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.

La Notte Rosa: a friendship festival

Jess-fireworks.pngRimini is a cute little beach town that has an annual friendship festival called La Notte Rosa. The entire town is lit up in pink lights, and they do fireworks and have concerts and it is a huge party.

Jess-stilts.pngWe got in Saturday night and met up for dinner … delicious! From our dinner table, we watched the fireworks show and saw people on stilts parading throught the streets.

Then we went out to all of the clubs and discotheques – So much fun! The culture for parties here is so different than in the States, and everyone stays out until morning.

We took the first train back in the morning at 8am, hoping to get back before the train strike, but the strike ended up starting when we were only 10 miles from Vicchio. The train stopped in Borgo San Lorenzo at 11, and we were stranded until 2pm until our house-mom Leah came and picked us up … long day! We are the only ones back at the house right now, and hopefully no one else gets stranded!

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Full of Bologna

Jess-July5.pngThis morning, I took the first train out to Bologna and met up with Kyle, Isa, Christy, Cathy, Joanna, and Anna right after breakfast. We met in the Piazza Maggiore (left) and went directly to the Basilica di San Petronio.

Jess-July5-2.pngThe church is beautiful! The floor is a giant sundial that tells you what day of the year it is based on where the sun hits the floor; so cool! It was originally set to be larger than St. Peter’s in Rome, but the Vatican took away the funds halfway through, so the building was never finished.

After the church, we went to the Archaeological museum. It was amazing! They have so many pieces and they are all on display. Where most museums would have things put in storage, they have everything out, and the shelves go nearly to the ceiling! A really wonderful museum!

We had the most amazing lunch … now I know why they call it “Bologna Grassa” or Fat Bologna! It was so, so, so yummy!

July5-climb.pngTo walk off our huge meal, we went to the Two Towers and climbed to the top of the tallest, 500 steps!

July5-view.pngWhen we finally made it to the top, it was worth the treacherous climb … we could see out over all of Bologna! It was absolutely beautiful!

Then we went to catch the train to Rimini! Kyle decided to come with us and celebrate La Notte Rosa with Matt, Mindy and me.

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July 4 in Italy with Dutchmen and Brits!

We spent today in the trench pulling back the rest of stratum 2 to reveal the layer below, which has many more inclusions and seems like it will be a much more interesting layer, find-wise.

After work today most of the students left to go on travels, but 6 of us stayed behind to have a Fourth of July party with the staff. We had another fabulous dinner and then ice cream cake.

I am leaving first thing in the morning for Bologna, where I will meet up with Joanna, Kyle, Isa, Cathy, Anna, and Christy to tour the city! Tomorrow night I head to Rimini for La Notte Rosa with Matt and Mindy! I can’t wait!!

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Lab day

Everyone was in the lab today. We spent most of the morning in lecture learning about and seeing first-hand the finds that have come out of Poggia Colla – so cool!

Dr Warden talked us through all of the significant finds that they have had, and we got to handle them to see what kinds of things were up on the site and to know more about what we will be seeing up there in the next few weeks.

We also had a lecture from Provost Ann Steiner, from F&M, about ceramics and the different types that the Etruscans had and the meanings and purpose of the types of ceramics.

We then went over to see Jess Galliano and Lynn, the paleoethnobotanists, to learn about how they do paleobotany on the soil and finds from the site. They use a technique called floatation – they pull out the seeds and plant remains from the soil to find out what kind of plants and grains were being used during the time of the Etruscans. It is really amazing how much they can learn from a bucket of dirt!

We then learned about putting pottery back together when it comes down in sherds. We were given bags of ceramic sherds that had been found on the hill, and we looked through and found where the pieces joined together so that the conservators can then put the ceramic back together. It was like a huge puzzle with no picture! I found four different joins of different pots, which was really exciting for me!

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Stratum 2

Today, in the trench, we worked on taking back stratum 2, which is the first archaeological layer we have seen. It is a loosely packed layer and doesn’t have much of anything in it besides bits of coarse ware pottery and tile.

What is really interesting about this layer is that no one knows for sure where it came from. There are three possibilities that have been discussed: it could be decaying mud-brick from the destroyed temple, a fill layer that was meant to purposefully cover the temple after destruction, or, least likely, it could be from erosion. There are flaws with each of these hypotheses, though, and we will have to keep looking at this layer to figure it out.

I also fell on my face running up the hill in front of a bunch of Italian high school students who were touring the sight … but mostly only my pride was hurt!

We had delicious dinner tonight! I ate at Guardia, the house across the vineyard, and we had the most amazing ribs and pasta and veggies – Yummy!

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Lab rat

Today, I was assigned to work with Jon Von Tol in the lab. He is the one who interprets the coring data as well as the data from excavation and inputs it all into the GIS map to give a view of the overall site and everywhere that human habitation has been.

It is an amazing technology and gives a comprehensive view of the entire mountain and can link in to show sight lines to other Etruscan sites! I worked on inputing the data from the corings that we had done into a giant database that links into the GIS.

jess-map.pngAfter it was all inputted, Jon showed me what he does to make a map, and we made one (see left) of the area that I had cored last week with Thijs and Kyle. It shows exactly where we found habitation layers as well as what the elevation and terracing were like in the inhabited areas to give a better idea of where the Etruscans built. It was really, really cool to see this technology at work!

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New trench

Today we got our trench assignments, and Alex F, Matt, Joanna, Jen, Lui-jian, and I have been assigned to Dr. Vander Poppen (VP)’s trench. They decided to open another trench this season, PC 36, and that is the one that I will be working on for the rest of the season here at Poggia Colla. Our trench is on the east side of the site and has fully excavated trenches on all four sides. They think that the rest of the bronze deposit will be found in this trench!! That would be wicked cool!

So far today, we were mostly just removing the humus layer of soil to get down to the first archaeological layer. Lots of work, but at least we are in the shade!

It was nice to be back and to hear about everyone’s weekend travels. I am super tired from traveling and working … so off to bed!

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Sunday in Siena

Sienna6.jpgAnd now I have walked it forever!! Leigh, Mindy, and I walked the entire city today!

We walked all of the winding roads to the city walls on all the sides. We went through all of the different Contrada, where everyone was festive and cheering for their team and having parties in the streets!

We saw them do the flag throwing and someone from the Snail Contrada almost impaled Mindy and me with the flag! It was so cool!

Sienna4.jpgThe culture is all about the horse races on Wednesday! Each neighborhood ran through the streets with their horse singing their songs, and everyone was wearing shirts and scarves and flags supporting their Contrada!

Sienna7.jpgIn the morning, they did the horse selection where they draw straws to see which Contrada gets which horse for the races. We weren’t able to get into the packed Campo, so we watched through peoples’ butts, haha!

Then they did 6 trial races and two of the jockeys were dismounted! The horses can win even without a jockey.

The town was buzzing all day long with the excitement of the festival and it was such a blast to be a part of it!! Now we are headed back home to Vigna … I wonder how everyone else’s weekend was.

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First weekend trip

Today the entire student group, including the Keck kids, went to Florence. We took a walking tour of the city with Dr. Warden and Matt Coonin as our guides. The city is gorgeous!

Florence5.jpgThen we all went to the Archaeological Museum where Dr. Warden walked us through the whole museum and talked about all of the pieces on display and their significance, as well as what some of them mean to our studies at Poggia Colla. We even got to see some closed exhibits (which of course is where all the good stuff is)!!


Florencedinner2.jpgAfter touring and the museum, the students split off and went to lunch. Kyle knew of the most amazing restaurant and we ate family style until we couldn’t fit anything more in our stomachs! It was fabulous!!!!! We had rigatone made in a wood fire, pasta with chingale ragu, and green gnocchi with a tomato cream sauce!! (in photo: Kyle, Joanna, Me, and Mike at lunch)

Sienna1.jpgThen, Leigh, Mindy, Matt, Alex F, Joanna, Cameron, Jayme, Lisa, Cathy, and I jumped on the bus and headed for Siena!! When we got there, we could already see that it was amazing! The whole city is medieval and all of the streets are teeny and winding around the Campo (left) in the center. Il Palio is on Sunday but the festivities started today, so the whole place is abuzz with excitement and locals supporting their Contrada (neighborhood)!

Sienna2.jpgWe wandered the city and went to the Duomo (right), which has amazingly beautiful marbles. I could have walked this city forever!!

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Shovel Test Pits are the pits

Today, Mindy, Kyle, Mona, Jen, Cathy, and I were assigned to work down the hill with the Keck project. They are a group of graduate geology students who are writing their theses on various aspects of the Podere Funghi and what they find there. We already know that there is a ceramic production place and a midden pile from earlier excavation, but it is thought that there might be more on the hill to find.

One way that this group is exploring the field is through a technique called shovel test pits, or STP. In this method, a 50cm pit is dug every 5 meters in a grid across the field. All of the soil from the pit is sifted and any archaeological inclusions are pulled out and put into bags. By analyzing the inclusions, they will be able to get a better idea of where other buildings and activity was during the Etruscan period.

While the end result is really quite interesting, digging and sifting shovel test pits is awful! All day in the beating sun digging and pushing mud and clumps of sand through a screen. This has been the least fun job, but at least my muscles are getting strong; maybe soon I will have the arms of a soil scientist, haha!

Tomorrow, the entire group is going to Florence, and then 10 of us are heading on to Siena to see the start of Il Palio! I am so looking forward to it!

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