Beth Wang

All at once, rural Sicily- where I’ve been participating in the American Excavations at Morgantina for the past month- is exactly how you’d imagine it and absolutely different. There are definitely the expected rolling hills with tiny cobblestone-street towns built right into them, and Aidone, where I’ve stayed, is one of many. There is an arancini/gelato/Aperol spritz bar on every corner, and an olive grove but a stone’s throw away. Every night on my walk to dinner, the local barber waves and throws a “Ciao ciao!” my way in a dialectic tone that may be endemic to the region, but is likely specific to only Aidone.

This very barber, however, along with his brother, grandson, and other passersby, are known to moonlight as a 5+ piece musical group of accordion, guitar, drums, and alto or tenor sax, depending on which grandson is around. They play jazzy Italian tunes right there on the floor of the barbershop, often in the middle of giving a straight-razor shave.

beth aidone

A view of Aidone from my bedroom window!

Aidone and its citizens never cease to surprise me with their proclivities for Saturday night Britney Spears karaoke and colorful Adidas tracksuits, and their kindness for the members of the “scavi americani.”

The dig season has been filled with surprises of its own as well. I was expecting to work and work hard as a member of the excavation team, but I never would have guessed that, on week two of the dig, the largest Italian workman would have dubbed me “brachi di ferro” or “iron arms” because of my (vicious? reckless? overzealous?) work with a pickaxe.

beth morning

A hot morning onsite

As a museum tour guide and student of ancient art history and archaeology (shout out to Profs. Arrington, Hamilton, and Vischak!), excavating at Morgantina has been so incredibly rewarding in that I have been able to experience the very discovery of the kind of material culture that I spend my academic years reading about and visiting in the museum. Though every bronze coin, iron nail, or loom weight we find will never see the inside of a display case or the pages of a textbook, the greater patterns that their collection presents contributes to a greater understanding of the site as a whole.

beth deg

Orange markers let us know where trench lines are… and remind us of our ~greater purpose~

It’s also wildly fun to smash through eight inches of dirt with a large pickaxe—I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Monday will mark the beginning of my last full workweek here in Aidone, and I am so sad to see my first excavation season expire. The people on this team, the work they’re doing, and the place in which they work are truly remarkable and inspirational, and I will always treasure this summer and all its surprises. I have spent this summer happily caked in Morgantina dirt, and I hope it never washes out from under my fingernails.

beth dogs

The best part of the dig? Dig dogs!!

Pictured: Cookie and her puppy, Chip


To read more about the American Excavations at Morgantina, see their recent publications

To learn more about the Princeton Art Museum’s collection of ancient art, which includes an excellent representation of the art of ancient Italy, see the Museum’s website

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