Week One is Done!

We have completed the first week of the 2022 season, and are beginning week two! Our first week on site consisted of removing all of the lapilli/overburden, some in situ, some previous fill. At one point, we were averaging 300 buckets an hour, weighing around 12-15 pounds each. Best upper body workout you could ask for.

On Friday afternoon, we passed the last bucket of lapilli, swept the surface of the “Eruption Day” level clean, and headed home.

Saturday morning saw us caravanning up to Napoli, to explore the National Archaeological Museum. After that, we headed into the historic center and consumed the best pizza in all of southern Italy: Pizzeria Trianon. If you like Pizza Napoletana, I highly recommend it.

Sunday was our free day — some headed to Sorrento and the beach, I wandered around Pompeii for a few hours, then went to the store for some necessities. It was way too hot to wait for the beach crew to get back, and ride home with them, so I took a cab. My driver was very confused as to why we were staying so far away, and in such a boring area. It really is out in the middle of nowhere here, but it is what it is.

Today, we began proper excavation, with measured levels, screens and trowels. So far, we’re finding lots of potsherds, animal bone fragments and a bit of glass. No coins, yet….

Again with the buckets!

We spent the first five hours of the day, hauling buckets of lapilli up the hill. At least we aren’t having to screen it. Actually, someone will buy it, haul it off and turn it into road surfacing material, water filter components and other useful things! As far as we’re concerned, it’s just this loose, dusty stuff we try to walk on without breaking our tailbones.

So, the hotel/resort that we have to cross to access out site is offering their guests “drive-by tours” of our site. Eight person golf carts have begun to stop by, and the tourists/guests gawk at us like we’re zoo animals. “And here we have a pod of wild archaeologists, in their native environment. Don’t make any sudden noises or move to quickly, you may startle them. They have been known to throw buckets of dirt on people, some have even been known to bite.”

A few of us broke away for lunch at a real restaurant. Pasta, fresh vegetables, profiterole, and Limoncello shots (the owner insisted). I don’t think I’ve ever hauled buckets after two shots of anything before…

Late this afternoon, we began clearing/cleaning off the road surface. We located a tiny potsherd, with a female figure depicted on it. That got everyone excited. We’re getting closer to the tombs, so things will probably start to pick up here! If only the temps would drop a few degrees. I knew how hot and sweaty working here can be, but nothing can prepare you for it. We’re all struggling to keep hydrated and salted. Don’t want anyone developing hyponatremia.

We’re digging!

After spending yesterday getting acquainted with the site, and a very brief walk through the ancient town, we are finally getting to work clearing out the lapilli from the work area, this season. Last year the project discovered the tomb of Marcus Venerius Secundio and sort of blew everyone’s minds.

This season we will be continuing on, clearing the area immediately surrounding his tomb wall, and examining a small tomb containing two urns: one male and one female. Before any of that happens, we have to move all of the lapilli (pumice) from the eruption and get down to the 79 AD level. We got there around 3pm today, and I have to say, it was really a thrill to expose the large, basalt paving stones from the adjacent Roman road, knowing that mine were the first feet to stand on them, since they were buried by Vesuvius almost 2000 years ago.

The work was a bit tedious — scrape lapilli into a rubber bucket, pass it up to the beginning of the bucket line, and pass it person to person, to the top of the hill. There is a significant mound of lapilli piled up at the top of the hill. This is not easy work in the heat, especially if you aren’t prepared for it. The students working this year are quickly finding out that a majority of archaeological field-work consists of tedium/bucket work/shovel bumming. Just being here is thrilling, and I get a sense that they are starting to absorb the history, or are being absorbed by it, and are falling in love with Pompeii.

We’ll probably be continuing on with the lapilli relocation process for the next 2-3 days. It is unlikely that we’ll find anything in this layer, but it’s always possible that a victim collapsed and died in this strata. We are working well below the fatal, pyroclastic flow layers so, no clusters of fleeing victims where we’re working. Not sure how I’d feel about finding one of those…

I did escape from the site for lunch, today, and walked downtown to the Santuario. A friend I went to high-school with is in Italy, and she made her way down here to say “Hi!” It was kind of surreal to sit in the shade, eat gelato with Sylvia, and chat. It’s a delightfully small world.

Ooh! And, I made friends with three of the resident kittens today. Two gingers, we named them Mack and Cheese, and a little black kitten with copper colored eyes. We call him Apollo and his sister is Diana.

The Gathering…

We started today out by meeting up at a bar, in the airport. A few delayed flights, one cancelled flight, a couple lost bags, one of the directors driving back and forth from Sarno to Napoli. It’s been quite a day.

We found out yesterday that the accommodations the project usually bases out of aren’t available this year. So. they have divided us into two groups, with one staying in a rented house, and the other camped in a “Bed and Breakfast.” I’m in the BnB group — here’s the thing: there’s actually no breakfast, and what I’m sleeping on is only “technically” a bed. It’s really more of a cot. At least the A/C works. And, I can use my iPhone as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. Otherwise, I would be updating this blog via messenger pigeon, and they aren’t so reliable.

I do believe I’m the oldest person on the team, possibly older than the directors. Most of my teammates were born since I graduated from college. That just cracks me up…. Everyone is very excited to be here, with this project playing a role in how they’ll decide their future career paths. I should warn them, this will be addicting, despite the fact that toilet seats are not included in the price of the room…

A Day in Napoli…

After sleeping in as late as I could, without missing breakfast, I got out and did a bit of wandering today. My hotel is in the historic center of the city, so there is a lot to take in, including Greek walls, Roman baths and more 16th-18th century architecture than can be counted! I did not go into the Archaeological Museum – that will be one of the excursions our team takes during one of our weekends. It is probably my favorite museum in the world, no offense MOMA.

I got swept up in a local Pride Parade/March, this evening, just as I was finishing dinner. The singing and cheering was all in Napulitan, so I didn’t understand much, but the spirit was definitely universal!!

There is no lacking for good eats here – Pizzeria Vesi is my go-to when in Napoli. It is indescribably good. Gelato can be found on every street and up every alley. Just peek into the case and make sure there aren’t any ice crystals built up in the tub. Freezer-burnt gelato isn’t the best. For a pastry-like treat, I recommend Leopoldo Infante! The “Delizia Limone” is very good: not too sweet, not too dense. I ate half this evening, and will have the other half in the morning with a cappuccino.

Speaking of tomorrow morning, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the bus to the airport stops right in front of my hotel, so that’s easy. We are all meeting at a small snack bar, in front of the airport tomorrow at 11;30. Everyone has been checking in via WhatsApp. Quite a diverse group, with folks from, well, almost everywhere. I’m really excited to get started.

Pompeii, here I come!

Ciao, Napoli!

Greetings from the amazing city of Napoli! I’ve made it safe, and sound to Italy, and am remembering how disorienting East-Bound jet lag can be. This will be a very brief post, as I can barely keep my eyes open.

I will just say that it is so good to be back. I love this ancient city, with all of it’s rush, noise and smells. The best pizza in the world can be found here, along with some of the nicest people. Tomorrow, my plan is to sleep in a bit, find a market to buy all the liquids I didn’t pack on the plane, and visit some old haunts. I’ll keep you posted.

Il Vesuvio

I’m back…

It’s been a long few years of quarantines, furloughs, booster shots and hours spent searching for the perfect face-mask. I’ve basically gone feral. Well, after all that I am finally going to venture out of my cave, hop a plane, and journey back to “The Continent.” Yep, I’m going to get into a metal tube full of strangers (masked or not) and fly, for 15 hours, to Italy! It has been 12 long years since I’ve been to my beloved city of Pompeii — far too long. Like others in the past, this will be a “working” vacation: I’m volunteering for three weeks, with ArchaeoSpain on their Archaeology of Death project. For more information on their work with this, here is a great write-up of the research from their last season: https://dornsife.usc.edu/news/stories/3550/students-discover-preserved-pompeii-skeleton/.

Mixed in with the workdays will be time for fun (the work itself is thrilling), making new friends, exploring and, of course, eating. I’ll keep a running inventory here of what I see, do and eat.

Feel free to follow along.

Archaeologists uneasy as Trump shrinks Bears Ears monument lands

PDF version A US government plan to slash protections for one of North America’s richest and best-preserved archaeological landscapes has prompted a wave of concern among researchers. On 4 December, US President Donald Trump announced that he had cut the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah from 547,000 hectares to 82,000. That removes protections for thousands of Native American cultural sites, some as many as 13,000 years old. The president’s action leaves the national monument, created last year by h

Source: Archaeologists uneasy as Trump shrinks Bears Ears monument lands

6 Things President Trump Got Wrong When Decimating America’s National Monuments – Center for American Progress

6 Things President Trump Got Wrong When Decimating America’s National Monuments By Jenny Rowland and Kate Kelly Posted on December 5, 2017, 1:20 pm President Trump signs the hat of Bruce Adams, chairman of the San Juan County Commission, after signing a proclamation to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Salt Lake City, December 4, 2017. AP/Rick BowmerPresident Trump signs the hat of Bruce Adams, chairman of the San Juan County Commission, after signing a procla

Source: 6 Things President Trump Got Wrong When Decimating America’s National Monuments – Center for American Progress

AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s curious case for shrinking monuments

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump made a curious case for stripping federal protections from vast stretches of two of America’s national monument lands. For one, he said his decision will give Native Americans back their “rightful voice over the sacred land.” But they already have specified rights on the land, thanks to the national monument designation under the Antiquities Act, and fear losing those rights under his decision. That’s why they’re fighting his action in court.

Source: AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s curious case for shrinking monuments