Sunday, April 22, 2007

Friday Archaeology Blogging

This is what happens when you take a break from blogging; you forget what you're supposed to be doing on Friday afternoons.

Anyway, as mentioned in the last post, I'm heading off across the water next week, to do a couple of months' worth of what Alison from Creekside referred to as "bones-bothering." I'll be here, more or less:

Lake Trasimene - Click for larger version

We've got a number of projects on the go this summer. Excavation will continue at a Roman villa site we've been digging since 1992, but we've also got a couple of interesting survey projects starting up. In both cases, the sites involved are suspiciously flat-topped hills, with not much growing on top of them. We're going to go and wander around and see what's lying on the ground on both these hills. My betting is that we'll find more Etruscan stuff than Roman, but that's just a guess at this point.

However, the area is significant to Roman history and archaeology, and I know precisely what the Umbrian Archaeological Superintendency wants us to find; they're hopeing that we'll over definitive proof of the location of the Battle of Lake Trasimene, fought in 217 B.C. This battle was one of the worst disasters ever suffered by Rome; the Roman army was lured into a massive ambush by the brilliant Carthaginian general Hannibal, and pretty much annihilated. Oodles of circumstantial evidence exists suggesting that the battle was fought along the western half of the north shore of the lake, although the battlefield itself has never been precisely identified.


We're not going to be particularly interested in finding the battlefield this time out; if we do, it will be more or less by accident. What we are interested in doing is studying the transition in the area between the Etruscan civilization and the Roman, a somewhat nebulous process usually referred to as "Romanization." For my part, my own interests lie somewhat later, in what scholars have referred to as the
"Third-Century Crisis." The mid-3rd century A.D. has usually been portrayed as a time of economic depression and depopulation in the rural areas of central Italy, but archaeological evidence is starting to argue against that, at least near Lake Trasimene. What I'm interested in discovering is whether this evidence is an aberation, or part of a larger regional pattern, and I'm hoping that our hill-walking this summer will provide at least some clues concerning the third century.

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