Friday, November 4, 2011

Student Elizabeth Frost at Poggio Civitate, Italy

This summer was one of the best I’ve ever had: I participated in the excavation at Poggio Civitate in Italy with the University of Massachusetts Amherst. When I first signed up I was incredibly excited, but as time grew closer, I began to feel more and more nervous. I had never been out of the country before, and this was a pretty big step. Luckily, everyone who was going could get in touch with one another through Facebook and I had plans to meet up with some of my fellow student volunteers in Rome before the dig. When I got there I knew no one, but by the time the six weeks were over we were family.

I expected that when you participate in an archaeological dig, you dig the entire time you are there. As it turned out, this was usually the case except that due some recent changes to the laws in Italy our permit to dig did not start until two weeks after we were due to start. This change in plan didn’t faze the staff, and for the first week they gave us tours of the site and the magazzino, the sort of laboratory we shared with the public cars of Murlo. We listened to lectures, played a few name games, and learned where everyone was from, what their major was, and why they were here. The next week we were split into teams and worked on different projects that needed to be done. I was put on the team that was working with Roman materials. The town had recently put in a new playground and many Roman materials surfaced during construction; they were collected and given to us. My team cleaned, measured, muncelled, and catalogued all one hundred and eighty-odd items in only in four days.

The next week we were finally able to dig. We started out with five trenches, two of which had been started the year before. I ended up in one of these, so my first week was spent digging out the backfill of a rather large, wet, smelly trench. Still, I had a great time working with everyone. Every week we changed trenches. During the next week I was in a trench that was full of material like broken pieces of terra cotta, pottery, bone, and even statue fragments. This week was much more tedious than the first where I got to use a shovel and haul dirt. Now I had to use my trowel, being careful not to pop anything out of the ground, and define rocks like nobody’s business. By the end of the second week at least six new trenches were opened and a few more had extensions added. With our limited time this seemed pretty daunting, but the staff was great at keeping up morale and also the flow of chatter so we were never bored.

Elizabeth (center right) on a day trip in Italy.
Every weekend was free time. We were on our own and could do whatever we wanted, so we traveled a lot. I went to Florence, Siena, Orvieto, San Gimignano, Tarquinia, and many other places. It was great to experience all of these places, each with its own long history.

My trip to Italy was an experience of a lifetime and something I will never forget. I traveled, I dug, and I even discovered what I might want to do for the rest of my life. This summer was one that changed me completely and gave me a new reason to keep going after my dreams.

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