Another piece of the puzzle: the Monte Palazzi excavation
Pulled from the ground in 2007 at Monte Palazzi — a remote archaeological site high up in the hills of southern Italy — these are much more than just broken pieces of pottery.
With Jennifer Knapp’s skilled hands and sharp eyes, each shard becomes a piece of a giant puzzle, a window into a way of life 2,500 years ago when Italian, Greek, and Roman city states vied for control of this strategic peninsula in the Mediterranean.
“Ceramics are often used as material for dating an archaeological site,” says Knapp, a Classical Studies instructor at Langara College and an active participant in the Monte Palazzi dig. “But if we look closely at those pieces, and the vessels they were part of, we often find they tell a story.
They can reveal what food the people ate and how they made it. The implements used to prepare food have certainly changed over the years, but food expresses identity now as much as it did 2,500 years ago.
“Sometimes we find vessels used for storage,” Knapp adds. “These can help reconstruct trade routes. Pieces of more decorative vessels might indicate the house of a person of rank, or the presence of a temple.”
Knapp and a student started going to the Monte Palazzi site in 2005. Knapp believes it is important for students to be involved in archaeological training as early as possible because it gives them a chance to get first-hand training in archaeological digs and learn what it is like to be on excavation.
“It’s tough work,” she says. “But it can be very rewarding as well.”
With the help of an RSAF grant and a student, Knapp spent the summer of 2016 at home digging through her notes and digitizing everything. These databases will become vital information for future archaeologists, as they continue to find more pieces of the puzzle that is gradually being unearthed in southern Italy.