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  • Spina
  • Spina, Valle Lepri
  • Spina
  • Italy
  • Emilia-Romagna
  • Provincia di Ferrara
  • Comacchio

Credits

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Monuments

Periods

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Chronology

  • 520 BC - 500 BC
  • 300 BC - 280 BC

Season

    • The University of Zurigo’s excavations in the Etruscan town of Spina took place between 2008 and 2012, after a preparatory phase in 2007, in collaboration with the Archaeological Superintendency of Emilia Romagna. While the geophysical survey was taking place, a 10 x 12 m trench was opened in the centre of the site. Here, buildings were uncovered in the south-eastern part, a channel on an east-west alignment and another channel running north-south in the western part of the trench. The earliest evidence found thus far dates to the first half of the 4th century. This was a rectangular building about 5 x 10 m with a portico in front. It had an entrance on the long north side, leading onto a space in front, about 2.5 m wide, delimited to the north by the east-west channel. Inside, the building had two central supporting posts. The roof and latticed walls with vertical supporting posts were of perishable materials. It is suggested that this was a dwelling. A substantial amount of waste materials from metalworking were found outside the structure. In the subsequent period, a new building was constructed on the same general alignment, but shortened to the west, elongated to the south and turned by 90°. The entrance now opened to the west, where the external space presented traces of divisions and metalworking (?). Inside the structure were the remains of an oven and substantial traces of wooden structures (looms?). The building was destroyed by fire, attested by layer US 5 covering the structures. The finds give a date in the third quarter of the 4th century B.C. They included numerous clay acorn-shaped missiles, probably related to a military attack. The final phase of Etruscan occupation, datable to around 300 B.C., was attested by the remains of a rectangular structure with walls built on a foundation of cobblestones, a number of channels, oval impressions, several post holes and some very interesting archaeological materials. These comprised several hand-made feet and above all wall fragments of slightly smoothed, very friable and porous red clay that had of been slightly fired. The large number of fragments and the presence of feet suggest this related to so-called _briquetage_, the process of obtaining salt through boiling. The particularity of the finds, the vicinity to the medieval saltpans of Commacchio and the late antique sources for the salt trade in the upper Adriatic, suggest that these are the remains of _briquetage_ structures used for the commercial production of salt by boiling seawater. This is the first example of historic date excavated in Italy. Following this early Hellenistic phase, that did not present clear evidence of destruction or fire but rather seems to have been abandoned, there was a clean break in occupation and only a few unsubstantial later layers were found, perhaps relating to small channels.
    • The 2013 excavations, undertaken by Zurich University’s Institute of Archaeology in the town of Spina, aimed to check the plan of the rectangular building dating to period IX (c. mid 4th century B.C.), and excavate the channels in the western and northern parts of the site. The northern channel, the widest (2.2 m to the east – 2.3 m to the west) and perhaps navigable by small boats, certainly continued towards the west and to the east (just beyond the trench edge) must have met the large, navigable north-south channel. The excavation of the first fill in the two channels (US 117) led to the discovery of a large number of perfectly aligned timber posts (there are about 150; 85 in the west channel and 60 in the north channel), the upper parts eroded away. Both banks were contained and protected by timber planks slotted horizontally between two parallel rows of close-set posts. In fact, pieces of the planks were preserved along the banks of the channels. A single row of posts divided the north channel almost in half longitudinally (it was at 1.2 m from the southern bank). The function of this row of posts is unknown at the moment. The western channel was 95-100 cm wide and -3.20 m a.s.l. and met the north channel at a right angle, but did not continue beyond it, as shown by the uninterrupted timber structure on the north bank of the north channel. Subsequently, at the time of the salt pan (period VII, early Hellenistic), the channels were largely filled and this fill (US 117) must have covered the posts that were by then no longer visible and out of use. At this stage, the channels must have appeared as shallow depressions. It is possible that these depressions permitted the introduction of the salt water into the zone necessary for boiling the salt via the process of _briquetage_. There were new findings in the period IX rectangular building (c. mid 4th century B.C.), characterised by a large number of small terracotta slabs found along its perimeter. New burnt timber beams and a number of postholes were uncovered at the southern edge of the trench. The beams were perfectly aligned with the rest of the building’s perimeter and therefore certainly formed part of the south wall itself. The plan of this building is now complete, it measured 7 m east to west and 6 m north to south. The perimeter beams, housed in a narrow channel, were followed, as in the internal walls, by several reinforced postholes, a particular technique for this structure and not seen in the earlier period XI building. This building, with a slightly off-centre oven (or hearth?) had an almost square plan and was small (42 m2). It had no internal supporting posts and the walls were characterised by abundant baked clay fragments and timber base housing beams, reinforced and protected from damp by characteristic small terracotta slabs. Round postholes were present at regular intervals between the beams.
    • The main aims of the 2014 campaign undertaken by Zurich University at the Etruscan town of Spina were to study the two channels excavated in 2013, to check the plan of the rectangular, period XI building (dated by the new stratigraphy to the early 4th century B.C.), and to excavate the hump outside the house towards the north channel. The excavations also revealed the presence of an earlier phase (period XII, perhaps dating to the first decades of the 5th century B.C.), situated below a substantial layer of sterile clay. The first evidence (a long timber beam) suggests the existence of a building, which seems to be on the same alignment and same position as the later houses. The fill of the west channel, largely made up of pottery, was partially removed (US 239). The numerous timber posts (mainly oak) along the sides of both channels perhaps represent various phases of the settlement’s life and do not belong to a single phase (period IX, mid 4th century B.C.) as previously thought. Several thin planks of wood in a horizontal or slightly slanting position were present to the sides of the channels. They perhaps related to the preparation of the ground surface prior to construction. Outside the quadrangular period IX house, on the embankments to the west and north along the two channels, several small, shallow, rectangular, oval, or irregular pits were excavated, probably linked to craft-working activities carried out around the house. The excavation of the rectangular period XI (early 4th century B.C.) house with two large internal timber supporting posts and portico on the south side was completed. It was not possible to establish definitively the interior spatial division of the house. The traces of its structures were not clear enough to permit a reliable reconstruction. The foundation timbers dating to this period rested on small terracotta slabs. The slabs had been reused (like those of the later period IX). Rectangular wooden boards were found underneath the terracotta slabs in the three corners of the building that were excavated. These were perhaps markers used during the building’s construction. A small sub-rectangular pit (US 312^ and fill US 313)) was found immediately inside the threshold, in the western part of the north wall, a votive deposit linked to a foundation ritual. It contained two partially preserved jars, half a plate, an amphora handle and an almost intact red-figure _kylix_ placed upside down on the other fragments. Only the foot of the _kylix_ was missing, perhaps intentionally broken. The pit was then closed with a thin layer of clay. This deposit, together with other finds from this season’s excavations, dates the rectangular house to the early 4th century B.C.
    • The 2015 excavations at the Etruscan settlement of Spina aimed to check the plan of the rectangular timber building dating to period XII (first half of the 5th century B.C.) and to excavate the mound outside this structure towards the northern channel. _Period XII_ The removal of a thick layer of clay revealed a complex stratigraphy of timber constructions, both relating to the building and the bank towards the north. The timbers were in a good state of preservation and the stratigraphy clear, thus it was possible to identify two construction phases for the building and surrounding area. The pottery finds date this period, which can be divided into two phases, to within the first half of the 5th century B.C. _Bank_ An unusual and complicated cross-shaped timber structure was excavated towards the northern channel, made from trunks of differing sizes and stakes, probably necessary for fixing and stabilizing the bank and house. The structure was on the level of the two channels, to which it is closely linked, and had an open space in the central part, where several postholes and a timber plank suggest the presence of a small bridge. The oak trunks form a system that was built at the same time as the lateral palafitte structures of the channels. _Phase one_ The excavations exposed the horizontal foundation beams for all four sides, the corner posts, and the posts situated at the mid-point of the four sides of the phase one house. The building was almost square (c. 6 x 7 m). The presence of a horizontal beam, positioned as an extension of the north wall reaching as far as the edge of the west channel suggests the building extended as far as the channel itself. Towards the north-western part of the centre of the building, a sub-oval area with traces of a burnt surface was exposed that can be interpreted as a hearth. The numerous animal bones together with the presence of a hearth, the types of pottery, and several loom-weights confirm the identification of the structure as a house in both its phases. _Phase two_ The later phase reused the building but was very different in the part towards the west channel, where the well-preserved remains of a rectangular roof (3 x 6 m) were uncovered. Six timber posts resting on planks positioned in rectangular housings supported the roof. The remains of a wooden loom and several loom-weights were found in the space under the roof. Inside the house, by the hearth that had been moved slightly towards the north-west corner, a perfectly rectangular opening (96 x 70 cm) was identified in the baked clay. It was bordered on at least three sides by small planks. This ‘empty’ rectangular element, surrounded by the remains of baked clay and lying slightly obliquely, may be interpreted as part of the north wall with a window.

Bibliography

    • Christoph Reusser et al., 2011, Ausgrabungen und Forschungen in der etruskischen Stadt Spina (Provinz Ferrara) 2007-2009, Antike Kunst , 54: 105-126