Jessica in Italy

Jessica is a senior marketing major, with a minor in art history, who leaves in June for an archaeological dig outside of Vicchio, in the Mugello Valley, as part of SMU-in-Italy: Archaeology. The site is an Etruscan settlement that has been being excavated for about 12 years.

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I want to be a soil scienteeeeest

Soil1.jpgToday, Kyle and I were assigned to work with Thijs, the geo-scientist who is working on surveying the rest of the area around Poggia Colla. Thijs is from the Netherlands and looks like a Viking! He is roughly the size of the hotel room I had in Rome, about 7 feet tall and 4 across; at first we were intimidated but he is super nice and says the funniest things. (In photo: Kyle, John, Tim, Me, and Thijs)

We went down the mountain, hiking through brambles, and took coring samples on a grid of 25 meters by 20 meters. The coring samples will be used to map the mountain to give the archaeologists an idea of where there are other areas of habitation.

Coring is done by taking a gauge that is a meter long and 2cm in diameter and hammering it into the ground and then pulling it out to see the layers of stratigraphy; through the soil we are able to see if there are “habitation layers” or archaeological inclusions, which would mean that there had been civilization there. Then, if we find inclusions or see a habitation layer (which is shown through the color and packed-ness of the soil as well as gravel percentage) we move on to use the large auger. We twist it into the ground and pull it out and analyze the soil every 10 cm down.

My job for the day was using the gauge. I had to drive it into the ground with a mallet and then pull it out and analyze the soil. This job requires a lot of muscle, and Thijs told me that to pull the gauge out I “must be strong like Eastern German woman legs.” Another time when I said that I liked being a soil scientist, he asked “Are those the arms you have or the arms you are going to have? They must be beeeggga! (bigger)”

After yanking out the gauge, we looked at the soil and took notes on the textures of each layer as well as where the inclusions were; we also used a Munsell chart to describe the color of the soil at every 10 cm of depth. Kyle then had to use the auger to pull up larger amounts of dirt so that we could further analyze it.

Soil2.jpgAlthough the job was hard and literally every plant on that side of the mountain is equipped with some sort of awful thorns (see leg scrapes in photo), today was the most fun I had working yet. Thijs was really funny and Kyle and I learned a lot.

Core sampling is kind of like instant gratification archaeology; you get to see immediately what is down there without having to take off each dirt layer individually. Also, we found what we believe to be three different houses as well as terracing and a midden pile, so it was exciting to know there was probably a town underneath us.

Dinner2.jpgThe results of the tests that we did will be put into the GIS map that gives a big picture of the mountain and has even shown us that the sanctuary on top of Poggia Colla had sight lines to other temples in the area. These maps are used to give us a better idea of the culture of the Etruscans in this area. We had a really interesting lecture about this and other survey techniques tonight from Robert Vander Poppen and Ivo Van der Graaff.

We got to spend time in town today, to shop and hang out. The town of Vicchio is so so so small. We wandered around, bought some food and snacks at the Coop, and had gelato. Then home for pizza dinner with just the students.

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