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McMaster Classics Major Shanna Ingram participated on an archaeological excavation at Ceverteri, ancient Caere, in Italy across summer 2018. The MacClassics Blog is grateful for this guest submission on her experience:

Ms. Ingram on the dig


A remarkable and mysterious civilization dominated Italy for centuries. The Romans knew them as the Etruscans, who referred to themselves as Rasenna. They inhabited ancient Etruria, occupying central Italy in the region that is currently known as Tuscany. They quickly achieved a wealth of power in the 6th century BC with newfound trade relations, advancements in engineering, and exemplary artistry. The Etruscans passed on much of this expertise and had a profoundly formative role in the rise of their Roman counterparts. Their art and architecture permeated into Roman culture and can still be seen today.

The excavation at Caere


Last summer I had the opportunity to enroll as a field school student with Queen’s University. We dug on an Etruscan site located in the plateau of Caere, now modern-day Cerveteri. It is famous for its well-preserved necropoleis of rock-cut tombs. Relatively little is known about the Etruscans and most of the research in modern scholarship comes from tomb finds. My excavation was unique in that we examined their urban and religious infrastructure. Our team looked at three major areas: an urban grid, the “hypogaeum of Clepsina”, and a cavaedium. I learned so many different archaeological techniques each day. Digging in the trench, surveying, finds sorting, and pottery sketching just to name a few. My Indiana Jones moment came when, trowel in hand and headlamp on, I embarked into a newly opened tunnel leading out of the cavaedium.

I had no prior field experience before this dig. All I knew was that I loved classics and had a good work ethic that could be applied in an excavation setting. It turned out to be a phenomenal learning experience. I encourage any and all students, if you’re the slightest bit intrigued, to volunteer on an archaeological dig one day.

Drone view of the work


For more information on the excavation, go to