Sunday, June 29, 2014

Goodbyes, Farewells, Auf Wiedersehens, 'I do's (and the Torre too).

Members of the dig have begun to depart for home, Siena, further travels, and destinations unknown.
The German contingent (Maxi, Louisa, Christian, and Klaus), who handled the geophysics and site mapping, caught trains, no planes, and one VW van back to Tübingen.
Sophie (Penn) and Luca (Bryn Mawr) both headed back a few days early to the US to participate in weddings.
Ann (FSU) headed for Siena today to continue excavating at another site.
Emily and Rachel (Bryn Mawr) both have plans for another week of travel in Italy.

Which leaves the Torre (hitherto unmentioned) feeling a bit empty.  The Torre is a Spanish fort situated at the mouth of the Albegna inlet - the Bocca dell'Albegna.

Bocca dell'Albegna
 The region of Tuscany where we've been digging is known as the Maremma - famous for its beaches, picturesque seaside towns, cinghiale, and deadly malaria, the most famous victim of which was Caravaggio.

Looking South across the Lagoon of Orbetello to Cosa (just left of center). Monte Argentario is on the right.
Luckily the malaria is no longer a problem, and the beaches and rivers of the Maremma are now home to camp sites, marinas, beach-bars, and nature preserves.


The Torre, where the Cosa Excavations dig is housed, is situated prominently alongside the Bocca dell'Albegna, with commanding views out over the beaches as well as inland.




Formerly a museum of underwater archaeology, it is now maintained as apartments by the Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany.

Ciao for now from Albinia!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Last Day of Diggin

Today was our final day of digging. Well, actually, yesterday was. This morning was mostly spent cleaning up our trenches and making them pretty for closing photos. You know, the usual stuff: lipstick, mascara, wigs. All the things required for a proper glamour shot. Here's a photo of Allison looking sad about having to clean up and close her trench. Today was a very sad day.



Once cleaning was finished, Matt began taking closing photos. While he did so, everyone else took the opportunity to take their own photos of their trenches to show their friends back home how they spent their summer. Here's a photo I took of Sophie taking a photo of Ann and Christina's trench. It's very meta.



Here's a photo I took of Sophie taking a photo of me. It's even more meta.



Here's a photo I took of Andrea talking to Dr. Scott:

"Hey, Darby, I'd like you to meet my friend Kevin. He's a rock."
I wandered underground to the cistern to make one more quick search for Hannibal's lost treasure, and survey my work over the past few weeks. While taking photos of my trench, I heard some squeaking sounds from the back of the cistern. At first I thought it was the sound of trowels at work above my head, but these were soon followed by the sounds of flapping wings. Turning on my flashlight, I found our long-abandoned cistern had finally found some new residents: BATS. LOTS OF THEM. They moved in over night, apparently. The housing market is finally turning around. This photo was taken right before I woke them with the flash of my camera and they swarmed upon me:



Sophie abandoned us right before lunch. I cried. I said it was because of my wounds from the bat attack, but I think she knew the truth.


The rest of the day was spent cleaning and processing the finds of the past several days. This is either a photo of that experience, or the worst yard sale ever.

\


So our second season is coming to a close. Do I have any regrets? None, other than letting Hannibal's gold elude me two years in a row. Next year, my Phoenician foe. 








Photo day and The Port of Cosa

All the trenches were cleaned up for final photographs today, the LAST DAY OF DIGGING.

Photographs were followed by a full afternoon of cataloging. Fun.  More on this from Jay, as well as bats.

Andrea and Matt went down to the Port of ancient Cosa - now a medley of fishery canals, beachfront bars, and marshland.  Still visible are the sluice trenches and wavebreaks built by the colonists of Cosa to facilitate their port.

The UAV braved the wild and ocean spray to capture these shots!






Ciao from Cosa! Ciao to Digging! ciaoCiaoCIAO! c-c-c-c-c-c-ciao-ciao!

The Cosa Crew (L-R): Matt, Sophie, Rachel (front), Prof. Darby Scott, Prof. Andrea U. Di Giorgi, Christina (rear), Allison, Jay (front), Ann, Ana, Emily!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Floors, Finally!

Today was the last full day of digging, and we all made the most of it! The team from Eastern Terminal Wall joined in the quest to reach the floor level in Facade Sounding 4, which finally appeared this afternoon after some heavy collapse-lifting. In Facade Sounding 3, Allison and Ana found the lower courses of the potentially Republican-phase wall they were uncovering below the higher floor level, at which point they finalized work in that trench and also went over to help out with Facade Sounding 4. Over in the Western Castellum area, a bronze coin of Trajan appeared just as one of the soundings was being closed out, which will hopefully help us understand the chronology of that area a bit better.



Professor Scott and Jay were down in the cistern for most of the morning, looking for the floor (which they found!) below several meters of mud and, eventually, water. Yet another floor was uncovered above ground in the afternoon - an extension of a Republican floor surface in opus spicatum (herringbone patterned brick) that had been uncovered above the western cistern last year. It's hard to believe there are only a few days left in the season, but today was a great one!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Final Stretch!


Today marks the beginning of our final week on-site, and there is still much to be done!  Over the weekend, we welcomed back a team from Tubingen.  They have come to do geophysical radar at Cosa, which will be a great help in forming a better understanding of the baths and their relation to the site as a whole.

Work continues apace in all the trenches: a pavement was reached deep in East Terminal Wall, and the trench has been closed (for this season at least…).  In Façade Sounding 3, a sounding was made below the level of the floor, which has revealed tantalizing evidence of a Republican level.  A level containing large fragments of painted plaster was revealed in the Western Castellum area.  After being expanded for the second time at the end of last week, Façade Sounding 4 continues to present us with a perplexing series of walls and floor surfaces.  We hope that the latest expansion will help explain its relation to the Western Cistern area…stay tuned for more!

As the final week beings, our fingers are crossed for good weather.  So, if you are a friend of Cosa, pour libations to the storm god and ask him to stay away for at least a week!

East Terminal Wall 2 was closed today


I spent Saturday rummaging around in the Cosa storerooms in search of architectural terracottas, and found some very beautiful pieces!



Thursday, June 19, 2014

19 June 2014: Greetings from East Terminal Wall 2

Things in East Terminal Wall have been heating up--or rather cooling down--as we are currently deep enough both to have created our own shade and to be excavating in a relatively moist soil around various, confusing, architectural features.  Today further revealed what may be a buttressing feature attached to the stone portion of ETW, which additionally is abutted by a potential channel feature.  Christina and I had a blast contorting ourselves in order to approach the features, which have left us feeling a bit puzzled and quite sore.  Currently, it seems as if there are three distinct phases of this section of ETW:  1.) the unmortared stone wall, 2.) a bricked wall covered with cocciopesto, a water proofing material, and 3) a somewhat haphazard mortar and stone buttressing phase.  Hopefully the last few days of excavation will clear everything up!




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

18 June 2014: Field Trip

As the day started out sunny, we were all hoping that the weather would hold out and we could return to the trenches. It turned out that some areas were dry enough to dig, and we spent the morning hours clearing some areas and continuing excavations. The team at façade sounding 3 cleared the rest of the area to the northwest of the doorsill and found that the opus signinum flooring extends throughout the entire area and seems to match the flooring found in the southeastern corner of façade sounding 4. More opus signinum flooring was found in the western castellum 10000 block, and in façade sounding 4 more of the new wall was cleared.


We took lunch early and then went on a field trip to Roselle with the accompaniment of Dr. Bernard D. Fisher (Indiana University) and Dr. Paolo Livorani (Florence). Dr. Livorani gave us a tour of the site and then we did some exploring ourselves, especially looking at two of the three bath complexes there. The amphitheater on the north hill was quite a sight and we discovered that the acoustics amplified the voice of anyone who spoke while standing in the theater—leading to some hilarious results. The vistas from the top of the hills over Tuscany were amazing as well as you can see from the photos below.






Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 12: Rain Delays



After two weeks of beautiful sunshine, we arrived at site Monday morning to find most of the trenches flooded from the showers of the past weekend. Thunderclouds threatened all morning as we worked in the museum courtyard on cataloguing and various other projects, but by lunchtime we were driven into the magazino to work while it drizzled. On the bright side, we can now confirm that the floors uncovered last week in Facade Soundings 3 & 4 are waterproof!


The situation on site was a bit dryer today, and a new trench near the Western Castellum was opened to uncover the extension of the large standing wall visible in the background of the above photo. We were also able to take some elevations and continue more cataloguing in the magazino.

Since that is the extent of the news to share from the past two days, I’ll just mention the trip most of the team took this past Saturday to Viterbo. The city, which is located in northern Lazio, is known for the medieval district that preserves the appearance it had in the 13th century. 


It was fairly sunny for the gorgeous drive there through southern Tuscano, but by the time we had parked and found a restaurant for lunch, the skies opened up. After we had all stuffed ourselves with pasta and mozzarella di buffalo, the group split up to shop, sightsee, and visit the city’s archaeological museum, which has a very nice collection of Etruscan material from San Giovale and Aquarossa. All said, it was a rainy but fun weekend, and hopefully work can resume soon in the trenches!

Rediscovering forgotten treasures in Cosa's dusty storerooms

Because of the rain on Monday and the lingering dampness in the trenches, the team spent the days combing through the magazzini (storerooms, Italian, pl.) of Cosa's museo (museum, Italian, sing.)

Among the stacked cassetti (trays, Italian, pl.) and hidden away in plastic bags under piles of broken amphorae (clay vessel for storing/transporting liquid, Latin, pl.) and atop dusty metal shelves lay long-forgotten finds from Cosa's hey-day in the mid 20th century.

Some of the crew set to cataloging finds from the current and previous year's season (as I'm sure the regularly scheduled blog post will describe in FULL DETAIL).

Others took up various other tasks.  Jay pursued his interest in mystery cults and ancient religion by investigating the supposed Mithraeum that was installed in Cosa's forum in late antiquity.  Jay, Matt, and Luca walked up to the forum to investigate the site of the Mithraeum, which was heavily overgrown.  Jay then scoured the card catalog of the previous excavations and found some sculptural fragments (a foot) and lamps (11, to be exact) that came from the site.

Matt photographed the entire Cosa Museum collection, using the grey overcast day (perfect for photography - no harsh shadows!) to not only digitally document every item, but also perform photogrammetry campaigns on a goodly number of interesting items, ranging from Griffon table legs to large, ornate, multi-flamed oil lamps.

A Draped Herm Shaft

Table Leg Clawed Foot

Head of a Herm Table Leg

Lion Head

A Table Leg in the form of "Pegasus" - sadly not a match for the above clawed-foot.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Expanding Our Dig Space


I am an amateur so please excuse my terminology when I attempt to describe what is happening today on our dig space. (See what I mean?)

Here's a picture of Sophie and Jay taking measurements of our expansion. Yesterday Rachel discovered a turn in the main wall and collectively a decision was made to expand our dig space by 1 meter. So exciting! We want to be able to determine whether the wall adjoins another outside of our dig space.




I am working on the wall which is already exposed to find the floor area, which happened today. Who knew how exciting it could be to reach the floor and find some perfectly preserved opus signinum? I guess I have learned something. For those of you who might be reading and don't know, this material is very durable, waterproof and used in ancient Rome for flooring, among other things.

Since this is my last day on the dig, I just want to talk a little bit about what my experience has been like. Of course, it was a privilege to work with Professors Andrea de Giorgi and Darby Scott, who have been providing terrific leadership for this project. My fellow diggers are fabulous! So much fun and so hard-working...it's a great combination.

One of my favorite parts of this dig is its rhythm. Almost everyone arrives at 8 am, ready to go to work in our respective areas. We work from 8 - 11, at which point we take a little break for some water and refreshment. When I say little, I mean just a couple minutes. At 12 noon, we all take our bins of treasures down to the museum area, in the shade, in order to be washed or dry brushed. Today our treasures included pieces of ancient glass, nails, marble, pieces of painted plaster, urns and all sorts of pottery. Then lunch, followed by a couple of hours more work, and the end of the day involves processing and putting away all of the finds so that tomorrow we start fresh. It's all done together.

I love the idea that we process our own finds in a way that supports community. We work together and get to see what each other found, share the stories of the day, and pitch in and help each other. It's a time of bonding and education. Many times there will be a find in one area of the excavation that relates or is similar to, a find that was made days ago. It's important to know what everyone is doing.

I also like the fact that day after day, we get to stay in the same dig space. It's really motivating to stay in one place and to see the picture unfold as you take down the layers. I think we also become emotionally attached to our respective digging places, which means we think about them at night and work really hard to make more progress the next day. Some might say it's a bad thing to get emotional about scientific work, but I think it's great to really love "my wall" or "my door."

So, as I prepare to leave the Cosa Excavation site, I want to say thank you to all who made this dig a memorable experience for me. Thank you for your kindness - and I'll always remember the House of Worms and Pick Wizardry. :o)

Halftime report

Today, we finished our second week of excavations at Cosa. The end of the day brought exciting discoveries from the trenches.

At the East Terminal Wall, Ann and Christina began excavating a new stratigraphic layer which immediately poured out large quantities of artifacts, mainly large sherds of amphora. The trench grows ever deeper in our pursuit of the elusive drainage channel...






Special mention to Facade Sounding 3 where Allison, Ana and Matt discovered a beautifully preserved door sill.

Until next week!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 348: Searching for water, digging in the dirt, and a hope for rescue

The sound of engines woke us, and we scrambled from the trenches trembling with excitement; hope once again was renewed that we might finally be rescued from the arid, desolate ruins in which we have been toiling for days beyond numbering (the title is just a guess).


Alas, the strange flying boat passed by without noticing us.  Resigning ourselves once again to our fate, we descended back into the dirt and continued to search for clues as to the nature of the folk who once occupied this place.


edit: Oops, wrong blog...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 8: Excavations Continue!

We continued our work in all three trenches today and work was also done in the large reservoir to the south of the bath complex.

Plaster is appearing in both Facade Soundings 3 and 4, still preserved on the wall in some places. In Facade Sounding 4, the bench feature that was partially uncovered last season was shown to continue into the new trench, although the designation of the feature as a bench is now in question. In Facade Sounding 3, work on a similar feature began and an architectural terracotta (antefix) was uncovered within the area.
Architectural Terracotta from Facade Sounding 3

In East Terminal Wall, more of the wall and flooring was uncovered, although the pavement doesn't cover the entire trench. They will continue pursuing the drainage channel in the near future. 

Jay and Dr Scott worked in the reservoir today. They were clearing away debris and soil in order to find flooring and evidence for a sluice gate or something similar. 

Tomorrow the work continues and hopefully the days will continue to get more and more interesting. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 7: Rocks and Walls and Glass, O My!

The second week at Cosa is off and running! Work continued today in all three trenches.

In FS4 the "bench feature" seemed to continue, displaying the same signinum lining and reaching a juncture with a sloppy sort of wall area. Rumor has it that part of the wall may line up with a wall that extends from the "wheel room." Sophie has expressed doubt that the bench is really a bench. A channel perhaps? An ancient water-slide? Stay tuned for updates!

In FS3, the mighty band of laborers continued to uncover a threshold begun last season. Some large stones of unclear dimensions were also revealed. Things are in flux and speculations abound. Exciting! Walls continue to appear like mysterious surfacing whales. 

In ETW2 we found some important, nay, groundbreaking rocks. Man, let me tell you about those rocks! They were big, heavy, and mostly part of collapse from the terminal wall above. There was also a substantial amount of window glass (more than 200 pieces). Christina and Ann worked with a purpose and an intensity that put me to shame. Insecure in my own efforts, I began to praise myself in song:

On Moving Rocks Underground

Sing goddess, of the mighty labors done,
By the hero Luca, in caverns where the sun
Has never shone--what rocks he lifted there!
Signinum dripping, lamplight dim, and fair
Jay there was struggling to proceed.
They called on Luca for a mighty deed!'

The massy rock! Ten men of those alive
In lesser days as these, when lesser men survive,
Could never lift it. Luca, all alone,
Then lifted to the light the monstrous stone.


For the next couple days the aim of FS4 is to discover how the wall feature interacts with the cistern and with FS3. The aims of FS3 seem to be mostly probing the relationship of what has been uncovered with the street level and with the interior rooms. The "bench feature" that runs into FS4 is also of interest to the activities in both trenches as work continues. In ETW2, work continues towards the gutter at the bottom, and the seam between the two areas (or phases) of the wall is of continued interest.

The weather continues to be lovely--light and cool winds whip up from the coast through the olive groves; the sky is clear and blue, touched by the faintest feathering of clouds. The late morning is generally the hottest, but as the shadows begin to lengthen in the afternoon, and as the breezes pick up, the work becomes even more enjoyable. Every so often sea-birds coast overhead.
For all of the annoyance that the olive roots cause, the trees themselves are beautiful, and the olives have grown significantly since work began last week. Then they were only pinpricks, now they are the size of small currants, hard and green. Perhaps I'll do the blog post tomorrow. For now, I have a beer, I'm tired and with good friends, and all is peaceful in Cosa. 

June 10th Wild-card Bonus Blog

Because There was No Blog on Monday;
Or, Aerial Views of the Arx/Capitolium Area










-MRB

Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 5: Walls

Today is Friday, which marks the end of our first week excavating at Cosa! The focus in all three trenches today seemed to be on walls. Facade Sounding 3 spent the day investigating the strange, plaster-lined feature that runs alongside the wall in the center of the trench. Hopefully, next week we'll uncover some more evidence that will clear up this mysterious feature. Facade Sounding 4 welcomed a friend from last season, Leslie Thorne, who uncovered the wall running north in the trench. Eastern Terminal Wall 2 discovered that the wall they were digging near continued, but in a completely different material. Heading south, the material of the wall suddenly switched from brick to stone. The Western Castellum area, which is being examined by Professor Scott, Professor DeGiorgi, and guests, Jill Weber, Evan Malone, and Landon Thorne, began reporting on their trenches. We hope that this crucial area can tell us more about how the bath was supplied with water from the large cistern from across the street. Now we'll break for the weekend and say goodbye to two of our team - Stephen Collins-Elliot and Caroline Cheung - as they head out to join other projects. We'll miss them!!
Processing Finds!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Day 4: Digging, more digging, and probably more digging.

Today's digging began with multiple exciting finds:
Facade Sounding 3 discovered an architectural terracotta, Facade Sounding 4 uncovered a marble inscription, and East Terminal Wall found a campana plaque of the Silenus variety.  All of this happened prior to lunch.

After lunch was far less exciting for the three trenches. Dr. Scott and Luca forayed into the underground cistern system again to clear a blocked drain connected to the southern side of the baths. The clangs of their hand-picks and trowels could be heard reverberating from the ruined walls above. Likewise, Luca says the walls of the cistern shook every time Stephen drove his pickaxe into the ground above. Because Stephen is probably Paul Bunyan in disguise. We sure will miss him when he leaves for the Roman Peasant Project this coming Saturday. (I think it's a ruse. He's probably going to go look for his giant blue ox, Babe).

The day ended with multiple visitors to the site, and a sorting of yesterday's finds. What is on tomorrow's agenda? Probably digging. I hope I find Hannibal's secret treasure an inscription.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 3: Digging, The Cistern, and Aerial Photography

CIAO! from the Cosa Excavations 2014!

Day 3 at Cosa began with photographing and 'opening' the trenches.  It is important to document the state of the trenches at the beginning and end of the day's work.

The Bath complex (center) where the trenches are located


There are three currently open trenches: Facade Sounding 3, Facade Sounding 4, and East Terminal Wall 2.  All of these are continuations of the trenches from the 2013 season.

Before lunch, everyone gathered for a foray into Cosa's cistern, descending a ladder into what today looks like a large swimming pool.  The cistern is lined with the water-proof Roman concrete 'cocciopesto', to prevent the water that once filled it from seeping out into the surrounding soil.  In the center are four pillars, which are assumed to be the remains of supports for some type of roofing or covering.

The Cistern at Cosa

In the afternoon, Matt (that's me - I'm writing this!) fired up the UAV and did a photogrammetry (process of creating a 3d model from photographs) campaign on the cistern.  The winds were fierce and the sun was hot, but somehow he managed to soldier through and safely land, while the others watched on in awe from their hands and knees, in the dirt of the nearby trenches.

The site of Cosa with the Monte Argentario (right) in the background

The photogrammetry campaign completed, I sent the UAV up twice more, to take aerial video of the site and surrounding landscape, which I then edited into a totally sweet video, that I'm currently trying to upload to YouTube, with little success, due to what has come to be referred to as "the internet situation".

Hopefully some of the aerial footage and imagery will be up and view-able soon!  (actually the above cistern image is pulled from a video).

-Matthew Brennan


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 2 of the 2014 Season

Today was the second day of the 2014 season and everything is in full swing! In the morning, Dr. Scott gave a mini-tour of the Cosa museum and discussed the types of pottery that have been found at the site. The trench investigating the East Terminal Wall (Ann, Jay, Christina) uncovered a one meter section of east terminal wall, constructed in brick, that joined to a wall made of stone. Facade Sounding Three (Allison, Stephen, Emily, Rachel) found the extension of last year's work as well as a plaster floor. Facade Sounding Four (Sophie, Caroline, Luca) exposed the wall and bench found in last year's excavations (Facade Sounding One) and removed the topsoil from the remainder of the trench.

We also washed and processed our finds, which included a bronze nail, a tile with an incision, marble and iron fragments, tesserae, plaster, and numerous pottery sherds. It's exciting to be able to see relations between these new areas of excavation and last year's trenches already! More updates soon!


Dr. Scott pointing to thin walled ware in the Cosa Museum