I spent the summer performing geoarchaeological research in a small Italian town called Vicchio, located about 40 km outside of Florence. The field in which I performed the majority of my research was labeled “La Podere Funghi” (the farm of the Funghi family). This field is an exposed hillside roughly the size of two football fields. Because of the lack of shade, it is endearingly referred to as the “Field of Dreams”, or the “FOD”. The team, consisting of myself and five other students, as well as a professor from Franklin and Marshall College, Rob Sternberg, and the head of fieldwork at Monticello, Sara Bon-Harper, began research by digging shovel test pits, or STPs, that were fifty centimeters in diameter and were on a five-meter grid across the Podere Funghi. This grid was accurately set in place by a team of surveyors. The north-south lines of the grid were assigned a letter, A-L, and the east-west transects were all given a standard value (i.e. the 1080 transect).
In an effort to keep a possibly underlying archaeological site intact, as well as look at the relationship between plow zone and underlying layers, we only wished to sample the material of the plow zone. This zone ranged in depth from as little as ten centimeters to greater than sixty centimeters. As the STPs were dug, the team sifted each shovel full of dirt with screens of ¼ inch mesh, which is the standard for screening. In the eastern United States, where digging STPs is most prevalent, one would expect more whole artifacts to be found, but because we were digging in a field that had been plowed for centuries, we were simply in search of any shred of an artifact we could find.
Many of the artifacts we found were tiny pieces of terra cotta, which was what we expected at the site. In previous years a ceramic kiln had been excavated along the I-K lines. This specific kiln was indicative of a low-fired ceramic production area in the field. This is very significant, for the kiln was dated to an early Etruscan era. Ninety percent of what we know of Etruscans comes from funerary sites, ten percent comes from other votive and religious sites, and less than one percent comes from everyday sites like this one. What a significant find! With integration of the data from each of the six Keck Projects, we hope to prove that at least one other kiln was located uphill from the lower one that was already excavated in years past. Because a trash heap in association with kiln work is located uphill from the excavated kiln we suspect the existence of another kiln (possibly more than one) uphill from this because it doesn’t make sense for one to dump trash uphill from a site.
Along with this, my specific research delved into the scatter of artifacts across the field. I helped catalogue the artifacts and measured the artifact size along the D and K lines, as well as the 1080 and 1140 transects so as to try to establish some sort of movement pattern across the field and/or downslope. Higher concentrations of artifacts in clustered STPs indicated areas we should look at more closely and possibly excavate in order to pinpoint a location for the possible uphill kiln location. I also will be looking at the movement of artifacts within the field due to both geomorphologic processes, such as creep, as well as the plowing that has taken place in this field for centuries, and as recently as 1998. This research is the basis for my senior geology thesis, on which I will be working for the duration of my senior year.