Day 1: Debunking Orvieto’s History


When we arrived at the convent after a 150 minute ride from Scarlino, I expected to be tired and drowsy. We had, after all, woken up at 4:30 A.M. Contrary to my expectation, we were fueled and ready to dig. Unfortunately, the weather disagreed. After Sunday’s thunderstorm havoc, the trenches were left in bad shape and unable to be worked in. To add insult to injury, the forecast predicted more showers later today.

Therefore, instead of making our way to Coriglia, I found myself in the photography lab. The artifacts I took photographs of, were dated to over 1200 BC, over 3100 years ago. These artifacts were discovered in 2012 and 2013 in Cavita 254. The fact that there were artifacts of pottery and tiles at that old of a time period has the potential of debunking the current belief that no human population inhabited Orvieto before the Etruscans in the 10th and 9th century BC. In my hands was the possibility of the redefining of Orvieto’s history. It was possible that we would discover Orvieto’s history to be 300 or 400 years older than previously believed.

When Professor George mentioned that my photographs could contribute to the expansion of Orvieto history, I began to think about other cultures, and how limited our knowledge is.

This, I realized, was the importance of archaeology.

Without it, how would we know when our history started? When it ended? For so long, we had believed Orvieto’s origin date to be 10th and 9th century BC. Without archaeology, how would we have known otherwise? Was Orvieto the only city for which this was the case?

There were so many questions left to be answered and that was part of the beauty of the study of archaeology. The answers weren’t like mathematics, in which 2 + 2 must be 4.

Immediately following lunch, I returned to the photography lab to continue with the artifacts. In addition to taking photos, I enjoyed completing puzzles—some of the artifacts joined together. For instance, four of the pieces of pottery I took pictures of, formed two different parts of bowls. It was as if I had returned to 2nd grade and partook in puzzle making, instead this time, it was for a huge purpose.

By the end of the day, after photographing and cataloging each of the pieces (some were the size of my pinky nail, some the size of my hand), I was surprised to see that I had taken over 1000 photos for around 145 different artifacts. After seeing that number, I looked down at my hand, and felt it sting. Photography was no joke.

This week, after completing dinner duty last week, my group is in charge of the bathrooms. Although the job sounds gross, it is actually quite enlightening, as such an experience will definitely come in useful as I grow and mature. Plus, bathroom duty is only three times a week, while dinner duty was daily.

No matter how often or how gross, I continuously remind myself that my ability to even partake in this excavation is a massive privilege, and cleaning the bathrooms is quite minuscule in comparison.



After a long day of travel and staring at a computer, now I find myself straining my eyes at the screen for twenty more minutes to write this post. I’ve been up since 4:30 AM, to catch the taxi back to Orvieto, and continuing to catalogue the inscriptions was no easy work. Nevertheless, here goes…

Joonho and I rolled right out of the bed and into the car early this morning, only to fall right back asleep—the only thing that might have woken us even a little bit was the surprising news of the Cavaliers’ win over the Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA finals. Finding the convent as we approached Orvieto was nowhere near the challenge we expected, and we even arrived fifteen minutes earlier than expected at 7:10 AM.

Although I was surely excited to be back at work after the weekend, internally I was not overly enthusiastic over the prospect of an eight-hour workday in the sun and dirt on only five hours’ sleep. Thus it came as relief to my ears (and tired body) when it was announced that I would be working in the lab on inscriptions for the second workday in a row. Apparently I did such a good job cataloguing last week that the supervisors wanted me in the lab again on the same process.

Today, however, I did not touch or even see an actual artifact, to my dismay. My work consisted purely of Excel spreadsheet editing and cataloguing—an important yet extremely tedious process. Dad, you’ve always emphasized the importance of such skills, and I can say I’ve seen why now. The first task for me was to merge my list of inscriptions compiled on Friday with all the other existing lists—confusing at first, but then I remembered the copy-and-paste approach and fulfilled this challenge within an hour.

I was nowhere near finished, however—it was only 10:30 A.M. After a quick croissant at the Bar Obelix, Professor Rulman assigned me my next task, a “Herculean labor,” in her words. This was a true evaluation: I worked on the following task until dinner-time, with only a brief respite for lunch. Basically, I had to use the list of all the 539 inscriptions I made earlier in the morning to look up each artifact in the official database on a second spreadsheet and copy those descriptions onto a third workbook. This effort was complicated by the fact that the database was not organized in any logical fashion and, in essence, I was forced to scroll through thousands of entries to find each inscribed artifact. Luckily, there was an internet connection so I was able to listen to music to lighten the monotony of such a task. Although I eventually made it through with very few errors, my neck became quite sore and my eyes quite strained. Clearly one does not need to hit the trenches for a full day’s work!

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