Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week 5 - helicopters, radar, and X-rays (oh my!) ...

The fifth week of our 2011 field campaign was abuzz with activity. In addition to our ongoing excavations in the ancient city of Gabii, the project continues to collect data by additional means. As in past years, we carried out a pass of aerial photography on-site via helicopter (thanks to Sgr. Italo Marini of the Fly Roma School) in order to see our work from a different angle. The utility of aerial photography in archaeology has long been proven and, in the case of urban sites such as Gabii, it is especially useful for recognizing alignments and orientations within the site. Happily, thanks to our surveying capabilities the aerial photographs can be orthorectified and incorporated into the Gabii GIS - super exciting!

Our intrepid field director Anna Gallone on the helicopter mission to take aerial photos of Gabii.
Our technological saturation only increased as the week went on as we were happy to benefit from the presence of specialist colleagues from Roma Tre University and Davidson College, respectively. From Roma Tre we welcomed Professor Elena Pettinelli and her team from the physics department who this week began additional tests using ground penetrating radar (GPR) at Gabii. This geophysical technique recognizes archaeology and geologic features by creating subsurface radar profiles and our project is beginning to test the effectiveness of GPR at Gabii as a guide to better understanding the site. Our physics colleagues were even generous enough to come out to Frascati and talk to our group about physics and its applications for archaeology.   

Elena Pettinelli from Roma Tre University.

We were also happy to welcome Prof. Ruth Beeston from the Chemistry Department at Davidson College in North Carolina. In conjunction with Hilary Becker, Ruth was in Italy to carry out XRF testing in the lab of the University of Michigan / University of Calabria project in the Area Sacra di Sant'Omobono in Rome and she was generous enough to come to Gabii with her XRF equipment. The handheld XRF equipment is used for conducting elemental analyses and Ruth's day of testing at Gabii included samples of human bones along with other specimens, including geologic ones. Adding XRF testing to our arsenal of investigative strategies is a boon to the research agenda of the Gabii Project.

Ruth Beeston and Austin Raymond in the lab at Gabii.

Davidson College crew at Gabii: Will Milvaney, Hilary Becker, Austin Raymond, and Ruth Beeston.

With all of this flying, zapping, and radar-ing, we would be remiss if we did not mention the excellent progress made in terms of excavation at Gabii. Our teams continued to make progress in all of our excavation areas, something that was evident to all of our visitors this week, including the local inspector of the archaeological service. As we move on to the sixth, and final, week of the 2011 campaign we continue to derive great excitement from our students and sharing with them the process of discovery at Gabii. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fourth week at Gabii

A pattern of oppressive heat and humidity gave way after mid-week and we finished this, our fourth week of the 2011 campaign, under beautiful skies at Gabii. Gabii Project veterans continue to marvel at Gabii's unique weather patterns, seemingly still influenced by the crater lake of Castiglione, although the lake was drained a long time ago. The winds helped to make the temperatures lovely for fieldwork - although the occasional blown paperwork or silt in the eye was a downside to the windy weather. In terms of archaeology, we had a productive week. In Area C we continued to delimit a Republican structure and in Area E a lot of hard work cleaning top soil and colluvium is starting to reveal interesting and promising wall features, in addition to more evidence for Gabii's street system. Elsewhere on the site we continue to work to complete the excavation of a structure in our Area B as well as to document and model various features, including digital tomb modeling. Our lecture program this week included presentations by Hilary Becker (Davidson College) on the inland economy of ancient Italy and by Ruth Beeston (Davidson College) on XRF and chemical applications in archaeology. Mid-week we were invited to visit the excavations of our 'neighbor' Marco Fabbri who is working at the site of an archaic building on the rim of the crater of Castiglione. To top off a great week, a number of the team joined Jeffrey Becker and Hilary Becker for a visit to the ruins of Ostia Antica on Saturday. All enjoyed a fun day walking and talking amidst the ruins. As we move on to the fifth week of this year's campaign, we look forward to what is sure to be an exciting new round of discoveries. The project also joined Google+ this week, so come join our circle(s)!

Austin Raymond (Davidson College).

Evan Goldstick (Michigan), Samuel Palumbo (Bryn Mawr) work with supervisor Jamie Sewell.

Ruth Beeston talks about chemistry and archaeology.

Part of our group at the sanctuary of Attis in the Campus of the Magna Mater. (l to r, starting with back row: Brandon Tomasso, Jacob Kovacs-Goodman, Evan Levine, Sheira Cohen, Jonathan Flynn, Julia Reilly, Aida Ali, Jackson Vaughn, Tim Hart, Ruth Beeston, Michael Beeston, Hilary Becker, Austin Raymond, Evan Goldstick, Nick Bartos, Christina Cha, Ilana Hill, Zoe Fox, Lauren Coughlin.

Part of our group at the Capitolium. (l to r, starting with back row: AJ Chrapliwy, Jackson Vaughn, Sam Palumbo, Evan Goldstick, Amanda Swango, Tim Hart, Austin Raymond, Sheira Cohen, Jeffrey Becker, Jacob Kovacs-Goodman, Brandon Tomasso, Sophia Staley, Laura Steitz, Carrie Wallace, Lauren Coughlin, Jonathan Flynn, Nick Bartos, Julia Reilly, Zoe Fox, Alison Rittershaus, Aida Ali, Ilana Hill, Christina Cha, Evan Levine.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gabines on the Ianiculum?

Yes, it can happen - a geographic convergence of sorts, Gabines coming to the hills of Rome. This was the case on the evening of Saturday, July 9, 2011, when the American Academy in Rome and the University of Michigan's Office of Development hosted a reception for friends of the Gabii Project in the Academy's Bass Garden. Welcoming the group were project director Nicola Terrenato, Brodie Remington from the Office of Development, and T. Corey Brennan, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge of the School of Classical Studies at the American Academy. The welcome highlighted the strengths of the University of Michigan and its tradition of Roman studies and Classical archaeology, as well as the ties between the two institutions. After a discussion in the garden about the aims of the Gabii Project, the group adjourned to the Casa Rustica on the Academy's grounds for a visit with the lead sarcophagus excavated at Gabii in 2009. It was a lovely evening - with perfect weather - and the Gabii Project is grateful to its friends and supporters for coming out to share in both a lovely evening in Rome and in our fieldwork outcomes.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Third week of the 2011 season

It seems unbelievable that we have reached the mid-way point of the 2011 field season. Things on-site at Gabii are so busy and our team (85 persons strong) is working so hard that time seems to be flying by this summer. Our week was very productive and was fortunate for good weather, save one rainy day. The excavations in Areas C, D, and E continue to work to delimit parts of city blocks, including phases that pre-date the imposition of Gabii's street grid that was exposed by survey. This involves looking not only for limits with respect to the blocks, but also to untangling what is looking to be a multi-phase architectural chronology. Area E (our newest area) is still in the process of clearing colluvial layers, but has in so doing exposed some promising wall tops and important evidence of our easternmost side street.

Stormy skies over the Ager Gabinus.

Sophia Staley (Brown) and David Zackheim (Williams) work with assistant supervisor Marilyn Evans (Berkeley), at center.

Laura Wilke (Cornell) and Bailey Benson (UPenn) work sorting pottery.

Area B Team on 8th July 2011 with supervisor Claudia Melisch, at center.
At the Villa Mercede we had two engaging lecture presentations by Nicola Terrenato and Abigail Crawford, respectively. Terrenato's talk on stratigraphy and the Harris matrix pushed students to think about the relationship of stratigraphic contexts on an archaeological site and the challenges of organizing stratigraphic information in a usable and lucid way. Crawford's talk on archaeological materials included a 'practical' component wherein students were given finds data and stratigraphic data for various units and asked to offer interpretations on that basis. Both exercises were very useful for our group.

Nicola Terrenato discusses the Harris matrix.
Abby Crawford discusses archaeological materials.

Alison Rittershaus (Harvard)

Nicola Terrenato capped the week with a presentation at the Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome in tandem with a presentation of the publication of the Regional Pathways to Complexity Project. The event enjoyed an excellent turnout and the Gabii Project is extremely grateful to the Dutch Institute for the invitation to include our work in their event. On we go to the fourth week!

Nicola Terrenato discusses Gabii Project research on July 8, 2011.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Second week at Gabii - full steam ahead!

Somehow we have reached the end of the second full week of work with the full team on-site. In spite of a day of rest mid-week for the SS. Peter and Paul holiday, the week was very full, busy, and productive. We welcomed on-site 25 new student volunteers from the American Institute for Roman Culture in Rome who will spend the remainder of July working with our team. Some of them have joined existing excavation teams while others have formed a new team that is tackling a new area (Area E), so we welcome their arrival and participation.

Elsewhere on the site things are in full swing. The environmental lab is processing soil samples of all kinds, as well as setting up for what is to be a robust campaign of dry-sieving of soon-to-emerge occupation layers. In the finds lab the staff is working to collect and collate data on past season's finds, all the while processing new cassette as they come from the field.

For the 'diggers' work continues on structures in three of our areas, at this point the main goal is the delimiting of the ground plans of these buildings. To that end, we are working on a further expansion of one of our excavation baulks. On this, a beautiful Italian Saturday, we look forward to the upcoming third week of the 2011 campaign.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gabii Project at the Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome

On July 8, 2011, at 18.00, the occasion of the presentation of the new volume Regional Pathways to Complexity: Settlement and Land-Use Dynamics in Early Italy from the Bronze Age to the Republican Period by Peter Attema, Gert-Jan Burgers, and Martijn van Leusen (Amsterdam, 2011) will provide the occasion for a presentation by Nicola Terrenato on the recent work of the Gabii Project under the title "The Gabii Project: Recent discoveries and perspectives".

The event is open to the public.

Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome
Via Omero 10/12
00197 Rome, Italy

For more information, contact the Gabii Project (gabii.project (at) gmail (dot) com). For information on the venue or directions, please contact the Royal Netherlands Institute at Rome <>.