We are at the end of the first week, and things have moved slowly and cautiously. This is as it should be. Participants are learning the proper use of tools and how to “read” the soil. Even experienced excavators are getting their bodies back into excavation mode, digging for hours or trekking up the trail to the site. But we are all looking forward to week 2 for day by day we gain more understanding of the nature of the place. The key to understanding the sacred landscape is the dried-up lake bed, now a meadow, that is backed by a forested mountain, Monte Gradi. The site looks to the north, and were it not for the trees we would have a sweeping vista of the foothills of the Apennines.
The lake is surrounded by woods, but it clear from the variety of trees (chestnut, cherry, hazelnut, etc.) that the area was once carefully tended. What it might have looked like in Etruscan times is, of course, one of our major research questions. The majestic chestnut trees, some of them hundreds of years old, are most certainly more recent interlopers.
At the end of the first week the rhythms of excavation life have standardized. At the Albergo Piccola Firenze the group meets for breakfast at 6:00 and leaves for the site at 6:30. I am staying at my place in Vicchio, so I leave at 6:00 and drive through the Alto Mugello over the Futa pass where I meet the group at 6:45. Heavy materials are loaded in the back of our trusty Dacia Duster.
The Duster can make it up the sometimes hellish road and then the trail all the way up to the lake. Before attempting that feat, I find it wise to stop at the Zodiac Bar in Roncobilaccio. The Zodiac is the last bit of civilization before going up to the site. It is a place now dear to my heart, for it is here that we gathered in February 2017 for my first reconnaissance, trekking up through the snow to Albagino, and since then it has been the meeting point for anyone visiting our project.
It is directly under the Autostrada (the A1) as it passes through the highest point of the Apennines. Above us tower the great engineering miracle of the 1960s Italy, the huge arches of the A1 overpass, a place once famous and feared throughout central Italy for the enormous traffic jams that were common before a new section of the A1 was completed just a few years ago. The Zodiac is the kind of place that only a field archaeologist would love, frequented by locals, either grizzled old men who sit at the cheap plastic tables on the porch all day, playing scopa or briscola, or by the workmen and emergency crews who frequent the upper reaches of the Autostrada. It is the perfect place for a 7 AM Cappuccino.
You will have noticed that I have not talked much about the archaeology. More about that next week. It looks promising.
Friday, July 13, 2018