Sweat, dirt and discovery in Artena


13th July 2017


Day 4 of officially being on the site for the excavation of the Roman villa in Artena, Italy, and I don’t think I have ever witnessed souls leave their physical bodies on such an intense scale before now. The scorching heat, horrific bugs that have never seen the light of day before being so unceremoniously thrusted out of the dirt by our trowels, dirt in literally everything (including your teeth), and mysteriously-appearing bruises on every single inch of your body: this is what a Mediterranean archaeological excavation is made up of, and maybe the blood, sweat, and tears of the poor undergrads slaving away.

italy entry 3.jpg

(Our cliche photo of our boots together.)


Slight joking aside, we have been having a surprisingly good time here in Artena. The little medieval town is built into a mountainside, and is so unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. You can only go up the mountain so far with cars, and the rest of the way is either on foot or by donkey! It’s beautiful but very strange, with very few people ever really out and about. Hours of business are also very vague and prone to change without notice, but there aren’t really enough businesses in the town (or people, for that matter) to make a fuss. This seems to be the custom in Italy but simply exaggerated in small towns like this one.


The dig site itself has been including much more initial, pre-excavation work than I think any of us had seriously anticipated. We have spent this entire first week simply removing old tarp coverings from various areas of the site, and cleaning underneath. I did not think that dirt was able to physically accumulate to such a degree in just one short year. We’ve carefully cleaned and brushed off literal tons of dirt, along with stone blocks, cement pieces, and broken tile pieces. Occasionally, one of us will find something interesting like a piece of pottery or a fragment of bone, but so far, nothing worthwhile.

The museums in and surrounding Artena are very interesting. Professor Gadeyne has taken us to one so far, as well as shown us pictures and talked about the other museums. Plenty of pieces within the museum are actually pieces that have been found at our little Roman villa site! It truly shows us future anthropologists, art historians, and geologists what all of our hard work in the field will accumulate towards. Our pieces have been preserved perfectly with descriptions and background histories that accompany them all, which make for interesting – if difficult – reads in Italian.


So far, Professor Gadeyne has been good to us, with authentic Italian meals, interesting lectures about the histories of our area as well as the overall histories of Rome, and a few good laughs here and there. If all continues to go like it has been, we are looking at a successful, enriching, and exciting abroad opportunity for us three American girls and our European peer.


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