After a long week in the trench, it came as much relief this morning when Professor George announced that I would be in the lab for the day. Joonho and I were actually just discussing last night how much of a treat it would be to wake up expecting a tiring field day, only to be assigned to the cool, clean, and indoor lab—especially on a Friday. Don’t get me wrong: digging is great—everyone, however, surely needs a break at some point.
Anways, today was also great timing for a lab day—although Joonho and I did not get to work on inscriptions last night or will not tonight, I was able to spend the whole morning on that process and thereby receive a head start for next week. This morning, I catalogued a whopping 273 inscriptions, which actually puts our decipherment work ahead of schedule despite two missed sessions. Everything from the most minimal of etchings to the most well-preserved names was fully accounted for with notes.
Going through all of the artifacts for a second time in such a short span really allowed me to observe more patterns and features of the Etruscan language. Although most of the words were written right-to-left, some were actually spelled left-to-write—including a pair of bowls practically identical except for the direction in which the word KNA, likely an abbreviated name, was written. This implies that two separate scribes created the bowls, or that direction of text carried some sort of ritual meaning to the Etruscans. Besides KNA, many other name forms, such as LA, KA, MA, and ZA, frequently appeared on the rims of the pottery, likely signifying the objects’ owners. Also featured on the pottery rims were letters such as I, V, and X—yup, you guessed it, precursors to the Roman numerals which likely numbered the vessels as part of a series. Even the random geometric lines followed predictable patterns—I found many asterisk/snowflake motifs and also a leaf-shaped etching many times: perhaps these ornamentations carry some sort of meaning as well. Although it was often difficult to transliterate as accurately as possible because of the pottery’s fractured nature, it was a fun challenge and a linguistic puzzle which reminded me of the many NACLO problems I’ve completed in the past. Except this time was real!
After lunch I worked in the photo lab—pretty self-explanatory work, to be honest. I photographed about 55 shard of pottery, 6 photos a piece from all different angles. The pottery I was working on was prehistoric, and, according to Professor George, once analyzed, will “rewrite Orvieto’s history.” Apparently these artifacts might confirm inhabitation of Orvieto four centuries earlier than previously surmised. Quite intriguing if you ask me.
Thus my first five day week of archaeology has been completed. One of our comrades last night quipped that we students finally know what a real work schedule is like: a seven-to-seven work day, without free periods or release time! I can’t deny that I am tired right now, but also quite satisfied at my perseverance and eagerness to keep waking up and work my hardest for history’s sake. This weekend should prove a nice rest—although Joonho and I certainly won’t be sitting back and doing nothing, we have some nice beach time planned at the Tyrrhenian coast, with planned visits to Roman sites such as Hadrian’s Villa, hilltop towns such as San Gimignano, and hot springs such as the Terme di Saturnia in the works. Next update will be a good one, so stay tuned!
It is hard to believe that just two weeks ago, Bliss and I were flying over to Italy, unaware of the discoveries and realizations we would have. It is also hard to believe that in just another two weeks, we will be back in America, without the dig, without the trenches, and without the people.
As with yesterday, today was steaming hot. In trench C Central, the entire crew was back together, with no one having been taken out to the labs or the cave. With the full manpower, we cleaned and cleaned for a photo of the rocky locus, and by the end of the morning, we had finished. The locus was swept nicely, and our group had dispersed to assist other trenches. While some worked in C South, I headed up the hill to trench A to help Joan clear out the layer that had fallen because of the rain onto the desired locus. Although it was muddy, the work wasn’t too bad, and the morning ended.
Before we headed off to lunch, however, C South had a large shock. In the vault that they were working in, a large crack had formed, extending from the western side of the vault to the eastern, and the trench leader, David, told every person to clear out of the trench. Even now, after multiple attempts to bolster the vault, there is a large risk that it will collapse inwards, a disaster that might halt another trench for the season.
After lunch, Serena and Silvia gave our trench leader, Kristin the nod to clear the rocks off of the locus. This was very exciting news, as we had been waiting to ground and pound and level off the rocks. The desire to clear those rocks had begun when we were told to clean them, and now the time had finally come.
Meanwhile, as soon as I left trench A, Will came over and showed us the full coin that they had found. A Roman coin, it signified that we would have ice cream again tonight.
During the process of clearing out the rocks in trench C Central, we discovered two spectacular finds. The first was a large piece of fresco that I wrote about yesterday. The piece ended up being about the size of both my hands, and colored with a beautiful green and red. It was by far the most pretty piece of fresco that the dig had seen that season. The second find was a large handle of an amphora. It appeared around 12 inches long and curved (as a handle should). To imagine that a Roman had once held it in his hands is remarkable.
By the end of the day, I was absolutely drained and on the ride back to the convent, fell into a quick nap. The weekend had finally come, and I could not have been more excited to greet it.