Room 1. Acquarossa and San Giovenale. Introduction


Archaeological excavations are an important part of the activities of the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome. The sites of San Giovenale and Luni sul Mignone, Blera and Acquarossa in the hinterland of southern Etruria have been excavated and studied in separate projects, with the participation of archaeologists from the universities of Gothenburg, Lund, Stockholm and Uppsala. The late King Gustaf VI Adolf participated regularly in the field work and enthusiastically supported the excavations.
This exhibition, which presents the two Etruscan sites of San Giovenale and Acquarossa, is an amplified and permanent version of the temporary exposition of 1986. It focuses on the Archaic period, which was well attested in both sites. San Giovenale was excavated in 1956–1965 and 1999, and Acquarossa in 1966–1978. Publication work takes place continuously.
The main objective of the Swedish mission has been to investigate urban transformations and domestic life, not cemeteries and sanctuaries, which have already been objects of excavations for centuries. Both San Giovenale and Acquarossa occupy plateaus of tufa rock surrounded by steep sides, descending towards valleys and streams. Such geological formations have been attractive as sites for habitation throughout history.

At San Giovenale, the inhabited area covered about 20 hectares, and at Acquarossa about 25. Both towns can thus be regarded as middle-sized in comparison with the large Etruscan centres such as Tarquinia (130 hectares), Cerveteri (120) and Vulci (180). During the excavations there came to light a number of elements typical of urban settlements: Groups of houses, streets, cisterns, wells and channels for the supply of water and for drainage.

Of particular interest are the finds of architectural terracottas, which have thrown new light on the decorations of Etruscan buildings.   



San Giovenale is situated in the hinterland of southern Etruria on a plateau of tufa rock flanked by ravines created by brooks and rivers. Such places are natural choices for settlements in southern Etruria even today. Local topography and the availability of communication channels were important factors in the establishment of this site, which is situated at a junction of an ancient E-W route from the coast towards the inland and a N-S inland route, today called the Via Dogana (Toll road). This road corresponds to an ancient transhumance trail that was still used well into the 20th century.
The name of the site comes from a 6th-century chapel dedicated to Saint Juvenal, a bishop from Narni. The ancient name is unknown, but the historian Livy mentions two cities in the area, Contenebra and Cortuosa, destroyed by the Romans in 388 BC.
Since the 1950s, investigations have been carried out by the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies at Rome. The site was chosen since it had not, contrary to most Etruscan habitations, suffered great destruction. When the excavations started, little was known of Etruscan settlements and towns, a picture which was to change dramatically with this enterprise. The excavations were carried out at several places, named by the excavators the Acropolis, the Borgo (Borgo NW and the highest point of the Borgo, called Spina), the Pietrisco bridge complex, the Vignale plateau and surrounding necropoleis.
In addition to the Etruscan remains, there were sporadic traces on the Acropolis of human occupation from the Neolithic period. In the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age (c. 1200–700 BC) the site seems to have been extensively settled for the first time. In the Archaic period (7th and 6th centuries BC), the habitation developed an urban character. The most extensive evidence of Etruscan building activity is the houses, the defensive walls, terraces, roads, cisterns and a bridge. 


Acquarossa, the waterfall in the ferruginous current

The excavations at Acquarossa were carried out in large-scale campaigns 1966–1978, and after that more sporadically and on a smaller scale. The acropolis was examined by means of a series of trial trenches and the most interesting parts were enlarged and turned into excavation zones, denominated by letters.
For the time before the Archaic Etruscan period, the material found indicates a more or less scattered habitation. Remains of huts from the final phase of the Iron Age were found on the highest point of the acropolis (zone K), but pottery of the same kind as that associated with the huts has been found also in other parts of the site.
The Archaic Etruscan habitation, with roughly square houses, is the most important part of the history of the acropolis. It began c. 625 or somewhat earlier and lasted until 550 or shortly after. Acquarossa at that time seems to have been a real city with numerous inhabitants.
Following the destruction of the city, the site seems to have been abandoned before it was inhabited again later on. The last phase of habitation is the Roman one. Fragments of Roman tiles are to be found all over the acropolis, but architectural remains are present only in a few spots. Among these are the foundations of a Roman villa and one stretch of a subterranean aqueduct.




The other roomsn

Room 2. San Giovenale

Room 3 and room 4. Acquarossa. Houses and roofs

Room 5. Acquarossa. The monumental area

Room 6. Acquarossa. Roof-tiles: variants. Objects

Room 7. Acquarossa. Daily life and women

Selected bibliography

See the film