British School at Rome

Digging in Segni

The 26th July is the 5th day of excavation in a 4 week season of the Segni Project. Established in 2012, the 3 year joint research by the British School at Rome and the Museo Archeologico di Segni, co-directed by Francesco Maria Cifarelli and Christopher Smith, aims to explore the urban development of this important Latin town, from its establishment in the Archaic period through to the medieval period. This morning, the 20-strong team of volunteers is divided over two excavation sites, one in the heart of Segni in Piazza Santa Maria and one on the edge of the acropolis at Prato Felici. Over the course of the day I will be moving between each site, overseeing the excavations together with my Italian colleague Federica.

At the site of Prato Felici the team, supervised by Camilla, is following on from the initial exploratory work we undertook last year. Following a combined geophysical survey, which used magnetometry, resistivity and georadar, clearance was made of a wall whose crest was visible on the surface. Nothing is previously known about the site, with hypothesises ranging from a substructure to a temple complex, similar to that of Juno Moneta close by. Despite the searing heat, the team is making fantastic progress after only 4 days. All sides of the structure have now been located, revealing a building that covers an area of 13 x 37m. Early indications suggest a function associated to water, due to a thick floor in cocciopesto and a raised boarder that runs around the edge of the room. Two teams of students, from UK and other European Universities, are working on emptying a small area, which a test trench last year suggests was back-filled in the 2nd century AD. Above this team, as the site lies on a considerable slope, another group is exploring the area to the west of the structure, to see if it continues further. Finally, to the south of the building another group is exploring the stratigraphy that lies under and beyond the south wall. Last year a small test trench revealed layers dating to the Bronze Age, the first time this material has been found in context in Segni.

Excavation 2013

Excavation 2013

At the excavation in Piazza Santa Maria, the team is working on enlarging the excavation of 2012. The aims of the excavation are two fold: firstly to assess whether the square was the area of the Roman Forum and secondly whether it was the location of the earlier medieval cathedral. Last year the excavation, following on from the successful georadar survey, revealed a number of walls and floors, and most interestingly a well preserved polychrome mosaic. Today the team are working on removing the more modern stratigraphy, associated to various phases of the relaying of the square. This also involves emptying out modern service trenches, the pipelines in which will be moved outside the excavation by the water board on Monday. Over the next few weeks the team will focus on removing the metre of stratigraphy that overlies the mosaic, with the aim of revealing the full room of this probable domus.

The excavation at end of the 2012 season

The excavation at end of the 2012 season

My day is spent to-ing and fro-ing between the 2 sites, discussing the stratigraphy and finds with the volunteers. The interest and enthusiasm of the students reminds me why I still love digging: the sense of discovery is irreplaceable. And what a perfect place to do it: the landscape and view from Segni is stunning, and the local community welcoming and intrigued. I look forward to being in the same place next year!

Desk-based Day

I am happy to admit that today I am “stuck” in the office at the British School at Rome (BSR) (my presence here  is explained in my post from last year) seated at my desk with a fan gently whirring at my feet.

Desk Based Day

It is about 35 degrees outside and I am enjoying my final few days of cool office time before heading into the field. A field I might add with no shade and the weather prediction is that it is only going to get hotter… am mentally preparing for days of slapping on sun cream factor 50 only to have it trickle into my eyeballs with sweat whilst I am marching up and down in lines conducting a magnetometer survey in Interamna Lirenas, near Monte Cassino, Italy.

I have already had a taste of the heat at Segni, Lazio. Perched on a hilltop, this Roman colony is exceptionally pituresque and has been partially enveloped in the medieval borgo. The circuit of the town is bounded by a wall of polygonal construction and the large stone jigsaw walls are impressive even to this day. Our work as part of a major new project of the BSR in collaboration with the Archaeological Museum and local council of Segni, was to conduct GPR survey in the towns piazza and adjacent to the robust podium of the temple of Juno Moneta on the acropolis. Closing down roads and piazzas is never popular but we were warmly welcomed. The locals were inquisitive and supportive of our work although many remained unconvinced that pushing, seemingly, a pram across tarmac and cobblestones could ever herald the results we were claiming that this simple manoeuvre would bring. They have a point.

But back to my desk, writing up a conference paper with the pit-pat, pit-pat of tennis balls being struck at Wimbledon on the radio in the background. In between rooting through a thesaurus as the heat begins to fry any semblance of a creative vocabulary, there are other things on my to do list for the day. Perhaps the most daunting task I have is the initial stage of securing and organising new projects. Funding, as we archaeologists all know, is rather scant so trying to maintain a steady income to cover our salaries and costs is a nerve-wracking job. Although we run our geophysics programme as a non-profit enterprise we do have real costs and it is always a delicate balance between fixing a price and ensuring that we can do the project to our professional level on the budget in hand. So far, so good this morning. The client is on board and we shall meet next week to discuss the details.

At a set down -it would appear that last year’s Wimbledon champion, Novak Djokovic, is not having such a good day in the office as me.