Etruscan Multitasking

It all started as a field school opportunity in the summer of 2001, and I never thought I’d help run an Etruscan archaeological project for 14 years.  From minion, to trench master, to cataloguer, I found my niche there as manager of materials and inventory for the lab and storerooms, or Magazzino, at the Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project, located in Vescovado di Murlo, near Siena, Italy.  Excavations have taken place continuously since 1966 and is now through the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and directed by Dr. Anthony S. Tuck.

I have since left work at Poggio Civitate to continue my professional career at Sardis in Turkey, but I came back to PC this summer to check in and help out for a bit. What is a day in the life of an archaeological multitasker? Well, the morning starts out with unlocking and airing out the storerooms, checking in with the conservator to see how we should best utilize our student workers, and filling water bottles.  As students arrive and are sent to dry brush ceramics found the day before, I check in with the director to establish priorities for the day, and that may involve cataloguing artifacts that have been cleaned and conserved, looking for comparanda for newly excavated objects, cataloguing objects excavated decades ago but never catalogued, pulling materials for scholarly publication, passing objects along to be photographed or illustrated, making inventory lists, tracking down missing information from the find tags made by trench leaders, restarting the database server if it goes down, flipping through old field diaries to find missing information from the database or to provide our GIS specialist with as much data as possible for mapping old trenches, etc. Let’s say I know where information is, whether physical or electronic, and spend the day either providing it or gathering it.

Of course there are the annoying bits, too…tourists wandering down into the storerooms by mistake, the town handyman needing to move a vehicle, but in order to do so, we need to move tables of pottery fragments, letting the cook know how many people are having lunch, eating lunch in a driveway, moving heavy things, killing bugs, and running supplies up to site when they run out.

But as head of the archive, I get to teach students and learn new things from them, work through issues with dedicated, enthusiastic colleagues, poke through boxes and boxes of nearly 50 years of excavation history for objects 2700 years old, and be a part of something that’s much bigger than myself.

At the end of each day I check in with the trench masters to see their new finds, spread out their pottery to dry, and make sure the conservators get their hands on new sets of projects and problems. Sweep the floors, close and lock up the archive, then march back to down for dinner and sleep before starting all over again.

Aerial Survey of Archaeological Excavations Using Quad-Rotor and Hex-Rotor Aircraft – Arch Aerial

My name is Ryan Baker, and I’m the founder of Arch Aerial LLC, a group dedicated to developing easy to use aerial photography platforms for research applications.  During the 2013 field season we had teams all over the world working at archaeological excavations, but this week our final project for the summer is wrapping up at the Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project in Murlo, Italy.


On all of our projects this field season, we use quad and hex-rotor helicopters designed by our team to conduct aerial imaging of archaeological sites of varying scale.  Friday, July 26th, 2013 was a typical day of work in Murlo: here at Poggio Civitate we begin with the thirty-minute walk through the Tuscan countryside to the site on the top of the hill.  After arriving at the trenches for the 2013 field season, we immediately take aerial orthorectified photographs of the entire excavation area.  Capturing the necessary photos takes around five minutes, and once they are offloaded from the camera’s memory card, our technicians begin 3D modeling the excavation area on site using 3D photogrammetry software. Producing the 3D model of the excavation area takes around 20 minutes, and the excavation director is able to use this model to assess the progress of excavation and direct site staff on how to proceed for the day.  In addition to 3D modeling of the excavation area, we are also able to do 3D modeling of artifacts using land-based photography.  Below you can see an example of this in the form of a 3D model of a roofing antefix.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 5.25.55 PM

Once the 3D model of the excavation area is complete, our team continues survey of the entirety of the hill.  One of our main goals for this season at Poggio Civitate is to produce both 2D and 3D imaging of the whole of Poggio Civitate and the surrounding area.  Survey flights occupy the rest of the morning, and then around lunch our team leaves the hill to begin processing data from the first half of the day.  For the remainder of the afternoon, our Field Operators georeference locus photos, finalize 3D models from the excavation area, and compile 2D and 3D imaging for the comprehensive view of Poggio Civitate and its surroundings.


In addition to Poggio Civitate our teams have conducted aerial imaging at the San Giovenale Tom Survey run by the Swedish Institute in Rome, and the Programme for Belize Archaeological Project at the Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area.  The video below was not made with footage from July 26th 2013, but it depicts a typical day of survey at the Programme for Belize Archaeological Project and the 3D models we were able to produce while working there.

Arch Aerial at PfBAP – Dos Hombres on Vimeo.

Although this isn’t all we do in terms of remote sensing, it gives a glimpse into the world of aerial survey and how it can be applied to the field of archaeology. Looking forward to sharing a year’s worth of developments on the next Day of Archaeology!

Interested taking a closer look at our work from this field season? Check out for more videos and updates from the field.