at , Sheffield, S1 4ET United Kingdom
University of Sheffield (UK) Archaeological Project in South Tuscany
Established in 2009, the research project investigates Roman settlement trends, communication networks and trade in coastal Southern Tuscany between the mid-Republican period and late Antiquity. The current excavations focus on the newly identified Roman cabotage port on the Ombrone River. The port provided an important commercial focus for the ancient Etruscan–Roman city of Rusellae and around the Roman road of the Via Aurelia vetus that linked the area with Rome. Excavation has revealed an extensive complex of workshops producing bone-, metal- and glass-objects on a scale unmatched in the area. Active between the mid-1st-early 6th centuries AD, the site was gradually covered by alluvial clay, which has sealed the structures and abundant finds in a near-perfect state of preservation. The Project also encompasses landscape and infrastructure studies centered around the via Aurelia vetus and excavations of a hilltop sanctuary dedicated to Diana. These provide important new evidence for the relationship between cities and rural settlements as well as for the 'Romanization' of Etruria. The Field Schools are an integral part of the research excavations, and the participants contribute actively to this through their on-site and off-site work.
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For our final day in Italy, we were lucky enough to get out of the lab and into some ancient ruins! After a short car ride through the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside we arrived at the ancient city of Roselle. With the earliest remains dating back to the 6th century BC, Roselle is home to some of the artefacts that we have been learning about in the lab and seen in the Museum at Grosseto. After a meaty but quick introduction by Sandro the group had a pretty good grasp on the evolution and purpose of the city over time, focussing on events that triggered a change in city layout. While casually strolling along the ancient Roman road the group was seriously impressed to find copious amounts of pottery scattered on the cobbles like shells on a beach, much like the ruins of Cosa. Apart from being stunned by the amazing view, once we reached the top of the hill we further explored the Forum area, which contained the house of mosaics and was incredible to see amongst the stone walls. The next stop was the Roman amphitheatre, which, true to its purpose, echoed really well! To finish up before lunch we walked along the massive 7m high boundary wall built by the Etruscans in the 7th/6th century that enclosed the entire city. Next we visited the Vetulonia museum. This small but quirky museum may have lacked in size but was packed with character and content. Some of the particularly interesting artefacts included Etruscan urns shaped like their huts. The museum also featured bronze helmets, flakes of gold and elaborate tomb decorations to name a few. To end the day the team wandered into a small local pub/cafe seeking solace from the breeze that had a little too much of a bite to it. Nothing like a cup of warm hot chocolate or coffee to end an amazing day of sightseeing…which would not be possible without the kind efforts of the Alberese team. We all really appreciate every person who has worked with us over the past 4 weeks. Working in the lab has provided us with not only an incredible experience but also skills that we can implement in our own future careers as well as everyday life. On behalf of the University of Queensland Classics department, I would like to thank Tom, Massimo, Valentina, Massimo, Mauro and Veronica for our time in the labs and also Sandro, Elena and Matteo for allowing us to be a part of their amazing project. Hopefully we can return next year! Charmaine Howie
We had a busy final day at the labs yesterday. In the morning, we split into two groups. One washed bones and teeth from the Umbro Flumen excavation, carefully and meticulously cleaning the finds with toothbrushes. Some of us felt rather smug as we were able to identify individual bone types and species within the remains! The other group had an introduction to the skeletal structures of smaller animals such as birds, foxes, cats and dogs. We had a pop quiz on the material and I think most of us did well! After a break for lunch, our specialist Veronica provided us with a presentation on butchery marks and their significance in the field of zooarchaeology. We had a final test to see how we'd progressed. A big thank you to Veronica for teaching us about zooarch, some of us learning about it for the first time and coming away with a wealth of new knowledge after only a couple of days! We've now completed our lab work at the Alberese Archaeological Project. Before we say goodbye, however, we have another post to make about the sites we got to see today... - Rachel O'Malley
Our second full day of zooarchaeology saw us applying our recently acquired knowledge to various animal bones. From the bovidae family to the suidae, we soon gained confidence in assigning an age to an animal. Veronica guided us through the process, as we matched up tooth wear to its reference image. Before long, these seemingly uniform teeth began to reveal stories about the lives of these animals. An elderly bos taurus (cow) lived in order to provide it's owner with milk, calves or even labour; whereas the one year old caprinae (sheep or goat) was most definitely dinner! After lunch, our knowledge was put to the test in two tricky activities. The first was an exercise in age identification through analysis of epiphyseal fusion - in other words, looking closely at an animal's long bones and determining whether or not they have fused. Long bones that were not fused represented a young specimen, whilst fusing bones indicated a sub-adult on its way to becoming an adult of its species. The second involved identification of an animal's age by both techniques, as well as identifying any butchery marks and what they indicated. Finally - after much hard work by Veronica to turn us into zooarchaeological specialists - the animal bones from Spolverino appeared. Eager to contribute, we started to identify and analyse them ready to continue tomorrow. - Georgia
Our Tuesday session started with a hands-on lecture, where we all were given different bones to learn with. Some were instant crowd pleasers, with mandibles, skulls and vertebrae all coming out along with tibia, femurs and ribs and as we passed them around the group, we all began to solidify our knowledge of how to identify these bones. There was a short lecture on the teeth of animals and the fusing of bones, and how these two relatively simple things can help us to identify the age of the animals that are uncovered; a useful technique as the age of the animals will give a clearer picture as to why they were used or kept in the area they were. Veronica provided lots of different shortcuts to help us remember the different types of bones and their position within the body, though we haven’t had to memorise any legbone is connected to the anklebone songs yet- though there are still 2 days to go! After lunch, we made our way into the labs once more, where we were given bags of bones to identify and age. The scent of knowledge was in the air and we found that all of the shortcuts we were taught were actually very useful. We haven’t had any trainee Bone-Whisperers show themselves yet, though I am sure that by tomorrow we will have crowned someone. Lynelle