Room 3 and room 4. Acquarossa. Houses and roofs


The building techniques identified for the houses at Acquarossa can be categorized as follows:

1) Ashlar blocks of tufa: Often quarried directly on the site where the house was to be built and laid in courses (up to seven preserved courses have been found). Sometimes the blocks are very uneven, and fragments of roof-tiles and pieces of tufa have been inserted between the blocks.

2) Wattle and daub: The supporting structure consists of wooden posts anchored in the bedrock, with a wattle of reeds and branches forming a frame which was daubed with clay in order to provide a covering. Some traces have been found of an external covering in stucco, applied in order to even out the outer surface.

3) Mudbricks: These bricks were made of daub mixed with straw, shaped in wooden frames and dried in the sun, but not fired. They were placed on a basic foundation of tufa blocks in order to prevent them from being damaged by damp.

The foundations of the houses were cut into the tufa bedrock, most often with a row of ashlar blocks, laid directly on the ground. Upper walls entirely made of ashlar blocks have been found at San Giovenale and in some cases at Acquarossa, where, however, walls of wattle and daub on a foundation of tufa blocks were more often used. A large amount of wattle and daub, preserved through being fired when houses were burnt, has been found. One single piece of mudbrick was found in situ, in Zone L. Fragments of mudbrick also came to light in Zone H and several of the trial trenches.


There is general agreement that the saddle roof covered with fired roof-tiles was invented before the mid-7th century in Greece, more precisely in the region of Corinth. The construction of this roof covering as such was rapidly accepted in Etruria, but the exact details of the Greek roofs were not copied. Different solutions appear more or less contemporaneously in Sicily, other parts of Greece, Asia Minor and Southern Italy.
The earliest phase of this production is exemplified by the reconstruction of roof A, which, like the other reconstructions presented, should not be taken as a representation of one single, existing roof, but rather as an illustration of fundamental elements common to a number of houses.
The characteristic trait of this earliest period is the presence of all the normal elements of a roof covering: Pan-tiles, cover-tiles and ridge-tiles. The decorative parts, which are completely original as far as is known, illustrate the distance between the Greek models and the local Etruscan production.
The revetment plaques Type II, covering the rafters of the roof, with painted decoration of white on red, are inspired by the local South Etruscan pottery, particularly that of Cerveteri. The raised griffin protomes on the cover-tiles show links not only with such pottery, but also with the contemporary bronze production.

 Acroterion  Roof, phase 1, with painted revetment plaques


Like the revetment plaques Type II, the tiles from Zone G with painted decoration on the underside show obvious links with the Caeretan ”red-ware” pottery, decorated with Subgeometric and Orientalizing motifs in white on red. Acquarossa itself had a local production of this kind of pottery, probably manufactured in the same workshops as made the roof decorations.
Among the painted motifs should be noted, together with the horses, the stylized water-fowl conventionally termed ”airone” (”heron”), which is also common on the revetment plaques Type II.


This bird has been taken from the ”airone” pottery, produced above all in Cerveteri and Veii, where it was a common decoration of plates. There are, however, no such plates found at Acquarossa, but other shapes with the same decoration have been found.




During the first quarter of the 6th century BC, a number of innovations of the roof terracotta production took place at Acquarossa, most probably as a result of immigration of new artisans from the South Etruscan coastal cities. We now see a vast repertoire of architectural terracottas with more or less obvious counterparts in the Greek world: antefixes, raking simas, lateral simas and revetment plaques. Particularly the simas, which are raised edges of the roof-covering and members specifically designed to divert rain-water from the buildings, are now a new element of the roofs, functional but also decorated in paint.
The reconstruction of the roof exhibited here is based on finds from two different roofs in Zone G, supplemented by better-preserved terracottas from different parts of the acropolis, and with raking simas of the gable-rakes originating from Zone F.
At least three different types of raking sima can be distinguished.

Roof, phase 2, with a guilloche

The simas of Type I, with a slightly curved profile, are decorated with a frieze of lotus buds and volute-inscribed palmettes in white paint on dark red.
The simas of Type II have a flat border, decorated with a painted guilloche, and above this a cavetto with concave “strigils”. The simas of Type III have a flat border with a painted guilloche and a cavetto with convex “strigils”.
Lateral simas, placed on the long sides of a building, are rare in Etruria. At Acquarossa, we know of three different types, each one used on one building only, and consisting of a plain tile, onto whose lower end a vertical raised border is attached. In the centre is a waterspout, surmounted by a ram's head protome. The lateral sima Type II has a panther's head in the same position on a much larger waterspout.
The introduction of the sima, unknown in Phase 1, and the use of the tress-pattern known as the guilloche, indicate closer links with architectural decoration outside of Etruria. This development is probably due to close contacts between Greek areas in Southern Italy and one of the major centres of Southern Etruria, most probably Cerveteri.




The clays used for architectural terracottas are very rich in inclusions (tufa fragments 40% of the clay mass at San Giovenale, fragments of tufa, quartz and augite etc. 25% at Acquarossa).
The tiles were moulded by hand in a wooden frame, into which the clay was pressed. The upper surface was smoothed with a piece of wood, which has left very faint parallel traces. Along the long sides, the tiles were provided with raised borders by means of strings of clay, which were attached and then modelled by hand.
The cover-tiles and ridge-tiles were modelled in similar frames and then shaped on semi-cylindrical pieces of wood.
Antefixes were attached as covers to the ends of the cover-tiles to be placed at the eaves of the roof. Sometimes the joint was secured by means of additional clay, sometimes the antefix was simply pressed against the edge of the cover-tile.

 Footprints of dog

Several tiles show footprints of dogs or goats on the surface, in one case even the print of a human foot. This shows that the tiles were left to dry in the open after being given their shape.
Before firing, the tiles and terracottas were coated with red slip (depurated clay) or paint, in order to render them resistant to water. The tiles were very badly fired; in section they always show a core of grey or black, resulting either from too low firing temperaturesor too short firing.







The other rooms

Room 1. Acquarossa and San Giovenale. Introduction

Room 2. San Giovenale

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