As a PhD student in the Art & Archaeology of the Mediterranean World (AAMW) program at Penn, I have the good fortune of getting to travel to the Mediterranean every summer to undertake fieldwork. This year I was lucky to be supported by the Penn Museum while I spent two months doing fieldwork in Italy and in Israel – it was a fascinating experience working in two very different countries and on two very different excavations! I first spent a month in Italy working with the Cosa Excavations. Cosa is about two hours north of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea, on a picturesque hill overlooking the water. This project is investigating the bath complex at the site, which was founded as a Latin colony in 273 BCE. There have been excavations on various areas of the site for decades, but this is the first to intensively study the bath complex. This was the fifth season of excavations at the bath (and my second!) and this year we made some great progress in answering questions about how the baths functioned.
I worked in an area between the eastern outer wall of the complex and the laconicum, one of the hot rooms. We hoped to better understand how the different rooms of the bath relate to one another, particularly because the bath is built on a slope. What we actually encountered was nothing like anything else I had dug before! Within a couple of days we were coming down on collapsed building materials. This continued for the entire 4+ week season! We were able to remove some of the pieces of wall or vaulting debris, after careful documentation, but some were just too massive to move. Soon we were gently climbing in and out of the trench with only a few specific places we could step. We ended up finding more of the external wall as well as two other walls. We also found several large pieces of collapsed vaulting that will hopefully help the architects that work with us reconstruct the architecture of the baths. They are working on laser scanning the fallen vaulting, and a couple of the pieces we found may help in this digital reconstruction effort.
My square at Legio proved quite different from Cosa – for a while we weren’t finding much, until suddenly we had some really awesome stuff. We came down on an interesting column and base, which may have been used in the worship of Apollo. The column base was inlaid with basalt and was quite beautiful.
After much careful excavation around the column and base, we carefully removed them and sent them away for conservation.
Under the column base we then found a sturdy floor, which also appeared in several adjacent squares.
We just barely finished cleaning the floor on the last day of excavations! I also excavated a small niche cut into rock – it ended up having awesome plaster, but sadly we didn’t find any statues in it!
Off site, I also helped with other tasks for the excavations. The excavations at Legio began in 2013, but the database system has changed since then. After we got back from site and had lunch, I helped enter the finds from 2013 in the new database. It was a great chance to get some experience working with the database, and I got to go through cool finds from 2013!
Overall, this summer was productive and exciting. Working in two different countries was awesome – I saw many different landscapes and ate a wide variety of great food, on top of excavating at two fascinating sites.
Learn more about the Cosa Excavations and the Jezreel Valley Regional Project: