One of the questions I am frequently asked about a new archaeological project is “What are you going to find?” At the risk of being snide, I usually answer that, if I knew what we were going to find, we really would not need to excavate. And in any case, much more important than what we find is what we find out. So, I am happy to report that we did find out some important things this summer at Albagino, and that much of what we discovered was a real surprise.
Our goals going into the project were twofold. The first was salvage archaeology, to investigate an area where an important group of votive bronzes had been found, trying to make sure that no other bronzes were in danger of being “discovered” by passers-by wielding metal detectors. We wanted to make sure that the undisturbed context could be studied and recorded before any external interference. The second goal was to reconstruct the sacred and physical landscape of the lake in the Etruscan period.
The good or bad news, depending on how you look at it, is that we did not find any more bronze votive figurines. If any remain, they should be well out of reach, for what we did discover is that the Etruscan levels are very deep. And yes, there are Etruscan levels; in Trench 5 we came across a wall as well as what is certainly Etruscan pottery.
I will let Prof. Perkins comment on the archaeological details in his final blog, but what was surprising to me is that the present configuration of the lake is actually quite late, perhaps 18th century, possibly dating to when the surrounding area was cultivated and planted with the beautiful chestnut, cherry, and hazelnut tress that characterize the property today.
The discovery of an Etruscan structure at relatively great depth is stunning, and it means that we will try to continue the project next year, if funding and the proper permits can be arranged. All kinds of questions come to mind. What kind of structure was it? What did the Etruscan lake or spring look like? What is the association with the bronze votives found nearby? There are countless questions, but again, if we had the answers, we would not need to excavate. So the story of Albagino remains mysterious, and we could try to unravel some of that mystery next summer.
In the meantime, I owe a great round of thanks to everyone who made the season a success. First on the list is my co-Director, Prof. Phil Perkins, a superb field archaeologist who led a wonderful group of volunteers. Alessandro Nocentini, Architect and Director of Digital Documentation, did far more than his title would suggest and also shouldered much of the logistical burden before actual excavation began. Dr. Susanna Sarti of the Soprintendenza, deserves gratitude for her advice and for bringing Albagino to my attention.
We were fortunate to have two seasoned excavators with us this summer, both graduate students and Poggio Colla alumnae, Sarah Hiepler and Crystal Rosenthal. Their leadership and good spirit were essential. Three volunteers who were new to field archaeology, Chris Darrin, Leslie Pickel, and Isabel Prince, proved themselves invaluable to the project with their unstinting hard work and positive attitudes.
Leslie Pickel’s watercolor sketch of the landscape.
We were also supported by other participants. Dr. Eleanor Bets of the Open University stayed with us for two weeks and worked hard in the trenches. I feel a bit guilty that she did not have as much time for her phenomenological research as she might have liked, but she was a tremendous help in many ways. Dr. Lisa Lodwick, Oxford University, was with us for the first week and helped get out Palaeobotanbical research in order. Dr. Meryl Shriver Rice, Miami University, and Hunter Vaughan, spent a full week with us, as did Lewis Smith, whose expertise on forest safety was a welcome addition.
I have been involved with field archaeology for almost forty years, and I can say with certainty that this small group was, pound for pound, the best group with whom it has been my pleasure to work.
We were made to feel welcome at Firenzuola by the mayor, the Hon. Claudio Scarpelli, whose reception and tour of the marvelous Rocca was informative as well as welcoming. The access to the Bruscoli Museum as a laboratory space was extremely helpful, and we are grateful to the Gruppo Archeologico of Bruscoli, especially Emanuele Stefanini and Franco Poli.
We also owe a huge round of thanks to the staff of the Hotel Piccola Firenze in Firenzuola, Renato, Jenny, Paolo, and the others, who fed and housed the group beautifully for the full three weeks. If you have never been to Firenzuola, go there,. It is a splendid town, far from the tourist throngs of Florence, a taste of the authentic Italy that is characteristic of the Mugello.
July 30, 2018