Day 4: Grave Digging


Rather than measuring inscriptions at the photography lab in the morning, I headed to Crocifisso del Tufo immediately, with Paolo and Kelsey. When we pulled into the rocky and bumpy driveway, it’s safe to say that the site was not what I expected at all.

The biggest surprise was that Crocifisso was a public tourist attraction, not a private field school site. Maps set up in each station, the site was the real deal. I was about to be digging in a tourist attraction.

The second surprise was the number of tombs existent on site. Every direction I looked, I saw clusters of tombs. It was mindboggling to imagine that there were around four people to every tomb.

The third surprise came after we had retrieved the tools from the tool shed: we were actually going into an Etruscan tomb to dig. All of a sudden, I felt a jolt of “Indiana Jones” energy and stepped right in. Inside, there were three beds where the bodies used to lay, and walls of tufa surrounding the tomb. Kelsey informed me that Etruscan tombs were built like Etruscan houses, with a main room at the entrance, and a cubiculum near the back. She added that the entrances would be enclosed by tufa blocks after the deceased had been buried.

To be perfectly honest, I did feel a sense of guilt for digging in dead people’s tombs, but reminded myself that this was for archaeology and history. Moreover, it is ignorant to say that walking into the tomb was all joyful—no matter how brave you are, spider webs, centipedes, and the smell of the dead in a dark enclosed location bring forth fright. They initially did for me.

In tomb 127, Kelsey and I leveled out the floor so that all layers were at the same level. We recovered many human bones, attic pottery, and commonware. After finishing off 127,we moved onto tomb 76, where an inscription greeted us at the entrance. Most tombs have an inscriptions that reads “I am the tomb of [name].” In addition the inscription, there were two circles that decorated the front that appeared to be like eyes. Our objective for 76 was quite different from that of 127. 127 had been dug yesterday, so there was much less to do than in 76. In 76, we lowered the dirt level down to floor level, cleaned under the beds, and straightened out the entrance. I was able to uncover several pieces of iron, two of which were a nail and the front end of a barbequing tool. The Etruscans are a mysterious people, but we know that they loved to barbeque.

While digging in the tombs, I got very messy. The soil was not completely dry and there were many places (under the beds, in the corners), where I had to lie down or slither in to reach. By the end of the afternoon, my pants turned to brown and my blue shirt to a darker tint. All the while, I reminded myself that I was digging in an Etrucsan tomb, a sentence that very few have the privilege of being able to say.

After a shower and dinner, the entire “Dig Umbria” team went up near Coriglia to celebrate this past season and hear Claudio speak on the finds and answers of this year. An annual occasion, this was a time for the donors of this project to learn what they had donated for.

Although the objective is brief, the ceremony extended into the night, and I returned to the convent, tired, sore, but fulfilled with the dig I had completed today, and the ceremony I had attended.

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