All roads may lead to Rome, but my road to Transylvania began in Rome.....
All roads may lead to Rome, but my road to Transylvania began in Rome. I was part of an archaeological team every summer since 1991. The first long-term project I was part of was the “Palatine East” project in Rome. Directed by Eric Hostetter and Thomas Howe, the excavations on the slope of the Palatine Hill near the Arch of Constantine investigated an Imperial period domus (aristocratic home). I had excavated at other sites prior to this project and found that I enjoyed analyzing the materials, especially pottery. My undergraduate professor, Ted Pena, invited me to be one of his assistants at Palatine East. Our “laboratory” was one of the gardens at the American Academy in Rome. That was an amazing and privileged experience – coffee and cornetto at the Bar Giancolo, plodding through a couple of tons of Roman pottery each summer, sandwiches in the garden of the Villa Aurelia, entering data into first-generation laptop computers (286 with perhaps 40 megabytes of memory), wandering through the stacks of the AAR Library, dinner at the Academy. I even had the chance to dabble in archaeometry as a graduate student at University of Illinois. We “nuked” 200 samples of pulverized pottery to help us determine the provenience, using a technique neutron activation analysis.
This was the moment when pottery specialists began to examine ALL pottery recovered through excavations and not only the pretty, decorated pieces. We literally classified, counted, weighed and documented more than 10,000 kg (yes – ten thousand) of pottery. Ted put Victor Martinez, Janne Ikaheimo and I to the test – ability of distinguish amphora sherds from 20 paces. We memorized all the Dressel, Hayes, and Conspectus typologies and could date archaeological deposits within 25 years or so. I became very interested in African red slip ware and all the local Italian varieties of pottery – the common wares. I also became engrossed in questions of the Roman economy and archaeological theory – why else would you plod through tons of pottery, if not to answer “big picture” questions?
I learned about teamwork and took my first steps into the real realm of archaeology – developing research questions, finding ways to address the questions, proving/disproving your hypothesis, discovering new questions to ask, and, of course, publication. Some of my most enduring friendships were made at Palatine East – even if I don’t see these friends often, it’s exciting to follow their careers on Facebook. Everyone has found their path and are successful in what they have chosen to do. I remained with the project through the late 1990’s when I became part of a team in Pompeii.