I am a Carolina Postdoctoral Scholar in The Department of Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am a Roman archaeologist currently working with a small team of students on the Palatine East Pottery Project, directed by J. Theodore Pena (UC-Berkeley). I am also codirector (with Scott DeBrestian, Central Michigan University) of the Najera River Regional Survey Project.

Measured Steps in Archaeology–One Young Student’s Perspective

Angus Leydic (R) (Duquesne University) helps Jen Black (L) (UC-Berkeley) measure a Roman pot.

Angus Leydic (R) (Duquesne University) helps Jen Black (L) (UC-Berkeley) measure a Roman pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long hours, data entry, and cataloging seem to be examples heard in various jobs and internships, but not what people would exactly think of archaeology.  When telling friends that I would be working with Palatine East Pottery Project in Rome for the summer, people asked me whether I was going to dig for pottery, or find something that could change the world.  My only answer I could give to them was, “the dig was completed in the 90’s; I don’t suppose anything I touch hasn’t been examined already.”  That statement held some truth, but didn’t exactly become a rule.

Working at the American Academy in Rome has taught me a lot about pottery, ranging from types, materials, organization and even more critical thinking.  Although working on pottery originating from Spain found on the Palatine doesn’t seem like the work my family and friends thought I would be doing, it appeared I was just checking on data collected around ten years ago.  But, when I was working with Gallic pottery from France found here, my colleague and I, two students with no background in Roman pottery, were organizing, examining, and working with works of art that have yet to be touched other than to remove them from the site and store them according to context groups.

This life isn’t glamorous, but it is exciting. The team I work with, two graduate students, one from Duquesne University, my university, and another from UC Berkeley, and a professor of archaeology from UNC Chapel Hill, all work together every day to reach a common goal, to examine transport amphorae to determine origin, make, material, use, and importance in the world.  The discoveries we can make might not change the world (or will they?!), but they can be useful in finding a better understanding of ancient trade, class, or maybe other subjects too.

The daily work of sorting, measuring, using Munsell’s color system, classifying and the endless  spreadsheets might come off boring and underwhelming compared to finding dinosaur bones, but there is never a time that has been dull.  Every discovery from graffiti, dipinti, and even guessing what happened to a sherd in the past makes all the work worthwhile.  For the time I have spent working in this field, the time has been more than enjoyable, entertaining and interesting.  As time nears to an end for this season my only wish is that I had more time to measure!

Ciao! -Angus

The Post-Excavation Experience

Greeting from Rome and from the members of the 2013 Palatine East Pottery Project (PEPP).

While everyone loves excavating and the thrill of new discoveries help fuel the impulse, fieldwork is only the first component of a newly discovered object’s life and the last destructive event of an artifact’s context.  The study, description and analysis, and final publication of archaeological material are important phases of archaeology.  It is often not glamorous or “on location” at the archaeological site, but relegated to storerooms and mundane-sounding finds processing.

 

View of Sector B of the Palatine East Excavations (taken early 1990s)

View of Sector B of the Palatine East Excavations (taken early 1990s)

The Palatine East Excavations (1993-1999), direct by Dr. Eric Hostetter (professor emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) were the first systematic excavation of the northeast slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome, Italy.  The hill is one of Rome’s famed seven hills, the home to its emperors for hundreds of years, and the site of its earliest settlements.  The excavated materials which we are studying consist of a broad range of finds that include fresco fragments, terracotta sculpture, worked bone, lamps, and pottery.  This last class of material, pottery, consists of over 15 metric tons (ca. 15,000 kgs. or 33,000 lbs.) of broken pottery.  Since 1999, it has been the task of the Palatine East Pottery Project (PEPP), directed by J. Theodore Peña (University of California at Berkeley), and assisted by Dr. Janne Ikaheimo (Oulu University, Finland), and Dr. Victor Martinez (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and a host of archaeology graduate students (most recently Jennifer Black, U. Cal-Berkeley) and other student volunteers and apprentices (this year including Jason Greenwald and Angus Leydic, both from Duquesne University).

Our storage space in the base of the Chiaraviglio apartments of the American Academy in Rome

Our storage space in the base of the Chiaraviglio apartments of the American Academy in Rome

 

Dr. Victor Martinez (UNC-CH) fins a join among the many fragments of Calabrian wine amphorae (so-called form Keay 52s).

Dr. Victor Martinez (UNC-CH) fins a join among the many fragments of Calabrian wine amphorae (so-called form Keay 52s).