2016 Fellow Dig Blog at Gabii Project (Italy)
Director: Esther B. Van Denam (U. of Michigan)
The Gabii Project intends to investigate the city of Gabii and contextualize it in relation to nearby Rome and Central Italy. As a volunteer, Erica will be assisting in the excavation and recording process of the stratigraphy from a discreet area of Gabii. As a Finds School member, she will be photographing, drawing, and otherwise recording attributes of our collected artifacts. Finally, as a researcher, Erica will be performing a variety of analyses on collected artifacts containing archaeobotanical residue and remains with Dr. Laura Motta.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
The fifth and final week at Gabii was headlined by a trip to the American Academy of Rome. The Academy houses several dozen special finds cassetta from Gabii and other excavations for the sake of saving space on site and the artifacts themselves. Along with the reward of sleeping in past 6am and not wearing steel-toed boots, the Gabii Finds School made the short pilgrimage to see even more delicate artifacts from site.
On this day, each Finds School student was expected to catalog any objects relevant to their final project in addition to researching their finds. Unluckily, I was not able to extensively research my artifacts while at the Academy or on site from the sheer amount of bone hairpins and needles I found. Most of my time was spent recording the dimensions of the bone objects and acquiring other raw data I would not be able to obtain in the States.
I have had a fulfilling, rewarding experience in my second excavation season with the Gabii Project, so the end of this fifth week is naturally bittersweet. While I am content to fly back to Michigan and refresh my Ancient Attic Greek in a hammock in Ann Arbor, I will miss having the routine of the site and the colleagues and friends I have made along the way.Posted by Erica C at 9:18 AM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Thursday, August 4, 2016
After starting the fourth week off with the "Gabiine flu", I entered my first day of Finds School. The Finds School allows a handful of volunteers to take a break from excavation and become more intensely educated about the ceramics and other finds from site.
Each day, finds director Dr. Laura Banducci would teach the school about a given ceramic classification in chronological order from impasto to African Cookware. We were encouraged to ask questions and use resources around us in order to spot date SUs, amongst other things. We would draw vessels based on diagnostic sherds and compare them to published resources of the same typology on a daily basis. I learned that the proper orientation of rims and bases affected my drawing to a significant extent; as a result, the completed drawing affected my own judgement of comparative vessel typology.
Monday, July 25, 2016
In my third week at Gabii I spent three days in the field excavating, one day in our finds lab and one day working with our topography team aka "topo". As not everyone is given the opportunity to work with topo for the sake of time, I will be outlining my experience in this blog post. Our topography team at Gabii is responsible for recording our SUs through visual representations. Essentially, through measuring the elevation of an SU and creating polygons to represent SU shapes, we can form maps true to site. The total station is the stationary component of measuring the SU an elevation points; it fires a laser to the prism, which reflects the light back to the total station. This enables the station to record where the prism is in three dimensions. The prism is moved throughout the day around given SUs documenting points for which the team will connect-the-dots.
While most of us still don't fully understand the physics behind topography, I think the Gabii workforce would agree that topo's work is not only very cool, but will be incredibly useful for future scholars of the site.Posted by Erica C at 10:44 PM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Saturday, July 16, 2016
This week at Gabii revolved around excavating the interesting walled room with the steps I discussed in my previous post. We continually rotated between pickaxing, shovel tossing, and sieving our wheelbarrow for finds before trading our tools in for subtler excavation instruments.
As the volunteers in our room excavated closer to the presumed level of the floor, the soil became incredibly compact with rocks and huge chunks of tile. We tried to trowel one of the longer walls in hope of an emerging floor surface. Luckily we struck a firm, flat surface and dubbed it as the floor that we could follow with our trowels. Arduously, our team worked on peeling back the floor surface for the rest of the week, but not without a few surprises.
After alternating between the trowel and the mini pickaxe for the thousandth time midweek, I started to see a curved feature in the floor. In my previous area, seeing circular cuts or obscure linear deposits would be normal fare, but not in such clear constructions in the Imperial Era. As we peeled back the compact soil covering our floor, we discovered a circular depression right in the middle of the concrete! Neither supervisor nor volunteer knew what to make of it, but our area knew we had stumbled upon something even more significant than the steps.
Although we were all happy to ultimately see the full floor and give it a final brush, the basalt stones removal was a major turning point for my team's morale. Seeing those rocks get tossed aside onto our soil waste pile reaffirmed that our physical and mental strengths in a particularly complex and rigorous SU. Our teamwork and efforts of the past two weeks were validated so poignantly, signifying turning point for our time at Gabii and archaeological career paths. Naturally, we celebrated with gelato that night.Posted by Erica C at 11:34 PM No comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
Monday, July 11, 2016
On the site of Gabii roughly forty volunteers and forty staff members annually combine their efforts into uncovering and analyzing stratigraphy and the materials produced from excavation.
Last year, I volunteered for a Latial area of Gabii whose small stratigraphic units (SUs) were differentiated by slight changes in color, composition, and compaction. Identifying SUs delicate were of the utmost importance and we were instructed to save every potsherd the size of our thumbnails, or larger. Aside from a few extreme cases, all of the pottery we uncovered was impasto, hand-built, low-fired vessels with thick walls, and most of it barely made the threshold of "thumbnail-sized". Under the expertise of Dr. Marilyn Evans, our team was able to sieve and take soil samples* of every stratigraphic unit. At the end of last season, we hit a sterile layer of bedrock thereby putting the area to rest from further excavation.
This year, my area of excavation could not be more different. After the backhoes had removed much of the topsoil resulting from contemporary plowing activities, we could already see walls constructed of stone and mortar. We reached the limits of the area's second SU from more than a day's worth of pickaxing and shoveling!
*At Gabii, soil sampling consists of pouring a given amount of soil into a strainer submerged in flowing water. The strainer catches pottery, rocks, bones, and other larger items while seeds, charcoal, and small items are skimmed from the top into a fine strainer. The silt sinks to the bottom, thus separating dirt from anthropological materials. Photos courtesy of the Gabii Project Media Coordinator.