I have spent the past year and a half deciding on whether or not to partake in this study abroad program. Last year I was accepted to go but backed out at the last minute due to one main reason– fear of the unknown. This year, after a series of unfortunate events (and many meetings with Professor Foss), I decided I cannot live my life in constant fear and decided to go for it. During these meetings, Professor Foss always encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone.

I don’t like change. Seriously, I hate it. I talk to my family every day, I stick to a strict routine, and I keep a pretty close bubble around me. This is my comfort zone. For the past year and a half, I thought to myself, “If I go to Italy, I’m totally going to disrupt my comfort zone. Who I am will be disrupted.” However, Professor Foss reminded me that I’m not stepping out of my comfort zone, I’m just expanding it. He reminded me that I would be with him and Professor Schindler (two professors in my major that I’ve had multiple classes with) and students from my university. Although I did not have a friendship with these students beforehand, they were from my university therefore creating a sense of comfort. I said okay and here I am during week five of the program happier than ever on my decision to come to Italy.

I would be lying if I said my first couple days in Italy were great. They weren’t. I was homesick, it was my first time being more than a timezone away from my family, and it was my first time in a different country. There were a lot of firsts for me that week that made me question why I chose to come here. However, the first time I went to the Gioiella site, I remembered exactly why I came.

I came to Italy to better myself. I came to Italy to pursue my interest in the classics. I came to Italy to learn more about the Etruscans. I came to Italy to practice the archaeology I’ve only read about in textbooks. But more importantly, I came to Italy to gain an experience.

The view of Lago di Chiusi from the Gioiella excavation site.

From the moment I stepped on the Gioiella excavation site, I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I have spent the past three years learning about archaeological methods and this was my chance to practice what I have learned all while learning more. Initially, I thought I was going to be sifting through buckets of dirt looking for shards of pottery. However, I learned very quickly that archaeology is a lot more than that. Archaeology is a process.

I learned a little bit about the total station, an instrument used to help survey the land. I learned that the total station needs to be set up every single day in order to take levels when we switching to a new locus number. I learned that some loci take longer than others. I learned that some days will have more finds than others. I learned patience.

I thought that once I went through the buckets of dirt and shards of pottery, I would get to the good stuff. You know, like I would find a bronze statue or a lost text. But it’s not like that. You hit a lot of bumps in the road in archaeology. You think that you really have something and then it turns out to be nothing.

For instance, in our B1 trench we found what initially looked to be a tile burial made of terra cotta roof tiles. We learned that the tiles extended way past the point of it possibly containing a body unless this person was a giant. We then thought this underground structure could be a draining system in which we saw an example of at the National Etruscan Museum at the Villa Giulia in Rome. But with a drain there must surely be stuff (i.e. lost coins, beads, other materials) at the bottom of it, right? Wrong.

Example of a tile burial

When we removed a section of the tiles, there was nothing but specks of ash and carbon atop a sandy clay. Where was the bottom of the drain? We dug about 30 cm after removing the layer of ash and carbon only to find virgin sand and a fossil from the Pliocene. That sandy clay was the bottom of this structure. Leaving us back at square one.

With two days left of digging before the season ends, I’m not sure if we will discover the purpose of this underground structure. Heck, we might not ever fully understand it but we can infer. We can make assumptions and educated guesses based on similar things found at other sites. The great thing about archaeology is that it is always changing as time progresses. When an archaeologist makes a huge discovery, they can help rewrite past theories and improve upon them.

Wish us luck! I heard you always find the best things in the afternoon of the last day.

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