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Excavation

  • Grotte Scalina
  • Musarna
  •  
  • Italy
  • Latium
  • Provincia di Viterbo
  • Viterbo

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Credits

  • The Italian Database is the result of a collaboration between:

    MIBAC (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali - Direzione Generale per i Beni Archeologici),

    ICCD (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione) and

    AIAC (Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica).

  • AIAC_logo logo

Summary (English)

  • Excavations took place in three sectors: the monumental funerary complex, the field above the tomb and the small oppidum of Isolotto.
    The completion of the trench opened last year for the entire height of the hill, on the same axis as the tomb dromos, made it possible to establish that a direct access leading from the ancient road in the valley bottom to the tomb had never existed, at least in this sector. No traces of the road were found, perhaps because medieval and modern roads followed the same line, as does the present road. The most likely hypothesis is that the monumental tomb was entered at its ground level, via a road created on the hill-slope (indirectly attested by the presence of two archaic tombs found in 2013 south-west of the tomb), later covered by a modern road. The latter is documented by a retaining wall made of rough squared blocks found last year of the edge of the slope, created after the complete cleaning of the collapsed blocks from the tomb, done in order to consent a new ritual use, around the mid 16th century. The sondages opened around the tomb produced a coin of Clement XVI, minted for the Jubilee of 1600, which confirms the site’s function as a place of pilgrimage linked to the Roman jubilee, and attribute it to an earlier date. On one side it bears the pontifical coat of arms on the other the Holy Door.
    Following last year’s geophysical survey, three different interventions were carried out aimed at identifying the original chamber of the tomb, for which several pieces of concurring evidence make it possible to suggest its presence (contrast between external architecture and scarce care taken in the excavation of the chambers; mediocre quality of the sarcophagi; lack of epigraphic evidence; the materials half a century later than the creation of the tomb). At the centre of the main underground chamber, where the geophysics suggested the existence of an ancient square well (probably created to test the ground below), a 15 m deep perforation was made, which showed the complete lack of voids and that the terrain to be very soft and completely unsuitable for the creation of a funerary chamber. Other investigations inside the underground chamber – a sarcophagus was moved, a sondage opened in a wall – did not give any convincing results. It may be suggested that the creators of the tomb, given the unsuitable quality of the terrain in the lower part of the hill, chose to excavate the underground chamber at a higher level, in the compact tufa layer in which the facade was cut. If this is true, the funerary chamber could have been accessed from the flat area above the tomb, a suggestion that needs further investigation.
    Previous excavations and aerial photographs identified a small medieval site in the field above the tomb. Based on the excavation of part of the curtain wall in 2013, the site can be dated to the 12th-13th century. The wall seemed to be bordered to the west, north, and east by a deep ditch. The 2.50 × 17 m trench opened at a right angle to the presumed ditch showed that it was in fact the front of a quarry, along which the settlement’s curtain wall had been built. The wall and all the archaeological evidence inside the perimeter had been destroyed by heavy agricultural activity. However, the quarry presented two different types of extraction traces: one involving large rectangular blocks, dated on the base of a pottery fragment to the late 4th century B.C., in concomitance with the construction of the tomb, one involving small square blocks relating to the medieval site, whose dating was confirmed by the abundant material that was collected.

    At the small oppidum of Isolotto, situated a few hundred metres south-east of the tomb, the extensive excavation of the preserved structures made it possible to definitively establish that they belonged to a small fort of early Hellenistic date built in opus qudratum. It probably had a watch tower that would have been part of the defensive system of nearby Musarna in order to control, to the north, the important Sorrina-Tuscania road. There was evidence of reoccupation of the site during the early imperial period, already noted during the excavation of a cistern belonging to the complex, including a basin carefully made with tiles lined with opus signinum. This seems to be a reuse associated with modest agricultural activity. No evidence was found of occupation in the medieval period.

    Two interventions that were not associated with the tomb were also carried out this season. To the west of the Pepponi farm, agricultural work had uncovered a block of nenfro stone bearing the three letters of a large Etruscan inscription. Prior to excavation in this area, a geophysical survey took place, which established that the block had been reused to line the perimeter of an oval lime-kiln that could not be dated. the systematic dismantling of the structure made of roughly arranged nefro and tufa blocks revealed other elements belonging to the same monument. Lastly, the so-called Grotta delle Statue di Respampani was completely cleaned and a 3D survey made. The trench opened above the tomb, sealed by a thin layer of earth, did not reveal any evidence for a monument above the underground structure.

  • Vincent Jolivet, CNRS 

Director

  • Vincent Jolivet, CNRS

Team

  • Edwige Lovergne, ED 112, Università di Paris I

Research Body

  • CNRS
  • École normale supérieure (Paris)

Funding Body

  • CNRS
  • Fondazione Carivit
  • Labex TransferS
  • École normale supérieure (Paris)

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