Life in the Trenches: Week 1 at the Dig
Welcome to the Parco dei Ravennati excavation in Ostia Antica. There is nothing like being on site at an excavation, and nothing better than having hands on reportage of the dig itself. Five participants have volunteered to contribute a blog post about what they are doing at Parco dei Ravennati. From now through July 21, we will feature weekly posts from the point of view of actual dig participants as they get down and dirty in Ostia Antica. Our first post is from Tara Giangrande, an art history and anthropology student from Swarthmore College.
After a week of touring around all seven hills of ancient Rome, the students of this summer’s AIRC archaeological field school began work at Parco dei Ravennati in Ostia Antica. While a few of us had prior experience with excavation, it was an entirely new adventure for most of the group. Some of us, myself included, had never studied archaeology before. Many of us did not know what to expect, many were nervous, but all were anxious to get started on our project.
On the first day, our worries were put at ease as we realized that we were not simply being thrown to the wolves, as I have been told from my peers is often common with field schools. Rather than being blindly assigned to trenches and commanded to dig, we were guided by Dr. Michele Raddi and Albert Prieto through the ins and outs of conducting an archaeological excavation. At the start of the week, we tentatively looked at a vast area of unexcavated land. By the end of that week, we smiled blissfully at a formally laid-out excavation plane that we had created ourselves, feeling that maybe (just maybe) we were on our way to becoming real archaeologists.
We certainly would not have been able to accomplish all that we did without the patience and deep investment of our instructors. We learned, in depth, about the benefits of traditional versus modern topographical techniques, putting both into practice with manual triangulation and use of the total station. We were taught the importance of documentation and advised to practice proper protocol in our excavation journals. We were expected to think critically and actively about pressing questions encountered during excavation, and our thoughts were legitimately considered.
These are only a few examples of how we were consistently made to feel that this was truly our dig, and that we would be contributing more than just physical labor to its development. Such an opportunity to be immersed in the concepts and practices of excavation made it a truly wonderful and educational first week at the dig site.