28 December 2008

Field School 2009!

We're all set to go for next year's field school on Drew's end ( we're still awaiting approval from the superintendency, but that should be a formality). Here are the main details, all pretty firm, but subject to change in the next few weeks:
  • Dates: 23 May - 20 June 2009
  • Cost: $4,500
  • Credits: 4
See the more official website here.
I'm also working on a way to have interested non-students come and participate for a week in early June. Stay tuned.

18 December 2008

New Coin ID

Up late last night tracking down the identity of one of our tiny coins from last season. It's about 1.5cm in diameter, made of silver, and was originally a bit too dirty to read well, but thanks to the restorers at the museum in Perugia, it was cleaned late in the summer and I got to photograph it in September, when I was around for the conference.
So here it is with only very minor cleaning to get off the easiest dirt:

You can clearly make out the profile of a head looking right on the obverse (left) with some writing behind it ("III V..."?), and some pretty shapeless blobby thing on the reverse (right) with maybe some letter, an "M"?, to the left. A surrounding circle of dots can pretty easily be filled in for both sides.
Now here it is cleaned:

You can pretty well see that the head on the obverse has some kind of covering on its back half, while "III V..." is clearer and calls to mind the standard abbreviation for "triumvir": "III Vir." The reverse is still a bit unclear, though now the lettering to the left very clearly spells out "M. ANT" for M[arcus] Ant[onius], good ol' Marc Antony. You can also barely see some letters on the right and something vertical in the middle there, rising above the central blob.
So we've got a small silver coin dating to the period of the Second Triumvirate, which is therefore the oldest datable coin we found. And it's pretty easily findable on-line. I'll give the American Numismatic Society's record here, because they've got a nice standard way to refer to coins in their collection (which is on-line and searchable), thanks to fellow UMich alum Sebastian Heath, who is their Research Scientist in charge of such things.
Their description of our quinarius is:
obverse type: Concordia head r., wearing diadem and veil
obverse legend: III.VIR.R.P.C
reverse type: Two hands clasped around caduceus
reverse legend: M.ANTON C.CAESAR

And here's their image:

29 October 2008

Useful Thing with Circles

After watching one of our Italian grad students use a compass and ruler in a very impressive, but ultimately tedious way to calculate the diameter of the rim of a fragmentary vessel (= potsherd), I went on-line to search for a nice printout of concentric circles to make the job easier. Well, I found a couple, but they all printed out wrong, so I made my own this week using VectorDesigner, a decent vector-based drawing program that I got in one of those MacHeist packages.

Anyway, here's the pdf for anyone to use. Make sure that you check the scale after printing. I forgot to turn off the auto-scaling in my printer driver the first time and it ended up shrunk by a tiny bit.

Addendum 29 June 2009: Nearly a year later, I find a bunch of nicer versions of these at the bottom of this page.

24 October 2008

Google Earth

Sitting here on our GIS workshop at Drew, it occurs to me that I have never posted a Google Earth bookmark for the site. So here's one for the church of S. Maria in Pantano. We excavated just north of the church.

20 October 2008

AIA Fellowship

Interested students con find out about the AIA's Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarship here.

19 October 2008

Sad news

The mayor of Massa Martana died in a car accident last week as he was on his way to Austria to establish Sister City relationship for his town. He was a good friend to us and our project and will be missed.

Latest news may be found here.

27 September 2008

14 September 2008

Thinking ahead

Here's a little publicity flier for next summer. It shows senior Brady Eskilson with the stack of five coins he excavated in the final days of the dig.

Feel free to print and distribute. :-)

07 September 2008


Our site of the Vicus ad Martis Tudertium shows up not only in some inscriptions (see this earlier post), but also in a few ancient and medieval itineraries, which are basically a kind of simple map for trips. Instead of representing the world in a more or less accurate two-dimensional image, itineraries are lists of places along a given route with the distance between each place given in Roman miles. (Of course you can combine these with what look to us more or less like maps, and then you get something like the Peutinger Tablet.)
Thanks to the internet tubes, several of these itineraries are available on-line:
  • The Itinerarium Gaditanum ("Cadiz Itinerary") - in which "Martis" or "ad Martis" can be found near the end of the list, 16 (or 17 in one case) miles from Mevania (modern Bevagna) and 17 (or 13 or 18) miles from Narnia (yes, Narnia).
  • The Tabula Peutingeriana ("Peutinger Tablet") - which is a distorted 2-D map with a number of itineraries put on it in a kind of semblance of geographical reality. (You can search for other versions too.) To find "ad Martis", scroll all the way to the right in the image I've linked to. You'll see Roma there, as a seated figure in a biggish circle. Can't miss it. Above Roma's head is a largish, red letter "A" and a bit above that an "M." Go left from the "M," to "U" then "N" then "E" then "C" (keep going and you'll get "Picenum" backwards). Under the "C" is one bit of writing. Ignore it. Under that, you'll see "vii ad Martis xvi." Careful observers will note that the next stop on this itinerary is neither Mevania nor Narnia.
  • It's also in the Antonine Itinerary, but I can't find an on-line version of that.
  • The stupid Bordeaux Pilgrim skipped us on his way from Rome to Milan, and took the eastern branch of the Flaminia.

Global Economy

So it turns out you can buy the same water here that we regularly drank in Italy. 'Course, the label's in English here.

26 August 2008

Pottery Stamps

Over the course of the summer, we found three pieces of terra sigillata marked with stamps.

First, an intact "CV" (closest to OCK 2275.5, AD 25-50, but with less space between the letters and the border of the enclosing rectangle):

Second, a partial stamp, showing the last two letters of "L.N.P." (OCK 1226.14, 15 BC - AD 5). The inital "L" seems to have been lost in the ridges (i.e., the stamping was poorly done):

Finally, the longest of the three, a "Surisc[us] | L. Non[i]" where the "u" and the "r" of "Surisc" run together in a "VR" ligature (OCK 1282.2, 10 BC+):

19 August 2008

Upcoming Conference

A weekend of culture in Italy, the Giornate Europee del Patrimonio, will feature a small conference at S. Maria in Pantano on Saturday, 28 September at 5.30 p.m. More info here. Stop by if you're in the area.

23 July 2008

Post-Dig Press

A second press release went out after the dig was finished. Find it here, here, and here.
A completely separate article may be found here.

Still here

Well, as expected, posting frequency took a nose dive as the dig got underway. I'm back at home now, so expect some updates as the summer goes on.

01 July 2008

Todi Sotteranea

Lots going on at the site, but more on that later. Today we went underground in Todi, visiting some ancient channels underneath the city. And by "visiting" I mean going hunched over through 2,300-year-old passage-ways cut into the rock on which Todi sits. A few moments of discomfort for me at the start, I don't mind saying, but by the end, it was terrific.

24 June 2008

More Press

Well, the conference went fairly well, even though it ate up most of our morning. A few new stories today, mostly using the same text from our previous release, but with some new bits thrown in. (Here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

22 June 2008

Porca miseria!

Ouch. In the fine tradition of Americans in Europe, I've become a soccer fan in time for the European Championship. Italy just lost to Spain in overtime on the calci di rigore, which for some reason seem to be called "penalty kicks" in English. Not so great for the defending world champs, but it does free up some upcoming evenings.

21 June 2008

Conferenza Stampa

Hitting the big-time here in the Tiber River Valley, as the release for Monday's press conference arrives on-line in the local newsletter.


Another notice here.

20 June 2008


Summer has arrived with a vengeance, as it's been sunny and over 30 here for the past couple of days, so everyone was feeling the end of the week today. Add that to our press conference on Monday and the near complete absence of unwashed finds and we were left with little to do. That meant a free afternoon for the American ragazzi, who prepared for their big weekend trip to Rome and Pompeii.
Yesterday we had a second ancient urbanism lecture and I gave them a couple of assignments to be done "on-site" in Rome and Pompeii. Beats the heck out of looking at pictures in Madison.
On the site, we're getting a much better sense of what's going on as we clear out more of the collapsed material ("crollo" is everyone's new Italian word) to leave the original walls of whatever building it was that we're working around. Some nice intact plaster on a few walls, and more coins - some even datable! - to help with chronology.
No photos as yet and I haven't scanned the excellent drawings by Gen Puleo, but we've got one of these from a good context:

18 June 2008


Our excavations include the participation of several Italian colleagues, graduates of Italy's University of Perugia. Below are Stefano Spiganti, Claudia Constantino, Ilenia Argentieri, and Serena Trippetti, newly outfitted with Drew baseball caps.

A Totally Sunny Day

Oddly enough for Italy in June, today's post merits its title. Yesterday it rained lightly for most of the afternoon, so we stayed at home and then headed to the museum for a lecture (by me) on ancient urbanism. A bit more tomorrow, and the students who are off to Rome and Pompeii this weekend will have the background to do the homework I'm going to give them.

Nice progress on the site as we have finally started to get to some layers below the topsoil. Some walls have emerged and numerous small coins (folles), most of which are too beat up to be of much use in close dating. The ones that are well enough preserved seem late 3rd - early 4th c. AD. Too soon to go very far with that though.

On a lighter note, last night the Azzurri finally won a game in the European soccer championship, so the sports pages are striking a happier tone.

13 June 2008

Che cosa?

Remarkably the day passed without any rain. We mostly uncovered the previously excavated trenches from last November. A nice Constantinian coin and some other "stray" finds. Tomorrow to some new areas.

12 June 2008


The title of this post is both the style of my pasta at lunch today and the state of the aforementioned deities. Having stopped raining briefly after lunch today, it started up again and new continues lightly. The eastern skies (over the Apennines) are clearer, but the forecast isn't very good...better than today, but not good.

Here's a photo of almost everyone in the Roman cistern at Todi.

The Gods must be angry

After a promising start yesterday, we had to stop after a fairly short - but drenching - downpour in the mid-afternoon. Today we awoke to rain.

Meanwhile at home, temperatures near 100 (low 30s, as they'd say here) and massive winds and power outages.

06 June 2008


Well, as expected, all three inscriptions are in the CIL ("Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum") volume that deals with this part of Italy, XI. Here's a photo of the inscription that gives the name of the site. I had to play with it a bit to get it to be readable (ok, mostly readable), so it appears to be in black and white, though it isn't. You can make out in the big second line "MART. TUDE" which is the middle of "Vicus Martis Tudertium", that is, "Settlement of the Mars of the people of Todi."

Sunday we plan to start the geomagnetic survey, in collaboration with Tomaso Mattioli from the University of Perugia. Should be good.

Someday the big trailer will arrive from the local town ('nuff said, if you know about Italian bureaucracy and work habits).

04 June 2008


I arrived Sunday in Italy without incident, despite the massive thunderstorms on the East Coast during the day.

Spent the day with my colleague Carlo Zoccoli, visiting a few places, including the site of the excavations where we observed a few inscriptions embedded in the wall of the medieval tower next to the church. Two have been published already, but perhaps not the third.

The first is over the small door to the tower and reads:


The other two were noted by Becatti back in the 30s and include one of the inscriptions that mentions the place by name.

Today's lesson: Always Bring the Camera

24 May 2008

Fun with Satellites

Drew prides itself on its incorporation of technology into learning. Me too...or maybe it's more accurate to say that I just like playing with computer stuff.

In any case, I'm incorporating a few fun technologies into the dig and courses for this summer, mainly to do with mapping. The first one relies on all those satellites the U.S. has put around the planet in order to provide itself (and incidentally the rest of us) with a fairly good idea of our position on the globe. These Global Positioning Satellites provide a constant stream of data that can be read with all sorts of GPS devices, and now I've got three of these babies: the GT-31 from Locosys. (I got mine from The Midwest Speed Quest link on that page. This is a windsurfing site: these units are waterproof and float.)

They don't show maps like the units found in cars, but they do track and store your position so that you can download it later. In fact you can create multiple tracks and save them onto an internal SD card for transfer to your computer. On your computer, you can run some free software that converts these files into numerous formats, including Google Earth's native kml and the file format for OpenStreetMap.org, which is how we're going to use them in Italy, but more on that another time.

Meanwhile, here's a screen shot from Google Earth. I got hungry and went to get some hot-and-sour soup (gratuitous unnecessary personal information, just like a real blog!), and took along the GPS unit. You can see that my path isn't perfectly mapped - I didn't stagger all over the street on my way there - but it isn't bad either. (Click on it to download the Google Earth file.)

In principio...

I start this with the best of intentions...and enough self-knowledge to realize that my good intentions may not be enough, and this blog may fail miserably. Nevertheless it's meant to be a running account of our excavations in Umbria, starting officially in June, 2008. I won't be the only one blogging; expect to hear from students, collaborators and the occasional "special guest."

So stay tuned.