Geoarchaeology of the Poggio Colla Archaeology Field Site, Italy

What: Our geoarchaeology project will coordinate with and support the larger goals of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project and Poggio Colla Field School. These endeavors combine excavation, intra-site archaeological spatial sampling, and archaeometry as part of an interdisciplinary regional landscape analysis of the Etruscan site of Poggio Colla and the surrounding area. The project seeks to contribute significantly to understanding of the Etruscan culture, which inhabited central Italy in the first millennium BCE, coinciding with the early Iron Age. A long-term goal of the MVAP is an interdisciplinary regional landscape analysis of the area around Poggio Colla.

When: June 22 – July 20, 2008

Where: Vicchio, Italy (near Florence)

Who: 6 students and Professor Rob Sternberg, Franklin & Marshall College; and Dr. Sara Bon-Harper, Monticello Department of Archaeology

Project Description and Goals

Our Keck project will be addressing the goals of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project by identifying settlement patterns around Poggio Colla with the specific intent of understanding the exploitation of the ancient geologic resources used in ceramic production. These questions are especially resonant given the archaeological topography of the Mugello basin, a region on the edge of the Apennines and at the northeastern periphery of Etruscan territory. This area is little known archaeologically but could provide important information about Etruscan connections and trade routes with their Italic neighbors to the north and along the Adriatic coast to the east.

Student Projects

Keck students will probably participate in the excavation and/or intra-site archaeological spatial sampling for about one week, to better understand the archaeology, and see how it is related to geological principles. They would also be expected to attend some of the evening lectures presented by the field school staff.

Possible student projects include:

  1. Magnetic surveying. Analysis of field data and cross-correlation with site survey data.
  2. Magnetic susceptibility. Magnetic susceptibility is a useful complement to conventional magnetic surveying, and can be correlated to the magnetometry. Measurements can be made in the field, but samples can also be collected for checking in the laboratory. Measurements could also be made in excavated areas to examine details of habitation use areas. We will also use a downhole susceptibility probe for three-dimensional mapping.
  3. Soils and chemical analyses. Soil phosphate is often used as an indicator of human activity. In situ measurements can be followed up by lab studies. Studies of archaeological organic residues in ceramics also can provide information on diet and food preparation methods.
  4. Archaeomagnetism. Archaeomagnetic sampling of any kilns that are found at the site could be used to see whether the kilns accurately record the Iron Age magnetic field and be used for relative or absolute archaeomagnetic dating. We may also have access to archaeomagnetic samples at other sites in the area.
  5. GIS. Integrating a GIS database with our field geophysics and other data sets, and with MAGIS, an inventory of regional survey projects in the greater Mediterranean region.
  6. Materials. Geochemical, petrographic and magnetic analyses of lithic and ceramic artifacts from the site, and matching with possible source areas.
  7. Paleobotany. Paleobotanical studies have been carried out at MVAP to infer paleoenvironment and to consider resource exploitation at the site. Staff at the site could supervise further field work in this area.

Field Conditions

Field conditions are hot and dry. Students will be housed in triple rooms at a hotel in Vicchio. Many dinners will be with the Poggio Colla field school students, also allowing our students to socialize with theirs, and to attend lectures before dinner that are relevant to our project.

Course preparation

Different backgrounds can be considered, for the different possible projects. Appropriate course preparation for the various projects above could be:

  1. historical geology (for all participants)
  2. geophysics, physics, and/or mathematics
  3. sedimentology/stratigraphy
  4. geomorphology and/or soils
  5. mineralogy/petrology and/or geochemistry
  6. GIS
  7. archaeology or classical archaeology would be a plus