excavating on the hill in T-82 and was moved down into Vescovado to help work on the tennis court excavations in VT-14. The trenches yielded nothing but that isn’t always the point of excavating (absence of evidence and all). It actually gave me a reprieve and space to breath since I wasn’t drowning in artifacts. I could give my assistant a chance to experience writing summaries in low impact scenarios (which is good to get under your belt before you dig a trench with a lot of stuff). And I could help my friends out with their material and get through everything faster. Then suddenly, the dig season was over.

With my remaining time in Vescovado, I took a hike down this strada bianca that is fondly know as the abandoned farm house road. It was a hike of rejuvenation for me and one where I had a blast taking photos. After returning back to Vescovado someone tried to use my camera to snap a photo and reported to me that I didn’t have a memory card in it, well turns out the memory card had gone corrupt and I had just lost the photos from the morning. It was really my last straw for the summer and I needed some time alone to just mourn the loss of my hard work taking photos all morning. After a while (and a poor attempt at retaking some photos from the start of the road) I realized that the memory card was not my own memory, and I will be able to remember the road (especially now).

It was the final reminder that I can try so much to be safe or keep my things safe and it won’t matter. What matters is the friends I have, the places I’ve been and the things I’ve experienced and to enjoy it while I still can.  So really it wasn’t so much a summer of loss, but instead a summer of recentering and reminding of the more important things in life and I now really see it more of a summer of gain.

2016-07-24 16.54.34

Well that is all for my summer. I am finishing this in the Rome airport before my flight to Budapest. So the next few entries will be just travelogue in nature, but I’ll be back soon with more musings on archaeology.



Posted in 2016 Season, archaeology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Space and Place- Albinian Style

This weekend was a more laid back one for me. After so many summers of traveling, you get tired of always being on the go and with my students coming later this week, I know I will be on the go constantly with them so I didn’t put too much effort into my plans this weekend. It mostly consisted on eating and walking in the local area. I did get to Orbetello Saturday night, it is one of my favorite Italian cities. Small but bustling, full of people but not crowded and businesses stay open past 8 pm (something that doesn’t happen in Albinia). I was also able to hang out on Sunday and go to the beach, something I find I miss at times in Colorado and this beach is amazing by my New England standards that I grew up with. It was while walking the beach that I started to think about my blog post for this weekend, and as I wandered through the sands of the Gianella looking out on Monte Argentario and Isola del Giglio I started to think about the area and what makes it a place to me, instead of just a space (I have my lovely girlfriend to thank for introducing me to John Agnew’s ideas of this).


Looking out from the beach.

To me, Ablinia the space, is a place of archaeology. I come here to work with FSU at the site of Cosa at a bath complex. I mostly just sleep and eat in the town and work south of here. But as I was walking the beach I started to think about how this area is a place for middle class Italians to vacation (I mean the beaches are nice but not out of this world). It is a place for people to fish and to teach their kids how to swim or even to peddle their wares. It is a place for some recreation and relaxation. And that is pretty amazing that the same geographic coordinates can elicit so many different place ideas. But then being an archaeologist I let my mind wonder to how the Romans would have experienced this area.

Albinia is about 14 km north of Cosa, so a Roman would have gone to the “big city” on special days but instead I imagine the people living in this area would have had their own small hamlet or village that life centered around (there have been Romans remains found in Albinia so this isn’t just ideal speculation). Walking the beach I found a lot of oyster shells and other, shellfish, so I would assume that harvesting them would be a big part of life here. The Romans loved their oysters, Pliny talks about oyster farming down near Naples. There is a proliferation of birds in the lagoon area so I’d have to imagine that like what is depicted on the tomb of hunting and fishing in Tarqunina, the people of Albinia would also use slings to hunt birds for cooking. So the Gianella would have been a place of food gathering for the locals here. Very different from how the Albinians and Italians use the area now.

But then after taking a dip into the Tyrrhenian Sea, I then started thinking about our work at Cosa. We are digging a bath and while our questions are mostly focused on how the water got up to the baths and how the structure was laid out, there are lots of other things that could be investigated on top of this. One could take a phenomenological approach to the bath. From many different ancient authors we know how the rich, their clients, the poor and slaves would have experienced the structure. Right now we have found a alveus (apsidal pool) in a caldarium with mosaic flooring: The slave may never have seen this area except to clean it, but the rich patron and his client may have sat in this pool discussing how to best elicit votes for the upcoming duovir election. We also have parts of areas that seem to be service corridors, here almost no free citizen would have gone however the slaves would have spent a lot of time running back and forth in these halls for the different needs of the bath.

Sometimes I and the other archaeologists can get to far into the trenches and forget that fact that Romans, real live people, lived and walked in these different areas. The footprint tile of last week really helped remind me of this, which is always a good reminder to have.

Ciao till next time.

Posted in 2016 Season, archaeology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Blog Post!

Yes, that is right. Today was my day to post for the Cosa Blog (which you should read). But that means I am just going to share the link here so you can read about our day!

Also as promised human foot tile:


Posted in 2016 Season | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rain Delay Due- Importance of Water Musing

So it has rained again and we are delayed again. Not much has changed, most of yesterday was spent helping out in the Magazzino with the back log from 2013 and 2014. I found a perverse pleasure in typing up SU sheets. Last night as we all were going to sleep another huge storm rolled into the Maremma and I found myself thinking about the perception of a storm like that. 

For the modern archaeologist it was taken as one of dread and frustration. With the excavation units too wet we won’t be able to continue work in the trenches, which takes away work days from trying to answer our research questions about how the bath rooms communicated with one another and how a Roman would have experienced these baths. We also were a little shocked (maybe scared but no one will admit to that), the storm was right on top of us and some of the claps of thunder shook the windows. 

 But with our footprint tile and the conversation I had with my girlfriend, Sara, about that started down a train of thought about the Ancient Cosans. They lived up on a hill which is one of the high points in the area, so they are a little more exposed and closer to the storm. How would they feel about the storm? Fear, Joy, Frustration? Cosa has no natural springs and instead there are tons of cisterns everywhere (I got to work in one last year and this year you can visit another cistern that was under the basilica). These cisterns are the major way they get water (I don’t agree with the theory that a bucket system would have conveyed fresh water up from the port area). So would they be happy about last night storm since it meant their water supply was being renewed? I have to imagine that the person who made the footprint in the tile might have sacrificed a little cake at their family Lararium (shrine to household gods) as an offering for some more rain. 

I also started thinking about how the Romans would have checked for weather. All afternoon people were obssessivly checking all the different weather apps that were available to us. It got a little ridiculous about how much faith we were putting into the different reports and percentages (in the end it rained and that is all that mattered). I wonder how my Roman would have dealt with weather predictions. Would they have prayed to the gods, or known because clouds formed over the Agentario and local knowledge has it that clouds there mean rain? These are obvious questions that we would have a hard time answering but they are the type of question that really brings into focus the fact that we aren’t digging up some alien culture (although it feels that way a times) but we are looking at past humans who breathed, laughed and died like we all will some day. Memento mori I guess.

The Argentario with half a ‘cap’ on it- Darby, one of the professors says “if the Argentario wears a cap, the Orbetellans bring a hat” since it means rain

Ciao till next time. 

Posted in 2016 Season | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment