Day 2: Crocifisso del Tufo


You might have noticed that my last few days have deviated quite a bit from the usual Coriglia digging schedule, and today was no exception. For the third straight workday, I was not digging at home in C North—today, rather, I was working at the Crocifisso del Tufo, an Etruscan necropolis complex right at the foot of Orvieto proper.

Originally, as Professor Rulman notified me yesterday, I was scheduled to dig in the cave. Based on Joonho and others’ reviews of such an experience, I was quite excited—thus, it was somewhat of a disappointment when I was informed this morning that the cave would not be worked today. Initially, I started off in the flotation laboratory, sorting charcoal and shell bits out of the soil samples similar to last week’s work. However, only thirty minutes had passed when Professor Rulman decided to pull me back to the photo lab for some more Excel work. Once I had finished with the oddities and errors from yesterday’s six-hour inventory gauntlet, she was about to assign me an even more arduous task—to completely clean up the entire inventory catalog. I’m not exaggerating when I say this very well could have occupied the rest of my time here in Orvieto.

However, I was saved by the bell—Silvia, a supervisor, and Kelsey, one of my comrades, arrived right as Professor Rulman dictating instructions, in order to pick me up to take me to the Crocifisso (I must admit that I sighed in relief as I entered the car). After days of computer work, I was truly ready and eager to be under the sun—as soon as I walked through the gates and up the hill to the necropolis, I was not disappointed.

The Crocifisso del Tufo is a large collection of Etruscan tombs arranged in a city-like plot. Visitors are free to walk through its “streets,” if you will, and peer into the tombs’ open doors. In some cases, the doors are even barricaded and I was able to actually walk inside—everything of value had been removed, but it was still an inspiring feeling to breathe the air heavy with history. What impressed me the most, however, were the magnificent Etruscan inscriptions above most of the doors. Until now, the only genuine words I had dealt with were two or three-letter abbreviations on pottery shards. Carved on the Crocifisso’s stones, however, were full sentences—identifying the name of each tomb’s resident, the inscriptions all followed the same form: the word “MI,” meaning “I,” followed by the resident’s name in the genitive case, indicating possession. This formula can be translated as: “I [am the tomb] of _____.” The bracketed phrase is such because Etruscan had no copulaic form of the verb “to be” and in this sentence pattern omitted the word for “tomb.” I was intrigued to hear that the language had two forms of the genitive case—one for animate objects and one for inanimate ones. (The reason I know all of this was because Sylvia does work as an Etruscan epigraphist).

Our job this morning, however, sadly did not consist of Indiana Jones-style tomb-raiding or discovering of precious artifacts. Apparently the Crocifisso, which, unlike Coriglia, is open to visitors, had received complaints via TripAdvisor that it was too overgrown, and thus our task was to go around and pull the weeds from the tomb’s walls. (Social media has really come to dominate and dictate our lives, literally!). This was a necessary task, though, not only for aesthetic but also conservatory reasons—too much plant life and the tomb-walls’ stones might be wedged apart. Thus the three of us spent the whole day—besides a short break for some nice mozzarella and prosciutto piadinas (the Italian version of a quesadilla)—doing what resembled gardening more than archaeology.

After several bags filled with plants, we finished at three o’clock and arrived back at the convent—this extra time was probably the reason I was able to write a longer entry today! After studying some Hindi, I now have my first whole evening to rest in a while—which I will probably spend watching the Euro Cup. Let’s go Poland!



Finally, the weather had cleared up and the forecast predicted sunny and hot. Indeed, the day provided heat, heat, and heat. Despite that, the dig day began with us removing water from the trenches because of the rain that had fallen yesterday. Darlene and Professor Glen both informed me that this year’s season’s weather was abnormally sporadic and rainy. Usually by this time of the dig, Darlene said, there was neither rain nor mud.

Once we removed the rain and uncovered the trenches from the tarps, we got to work immediately. The last time we had left trench C Middle, we were told by Silvia and Serena to remove the rocky layer that rested over the sand. After completing half of the layering, we continued doing just that. Using the hand axe and the trowel, we trucked through the layer of rocks we had worked so hard to clean off earlier last week.

During the process of layering off the trench, we discovered several interesting artifacts. First, we found many pieces of fresco, some with over three colors (green, maroon, and red). The frescos were fragile, a fact that required us to trowel and pick carefully. Another artifact I found was a piece of Roman architectural terracotta that had a nail hole inside. On the front side of the terracotta, there was a design of a flower. What was most fascinating about the artifact was that on the back, it seemed to just be a piece of tile which we find on a regular basis. However, when we flipped it around, we were surprised to see designs and even a nail hole. Silvia and Serena complimented the find, saying that it was extremely important to keep such artifacts.

In trench C South, trench leader David was digging in the western side of the vault. Because they had found something that appeared to be one step of a staircase, they had worked to uncover the rest of the stairs for the past several workdays. Today was the day of the discovery. As David and Serena troweled through the top of the staircase, they heard a “clunk,” and following several minutes of cleaning away, they saw the second staircase. Although in words the feat appears simple, it was actually quite difficult to find just the second step. In addition, the vault has not collapsed yet the crack still remains.

In the hot and humid day, each trench worked until 5:00 P.M. in the afternoon and by that time, each one of the dig members were drained of energy and drenched in odor. Fortunately, the van ride back stopped at Lidl, a supermarket where many of us reloaded on snacks and drinks.

As the night drew to a close, Bliss and I entertained ourselves in the Etruscan language book Professor George kindly offered us, solidifying our knowledge of the alphabet while taking a look at more inscriptions and attempting to decipher the code.

After that, we decided to sit down and watch Poland vs. Ukraine. Bliss supported Poland—his new favorite team—so I of course I had to support Ukraine for the night.

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