‘Tremendous progress’ in dig

Friday, July 14, 2017
Courtesy photo Deep walls and a substantial staircase have been unearthed during this summer’s archaeological excavation.

A second season of a DePauw University-led archaeological excavation at Itay’s Vaiano-Gioiella site has yielded “tremendous progress,” Pedar Foss and Rebecca Schindler, DePauw professors of Classical Studies, are reporting.

The two faculty members led three DePauw juniors -- Rebecca Kerns, Jack Leahy and Corrine Lee -- on the summer academic project, which is a collaboration between DePauw, The Umbra Institute (Perugia, Italy) and Intrageo. The fieldwork was conducted with the support of the Comune of Castiglione del Lago and the Archeo Trasimeno Group. Nine students from other American colleges also participated.

“We have identified three main components of the site so far,” Foss reported from the site in the region of Castiglione del Lago. “One, an area with deeply-founded walls, an apse, and a substantial staircase -- the bottom of which we have not yet been able to reach -- two, a bath complex of at least three rooms, with portions of the underfloor heating system intact; and three, a large drain, perhaps an outlet for part of the baths.

Courtesy photo DePauw students Jack Leahy, Rebecca Kerns and Corrine Lee excited by latest discovery at Italian dig site.

The site is almost certainly a large Roman villa with a lifespan of circa the second century B.C. to the third century A.D., Foss said

The DePauw professors and their colleagues reported their findings to local media, and they were reported by the RAI Umbrian TV evening news, and by the Corriere dell’Umbria newspaper.

The archaeological site “La Villa” is located on a hill to the north of the Lago di Chiusi, one of three lakes surrounding the Chiana River valley between Umbria and Tuscany.

In 2015, the DePauw-Umbra team conducted a surface survey of the area. Last summer, a DePauw team was involved in the archaeological excavation of the site, which continued this summer.

The distribution of material recovered from the surface in 2015 suggested that it was a large complex with at least two distinct building areas -- one to the south, where fragments belonging to a thermal structure were recovered, and another to the north. To the east of the site is an ancient road and a cistern for collecting water, both of which probably date to the Roman period.

Despite heavy rains that interrupted the 2016 summer fieldwork, the team was able to excavate for approximately 15 days, excavating in four operations on the eastern edge of the site.

The most interesting discovery of 2016 was a channel that was cut into the natural sediment and then covered with tiles pitched to form a triangular covering. “This appears to be a drainage system,” the group reproted, “even though it does not have a bottom that would allow water to flow but was constructed directly on the natural sediment. The channel is at least 6.5 meters long but its overall length remains to be discovered.”

The earlier excavation also uncovered several examples of Sigillata Italica (Aretina) with stamps from the manufacturers. Moreover, the recovery of numerous artifacts with traces of burning indicates that ceramics and possibly metals were produced at the villa complex, the professors noted last summer.

Greencastle residents may remember that Professors Foss and Schindler were involved in an on-campus archaeological excavation in 2012 on the site of the old Minshall Lab which is now part of the patio area between the new Hoover Dining Hall and the Union Building.

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