• Piano della Civita
  • Artena
  • Italy
  • Lazio
  • Rome
  • Artena


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  • 400 BC - 700 AD


    • Piano della Civita (approximately 1 km to the south of the modern town of Artena at the northern extremity of the Monti Lepini on the valle del Sacco) houses the remains of an ancient city, the name of which is still unknown. Excavations have revealed three phases of occupation of the city, preceded by a sporadic occupation of the seventh - sixth century BC as suggested at the moment only by a few fragments of archaic pottery. The first phase, to which belong a series of buildings and cisterns, dates to between the fourth and the beginning of the third century BC. The site was abandoned in the course of the third century BC following a traumatic episode, as suggested by numerous traces of fire on the interior of the dwellings. During the second phase of occupation, begun immediately afterwards, the houses were given a walled enclosure, with a large terrace and a access road. In the course of the first century BC, an atrium-style villa was constructed at the center of the terrace. The villa was enlarged between the first and second centuries AD, as testified by a series of brick stamps. The building was at this point organized around a tetrastyle atrium, with a bath installation in the northwest corner and a large peristyle on the south side. Located to the east of the atrium was a production room for the working of olives and grapes. The private baths were comprised of the classic sequence of _praefurnium_, _calidarium_ and _frigidarium_, paved with mosaics, and were covered with decorated plaster. The grand peristyle was delimited with columns in bricks which sustained a porch. The water supply was provided by one large cistern, perhaps connected to the remains of an aqueduct found in 1998 at the top of the mountain.
    • In 2004 investigations were undertaken at Piano della Civiltà which looked at the atrium villa constructed during the course of the 1st century B.C. at the centre of a large terrace. The villa was subsequently enlarged in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. as attested by several brick stamps. Excavations revealed that the peristyle was surrounded on the south side by a portico with brick built columns. The excavation undertaken south of the terrace brought to light another terrace which pre-dates the earliest Roman evidence on the site. Moreover, a new mosaic pavement emerged which can be added to the mosaics covering the _praefurnium_, _calidarium_ and the _frigidarium_ of the villa’s private baths which were also adorned with decorated plaster.
    • The excavation of the Roman villa at Piano della Civita di Artena recommenced following cleaning, restoration and the setting up of an archaeological area, operations which took place between 2005 and 2007. The 2008 excavation campaign concentrated on both sides of the western perimeter wall of the peristyle where numerous traces of the late antique occupation of the villa were present. The western wing of the peristyle was excavated. The excavation brought to light, among other things, an _opus reticulatum_ wall which crossed the western wing of the peristyle at a right angle. This wall, which had been razed to the ground, seemed to link up with the stretch of wall found during the rescue excavation undertaken in the room next to the peristyle following the removal of its white and black mosaic floor with geometric design. The presence of this wall proved for the first time in the peristyle area the existence of a phase preceding that of the main villa phase. Most of the material found during the excavation of the area was coarse pottery. A series of holes of varying size was also excavated, belonging to various phases of the peristyle’s occupation.
    • The excavation of the Roman villa at Piano della Civita di Artena recommenced following cleaning, restoration and the setting up of an archaeological area, operations which took place between 2005 and 2007 and which in 2009 also led to the opening of the “Roger Lambrechts” civic archaeological museum (Director Dr. M. Valente) The 2009 campaign concentrated on the area immediately outside the western perimeter of the peristyle where, in 2004 trial trenches brought to light the remains of walls of diverse construction and thickness on various levels. A deposit of animal bones and three coins of Valentinian III were also found. Below a late wall, crossing the area on a right angle, was a tank circa 2.50 x 3.00 m and 0.80 m deep, faced with _opus reticulatum_. Its size and position, together with the presence of a large lens of lime and a red earth surface in the immediate proximity suggest this was related to a craft working/industrial structure. The excavation of the tank, which was only partial due to the late wall which cut it, produced not only a large amount of pottery but also a number of quadrangular and hexagonal elements from a limestone floor and a dolium fragment bearing three different stamps.
    • The 2010 campaign continued investigations in the area immediately outside of the villa’s western peristyle. During the previous year’s campaign (2009) a tank about 2.50 x 3.00 m, 0.80 m deep lined with _opus signinum_ was found. Excavation of the tank was completed after the dismantling of a late wall which crossed it at a right angle. During this operation an infant burial came to light which had been disturbed by the construction of the wall. The material from the tank fill included a fragment of terracotta frieze the same as those found some years ago in other parts of the villa and an intact lamp with a stamp from the workshop of _Caius Oppius Restitutus_, datable to the end of the 1st-beginning of the 2nd century A.D. Work also continued on the rest of the area situated to the north which is entirely covered by a layer of dark earth. This overlies an earlier, craft-working/industrial phase, characterised by the presence of lime plaques, hearths, pits, post holes and piles of small-medium stones. The excavation of the black earth produced numerous coins dating from the 4th century until the end of the 5th-beginning of the 6th century A.D., a chronology also provided by the pottery finds. Thanks to the cooperation of the municipality of Artena it was possible to extend the excavation in the area where, during the 2004 campaign, a row of large limestone blocks appeared, the extension and nature of which was previously unknown. The excavation brought to light a more or less rectangular “platea” (about 3.40 x 4.10 m). Its perimeter was mainly formed by large limestone boulders like those that appeared in the trench. In the interior two layers of flooring were preserved, made in the same way but with different modules. Whilst the lower floor was composed of small tile and dolia fragments and small stones, the upper floor was made up of larger fragments. In the northern corner there was a sort of base comprising a smoothed piece of limestone covered with a layer of mortar bonding it to a terracotta conglomerate. No evidence was found to indicate whether the structure had walls of solid or perishable materials. Neither were any post holes found. An examination of the structure’s external perimeter revealed a hoard inside a small pottery vessel. It comprised four gold coins (solidi) with the Byzantine emperor Constans II and his son Costantine IV, datable to the mid 7th century A.D. The excavation of the “platea” and the discovery of the hoard open a new chapter in the history of Piano della Civita di Artena extending occupation of the great terracing on which the villa is situated form the 4th century B.C. to the 7th century A.D.
    • The 2011 campaign, financed by Temple University Rome and a private donation, continued investigations in the area immediately west of the villa’s peristyle. A trench was opened in the area between the villa and terrace edge in order to check the results of a geophysical survey undertaken in 2010. During the previous year’s campaign (2010), the excavation of a tank lined with _opus signinum_ (about 2.5 x 3.00 m and 0.80 cm deep) was completed. Investigations continued towards the north in the area between the tank, the early medieval “platea” and the external wall of the peristyle. The area was completely covered by a layer of “dark earth” overlying an earlier craft-working/industrial phase. Excavation of the dark earth layer provided accurate dating evidence for its formation, which probably occurred during the 6th century A.D. as suggested by the pottery, several coins, including a _pentanummus_ of Justinian or Justin II. Underlying the dark earth were the remains of a new building, not completely excavated, preserved mainly at foundation level and measuring at present 5.75 x 4.70 m. This latest discovery provides further evidence of a late occupation phase both inside and outside the villa, where some abandoned spaces were partially reused and new structures built outside of its western perimeter. In the southernmost sector of the area, that closest to the tank, excavation continued down to a floor level dating to the height of the villa’s activity (I-II century A.D.). This was made up of smoothed limestone and a threshold of smoothed chalk. A bronze coin of Claudius, minted between 41 and 50 A.D., was found in direct contact with a part of the threshold. To date, about 130 m2 of this paving has been excavated. After the villa’s main phase, craft-working/industrial activity took place in the area outside its perimeter. The result of this activity is a complicated stratigraphy containing a series of pits, post-holes, footholds, and hearths, elements that often proved difficult to interpret. Knowledge of the area was added to by the discovery of a short section of a wall pre-dating the villa. It was perfectly aligned with a wall running east to west below the villa but at a slightly more oblique angle. South of the villa, a trench was opened to check the geophysical results regarding the relationship between the villa and the containing wall of the terrace. The excavation confirmed the presence of another space belonging to the villa of which only two sides were known to date. Moreover, it exposed the remains of a tufa wall belonging to a building of Republican date, similar to that found below the villa’s south-eastern corner. A _dolium_ was found still _in situ_ beside the wall. Further excavation is required in order to define the plan and extension of the structure and its relationship both with the terracing wall and the villa itself.
    • The 2012 campaign was financed by Temple University, Rome, INRAP and a private donation. Work continued in areas 60/63, 64 and 35, extending the excavation by about 115 m2. Three major advances were made, the most important being the quite well organised nature of the late antique buildings. In fact, the excavated walls revealed a plan with flanking rooms on the same general alignment of the original villa. The entire complex was connected by stretches of wall built on top of the partially demolished west wall of the villa. It is probable that this was contemporary with the reuse of the mosaic-floored room on the west side of the peristyle. If this is so, then the villa was not completely abandoned; rather it underwent radical alterations, perhaps even of a functional nature. Evidence of this has been uncovered in several parts of the excavation and has been dated to the 5th - beginning of the 6th century A.D. Later, the complex was covered by a series of “black soils” corresponding with the beginning of the site’s use for agriculture and/or pasture some time towards the 6th century A.D. The second important discovery was that of two secondary burials in pottery vases. These were identical, both of immature individuals. Mainly the larger bones were preserved and showed no signs of burning, perhaps because they were deposited in the vases in a second moment when the site was radically reorganised in the 5th century A.D. Other perinatal bones were collected a few metres away, mixed with dumped soil in the south room of the late antique complex. Furthermore, the presence of scattered bones was documented several times in the area west of the villa, always within the levelling layers that predate the late antique buildings and later than the only tomb discovered so far on the terrace. Therefore, it is possible that these finds attest the existence of a small cemetery area, perhaps reserved for children, created in this part of the site towards the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. and dismantled towards the 5th century A.D. The third important element, and the most unexpected, adding to our knowledge of occupation on the artificial terrace of Pian della Civita, was the discovery of an aqueduct with cistern. At present, the cistern’s depth and type of covering are unknown. However, it belongs to a very early phase. In fact, the covering was destroyed and the cistern filled before the area was used as a courtyard, that is no later than the 2nd century A.D. Based on the material recovered from the excavation of the gravel in the aqueduct, the propose dating for these structures is the mid 1st century A.D. The next campaign will be dedicated to the excavation of the late antique buildings (whose function and date are to be ascertained) and the cistern (whose precise date in the relative chronology of the site is of great importance for understanding the villa’s development).
    • The excavations at Piano della Civita di Artena (RM) were financed by Temple University and saw the participation of students from Temple University and volunteers from Artena and elsewhere. Cécile Brouillard (INRAP) and Jan Gadeyne (Temple University Rome) directed the excavations, assisted by Bénédicte Rombeau. Excavation took place in the area immediately west of the villa, where research has been ongoing for several years and for the first time in the area east of the villa, where during excavation of the villa and the building in tufa traces of more rooms appeared. In the western area (sectors 35, 43, 63-68), work continued on defining the chronological sequence of the various occupations. Particular attention was given to the presence in room 65 of two “vats”, one rectangular and one circular, already partially excavated in 2014. It is suggested that the two vats could have been in use at the same time, while after various transformations they were covered by an abandonment layer in which a bronze coin was found that provides a date of no later than the third quarter of the 6th century A.D. Further north, excavation continued in rooms 67 and 68 in order to complete the plans of the structures that in the post-Classical period were built next to the villa and have been the object of investigation for several years. In room 67 am _opus_ _caementicium_ floor was discovered that was relatively well-preserved and covered the entire space. In room 68, there was a layer of collapsed tiles. One of the walls in this room did not follow the general alignment of this and the other structures. The space 43 (partially excavated in 2000) is situated among these post-Classical structures, by the _balneum_. It was decided to clear the area that was covered by vegetation and partially blocked by the structure protecting the _balneum_ itself in order to clarify the stratigraphic sequence. A _sondage_ was opened to the west, which revealed a layer of burning, made up of a large number of tiles from a collapsed roof that had crushed at least two containers, one of which an amphora containing burnt vegetal remains. Below the room destroyed by fire there were other structures pre-dating the villa, which have yet to be precisely identified. In the post-Classical period, it seems that a wall belonging to this room was rebuilt for the construction of room 65. Rooms 35, 64, and 65 are situated to the south. The aim here was to reach the occupation level that was contemporary with that of the villa. Four main phases were identified dating to between the 2nd-1st century B.C. (therefore pre-dating the villa’s construction, as the known evidence suggests) and the 4th-5th century A.D. Excavation also took place on the other side of the villa, where sections of wall had been discovered at the time the villa itself was dug. Although preliminary, the results were important. Firstly, they show the heavy erosion of the structures, although it was possible to complete the plan of room 52, and in area 70 a semicircular “apse” was uncovered.
    • The excavations at Piano della Civita di Artena (RM) were undertaken by students from Temple University Rome, directed by Cécile Brouillard (INRAP) and Jan Gadeyne (Temple University Rome),with volunteers from Artena, and the assistance of ceramic specialist Simon Dienst (Liegi University). Excavation continued in the area immediately west of the villa (sectors 65-68) and in the area to the south-east, where during the excavation of the villa and the tufa building (2002 and 2004) traces of more rooms (sector 52) appeared that were investigated for the first time in 2015. A production complex was identified in sectors 65 and 67. This comprised an _opus _caementicium_ work surface for the functioning of a _torcular_ (excavated in 2015), a vat for collecting the liquid and a storeroom. The vat walls were faced with _opus_ _signinum_. Two steps led down to the vat floor, which sloped down towards the hole at the centre. The material from the vat fill included coarse ware pottery, fragments of a 6th century A.D. glass goblet and a bronze coin of Justinian I. A storeroom (_doliarium_) was identified south of the vat in sector 65. The square vat and container investigated in 2014-2015 were also a part of it. This season’s excavations uncovered two _dolia_ housings and a _dolium_ inserted directly into the ground. The entire production installation (_torcula_, vat, storeroom) was abandoned in the last quarter of the 6th century A.D. In sector 68, there was a limestone wall with a threshold situated west of the _torcular_ surface. So far, an eight-metre length of the wall has been uncovered. At present, it is not possible to suggest the nature of this wall, which is on a different alignment to the those of the villa and the post-villa structures. Lastly, in sector 66 an infant burial was excavated, partially preserved, and placed in a container formed by three fragments of one amphora. No grave goods were present. The burial was aligned north-east/south-west and was a short distance away from two more infant burials found in 2012. Work also took place on the opposite side of the villa, in the area of the tufa building of Republican date, excavated in 2002 and 2004. In addition to the continuation of the villa’s water pipe, the burial of a juvenile individual was discovered. This was a grave cutting into the abandonment layers of the terrace’s Republican phase. The remains were not well-preserved and the body had been placed on top of two tiles with the head to the north. There were no grave goods. Other human bones were found in the layers of abandonment post-dating the destruction of the Republican buildings. This suggests there were other burials in the vicinity. The burial may date to the late antique period, but this remains to be proven.
    • This season, Temple University’s excavations at Piano della Cività di Artena (RM) checked the data that emerged during previous years. The actual excavations lasted for a shorter period than usual and the rest of the season was spent cleaning some of the Roman villa’s structures, such as the room with mosaic floor, the western arm of the peristyle and the pool, which were then covered. Excavation continued in two sectors: in the funerary area situated south-east of the villa (area 52), and in the production area to the west (areas 43 and 65). In addition, a stretch of the villa’s water supply pipe was investigated (area 44). To date, the excavations in the funerary area cover c. 18 m2. Thus far, the remains of four burials have been found, partly disturbed by later events. The graves had tiles on the bottom and one was also covered by stones. The bodies were not all on the same alignment, although most had the head to the west. The close proximity of the burials suggests the available space was limited, or that the burials were not marked, or that the grave markers had disappeared during the prolonged use of the area. Whatever the case, it can be excluded that the burials were random or scattered. The burials to the south-east of the villa can be added to the those of perinatal individuals identified in previous years in the western part of the excavation area, adjacent to the villa. The study of the pottery should establish for how long the two funerary areas were used, and whether they were coeval. The other area investigated during the 2017 campaign is situated west of the villa (areas 43 and 65), where in previous years a late antique production complex was partially excavated. It constitutes the last phase of a long occupation period, which begun before the villa’s construction. The area currently being excavated is primarily a _doliarium_. To date the remains of eight silos have been found belonging to different phases, one of which ended in the late 3rd century-early 4th century A.D., while the subsequent phase lasted until at least the end of the 6th century A.D. Only the continuation of the excavations will make it possible to clarify the details of the occupation in this sector.


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