Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Student Sami Miller Participates in the Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project in Italy

This summer I participated in the Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project in Italy. Elizabeth Frost and I had been accepted into the program in Summer 2011 and were invited back as staff members for the 2012 season. Instead of working as a student, I was a junior staff member. This meant that I was working as an assistant Trench Master, learning proper archaeological documentation methods, both on and off the field. I learned that actually running the trench is very different from working in it. I still played an important role in my trench, but instead of helping to dig it, I was recording what everyone in the trench did. This included setting up the trench, drawing the trench and all the artifacts found, keeping a daily record of any action taken in the trench, and elevations of the trench floor.

This season was very different from last season. Last year, trench masters had their excavation areas in specific spots that were within walking distance of each other. This time around the area I was working in had trenches that were side by side for a total of ten trenches covering an approximate area of 16 meters by 12 meters. We were working off the side of what is known as the “medieval road” which is a medieval era footpath still used today. On the other side of the road there were eventually six trenches that uncovered lots of material from the Iron Age, Etruscan Orientalizing and Archaic periods.

One unique opportunity I had in the trench was to excavate what is potentially a post hole, which involved a lot of lying down on my stomach with my head and one arm inside this hole. There is the big taboo about sitting in the trench, so there was a great rush of excitement about getting to actually lay down in one, but that euphoria was soon diminished when I realized lying down with your head below your body was not a good feeling. Especially in 100 degree weather and no shade. It was a great experience overall and I learned the finer points of delicate excavation, but which can come in handy later if I ever encounter another post hole. Because of an injury later in the season I spent the last two weeks working in the lab with alumni Theresa Huntsman cataloguing artifacts (meaning Theresa did the cataloguing and I did whatever task she told me to, which was usually munselling new finds and entering the colour designations). 

My first summer here I learned about the Italian Iron Age, which has become one of my favourite topics in archaeology. This interest evolved into my honors thesis with which I received UE’s Undergraduate Research Grant, which allowed me to return to Poggio in the summer of 2012.  Every weekend I was going to a new museum or city to conduct research, and I was able to build on the Italian that I learned last year.  If you want to learn the basics from an exceptional field school, consider Poggio Civitate.

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