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

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Monuments

Periods

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Chronology

  • 300 BC - 1699 AD

Season

    • The rock-cut tomb of Grotte Scalina is situated in a solitary position in the countryside midway between Viterbo and Tuscania. At the time it was created, towards the end of the 4th century B.C., this area corresponded with the central part of Tarquinia’s territory, occupied by a network of fortresses, which included the inland colony of Musarna, only 2 km to the south-west. This is the first season of a joint research and excavation project run by il CNRS (UMR 8536, ENS, Paris), the Archaeological Superintendency for south Etruria and the École française de Rome. This is an exceptional tomb, known from early 20th century documents, but all traces of which were lost. Considered to have been destroyed, it was rediscovered in 1998 during the survey around the site of Musarna. The monumental facade, c. 15 m wide, has partly collapsed. Its first level is c. 6 m high to the rear of which the cut tufa presents a false door, to the west of which steps lead up to the monuments first floor. The work undertaken in 2011 showed that the drawing made by L. Rossi Danielli was not correct: it indicated the presence, below the facade, of an underground chamber (with 2 m sides), containing a single bed, at about 2 m below ground level. In effect, the entire length of the _dromos_ was exposed and the excavation of its front part made it possible to calculate the tomb’s depth, which should be about 7.50 m. The chamber is square in plan with a central pillar. According to local sources, is still thought to contain about ten sarcophagi with reclining figures. Investigation in front of the facade uncovered, to the east, a column base with moulding and traces of stucco that is almost 2 m in diameter, and ascertained the presence of a second symmetrical column to the west. The excavation also uncovered a second _dromos_, perpendicular to the tomb’s main _dromos_, according to a plan attested in other monumental tombs of contemporary date. These first elements have shown that this tomb, to date considered to be an isolated type, was in reality very similar to one of the known larger Hellenistic rock-cut tombs, the Lattanzi tomb at Norchia. The proportions, general plan, architecture and probably the date, are the same. The evidence seems to suggest that both monuments were built by the same team of specialist artisans.
    • This year’s work concentrated on the external parts of the Hellenistic rock-cut tomb documenting the structure’s architecture. The tomb structure was entirely cut into the tufa. From the ancient road, monumental steps (not yet completely excavated) lead up to a terrace to the rear of which is the facade comprising two columns (6 m high and 2 m in diameter at the base), flanked on each side by a door, constituting the entrance into a lower facade. This room, divided in two by a deep _dromos_ above which the rear wall presents a false door, has a bench on each side divided into three banqueting couches. Patches of painted wall plaster are preserved on various sectors the monument’s walls. To the west, steps lead up to a second level, now almost completely collapsed, whose facade must have had four columns, 4 m high. From this terrace, to the east, a second flight of steps leads to the top of the structure. The rear part of the summit is preserved and had a pitched roof, suggesting that the facade probably presented a decorated pediment. This season’s data confirmed the suggested parallel with the Lattanzi tomb at Norchia, which also presents a facade with porticoes on two levels; the reconstruction of the latter equally exceptional example, can now be improved based on this new data. However, it is obvious that this type of architecture does not represent a temple, rather the prothyrum of a monumental building, attested for the same period in the Macedonian palaces of Vergina and Pella. Excavations behind the monument revealed evidence of quarrying and two Hellenistic “a cassone” tombs, one of which filled with very compact earth that could be intact. The steps leading from the first floor to the roof were blocked by a wall that was probably part of the fortifications at the end of the plateau. These are attested further north by the presence of a great defensive ditch, clearly visible on aerial photographs. At present, we have no useful dating evidence for this late reoccupation of this area, perhaps to be ascribed to the late antique period. Lastly, on each side of the monument, a rock-cut grotto seems to suggest that hermits lived here in a period which the pottery finds date to between the 9th and 12th centuries. There was a period of intense use between the mid 16th century and mid 17th century, during which the blocks from the destruction of the rock-cut facade were probably completely removed; this new occupation may explain the fact that pilgrimages visited the site, probably due to the famed sanctity of one of the hermits.
    • I lavori eseguiti nel corso del mese di luglio 2013 rappresentano il completamento dell’indagine eseguita dal 2012 sulla parte esterna della grande tomba rupestre ellenistica di grotte Scalina. Nella parte superiore del monumento, a ridosso di esso, due fosse rettangolari scavate nel tufo sono ora interpretabili come di uso agricolo: una di esse, ad est, che presenta sul fondo due incassi rettangolari, era probabilmente destinata a bloccare i due pali verticali di un torchio (fig. 1, E. Lovergne). Nella parte alta della scala che porta dal livello intermedio al tetto della tomba (fig. 2, E. Lovergne), è stato smontato il muro di grossi blocchi che chiudeva tale passaggio; la ceramica rinvenuta all’interno del muro consente di datarlo in età medievale. Al pianterreno del monumento, sono stati riportati alla luce i due letti tuttora interrati della sala di banchetto funerario (fig. 3, E. Lovergne). Tale lavoro ha consentito di accertare che i letti presentavano almeno due colori, il giallo ed il rosso ; altri colori (bianco, azurro, verde) sono documentati dai numerosi frammenti raccolti nelle vicinanze. Sotto il pianterreno del monumento, lo scavo mirava a riportare alla luce la scala d’accesso monumentale che esso doveva sicuramente comportare. I lavori hanno consentito di abbassare di ca. 2 m la superficie del terreno davanti alla terrazza del monumento, fino al terreno vergine, senza incontrare alcuna evidenza di una scala, probabilmente distrutta a questo livello, a causa della scarsa consistenza del terreno naturale. Nel corso di questi ultimi lavori, sono state riportate alla luce nella parte sud-est dello scavo, ad una quota inferiore a quella della terrazza del monumento, due tombe gemelle costituite da una semplice camera dotata di un letto funebre laterale, accessibile tramite un breve _dromos_ in ripido pendìo (fig. 4, E. Lovergne). Ambedue avevano conservato la loro chiusura, accuratamente costruita con grossi blocchi di tufo rinforzati da piccole pietre; la volta delle tombe è sparita, distrutta in età medievale o moderna, e la quasi totalità del corredo delle due tombe è stata trafugata, probabilmente nel secolo scorso. Tuttavia, alcuni frammenti di bucchero nero e di ceramica attica a figure nere consentono di datare queste sepolture entro l’ultimo quarto del VI sec. a.C.; ributtati nella tomba ovest, sono stati rinvenuti i resti di tre individui, di cui uno potrebbe corrispondere ad un riuso della tomba in età medievale. Ad ovest del monumento, è stata ripulita una piccola grotta simile a quella riportata alla luce l’anno scorso ad est di esso, ma che si presenta ancora del tutto conservata.
    • This season’s excavations, directed by Vincent Jolivet (CNRS, UMR8546, Paris) and Edwige Lovergne (University of Paris I, ED 112), concentrated on two sectors: the _dromos_ of the monumental tomb and the cistern of a small _oppidum_ situated about 100 m to the east of it. The excavation showed that the _dromos_ gradually filled with earth naturally and this process was probably completed by the end of antiquity. Clandestine excavators had robbed the tomb in the 1970s, but only reached the end of the _dromos_ in correspondence with the tomb’s entrance. The presence fragments of Faliscan red-figure pottery and of black glaze pottery from Tarquinia in several of the lower levels of fill of is of great interest, both as evidence of the vessels used in the banqueting room, and as confirmation of the tomb’s dating to the last quarter of the 4th century B.C. Once excavation of the _dromos_ was completed the funerary chamber was entered; two of the lower blocks closing it were preserved. The chamber was sub-rectangular in plan (c. 5 x 6 m), with a central pillar and was filled to a height of c. 1 m by an accumulation of earth from which emerged the fragments of at least nine large nenfro coffins and their covers. The latter were undecorated and were pitched or, more commonly, had a rounded profile. One of the coffins presented a right to left incised inscription, _Vi:larth_, the name and _cognomen_ of the deceased, a member of the family who owned the funerary complex, which can be read as Vipe, Vipine or Vipinana. A small _oppidum_ (330 m2) was situated east of the tomb, at the far end of the plateau, which had been closed off by the creation of a deep ditch. The housings for a wooden bridge were identified on either side of the ditch. The excavation of a cistern, whose presence was indicated by a rectangular well, aimed to date the site’s occupation and gain a better understanding of any possible relationship with the tomb. This was a circular cistern, shaped like a spinning-top, filled with earth of which only the upper part was excavated this season. Fragments of 1st century A.D. pottery and fragments of the _opus_ _signinum_ faced pillars, which seemed to have consolidated the vault, were recovered. This restoration work probably took place in the Roman period, while the cistern – and the site itself, of a military nature – could date to the archaic or more likely the Hellenistic period, and be connected with the foundation of Musarna situated just over 1 km away.
    • This season’s excavations (undertaken by CNRS, UMR8546, Paris and the University of Paris I, ED 112) investigated three sectors: the main underground chamber of the monumental tomb, the _dromos_ of the second underground chamber, and the cistern of a small _oppidum_ situated about 100 m to the east. For the ancient period, the excavation of the main burial chamber revealed several anomalies for a late 4th century B.C. aristocratic tomb within the territory of Tarquinia. Such anomalies are represented by the very rough characteristics of its internal architecture, the simplicity of the nine sarcophagi, the scarcity of the epigraphic documentation, and the absence of materials pre-dating the 3rd century B.C. (while the materials from the external terrace of the tomb and _dromos_ fill includes red-figure pottery). The continuation of the excavations should clarify these anomalies. The excavation of the _dromos_ of the second chamber suggests the funerary chamber was used in the modern period, unlike the main chamber, for new burials. Therefore, its excavation is of great interest regarding the way in which an Etruscan tomb was adapted for reuse. Regarding the modern period, a Jubilee medal dating to the late 17th century was a surface find, which probably came from a burial. It confirms ritual use of the tomb, at least from the 16th to 18th centuries, documenting a link between Grotte Scalina and the pilgrim route along the nearby via Francigena, offering an invaluable key to the understanding of why the monument was completely cleaned, probably during the 16th century, without however being used for any practical purpose. The imitation door and rock cut steps reference the Holy door and Holy steps in Rome. The excavation of the cistern, in addition to providing a homogeneous context dating to the early 1st century A.D., was of particular interest for its exceptional typology: to date, the presence of two columns inside it has no parallels in the architecture of this region. The materials collected from the fill exclude a medieval dating, and suggest that it was created at the beginning of the Hellenistic period, when the small _oppidum_ must have become part of Musarna’s larger defensive system.
    • I lavori eseguiti dal 3 luglio al 4 agosto 2015 hanno interessato tre settori: l'ipogeo secondario del complesso monumentale, il pendìo della collina antistante la tomba, ed il piccolo oppido situato un centinaio di metri ad est di esso. Scavato l'anno scorso, il _dromos_ perpendicolare al _dromos_ principale del complesso porta ad una camera funeraria subquadrata rivenuta interamente riempita di terra, il cui soffitto era interamente crollato. Tale ambiente presenta sul lato destro una panchina sulla quale sono stati collocati tre sarcofagi di nenfro, mentre un quarto si trovava a sinistra dell'ingresso della camera. La tomba è stata quasi interamente depredata, ma non riutilizzata per nuove sepolture, come l'ipotizzavamo, in età medievale o moderna. Sia la parte conservata dei corredi funebri, che include alcuni bronzi legati alla sfera muliebre - uno specchio, una fiaschetta ed i piedi di una cista - che le iscrizioni feminili recate da due dei sarcofagi sembrano confermare l'ipotesi che questa camera sia stata riservata alle donne. Come nel caso della camera principale, questa seconda camera è stata rozzamente eseguita, contiene pochi sarcofagi di fattura semplice, poche iscrizioni, e non vi sono stati rinvenuti elementi di corredo anteriori al III secolo. Per queste ragioni, va ipotizzata la presenza di una vano funerario anteriore, accuratamente sigillato all'inizio del III secolo, al disotto la camera scavata l'anno scorso. La prospezione georadar eseguita quest'anno sembra confermare la presenza di un pozzo rettangolare al centro della camera principale, adoperato per scavare l'ambiente sottostante e calarci successivamente i sarcofagi. La trincea aperta in asse con il dromos principale della tomba, per tutta l'altezza della collina, mirava a accertare la presenza o l'assenza di una scala di accesso centrale al complesso funerario. Non è stato finora evidenziato alcun intervento di sistemazione del pendio, ad eccezione di un muro fatto di grossi blocchi rozzamente squadrati che segue il ciglio del pendìo, e poggia sul crollo di blocchi di distruzione della tomba: sembra trattarsi di un muro di contenimento della strada di accesso al monumento in età moderna, che potrebbe tuttavia ricalcare un tracciato antico. La trincea aperta sul vicino oppido ha rivelato la presenza di muri ortogonali costruiti in opera quadrata a secco, sicuramente riferibili ad una piccola fortezza di età ellenistica inserita nel sistema difensivo della vicina Musarna.
    • 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 x 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.

FOLD&R

    • Vincent Jolivet. 2013. Civita Musarna tra passato, presente e futuro. FOLD&R Italy: 283.

Bibliography

    • V. Jolivet e L. Motta, 2016, Etruscan Puzzle: The Monumental Tomb of Grotte Scalina, World Archaeoloy 80, 26-30
    • V. Jolivet e L. Motta, 2016, Etruscan Puzzle: The Monumental Tomb of Grotte Scalina, World Archaeoloy 80, 26-30
    • V. Jolivet, 2016, Macedonia and Etruria at the Beginning of the Hellenistic period: A Direct Link, dans D. Katsonopoulou et E. Partida (dir.), ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝ/PHILHELLENE. Essays Presented to Stephen G. Miller [τιμητικός τόμος για τον Καθηγητή Στέφανο Μίλλερ], Athènes, 317-333
    • V. Jolivet, E. Lovergne, 2017, The Monumental Tomb of Grotte Scalina : Solved and Unsolved Questions, Etruscan News 18, 10.
    • V. Jolivet e E. Lovergne, 2012, ‘La tombe monumentale de Grotte Scalina’, in Chronique des fouilles online, MÉFRA.
    • V. Jolivet e E. Lovergne, La tomba rupestre monumentale di Grotte Scalina (VT), Atti del convegno Etruria in Progress, Roma, 2013 (in corso di stampa).
    • V. Jolivet e E. Lovergne, La tomba rupestre monumentale di Grotte Scalina (VT), in L. Mercuri e R. Zaccagnini (ed.), Atti del convegno Etruria in Progress. La ricerca archeologica in Etruria meridionale, Roma, 2014, p. 165-170
    • V. Jolivet, E. Lovergne, 2015, Architecture palatiale macédonienne, architecture funéraire étrusque : la tombe monumentale de Grotte Scalina (Viterbe), in Actes du colloque de Merida: 47-50
    • V. Jolivet e E. Lovergne, c.s. La tombe rupestre monumentale de Grotte Scalina (Étrurie méridionale), Revue Archéologique.