Yes, I had intended to post updates every day, during the project. However, the last several days have proven to be a bit hectic and, now, the field work for this season has wrapped up. We’ve all packed up and gone our separate ways: I’m sitting in an air-conditioned hotel room, in Sorrento. Tomorrow, I’ll take the ferry up to Napoli to pick Lyn up at the airport! Then, vacation begins!!
Our last days on the project were busy with moving a LOT of dirt, discovering three unexpected walls, finding that the burial urns from the small tomb had been removed before the 79 eruption, and bagging 1000’s of ceramic sherds and bone fragments. While the “goal” of this season was to excavate and locate any burials associated with Marcus Vernerius’ tomb, or the small Niche tomb, not finding any was actually very informative. The low walls we found were unusual, and were set down quite a while before Marcus had his tomb built.
In the last week of excavation, we found a second coin (bronze) and some Attic pottery fragments. We found what seemed like an entire mouthful of human teeth, and a few jaw fragments, non of which had been cremated. I was the first person to EVER brush those teeth. Toothbrushes hadn’t been invented in the late Republican period, and based on the 2mm of plaque build-up, you can tell! This guy — I named him Phil, because we found him in the fill-layer — must’ve had serious bad breath.
I also got to work at the ceramics cleaning/sorting table, and spent a day working in the bone lab. Identifying human bones, based on burnt, shattered fragments is a special skill that I never developed. Llorenc Alapont, however, is a wizard. The man can identify a bone fragment based on it’s feel, with his eyes closed. It was something to behold.
I felt much more at home working with the ceramics, having spent a lot of time with potsherds on the Colorado Plateau. Cleaning, sorting, mending, all while working in the shade. We were also set up outside of the Porta Nola Necropolis, so we had quick access to the old city. We were a five minute walk down to the Villa With the Garden, and it’s controversial (to some) charcoal inscription. The House of Orion, just across the street, is also spectacular. I think it might be the best preserved example of Pompeii 1st Style decoration I’ve seen, and the mosaic floor is perfect.
We spent our last day back-filling the excavated area, covering it with gardening cloth and what had to be several thousands of pounds of dirt. It will be safe and protected until the team returns next season, to see what the hell those walls mean…
After one last dinner together at Pizza Oscar, we said our goodbyes and that was that. Now, I’m feeling sleep deprived, and worn out — all in a good way. I’ll post photos of the last week, tomorrow.
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.
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.