Room 2. San Giovenale


Pottery from the Acropolis

The earliest settlement on the Acropolis dates from the Neolithic period. In the late Bronze and Iron Ages (c. 1200–700 BC), the area was extensively settled. The oval Iron Age huts were replaced by rectangular houses in the early 7th century BC. The earliest Etruscan houses were built with wattle-and-daub walls and thatched roofs (c. 675–625 BC). From the Archaic period onwards (c. 600–300 BC), houses were built with local tufa stone, with burnt-tile roofs. Cisterns, wells and drainage channels were organized in a rectilinear pattern. Around 550–530 BC, an earthquake caused damage to the area. San Giovenale was rebuilt, but on a reduced scale.
House K, with two stories and six rooms, had a tower facing the Via Dogana at the crossing of the Vesca. A sacred spring building (8th to 6th centuries BC), presumably dedicated to Artemis, contained a huge quantity of deer horns and drinking vessels. A cave with a tufa column below House K is interpreted as a sacred area associated with a water cult. An underground room from a later period, located close to the spring building, is also believed to be connected with cult activity.    
Traces of a defensive wall are located on the westernmost edge of the plateau as well as on the southern slope. As in the Borgo area, this wall was probably preceded by a palisade enclosing the Iron Age settlement.
Pottery used for banquets and vessels for cooking and storage were found in the room of House I, which was furnished with three low banks of river pebbles. Trade and exchange with neighbouring Etruscan towns and villages (Blera, Vulci, Caere, Tarquinia), with Umbria and the Faliscan territory and with Magna Graecia and Greece are documented through the pottery finds. Loom-weights, spindle-whorls and bobbins and other instruments used in producing wool textiles were found here. Etruscan letters and graffiti inscribed on bucchero cups have been interpreted as personal and family names, probably indicating the owner of the vessels.


Around 600 BC, the area on the NW slope of the Borgo was levelled using earth and debris from earlier habitations. New houses, each of which had three rooms and a yard, were now built (A, B/C and D). A large drainage channel (L) ran between these houses. This new quarter, including workshops, was partially protected by a stone wall which succeeded the earlier Iron Age wooden palisade. There was a forge outside house A, as indicated by several hearths and remains of iron and copper slag.
An earthquake in the latter half of the 6th century BC destroyed this part of the Borgo and, after major levelling work the structures were rebuilt or modified.
The Borgo was entered from the northwest through a city gate. A narrow street (K) led to the upper area, where it joined the main road from the Casale Vignale necropolis, which led to the Acropolis. This road was flanked by houses with yards and wells. A building close to the bridge may have had ritual functions similar to those of the Pietrisco bridge complex. Two terracotta objects, a ram's head and a female votive head, together with imports of Attic pottery found there, may indicate the presence of a sacred building, a sacellum.
All houses had tufa stone foundations, mud brick walls and tiled roofs. Finds of household pottery, tools, and slag indicate various workshops, e.g. for ceramics, metallurgy, including textile production and possibly dyeing.             

Loom-weights, spindle whorls and bobbins

Bones of wild animals, including deer and boar, and domestic animals such as sheep, goats, donkeys, horses, pigs and dogs indicate that hunting and animal husbandry were important means of subsistence.
Greek imports and ceramic finds from other Etruscan centres show that external contacts were important at San Giovenale. The presence of inscriptions indicates a certain level of literacy.


The bridge complex, indicated by remains of bridge abutments, roads, stone structures, a well, and a water basin, is located at the Pietrisco brook in the valley between the Casale Vignale necropolis and Vignale.
The ceramic finds include both Greek and local tableware as well as kitchenware, cooking-stands, braziers, tools for textile production, metal, and inscriptions on bucchero vessels. These finds date from the 9th to the 2nd centuries BC.
Shortly after 565 BC, the wooden bridge was replaced with a new one on stone abutments, probably with a wooden span. At the same time, a building with “wattle-and-daub” walls and a tiled roof was built near the northern abutment and the road branching from the Via Dogana. It had a well in front of the building and a water basin in the backyard. One room was furnished with a D-shaped stone bench covering three sides of the room, with the door slightly off-centre, indicating a banqueting area.
Four building periods have been identified (6th–2nd centuries BC) showing that the bridge complex was destroyed by earthquakes at least twice and rebuilt each time.
The plans of the buildings and the finds indicate continuity and change. The corpse of a youth, together with dog, sheep, cow and swine bones, was found in the deep well in the courtyard. Multiple functions of both a practical and a religious character have been proposed for the bridge complex, such as a meeting place, a tavern, a customs/watch place and a sacellum, based on analyses of the finds and their contexts. Frequent banqueting took place inside or outside the building or on the bridge, and libation and sacrifices to gods and spirits were made by both men and women of aristocratic families, as documented on vessels with inscriptions.

Inscription on bucchero  

This monumental bridge indicates a change in local demands regarding infrastructure and socio-political affairs, for example the need of the local elite to display their wealth.


Large basin with four feet

The Vignale plateau, with an ancient habitation, is situated south of the Casale Vignale necropolis. This plateau was reached by way of the road running from the Via Dogana over the Pietrisco bridge following the steep northern slope or by a road coming from the eastern part of the plateau.
Tile fragments on the surface and remains such as pottery, terracotta objects and animal bones found in houses with cellars, wells and cisterns indicate settlements from early to late Etruscan times.
A large foundation of reused ashlars was found on the highest spot of the plateau. Pottery found among these blocks dates the structure to the early 6th century BC. The stones may have belonged to an earlier structure demolished by an earthquake in the third quarter of the 6th century BC, which also destroyed the bridge, the Borgo quarter and the houses on the Acropolis.
Finds from the wells, such as pottery, architectural terracottas, and loom-weights, date from the 9th to 3rd centuries.
A large impasto basin with four feet, used in the baking of bread, was found in an Archaic well. This basin has analogies in sacred contexts in Etruria and Latium. The terracotta head of a ram found in the same well is probably part of an antefix of a house or a public building and functioned as a waterspout.
The location of this large foundation, with the ram's head, the ritual basin, the kantharos of bucchero with a drilled hole in the bottom used for ritual libation, makes it tempting to propose that this was a monumental public building, perhaps with a cult function similar to that at the temples of Cerveteri, Veii and Tarquinia.
The Late Etruscan deposit of tableware (4th–3rd centuries BC) found in a well in the eastern part of the Vignale plateau and Roman pottery fragments from the surface indicate that this area too was inhabited.

The other rooms

Room 1. Acquarossa and San Giovenale. Introduction

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