The excavation process in Gioiella has yet to give us a concrete answer as to exactly what it is we are currently digging, but of course, how much is there in archaeology that we can ever be sure of? At this point, the digging process has been going on with limited interruption (mostly due to rain) for a little less than three weeks. Initially our finds were very simple, nothing more than shards of terracotta pottery in a range of sizes from larger tile-shaped pieces to smaller, thinner pieces of items such as amphora handles and lips of pots. These items were more present on the recent stratigraphic layers that were dug up first, and probably resembled nothing more than some kind of dump leaving us no choice but to continue peeling back layers until something revealed itself.
Initially, the work site was divided in to two trenches, each four meters by four meters in size with the northern trench being A-1 and the southern trench being B-1. For the first several days of digging, work was split evenly between the two trenches, attempting to see if a layer of sand that appeared in the southwest corner of B-1 spread into A-1 as well. The digging did, in fact, produce sand in both trenches, but almost nothing in terms of true habitation aside from what might have been a dump of amphora and other terracotta pottery. This occurred until several days into the digging process, until Professor Foss and a few of the students began to uncover a series of what might be roof tiles in a straight line along the southern end of B-1. Aside from being in a relatively straight line, the tiles also seemed to be on a decline towards the western end of the trench. The tiles rest in clay surrounded by sand, most likely meaning that the sand was dug out to put in the tiles, and replaced with clay to cover it up. This excited as well as perplexed the team as to what the line of tiles might be.
The initial find was exciting because it was evidence of organization (despite the fact that we already knew that someone inhabited this area) but as it was uncovered further, and more closely analyzed, it became apparent what it could potentially be. This was a twist that we were not expecting. Until the discovery of these tiles, almost everything that was found at the site was identified as around 1st century BCE to 1st century AD material, which means that this area was almost certainly inhabited by Roman influence. Further, one of the main points of study in our program had been the burial and preservation of the dead in Etruscan and Roman culture, as well as the types of vessels and means of preservation for human remains (urns, sarcophagi, etc). This is where the analysis began to get interesting. The tiles that were found in B-1 were organized in way that strongly resembled a style of roman burial practice of placing tiles over the body to cover it.
The next full day or so was used to see whether or not this was the truth, but as digging continued, it seemed that this was probably not the case. One of the best ways to truly get a sense of whether it might have been some sort of burial or not was to continue digging west along the line of tiles. This way, we were going to be able to see if the line of tiles continued and if so, how far. After some intense digging, the line of tiles seemed to extend much further west in the same pattern, and a different theory as to what the roof tiles might be came to the forefront. Now, thanks to the newly discovered extension of the pattern, it became very possible (although it is not certain) that we were uncovering some sort of infrastructural drainage system. (It is also important to note that not only did it continue, but it also coincided with the wall discovered in B-1 that continued west into our new trench, B-2, suggesting that there might have been a relationship between the structure that the wall and the potential drain).
Why would a drain (or something similar) be a great discovery in this situation? Specifically speaking, the drain will not only be a discovery in itself, but there might be something to find beneath the line of roof tiles. A drain or hydraulic structure that is moving water also suggests that there might be other items that had somehow ended up in there worth consideration such as more pottery. This could tell us more information about whether or not this area was inhabited, who was there, and when they might have been there. As displayed in the image of what a Roman drain might have looked like from the Crypta Balbi in Rome (below), the structure of the roof tiles is very similar to what we have been seeing at our own site, and further, the collection of items pictured within the drain further suggests that there might be more to the structure that what has already been surfaced.
(National Roman Museum Crypta Balbi , Rome, Italy. 21 June 2016.)
What exactly we have found is still an uncertainty, but signs of hope such as the extension of the organization of tiles make us optimistic that we have found something of value. This organization of tiles, while basic, is important beyond the aesthetic value of finding artifacts. Its relatively organized construction confirms that, as we hoped, the area we are digging was at one point inhabited (although were were already certain of this), and hopefully the newly discovered infrastructure can bring us closer to some kind of answer as to what we have uncovered, the purpose it served, and how that related to the surrounding area in a much larger context.