Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Season Well Excavated

This past summer the Gabii Project was happy to welcome 77 team members, representing 20 schools and 7 countries. After ten years of excavation we are still gaining new insights to ancient Gabii and are dedicated to sharing the results of our season with the academic community through our publications and the general public through more informal posts, like our blog.

Photo model of an auxiliary room in Area I
Area I continued to excavate the same building from 2017, attempting to finish work in the eastern section of the structure and extending the trench further west to investigate new walls. The building was standing by the early Imperial period, with some evidence for earlier walls and floors. Mosaic pavements were found in multiple rooms, but the best preserved examples come from two room in the north east of the complex which remain almost entirely intact. Both rooms were paved at the same time and feature black and white geometric designs with circular and rhomboid patterns. This floor decoration was also present, albeit more fragmentarily, in the large central courtyard of the building. Sparse patches of mosaic are present in multiple corners of the room, indicating that it was all paved at one point. At the center of this courtyard there is a chalky, waterproof feature, possibly an impluvium. To the north of the courtyard is another large room with evidence of revetment and a few fragments of decorative marble attached to the socle. The wide entrance into this room, the evidence for decoration, and position of importance relative to the rest of the building indicates that this may have served as an entertainment space.
After the third century BC there is evidence of reorganization. Spaces within the building are blocked off, doorways are closed, and new walls were built to further separate spaces. Most of the rooms contained heavy deposits of post abandonment fill. One long hallway, at the northernmost point of the structure, held fragments of figural wall plaster, pieces of marble, and a small lead and bronze figurine head. It is unclear if these waste materials were taken from the Area I structure and deposited in this out of the way space, or if they belonged to some other building nearby.

Audrey Pierce (U Michigan) reveals beautiful basalt pavers.
In Areas G and H the Gabii team further investigated the road networks of Gabii. Area G focused on a side road extending north from the Via Gabina. Over the course of the season, multiple levels of paving were uncovered: a late Republican basalt paving, an Imperial basalt road, and at least five gravel roads all dating to after the mid to late fifth century C.E. The longevity of this road shows that this route remained an important connector for Gabii even as the functions for different sectors of the town changed. The earliest roads were probably related to accessing the quarries located to the north of the Via Gabina. Later iterations of the road connected southern parts of Gabii with the imperial cemetery in Area B. While none of the Imperial Via Gabina was removed, a large cut feature just to the south of the road allowed us to see a cross-section of the road’s construction including an earlier paving of the road – perhaps form the Republican period –  that may be further examined in future seasons.

Field Assistant Emily Sharp excavating
one of the many post holes in Area C
The excavation’s third trench, Area C, contain the oldest material excavated this summer by the Gabii Project. More of the Latial hut complex was uncovered, including a feature built of stone, wattle and daub that possibly served as a boundary wall around the elite hut complex. Towards the end of the season, two infant burials were discovered within the limits of the compound. Both tombs included remains of an individual under two years in age and an assortment of ceramic and metal grave goods. These graves are suggest that the inhabitants associated with them were of elite status; previous graves from Area C were much less elaborate and modest. Area C hopes to expand their excavation area next year in order to continue delimiting the boundary of this early Gabine hut complex.

Outside of the field, our finds team processed a lot of material (stay tuned for numbers). Storage continues to be a perennial issue, as with all sites that practice comprehensive collection, and the finds team consolidated and more closely examined previous excavation material to free up space. The environmental team continued their blanket sampling of Area C material and also got exciting radiocarbon dates for some of the Area D features. Our topography team dutifully responded to numerous calls to shoot in stratigraphic units, created photo models, and made sure that all of our equipment functioned smoothly, even in the difficult conditions they were exposed to in the field. Paperless recording continues to be a success, allowing for all members of the excavation team to have access to updated data both in the field and back in Rome for after-site work.

Over the weekends our Project members got to adventure throughout the Italian peninsula, visiting major cities, many archaeological sites, and even making it to San Marino (sadly no passports were stamped on that visit). Pompeii offered a major photo op for our students, although we question just how tired they were when the decided to spell out Gabii, at another, slightly more famous, archaeological site. Within the city of Rome, staff
Weekend visit to the Villa Giulia
members Andrew Johnston, Laura Banducci, and Troy Samuels offered special guided tours of the Roman Forum and Villa Giulia Museum. One of the final summer highlights was the Capitoline Museum’s special exhibit “The Rome of King’s” featuring material excavated by one of the University of Michigan’s other projects from Sant’Omobono. Students also had a good time getting to live in Rome and explore their summer neighborhood of Trastevere. Evening musical performances in Piazza Trulissa, the quest for the best spritz, and frequent visits to the newly opened gelataria down the block from the apartments (Giuffre) were some of the highlights of daily life in Rome. While we were sad to close the books on another season in the field, there is still much work to be done back in the states by the excavation team in preparation for 2019.

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