Sunday, 29 November 2015

Frozen in Volterra

The change was breathtaking in every meaning of the word. From Week 1 and the Indian summer the kind of which Italy had not seen in 66 years with temperature hitting 20 in Florence, we landed through a very rainy and misty Saturday into Week 2, which brought frost and bitterly cold sunny weather. Next week it should snow, but luckily we will be back – in Sweden, so snow may be on the cards anyway. I had planned leaving my winter boots in Stockholm, but I was fortunate to have them with me. I have had heating on all day in my room plus going around in my fleece-lined field coat that made me survive the Grand Arcade 2005 in Cambridge and had been property of the Antarctic Survey before I bought it from the Mill Road Salvation Army shop. I also learnt that Volterra is classified as a mountainous region, so no wonder it was freezing.

It was also beautiful and I was surrounded by good people. My assistant Nadja has been a real star. I was originally a bit worried, since she is very interested in ancient Greek and linguistics and pondering the use of language and meanings of words, but I should not have been. She also has that genuine gift, an eye for archaeology and a way of reminding the boss of important missed details. She is also very interested in measuring, mapping and technical gadgets, so I could through the car GPS on her and let her to set up the real mapping GPS at sites without having to run to the rescue. We walked round the sites, planning the main features of the landscape in order to create general maps for the area, me defining where to take the points and her delivering. At clear sections she just got on with it – and with the exception of a few points were the reception failed, the exported dxf files look good in AutoCad.

The GPR crew at work

Similarly, my GPR crew works with the best, with Maurizio Forte and Stefano Campana. Even if our research is at a pinpoint scale in comparison with their wider scale studies over different city and village scapes in northern Lazio and southern Tuscany, they process lovely 2D overlays. Even the GPS support worked this year. Previously, the working hours were limited with the GPS satellites to the morning after which the satellites disappeared somewhere else. Now one can use both American and Russian satellites and we could work for the entire day. Not just measuring the control points for the GPR grids but actually mapping the site and its setting in general detail so that all can be brought together in GIS with the CTR maps at the scale 1:2000. It is all coming together and it begins to look like a pretty convincing project, the Stockholm Volterra Project.

An audience with Mayor Marco Buselli

People in Volterra are nice and the town council seems to appreciate our work. In addition, the owners of the first site followed our work for three days and were really enthusiastic even if the weather took a turn to worse. When they went back home, they bought us paste (cookies or cakes) as a gift. Naturally, we had to be photographed with them and they were asking when we will come back. The owner of my favourite bar provided me with extra cheese with my last meal in her place and has chatted with me delightfully. The regulars playing card politely made way for me so I could eat my supper. It all makes one feel warm inside even if it was cold outside.

Team Volterra 2015

Previous week saw us running around Florens in order to reach the Soprintendenza. At the end of this week we had to take the GPS kit back to Pisa. This meant that we just had to go to see the Leaning Tower. After all, many of the columns of the cathedral seem to have come from the Roman buildings in Pisa and from its environs. An archaeologist could spot porphyrite and the main Roman marble types in the apsis. We apparently also hit one of the best trattorie in town, as we got the last table. There was a queue soon, waiting to eat the tasty pasta. Sometimes it is nice to be an archaeologist, even if one comes to a site in the morning and finds it all frosty and on some days the trekking boots were completely wet. Nadja resorted into putting plastic bags to her feet.

Just could not resist...

Stockholm University and the Section of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History are grateful for the funding from the Swedish Kungliga Vitterhetsakademien and the collaboration of the Soprintendenza per i beni archeologici della Toscana, especially thanking Elena Sorge, the intendent for Volterra, and comune di Volterra. A special thank you to the Swedish Institute in Rome. The marvellous people in Stockholm, Volterra, Florence, Rome, Pisa, Livorno, Perugia, Leicester and Cambridge made this season possible.

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