A nice surprise and alteration of routine greeted me this morning, as Professor George informed me that I would be heading to Cavita 254 for the day [situated in the city of Orvieto, this cave is one of over 1000 underground caves. Its owner was kind enough and interested in archaeology enough to allow an excavation]. This was the first time I had visited the interior of the cave, and I was about to be blown away.
When I entered through the circular padlock doors, there was a different aura about that place that distinguished it from other dig sites. I had heard so much about the cave—that every three digs, there was an artifact, that it was cool all-year round, that it would spoil me as an archaeologist. All of these were true.
Kelsey and I began working in a square chamber that had yet to be identified. To its western side was an Etruscan cistern that had been outlined by cocciopesto. Near that structure, was where we hit jackpot. As we dug and dug in that region, we uncovered remarkably beautiful pieces of medieval cups. As I was informed, the 13th and 14th century artifacts were distinguished by its green, black, and brown color while the 15th and 16th were by the other colors, blue, orange, and yellow.
Although the rumor “every three digs” was a hyperbole, I found several pieces and most of them were larger than a closed fist. Each was decorated with intricate designs that I was used to seeing behind glass, in world-class museums. Finding them under the dirt, and holding them in my hand were something I would’ve never dreamt of. Along with medieval cups, we uncovered bones, pottery, and tiles.
After a nice lunch at the convent, we returned to the cave. Although the afternoon was much less eventful than the morning—for it is tough to top the discovery of medieval cups—it was equally as productive. We cleared out around 30 percent of the entire room to ground level and unfortunately, but expectedly, the finds were less spectacular. This decrease of finds resulted from the distance our digging locations were from the cistern.
After an exciting day in the cave, I returned energized and ready to go for the visit to the photography lab with Bliss and Professor George. Like yesterday, the sorting was initially slow, but the pace picked up as we completed box after box. Today, after more studying of the Etruscan alphabet, I was happy to find that I could actually make out some of the words inscribed on the artifacts.
Every week, the entire “Dig Umbria” team is split up into several groups and each group is assigned a chore. Last week, my group’s was dinner setup, and this week’s is the dreaded dinner cleanup. Despite its infamous nature, I have really enjoyed cleaning with Michael, Kristin, Will, Kate, and Hannah, and the bright and energetic atmosphere has been a fantastic end to my long day of exciting finds and adventures.
You might have noticed that my previous two entries have become shorter and perhaps blander than last week’s, and that tonight’s seems the same. Now in the second week of the project, we’ve been falling into a routine and, quite frankly, there isn’t as much to write about. Here goes today:
We woke up at seven, a fifteen minutes’ snooze past our alarms, as usual, and entered the vans. I was back in the field today, and didn’t seem to miss too much from yesterday—mainly, without me, my fellow C North diggers discovered a tile drainage channel. It was a hot one today, and, without a hat, and with my sunglasses having been crushed under the dirt, I felt myself a little bit sick with a headache. Perhaps it was dehydration, but I became over it quickly. Anyhow, it was good to be back in the field after a day in the lab.
Our work today was on clearing and accentuating locus 512, the cocciopesto I referenced the other day. Although we originally thought it would be a cohesive floor layer, it actually turned out to be quite chunky and not nearly as regular as we thought. Therefore, the supervisors reckoned it might be made of collapse of walls and roof which would explain the fragmented nature of the mortar and cocciopesto pieces. Clearing away this imploded mess was quite the challenge—it was often hard to tell concrete from regular dirt and I was worrying about destroying history with every sweep of the trowel. Sweeping the dust onto the tarp at the end of both the morning and afternoon sessions was also difficult.
After the long day of this work, Joonho and I met with Professor George for our third extra session of inscriptions. We did the same thing as yesterday—separating sigla, letters, numerals, and words from each other—yet today it took less time, perhaps because we’ve become quicker. I’ve gotten stronger at reading the Etruscan alphabet and it is very fun to identify complete words, although I have no clue what they’re saying. Professor George lent us his book completely outlining the current status of Etruscan decipherment and I look forward to reading more tonight. Until tomorrow.