This is the second season of excavating the Etruscan Sacred Lake site at Albagino in a valley of the Apennines, spearheaded once again by esteemed Etruscan specialists, Greg Warden and Phil Perkins. We have a wonderful team of highly passionate individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds and bring their nuanced perspectives with them. The creation of a social climate defined by curiosity at the Albagino site has educated me about the nature of what it means to be an archaeologist, or anyone who strives to create a reality for a past culture that has been repeatedly appropriated for sociopolitical gain (the Etruscans have been utlilised to establish and relegitimise claims of contemporary authority, often without conclusive evidence). The complexity of such a rich culture so severely lacking in extensive and comprehensive texts is emphasised by the malleability of the narratives drawn from them. This was expressed by Dr. Warden in his statement, “for the Etruscans, any potential pattern you believe you have discovered will always claim an exception.” It is rather about the originality, the relationship with an awe-inspiring natural context, that infuses Etruscan ritual with such significance for the Mediterranean basin. Of course, the material culture we are searching for is prioritised, as is correct “trench etiquette.”
Trench etiquette is not only for insurance of safety, it also exhibits care for the people surrounding you, and respect for the land that we are essentially hacking up in search of information to give back to past cultures isolated by their impermanence.
As a novel archaeologist, someone far more comfortable in a library perusing the nonfiction aisles than I am ankle deep in loose soil and a seemingly endless supply of cherry pits; less than two weeks in a trench has taught me an incredibly amount about what it means to coexist in close spaces with others, and how to facilitate the best possible experience for everyone involved.
1. Basic safety (because no one can enjoy themselves if you’re bleeding copiously in a dense forest far from any hospital). Stay away from the edges of the trench, archaeologists are known for their keen vision, but when you’re focused on scanning the earth, you are far less likely to see the neon pink string that boasts the trench line while simultaneously preparing to trip you.
2. Diameter & Diametal: the constant presence of heavy tools that are both perfect for cracking through heavy soil and thick skulls means it is vital to do a body sweep—always be aware of who is near you when you are prepared for the backswing. This keeps the spoil heaps full, and the surrounding humans safe. When wielding metal, keep a diameter of open space around you! 3. Come prepared with plenty of creativity for trench sing-alongs, from “Just keep digging”
3. Bring rain gear. Just this week we were happily troweling away in a beautifully scarped trench when a light drizzle began. Within twenty minutes, the sky was roaring with a seemingly divine thunder. By the time we had slipped down the trail path to the cars, we were equal covered in mud and water. Even if you are not inclined to peruse the Libris Fulgurales, be prepared for lightning and the rain she heralds.
We are, thankfully, only half-way through the excavation process, but already I am so grateful for the amazing group of excavators we have here. Describing the team in a few words, I would choose ‘respectful,’ ‘curious,’ and ‘insightful.’ These are traits that are incredibly necessary for the practice of Archaeology; there is no other discipline in which you serve an educational purpose that is so easily appropriated for diabolical pursuits. I anticipate illuminous further discovery of what it means to strive for insight into societies that have been vastly misunderstood, and the practical application of that insight into the culturally diverse modern world.