Katherine Owensby

Second Century Roman Bath Site in Cifali

Uncovering tubuli in a new trench
Uncovering tubuli in a new trench

Ragusa, Sicily, Italy: Summer, 2018

     Thanks to very generous funding I was able to work on a second century Roman bath site in Cifali, located in the province of Ragusa, Sicily. The expedition was lead by Dr. Antonino Facella, professor of archaeology at Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, and Dr. Alexander Evers, professor of ancient history at Loyola University Chicago's John Felice Rome Center (JFRC). I was enrolled in the JFRC's Fusion program, which serves as an introduction to the field of archaeology. After two weeks of archaeological theory classes, six other undergraduates and I traveled to Cifali to begin the campaign. My goal for the summer was to gain experience in the field and to explore the perspective archaeology brings to Classics.

     Excavation in Cifali began in 2016, and at that time the team found a hot bath and remnants of an underlying hypocaust system. Earlier in 2018, Dr. Facella determined by LIDAR that there were other structures slightly northeast of the hot bath. Thus the purpose of the 2018 campaign became to open two more trenches nearby. Excavating alongside my professors, other undergraduates, and local Sicilian archaeologists, I worked primarily in the pre-existing hot bath trench, in which I found tesserae, shards of glass, and fragments of Greek, Roman, and Medieval pottery. These findings support the hypothesis that this site was diachronic. We also found lamps decorated with a cross, which suggests the bath complex was later converted into a church. On the last day, we found the beginnings of a Phrygian pink marble floor. Though we made significant progress in all three trenches, much work is still to be done to determine the full structure and thus function of the site.

     Having had no prior archaeological experience, working at Cifali was educationally rewarding. Every day was a new, hands-on lesson in dating methods, stratigraphic theory, and proper techniques. It was enlightening to experience Classics in a much more material, tactile way. I became fascinated with the intersection between literature and archaeology, where two unique perspectives on the ancient world converge. I hope to further explore this intersection in my studies and work on another dig in the future. I'm so grateful and lucky to have had this eye-opening opportunity this summer.