William & Mary

Classics student excavates in Spain

View of the building looking NW with a large trash pit in the foreground

Life In Menorca


  Walking into the student residency for the Ecomuseu de Cap de Cavalleria, my stomach was in knots. Not only had I just spent 26 hours traveling to get to the island of Menorca, I was terrified that upon meeting me, everyone would know this was my very first dig.  Luckily, this was the absolutely perfect program for a newbie like myself. The field school was open to everyone, and every group was represented. From mothers pursuing a second career to seasoned pros, from the aimless traveler to college students like me, even without an interest in archaeology, every kind showed up to dig. A typical day on the site involved a quick and early breakfast before a long winding bus ride through the hills of the northern coast of the island. Once at the museum, we hiked out to our site and split into groups: one heading for the necropolis and another, my group, staying at the city site.

A bronze key found in under Opus Cammunticeum and near the wall


The multipurpose building we were digging in had endless amounts of treasures buried beneath the surface. We began by finishing a room started by the previous session, defining the wall cuts and clearing to the bedrock. Within a few hours, I learned just how much material existed; I was shocked to learn they simply threw away the small pieces of pottery! Another surprising aspect to archaeology was the lack of delicacy involved in excavation; who knew you could pick-ax a site with so much historical potential? After digging for a few hours, we would return to the museum for a quick lunch and a lecture by the curator on various aspects of Roman culture and archaeological techniques. We would spend sometime in the lab, learning how to clean, mark, and classify the materials we found. Of all our finds, some of the highlights were a bronze coin (found by yours truly), a trash pit with momentous amounts of well preserved amphorae, and the crowning jewel, an incense burner in the shape of the Punic goddess Tanit. This rare find in the Balearic Islands was the first to be found on Menorca and got us an article in the local paper!

The group digging in the city

Besides the plethora of knowledge that I gained in the field of archaeology, the experience I had on the island was one I could never forget. The city of Ciutadella was small and friendly, even to a non-Spanish AND non-Catalan speak such as myself, and provided a truly wonderful home base. One truly got into the life there. In addition, my visit also coincided with the biggest festival on the island, the Puente de San Juan. I was able to attend the traditional bonfire night, when the entire city was alive with music, the citywide hazelnut fight (which is exactly what it sounds like), and the celebratory jousting by the noblemen. To top it all off, I was there to celebrate Spain’s World Cup win! My experience in Menorca was truly once in a lifetime, and I fully recommend it to any student interested in archaeology or Classical Civilization, or simply anyone who loves to travel and dig up some dirt!