martes, 5 de abril de 2011

Life and Death of an Etruscan Settlement (Italy)

Long pre-dating the Roman Empire, Italy was once inhabited by an advanced civilisation which greatly influenced the culture of Rome, the power that would eventually conquer them in the 3rd century and lead to the civilisation’s decline. With their origins shrouded in mystery, little evidence remains to tell the Etruscan story. Marsiliana d'Albegna © Association Etruria Nova Onlus However, the area of Banditella near modern-day Marsiliana offers some hope for Etruscan scholars, and has been associated politically and economically with the influential Etruscan city of Vulci. Excavations were first carried out in the area in 1908 by Prince Tommaso Corsini who successfully excavated over one hundred graves, and the discovery of the Marsiliana d’ Albegna tablet has been confirmed as the earliest abecedarian helping shed light on the language of these ancient people. Focussing on the land surrounding the resort of Maremma, the Marsiliana d’Albegna project – one of the largest archaeological excavations and research activities in Italy – is now entering its ninth season and aims to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of this important historic site and the people who inhabited it. Located near Grosseto in Tuscany, fieldwork is being undertaken under the direction of the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage of Tuscany, the Department of Archaeology and History of Arts at the University of Siena, and non-profit organisation Etruria Nova. This successful collaboration has led to the establishment of an international field school (see below), and has already produced extensive scientific data confirming the importance of the settlement. The Legacy of the Etruscan People At the beginning of the Iron Age, the Villanovan culture was an organic element of Etruscan society with no well-defined hierarchical structure, government or political borders. Distinct from Greek culture from which it drew profound influences, the Etruscan civilisation sprung to importance in the 8th century BCE at the end of which rich aristocracies began to emerge. Deriving influences from the eastern Mediterranean, this Orientalising period was marked by the importation of ceramics and metals. By the end of the 7th century BCE urban centres dominated the coastline with prolific expansion alongside agricultural development and mercantile activities. Reaching its height of power during the 6th century BCE when political organisation had evolved to 12 autonomous city states, the Etruscan influence spread from the Po Valley to Campania, encompassing ancient Rome. “After the conquest, the Etruscans were granted Roman citizenship and absorbed into Roman society, leaving few traces of their culture behind ”Despite evolving sea-faring power during the 5th and 6th centuries BCE which contributed to their defeat of the Focesi at Alalia in 514-535 BCE, followed by the invasion of Corsica, the period of stability and expansion radically changed for Etruria and its people. The 400s saw an era of colonisation, first by Hieron of Syracuse who defeated the southern coastal cities, shortly followed by increasing threats from the Alps. The beginning of the 4th century BCE saw Gallic tribes occupying areas of the Po Valley, which marked the end of Tyrrhenian domination of Northern Italy. This was swiftly followed by the Romans conquering a number of influential cities, leading to domination of Etruria during the 3rd century BCE when it ultimately fell to Rome. After the conquest, the Etruscans were granted Roman citizenship and absorbed into Roman society, leaving few traces of their culture behind. The Etruscan Mystery Having risen to prosperity and power, the disappearance of the Etruscan civilisation has left many questions within archaeology and academia regarding its origins and culture. The few examples of Etruscan writing left behind consist primarily of short tomb epigrams and genealogical information, and no works of Etruscan literature survived, if they even existed. the form of the Etruscan language and nature of right to left writings has often been used to identify the Etruscans as immigrants as it contains non indo-European elements that suggest an eastern origin ”Of that which has survived, the form of the Etruscan language and nature of right to left writings has often been used to identify the Etruscans as immigrants as it contains non indo-European elements that suggest an eastern origin. The Greek historian Herodotus believed that the Etruscans had sailed to Italy from Anatolia (now part of modern day Turkey) in around 800 BCE fleeing the famine that afflicted their homeland. Contrarily, Dionysius of Halicarnassus (circa 100 BCE) believed the Etruscans were indigenous to Italy and part of an ancient nation which did not resemble any other people with regards to language or customs. Certainly, some modern interpretations subscribe to this theory defining them as native Italic people who developed a separate culture owing to trade contacts. This theory is supported by evidence of gradual change within the archaeological record and the fact that there was no break in funeral traditions between the prehistoric inhabitants of Etruscan lands and the historical Etruscans, as well as the language bearing some resemblance to the Greek language form used in southern Italian Hellenistic colonies. Whilst some believe they were an ancient race from the heartland of present day Tuscany, others trace their origins to northern Europe, and recent DNA analysis suggests validation of the claims of Herodotus. The investigations at Marsiliana will help peel back the layers of the Etruscans’ mysterious past to finally establish a picture of their origins and customs. The Marsiliana D’Albegna Project Investigations and excavations have so far revealed the major discovery of the residential area of Marsiliana comprising of Poggio del Castello, Uliveto di Banditella and Poggio di Macchiabuia, an area totalling 47 hectares. The project has also uncovered a large tumulus on the Perazzeta plain dating to the 7th or 6th century BCE, alongside associated grave goods from this undisturbed tomb which have been fully restored for exhibition. Investigation of an Etruscan production site near the Albegna river site has also revealed transport amphorae dating from the 6th century BCE, as well as bucchero, coarseware and Etrusco-Corinthian ware. Survey has also identified a number of yet unexplored grave-sites within Corsini’s estate, which will assist in reconstructing the living and funerary practices of the Etruscan age, as well as cataloguing habitation and burial sites. Excavations this year will concentrate on the Necropolis of Macchiabuia and the Casa delle Anfore. Daily Etruscan Living (Casa delle Anfore) Between the late 6th and 5th century BCE the hills surrounding Marsiliana were covered with small production sites believed to be inhabited by families who were descended from the aristocracy that emerged during the Orientalising period. Investigation has revealed one site of particular interest dating to the last quarter of the 6th century BCE, the Casa delle Anfore, named for the proliferation of Etruscan amphorae discovered there. Studies of the pottery discovered within indicate occupation until the end of the 5th century. Situated within Corsini’s estate, the 400-metre square peripheral residence shows evidence of a perimeter wall containing an entrance to the east, and a central enclosed courtyard which opens onto at least seven separate rooms. Approximately two metres from the eastern perimeter lies what is believed to be an external courtyard area covered in pebbles, perhaps representing a large square or street. At the centre of this open courtyard a rectangular cavity covered in flakes of travertine was found, the function of which was possibly to collect surface water. Excavation of the rooms at the southeastern end of the residence revealed a large volume of tiles, pottery and Etruscan amphorae (most likely used for shipping) lining many of the walls at regular intervals. Cooking and food storage vessels were discovered amongst these fragments, and the lack of ceramic or tableware would suggest these rooms were used as food warehouses. Excavation of rooms at the front of the courtyard area along the eastern perimeter wall outside the building have shown a variety of large jars lined up along the walls of the rooms, probably covered by a roof. Scientific Analysis Sheds Light Chemical analysis has been carried out on samples of ceramic jugs, pottery and amphorae from the residential area to help understand the food produced and consumed by the Etruscans, and food practices in this area. A technique of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was utilised to identify residues from a variety of cooking and storage vessels in situ. Results yielded indicators compatible with plant and animal origin, showing the presence of vegetable (possibly olive) oil, animal fats, bees wax and Pinaceae resin, with the majority of samples showing traces of fish indicating a possible storage of fish in oil. A sampling of the floor surfaces within the Casa delle Anfore was undertaken in order to determine the activities that may have been carried out within the residence using specialist software to generate a distribution map of organic compounds such as fatty acids, proteins and phosphates. Results from the internal areas of the residence showed lower densities and lack of surface traces left by food handling or consumption. Conversely, the outdoor areas demonstrated clear signs of active handling of food, as well as evidence of food spillages possibly from decanting contents in the vicinity of the storage vessels discovered. Funerary and Burial Practices (Necropolis of Macchiabuia) As a continuation of life on earth, the Etruscans placed great importance on the afterlife and constructed elaborate tomb structures which now dominate the region. The idea of the tomb being a house for the dead found its earliest expression in hut urns characteristic of the Villanovan period, evident on a large scale here. dating from the late 8th to early 7th century BCE, the Necropolis site of Macchiabuia consists of around 40 burial tombs of a similar style and type. The core of this funerary complex was identified in 2006 as the largest tomb of the necropolis, having previously been excavated by Tommaso Corsini. The tombs are characterised by a circular arrangement between four to nine metres in diameter of surface stones, made of roughly-hewn local stone. Within the centre of these stone circles the burial chambers, in the form of wooden structures, are housed in deep rectangular pits, surrounded by thin layers of stones acting as a ceiling and waterproof seal, with a tumulus of soil lined with clay serving to protect the burial. Single tombs were used for multiple depositions over time, and required secure access to allow for Etruscan burial rituals and customs to be maintained and carried out, whilst simultaneously deterring looters. The underground chamber where the deceased were interred could be reached through an entrance via a vertical wooden shaft which extended across the entire burial mound, closed on the surface by a large stone slab. Despite these measures tomb robbery has taken place over the centuries. The oldest excavated burial chamber (tomb four) unearthed two vessels containing the cremated remains of two individuals. Excavations of the tombs have also revealed a variety of grave goods alongside the burials. These included shards of jars and amphorae as well as locally produced brown and red mixing bowls found alongside the tip of an iron spear. Some of these bowls were decorated in geometric patterns allowing them to be dated back to the last decades of the 8th century BCE. These grave goods were organised by type and function, with jars and wine vessels concentrated along the longer edges of the tomb. Interpretation of the grave goods indicates that a man and a woman were interred within tomb four owing to the presence of a spear (associated with males) and the type of lid of one of the urns being primarily used for females. Inside tomb two, the remains of three individuals were discovered, two of which were cremated while the third was buried. The cremated remains are most likely one male owing to the shape of the urn in which they were found, and a woman as those remains appear to be associated with spinning and weaving tools. The human remains from the burial are possibly a very young girl. A variety of grave goods were discovered including weaving implements such as spools and thread and a glass spindle. Remnants of a fireplace were found against one of the short walls of the tomb above which was placed a bronze cauldron typically used in the boiling of flesh. Nearby next to the hearth is evidence of two iron spits, most likely for the use of roasting meats. Necropolis of Macchiabuia reconstruction © Association Etruria Nova Onlus The excavation and stratigraphic recording of these stone burial circles have enabled archaeologists and researchers to reconstruct and generate visual three-dimensional representations of the tombs, and further excavations will help to clarify the data. The artefacts from Macchiabuia have unfortunately been affected by large-scale deterioration including the collapse of one of the rooms, causing considerable fragmentation of ceramic and metal artefacts. This has been aggravated by infiltration of plants roots from above encroaching on the site. Climate and soil composition has further degraded the artefacts and has caused complete mineralisation of metal artefacts, which in some cases have been transformed into shapeless powder deposits. As a consequence of inadequate firing, many of the ceramics also appear extremely brittle and crumbly, and so their state of preservation has demanded sympathetic excavation techniques. The fieldwork and research at Marsiliana d’Albegna has begun to shed more light on the Etruscan people. The identification of some unexplored graves, as well as discovery of potential new sites, promises some interesting future excavations and the 2011 season will concentrate on the sites of Casa delle Anfore and Necropolis of Macchiabuia. ASSOCIATION ETRURIA NOVA ONLUS In 2009 the University of Siena, while retaining overall direction of the project, transferred management of the logistics to the Association Etruria Nova, a non-profit organisation formed by graduates of the university and archaeological experts. The collaborative contract between Etruria Nova and the Department of Cultural Resources has led to the establishment of an International archaeological field school. The school is open to students and graduates of Italian and foreign universities who intend to practice field archaeology, and also to volunteers interested in gaining experience in the area. Almost 180 people took part in the 2009and 2010 field schools with participants from eighteen countries. This endeavour increased awareness of the heritage of the Grosseto province and created a firm foundation for the development of informed cultural tourism and further research. Summer schools, workshops and activities 2011During the months of May and June there will be a new Archaeological Project in Southern Italy: In the land of Palinurus: In search of an ancient settlement of Magna Grecia 1st May – 26th June – Policastro Bussentino, Campania The region of the Enotri, in the Gulf of Policastro, revealed a series of ancient settlements which from earliest times had close contact with the Hellenic peoples living in the area now known as Magna Grecia. An important site developed here – linked in Virgil’s Eneid with Palinurus the navigator – whose origins are marked by a series of coins which refer to it as Pixous. The Association Etruria Nova, in collaboration with the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage in Campania, and the Council of Santa Marina, presents the First international Archaeological Research Season at Policastro, open to archaeology students and anyone interested in gaining experience in archaeological fieldwork. The season will include: 1. Archaeological excavation 2. Survey 3. Initial finds processing and site documentation. In May and June there will be three other initiatives: The Second International Introduction to Archaeology Field school 30th May to 12th June – The Etruscans at Marsiliana This initiative offers a series of lectures with practical workshop activities and on-site involvement. First International Introduction Course in Restoration 12th to 26th June 2011 – Processing of pottery and metal finds of the Etruscan Period The course will comprise two modules lasting one week each, and will include classroom instruction and practical restoration sessions, using pottery and metal finds from the 2010 season of excavations at the necropolis of Macchiabuia and the Casa delle Anfore. It is open to anyone interested in learning the basic theory and practice of restoration. The technical director is the conservator Dr. Alberto Mazzoleni. Theoretical tutorials will cover: 1. Archaeological restoration: techniques and methods 2. Taphonomy: decay and corrosion 3. Recovery through excavation: methods 4. Conservation: active and passive 5. Storage and display of finds: basic principles 6. Restoration of Etruscan pottery (cleaning and consolidation, methods and materials in reassembly) 7. Restoration of metals (cleaning techniques (chemical and mechanical), anti-corrosion treatment 8. Organisation of a restoration laboratory for pottery and metal finds The theoretical lectures will be complemented by supervised practical sessions First International Archaeobotanical Field school 26th June to 9th July – Detecting Cultural Landscape in Mediterranean Archaeology (DeCLaMA 2011) A traditional survey will be supported by a study of the ancient landscapes. Archaeological features are recurrent components of the Mediterranean cultural landscape yet are little understood. It may be a monumental centuries-old tree, or antique varieties of fruit trees and vines, or artefacts leading back to ancient uses of the land, such as terraces, charcoal-burning sites, or abandoned vineyards, olive-groves or chestnut orchards. This course offers theoretical and practical tuition in the rediscovery, evaluation and management of these parts of the cultural landscape. Participants will gain a new understanding of the use of cultural landscape in the innovative, multidisciplinary course, using the perspectives of botanists, archaeologists, geographers, managers and landscape architects. The Excavation Season 201128th August to the 30th October – Excavations will continue at the Necropolis of Macchiabuia and on the site of the Casa delle Anfore For more information (costs, accommodation etc.) and registration for the field schools contact: Associazione ETRURIA NOVA ONLUS, Vicolo S. Agostino, 12 – 53024, Montalcino (SI) tel. +39 (0) 577 600917 mobile +39 349 3613406 e-mail: Website: BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Camilli et al., “Evoluzione e caratteri del paesaggio protostorico ed etrusco a Marsiliana d’Albegna(Manciano, GR)”, in N. Negroni Catacchio (a cura di), Paesaggi reali e paesaggi mentali. Ricerche e scavi, Preistoria e protostoria in Etruria, Atti dell’VIII Incontro di studi (Valentano-Pitigliano 2006), Milano 2008, pp. 195-210. A. Camilli et al., “Il Progetto Marsiliana d’Albegna: i caratteri del paesaggio etrusco in Maremma”, IN A. Ciacci, A. Zifferero (a cura di), Archeologia della produzione e dei sapori. Nuovi percorsi di ricerca in Etruria, Siena 2009, pp. 145-154. A. Camilli et al., “Manciano (GR). Marsiliana d’Albegna: nuovi dati dall’abitato e dal suburbio”, in Notiziario della Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana,, 4, 2008, pp. 352-376. A. Camilli et al., “Nuove ricerche a Marsiliana d’Albegna: l’esplorazione archeologica della Tenuta Corsini”, in Notiziario della Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana, 2, 2007, pp. 350-361. A. Camilli et al., “Nuove ricerche a Marsiliana d’Albegna: lo scavo in località Piani di Perazzeta”, in Notiziario della Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana, 2, 2007, pp. 362-370. A. Minto, Marsiliana d’Albegna. Le scoperte archeologiche del principe don Tommaso Corsini, Firenze 1921. A. Zifferero, “Marsiliana d’Albegna (Manciano, GR): cento anni di ricerche archeologiche”, in F. Ghizzani Marcìa, C. Megale (a cura di), Materiali per Populonia, 8, 2009, pp. 223-246. A. Zifferero, et al., “Un sito artigianale con anfore da trasporto Py 3B a Marsiliana d’Albegna (Manciano, GR), in Officina di Etruscologia, 1, 2009, pp. 101-128. D. Calamandrei et al. “Aristocrazie etrusche. Nuove scoperte a Marsiliana d’Albegna”, in Terre del Vino, D. Calamandrei et al. “Circoli con camera ipogea e calatoia a Marsiliana d’Albegna. Prime ipotesi di ricostruzione”, in Materiali per Populonia, c.s. D. Calamandrei et al., “Etruschi nelle terre del principe”, in Archeo, 26, 2010, n.5, pp. 65-68. Giugno 2010, pp. 34-43. Read more: Past Horizons:

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