04 December 2010

2011 Umbria Field School Info Session at Drew

Drew students and others in northern NJ can get some preliminary info on the Summer 2011 season at a short info session this coming Monday, December 6, at 4:30 p.m. in Brothers College 215.

More details (and a downloadable calendar link) on the Drew website here.

See you there!

02 November 2010

Buona festa di San Felice!

A short piece on the local patron saint. A bit weak on the historiography, but they do work in a plug for the site.

25 July 2010

17 July 2010

Vicus vBlog 5 (courtesy of RAI 3)

Blast from the past: last year's press conference coverage from RAI's TG3.

Second Session Ends!

Another three weeks have gone by, another couple of visitors in the trenches, a whole bunch of soil excavated, a mess of coins and a few other very interesting finds. It's just me left in Massa Martana now, as Sarah and the students have gone down to Rome (Scott should be on the plane as I write this).
Lots of work to do to close up the site and get the finds catalogued and stored until next year, so more soon! At right the official (for what that's worth) end-of-session photo.


The dolium turned out to have the number 13 scratched into its shoulder before firing (in Roman numerals of course). Here's a shot of Sarah and Federico holding up their find after the press conference—for which we left the dolium beautifully in situ—at the end of our official "day after the last day," with a close-up of the number from another photo as inset.

Conferenza Stampa

Reports of the now traditional end-of-season press conference (updated as I get them):

16 July 2010

Last Day!

As is traditional, during yesterday, the official "Last Day" of the season, a lovely find turned up: at least half of a large dolium (storage vessel) resting virtually on top of the lovely cocciopesto floor Sarah has been excavating for a few days now. Some may prefer the 17 coins that were found just to the north in this same area yesterday, but the dolium has its charms. More tomorrow.

14 July 2010

Seen in Cordigliano

On the way home from dinner at Carlo's last week.


Five weeks into the dig, I finally found a reasonably priced version of the tent I wanted to get from the start. Officially it's a "gazebo" here in Italy, and it needs some sheets or something on the sides to keep the sun out when it isn't overhead, but still, an improvement.

05 July 2010

Vicus vBlog 4

Here's another installment of video showing a bit of what goes on when we're not on the site. Enjoy!

01 July 2010

Laura learns a new Italian word: Parrucchiere

UPS student Laura Hollister has been practicing her Italian in the trenches, but today she went native and got her hair cut. First time it's been short since she's been three, she says. You never know what'll happen.

26 June 2010

First Session Ends!

Despite a short train strike yesterday, it seems that the students from the first session were able to make it to Rome and most should now be at the airport awaiting their flights. Rangar and his wife Jen and daughter Poppy are safely on their way to Perugia and thence to Florence, and Sarah is down at a conference at the Villa Vergiliana in Cuma...which leaves me in Massa, trying to keep up with the blog!

We had a terrific first session. Some interesting finds, lots of topsoil removed to expose more (and more!) walls, good food and new friendships. Here's our "official" end-of-session group photo at the right. (Clicking on it will bring up a larger size.)

High- and low-lights of the session include finding a second burial (mostly destroyed before we got to it), a few wonderfully preserved coins, France and Italy falling out of the World Cup (and USA and Portugal making it!), the annual party at the Massa Martana circolo (with the usual karaoke performances), our first dig volunteers, Pam and Gordon Mettam (on whom more later), terrific weather with only one rain day, and trips to Ponte Fonnaia, the catacombs, Carsulae, Perugia, Todi, Rome and elsewhere.

Some other photos, in no particular order:

23 June 2010

Vicus vBlog 3 (courtesy of RAI 3)

Italy's third national channel came to the site last week to do a piece on us. See if you can figure out which part is staged. :-)

21 June 2010


The rain finally caught up to us today.
After a very wet winter and spring, we were doing pretty well in Umbria, even as north Italy was getting pounded with heavy rains and flooding. That ended this weekend, as the rains hit on and off, finally settling on "on" most of this morning, with the result that we took a break from digging.
After the sun made a brief appearance this afternoon, I planned a quick trip down the Via Flaminia to visit Carsulae and get an update from Prof. Jane Whitehead on their first day of excavation. Carsulae is a little south of us (about 20 minutes by car) and somewhat up in the mountains, so the weather is a bit different...and we managed to find some rain there.
Bottom line: I got to run my first forced-march across an archaeological site in inclement weather. Nothing like the infamous Centro Attack on Pompeii, led by Prof. Paul Harvey in Spring '86, but I do what I can. We ended up damper and slightly worse for wear, but wiser for our experience of the "Pompeii of Umbria."
The forecast for the rest of the week is better, with no rain and highs only in the mid-80s.

16 June 2010


As in past years, we're finding a good number of coins again this year, exclusively Roman bronze issues so far. Coins are always fun to find, but yesterday we came upon a pair of coins in a "good" stratum, that is, a stratum of soil that lies below the plough zone and which we can place in relationship to other layers and structures on the site (like a wall or floor, or another stratum of soil). This means a lot more to archaeologists than how well preserved the coins are, because it allows us to use the coins to say something about the history of the site, instead of only admiring them for how nice they look (which is also enjoyable).

What was interesting about these two coins is not only that they were found close to one another (about 20 cm apart), but also that they date to approximately the same time (AD 230s and 240s) and that the later one is in remarkably good condition, so little worn that it could not have been in active circulation for very long.

It's a sestertius of Phillip "the Arab," emperor of Rome in the 240s, who was lucky enough to celebrate the 1000th birthday of the city (21 April 248). Here's an image, which is not as sharp as it might be, but which still shows amazing detail in the hair and eyes. You can perhaps read the inscription, which runs from about 7 o'clock, around over his head clockwise: "IMP M IUL PHILIPPUS AUG."

Recent Press

Massa Martana's hard-working "stagista" sent out a few press releases yesterday and today. And we had a visit from the local edition of the national network, RAI. So I'll post these as I get to them.

12 June 2010

Vicus vBlog 2

Installment #2. Took me a few days to get the audio done (but it's my third post today!).

The Anthropologist's View from my Window

The place we're staying at hosts wedding receptions on the weekends and our kitchen overlooks the garden where they party. Today we got a great view of an interesting wedding game, in which the groom dons what appears to be a large banana with a needle attached to its end and the bride a belt of balloons which the groom bursts using his, uh, banana.

First identifiable coin of the season

While I was off in Perugia on Friday, one of the teams found two Roman coins, one of which was in excellent condition. Although we believe the stratum it was found in is essentially the bottom of the plough zone, and so not very informative for dating any phase of the site, it's always fun to find a nicely preserved coin. The obverse has the profile of Faustina the Younger, the cousin and wife of Marcus Aurelius and mother of Commodus (of Gladiator fame), while the reverse, shown here, has the goddess Juno with her favorite bird, the peacock, to her left. Faustina is called "Augusta" on the coin, a title she was given in AD 161; she died in 175 after a trip to the Roman east with Marcus, so the manufacture of this coin can be fairly narrowly dated. (Ooh, and I took this picture with my nifty new tripod, which lets me do macro shots like this even in low light.)

06 June 2010

The Fleet

With 10 students, three faculty and a couple of family members to boot, we needed more than one car this year, so we got three (at least for a few weeks). The two we got from the agency at the airport in Rome are identical: "Natural Power" Fiat Puntos, i.e., ones that run on regular gas or methane (CNG). Methane filling stations are a bit hard to find, but there's one just outside Todi, a slight detour on a road we take fairly regularly, so no big deal. I filled up the methane tank yesterday, a first for me. Overall it's supposed to cost about half of what gasoline cars do per kilometer driven. The car automatically switches over to methane once it starts up, assuming there's methane in the tank, then switches back if the methane runs out. Our biggest problem with them so far is that they're identical, so we have to be sure to grab the right key, or take both sets. I'm thinking about treating them like the ubiquitous black luggage and tying a ribbon around the antenna of one. Otherwise a big "1" and "2" in soap on the doors. :-) Compared with last year's diesel Bravo, they're dogs though; not nearly as much power.

Car 2 is a pale yellow diesel Fiat Qubo. Very easy to tell apart from the other ones, and kind of like the Nissan Cube. I have not driven it yet, but Rangar Cline tells me that it rides a bit high, but has better pick-up and power than the Puntos.
Oh yeah, five students arrived safely yesterday. We picked them up at the Orvieto train station and got them into the apartments in Massa. Four more are on their way as I write, and one seems to have missed a connection due to a flight delay. Not quite sure where she is, but hopefully on a plane somewhere approaching Italy. Opening dinner tonight and on to the site tomorrow. We've had a few good days of sun now, so the water table should at least be falling, if not actually down below the level of our excavations.

03 June 2010


Thought I'd give it a try. After much fussing with iMovie, here's my first attempt:

29 May 2010

Hitting a Good Patch

Maplewood's on-line news site, MaplewoodPatch, has a short piece on the dig, including some pictures. Check it out!

26 March 2010

Deadline extended!

The official deadline for dig applications in now March 31st. Don't wait! We've got a good group coming and would love some more.

For Helen

A suggestion for this year's dig song.

12 January 2010