Student Profile: Kelsey Latsha


Kelsey and I first met the summer after our freshman year on the excavation. As a member of the excavation all four years of her undergraduate career, Kelsey has spent more than six months studying archaeology in Italy. She’s worked in Cavita 254 for the past three seasons .

The following is an edited transcript of a conversation we had earlier this week. We spoke about the cave, her time on the excavation, her expectations for the future, and of course, gelato.

~ Joe Cahill

JC: So, real broad. Why archaeology?

KL: What kind of question is that?

JC: Why are you here? Like why do you do this?

KL: ‘Cus it’s a lot of fun. Ugh, I don’t know. That’s a hard hitting question already. I don’t like that, it’s so intense. Let’s start small.

JC: Ok, we can come back to that.

KL: There’s a lot that goes into that.

Kelsey and I are sitting at Bar Obelix. A local hangout, the destination for morning cappuccini and after-dinner drinks. She’s just gotten back from a long day in the cave and agrees to answer a few questions. I promise to keep it short.

JC: What year is this for you on the dig?

KL: Forth. Four years. Three years in the cave.

JC: Why the cave? Why do you keep going back to the stinky, dark cave?

KL: Because the Etruscan stuff is really cool. It’s really old. You never know what’s gonna come out of there I guess. You never know, that’s the thing. We found that’s not all pottery. The bones are cool.

JC: Not the stuff you’d find in Coriglia.

KL: Yeah, pretty much. It’s out of the sun. That’s a plus. I like the work that goes into it. I like the hard work. I like the shoveling, I like the pickaxing, you get to pickaxe a lot. I like that stuff.

JC: Is there something about, I don’t know, sort of the singular goal. It’s just…

KL: Yeah, you never know what you’re gonna get. You never know what’s gonna come out of there. The inscriptions are really cool. It’s cool to have a find box filled in an hour. It’s cool to watch it it change too, when you’re following the pottery and you realize how far you’ve dug down. That’s impressive. That’s an accomplishment. It feels good.

JC: What’s happening in the cistern? That’s new.

KL: Yeah, right now it’s all modern fill on the top layer. We don’t know what’s under it. We dug today in the upper room where Tonino had his wine bottles. So we moved his wine into the other room and we took out the wall they were sitting on and then we dug the ramp that was sitting on those stairs. Did you see that?

JC: No, I don’t think so.

KL: Ok, well there’s a little ramp in there and a couple stairs going down. So we cleared out the wall and under the ramp. We hit another wall and so we had to stop, we hit iron rods that were in the wall. But we found an Etruscan layer on the bottom that shows that they filled in that room, that cellar, where they rolled barrels down with the Etruscan fill that was in our tunnel. So that’s how we ended up with a medieval layer before.

JC : That’s an answer to a huge question.

KL: Ya, we finally found out where they put that Etruscan top-layer. We know where it was. It didn’t go very far.

JC: What’re some the most unique things you’ve found in there?

KL: Definitely the handle with the face on it. And the warrior, I love the ‘warrior’. Were you here for the ‘warrior’?

JC: I don’t think so.

KL: Oh! The terracotta warrior.

JC: It’s a figurine?

KL: Yeah, he’s running. He’s being hit by something. He’s hunched over. It’s really cool, he’s blue and red and...

JC: He’s still painted?

KL: Ya, he’s painted. It’s beautiful.

Kelsey pulls out a photo of the terracotta warrior on her phone. It’s museum quality, the type of thing you’d expect to see in the MET or MFA. It’s hard to imagine it won’t wind up in a similar place.

JC: Oh wow. That’s amazing.

KL: That’s what we’re waiting for. More of those. That was two years ago. There’s also all the Attic pottery that we’re putting back together.

JC: Do you want to say anything about the inscriptions that you’re compiling for publishing?

KL: That there’re too many? It’s interesting that some of the same things with how they’re being written are similar but a little bit different. Each one has their own writing style. Even though it says the same thing. We have one that say’s 'CNA' (KAH-NAH) but that can be read right to left or left to right. It’s cool to look at all of them and see them all together rather than pulling them out of the ground and be like, “Oh, inscription!” And toss it in a bucket. It’s good to finally study them. You never get that chance when you’re just digging.

JC: Another one.

KL: Another one. We’re so spoiled.

JC: You must feel a sense of ownership.

KL: Ya. A little bit. Paolo and I work hard. There’s definitely a trust there.

JC: Ok, now we’re coming back to it. Why archaeology?

KL: I can’t explain it. “Why archaeology”’s not like math or science. It’s just different. Who else can say I dug in Italy for four years. In a cave! So it’s different. I like the work. Even though we have to shovel out that cave, it’s fun. It’s worth the effort. I don’t know, it brings you closer to the past. Do you want me to get cheesy?

JC: That’ll be the title. “Bring me closer to the past”.

KL: No! Don’t do that. Don’t do that to me. It’s just cool when you see a bowl, a whole complete bowl someone ate out of or did something with. It’s incredible. Absolutely incredible. You see bones in the cave and you know they ate dogs. It’s shocking. But it’s interesting. What brought them to eat dog? There’re lots of questions to ask.

JC: It’s tough to see lifeways in deathways, but maybe that’s what’s unique about the cave. It’s an instance where it’s not deathways, it’s a trash pit. It’s lifeways.

KL: Yeah, it’s lifeways. So far it’s been lifeways. I don’t wanna say trash pit. The stairs. It’s the stairs that bug me. You don’t build stairs for a trash pit. When you have cisterns to fill...They build the stairs, and they collapse. Then they rebuild them. So they had to keep going down there for some reason. If they were just chucking it in they wouldn’t need stairs. Why stairs? Why all the pottery? Why is it all intact and not broken? Why do we have so many tiles? I have a lot of questions. Too many.

JC: One more. What’s your favorite flavor of gelato?

KL: That’s a tough question. All of them?

JC: That’s a cop-out.

KL: I always get the ‘cioccolato guanaja’. That’s the one I always get. It’s really good.


This Blog is dedicated to chronicling the 2016 excavation in Orvieto