Friday, December 24, 2010

Bill Thayer on Massa Martana and Umbria

Massa Martana is the closest town to the excavation. It is where the volunteers usually stay, and where all involved spend a great deal of time. The town is not on the usual tourist itineraries, which leads some to wonder what the town it like. Well, for readers and potential volunteers who want more information about Massa Martana, its monuments, and the surrounding region, a great place for images and information is Bill Thayer's gazetteer (here). The site contains a wealth of information on Umbria and its churches (here). It also has information and images related to the Via Flaminia, a Roman roadway that is central to the research at the Vicus ad Martis.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Visiting Local Sites (and sights)

Excavation continued on Wednesday, reaching levels just below a modern drainage channel. We hope to be able to remove the drainage channel today (Thursday). In addition to learning about archaeology through excavation, students who are participating in the excavation also have a chance to travel to local archaeological sites. Yesterday afternoon, the director of the excavations, John Muccigrosso, led students and professors to the Christian catacombs along the Via Flaminia, which feature the remains of an early Christian basilica above the entrance to the catacombs, the apse of which is visible in the photograph below.
We also visited the impressive Ponte Fonnaia, part of the Via Flaminia, a photograph of which you see below. Our afternoon trip took us to one additional Roman "ponte" along the Via Flaminia. This ponte was re-used as the foundation of the medieval church of San Giovanni de Butris. In the photograph below, you can see the top of the Roman arch being used to support the entrance to the church.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fasti: Santa Maria in Pantano

Here is a link to the Vicus ad Martis entry in the Fasti database, which collects brief archaeological reports from parts of the Roman Empire. The Fasti entry contains a summary of the findings from the last two seasons at Vicus ad Martis, which should be of interest to the followers of this blog.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gearing Up: Boots

Excavators at Vicus ad Martis will be required to wear steel-toe work boots, in compliance with Italian law. I think steel-toes are a good idea, in part because the thought of taking a student to the hospital with a smashed toe is not a pleasant one. However, this has gotten me thinking about the varieties of footwear worn by diggers in different parts of the Mediterranean. Steel-toe boots are by no means standard in other regions. For example, when I was working at Megiddo in Israel, we were required to wear boots, but they did not have to be steel-toed. As it was explained to me, the boots were a good idea in case scorpions attacked your ankles. I don’t recall any scorpion attacks in the trenches, but perhaps that is because my boots deterred them. In Greece, hiking boots or sneakers are more common (in my experience). And, I have even witnessed archaeologists in Greece working in (gasp) sandals. (Toe injuries be damned! My dogs have to breath!). In fairness to sandal-wearing archaeologists, I am a big fan of wearing sandals in some parts of the Med., provided that you are not walking through a field covered in goat-head burrs, or lifting large rocks. However, this season I am gearing up with steel-toe boots. I purchased a new pair recently and have been wearing them on campus to break them in. I decided upon the Tiberland “Pit-Boss” [picture above] which is not only steel-toed but (so the box states) can protect the wearer from electrical hazards as well. In addition, and from the perspective of fashion, this style of boot simultaneously evokes Norm from “This Old House” and nineties hip-hop, a la “This is How We Do It.” What other work boot can do that?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Preparations Underway

Preparations for the third season of excavation at Vicus ad Martis Tudertium are underway. The site lies on the western branch of the ancient Via Flaminia, and it appears on a number of ancient and modern itineraries. The past two seasons of excavation have identified some of the parameters of the site, identified a major road going through the site, and brought to light the remains of some of the buildings of the Vicus. Last season a human burial -- a cappuccina -- was also discovered. Prof. John Muccigrosso of Drew University, Prof. Sarah Harvey of Kent State, and their Italian colleagues have directed the excavations in past seasons. This season I, along with two undergraduate students from the University of Oklahoma, will also be assisting in the excavation.

The dig, which is run as a field school, promises to be great experience for the OU students, as well as their professor (i.e. me). This season the excavation will attempt to determine the ultimate borders of the site, the chronological limits of the site, and determine the relationship of some of the major buildings of the site and the Via Flaminia.