• Villa del Vergigno
  • Podere Virginio


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    • 100 BC - 400 AD


      • The first excavations at the Villa del Vergigno were conducted between 1989 and 1994. In 2013 the site was re-opened with a focus on the unexcavated, agricultural sector of the villa, which is an area that appears to be a large, walled courtyard adjacent to the main residential complex and its bath. This season’s excavation revealed what is likely the courtyard’s southern perimeter wall, located approximately twenty-five meters from the southern peristyle of the main complex. The method of construction of this wall is similar to the lower courses of the villa’s walls that have been dated through ceramic evidence to the period between 80 and 50 B.C.E., a period that coincides with historical accounts of Roman colonial activity in this area of northern Etruria. Datable ceramic evidence from 2013, such as stamped Arretine terra sigillata, supports an interpretation that the agricultural sector is contemporary with the main residential complex, though further excavation is needed to clarify this hypothesis. Excavation of several rooms adjacent to this southern wall uncovered the remains of what is possibly a kiln, suggesting that the nature of activity here might have included ceramic production. The likelihood that the remains of a kiln are emerging is increased due to the fact that three, possibly four, additional kilns were discovered on the site during the excavation seasons of the 1990s. Additionally, near this hypothesized kiln, excavations came upon the top layers of a large pit in which were found numerous roof tiles, brick, and ceramics, as well as north African and Empoli-type amphorae datable to the third and fourth centuries C.E. The latter evidence indicates that this area of the site had a long duration of activity. Surface survey was also conducted on the outlying areas of the villa. Ceramic and structural remains were discovered approximately ninety meters to the northeast of the villa complex, which led to the beginning of excavation at this area. At present, perpendicular wall courses, though rather small in width, have been uncovered and the associated ceramic evidence ranges in date from the last centuries B.C.E. through to the Medieval period. Further investigation is needed to establish a chronology and interpretation of this area, though it seems possible that structures here may pre-date the construction of the villa itself.
      • The 2014 season continued the work of the 2013 season by opening a large, contiguous area of the site’s agricultural sector to reveal the phases of activity outside of the residential zone. In Area 1000, excavation continued on the interior of a large structure (ca. 15 x 20 meters) whose outer walls are characterized by courses of stone, travertine, tile, and bricks. This structure’s outer walls run roughly N/S and E/W. On the interior of this structure two parallel N/S wall courses, approximately three meters apart, came to light, each made with large blocks of stone and travertine. A possible third, perpendicular, E/W wall is indicated by tile clusters in the unexcavated topsoil; this wall appears to connect the two stone courses mentioned above, which would indicate the presence of a room. Artifacts from this area date the excavated levels to the late Imperial period. A new trench, Area 5000, was opened to the southwest of Area 1000. Here, a travertine wall was revealed that runs E/W. This wall course lies two meters north of the E/W interior wall of Area 1000, which seems to indicate that additional rooms are present in this area of the site. Artifacts date the excavated levels to the late Roman Imperial period; burnt ceramics and large quantities of charcoal suggest that cooking was the primary activity in this sector of the agricultural zone. In the central part of Area 5000, a thin layer of tile was found which might be the remains of a collapsed structure, such as an oven, or a small kiln. Excavation in 2015 will test this hypothesis. In Area 4000, which is adjacent to Area 5000 on its southwest side, an additional E/W course of brick, tile, stone, and travertine was revealed that likely joins the interior wall course coming to light in Area 5000. In addition, continued study of a hypothesized kiln that was discovered in 2013 now allows this feature to be dated to the site’s earliest, first century B.C.E. phase. Thus, it seems that in the same 20 x 15 meter area there was continual activity for ca. 400 years. A second new trench, Area 6000, was opened to the southeast of the exterior walls of the structure described above. Excavations here reached that which appears to be the foundation level of this structure, whose associated artifacts date to the late Republican or early Imperial period. Interesting features in this area include two parallel N/S cuts in the bedrock, which may represent either wheel-ruts, or drainage trenches, that are lined with discarded pottery datable to the Imperial period. The results from the 2014 season are consistent with the hypotheses established during the site’s first excavations in the 1990s that interpreted the chronology of the Villa as a structure built between 80 and 50 B.C.E. and abandoned during the IV century. Fragments of Terra Sigillata and Campana B indicate that the earliest phases of the site can be reasonably placed in the middle of the first century B.C.E. Other datable artifacts found this season and in 2013 indicate that habitation and commercial production continued into the IV century C.E.
      • _i) overview_ The primary goals of the 2013-2015 seasons have been: a) to establish and understand the site’s residential and agricultural sectors; b) to map the site digitally through Geographic Information Systems and the plug-in application “PyArchInIt”; c) to study the scale and nature of agricultural production at the site and its role in the regional and Mediterranean economy. The results of the 2015 season support the ongoing hypothesis that the site was constructed in the late second or early first century B.C.E. and abandoned during the fifth century C.E. In 2013 and 2014, architectural and industrial remains discovered in the area outside the residential sector suggest that an expansion of the residence, or an entire second phase of the site, occurred in the late Imperial period, possibly after the original Etrusco-Roman domestic villa had gone out of use. In 2015, excavation continued in three contiguous areas of the agricultural sector of the site and four new, adjacent areas were opened. The area under excavation in 2015 was approximately 20m x 10m. _ii) Etruscan & Roman Age_ The villa’s residential zone, excavated 1989-1994, consists primarily of walls of alternating courses of limestone, brick, and concrete, with foundations of travertine and unworked limestone. These walls date to the late second or early first centuries B.C.E. In the area adjacent to the villa’s residential zone, a foundation pit was discovered in 2015 that contains many small fragments of Etrusco-Roman ceramics datable to the initial phases of the site. Within the residential zone, a floor of small and medium-sized limestone blocks without concrete was uncovered. Adjacent to this flooring is a rectangular structure of travertine blocks used to form a basin. Together, these features likely indicate the presence of a wine press datable to the late second/early first centuries B.C.E. Dolia, discovered nearby in the early 1990s, help support the interpretation of a wine press at the site. _iii) Late Antiquity_ Excavations uncovered rectilinear walls (10.5 x 5m) of recycled material (travertine, limestone, brick) without concrete, located outside of the residential sector, on the edge of a huge depression (20m in diameter), and most likely built in late antiquity. Since different types of construction are apparent, it is probable that these walls underwent several protracted stages of construction. The use of reused material, the small thickness of the masonry, the absence of concrete, and no apparent foundations suggest a building of one floor with low walls, or a structure built into higher ground. Inside the building there is an oven or kiln, likely datable to the fourth century C.E., though first century C.E. stamped terra sigillata was found in the associated layers. Additionally, a large pit (ca. 10m x 5m), filled with charcoal and domestic materials (e.g., pottery, animal bone, glass, iron, lead, bronze fragments), is located between this building and the residential zone. Some layers of the fill also contain building remains (e.g., roofing tile, limestone, travertine) and remains of a dolium in situ. This building, constructed with recycled materials, may be part of the final period of habitation at the villa. The presence of Empoli-type and North African amphorae indicate that the site was economically productive during the late third and fourth centuries C.E. In the late fifth or early sixth century C.E. the entire site was abandoned. During this period the structure of the oven / kiln collapsed, evidenced by a series of rich layers of concotto, bricks, and coal. In the layers connected to this feature, a few fragments of iron slag and some overcooked ceramic fragments were found.
      • In 2016 excavations continued in the agricultural sector of the villa and two new excavation areas were opened: area 11000 located adjacent to the residential area and bath complex; and area 12000 inside the bath complex where there is a hypothesized well or cistern that was covered during the villa’s second building phase. Additionally, the 2016 season continued the analysis and catalog of artifacts found during the 1989 to 1994 seasons. The study and conservation of these first finds was continued during a two-week session in December 2016 in preparation for a museum exhibition planned for 2018. In area 11000, a portico of brick columns with stone bases datable to the late first century B.C.E. was excavated. Each column is made of triangular bricks with a sandstone base measuring 60x70x30 cm. In the agricultural sector, excavation continued to reveal walls of a building (Structure B) constructed in late antiquity and located on the edge of a huge depression, the estimated diameter of which is about 20 m. Structure B has a rectangular shape (10.5 x 5 m) with an orientation consistent with the plan of the residential sector of the villa. The walls are without concrete or mortar and use recycled material from other parts of the site, such as travertine blocks and unworked limestone and brick. Structure B’s north section reveals only foundations of brick and tile, possibly indicating a threshold instead of a wall. It is hypothesized that Structure B was protracted, multi-stage, three-walled workspace built in the fourth century C.E. as an ad hoc expansion of the agricultural sector of the villa. Inside of Structure B an oven/furnace/kiln, whose chimney cuts through and removes part of the wall, also dates to the latest life of the site at which time the above-mentioned enormous depression was filled with building materials (tile, limestone, and travertine), coal, ceramics, bone, glass, and various metal objects, the majority of which date to the fourth and fifth centuries C.E. Artifacts datable back to the first centuries C.E. were also found: the head of a terracotta female statuette, fragments of terra sigillata with stamps, including "LNONFL" (Lucius Nonius Florentinus, whose workshop was in Pisa during the first half of the second century C.E.) and a dolium rim with the partial stamp [. . . BROCRIN / . . . RTIALIZ]. The results of the 2016 season support the original hypothesis that the construction of the villa dates to the period between 80 and 50 B.C.E. and was abandoned in the IV-V century C.E. Analysis of the materials recovered in the 1990s together with those presently excavated suggest that a late second or pre-80 B.C.E. foundation date for the villa cannot be completely dismissed. It is clear that the site was in full swing and commercially productive during the late fourth and fifth centuries C.E. and this chronology is supported by recent finds that include Empoli-type and African amphorae.
      • The 2017 season focused on three excavation areas: i) a large, contiguous section in the “Agricultural Zone” of the villa; ii) a colonnaded area located adjacent to and immediately outside of the bath complex of the villa’s “Residential Zone;” iii) the area of the bath’s praefurnium inside the “Residential Zone” of the villa. Two ongoing projects continued: mapping the site via Geographic Information Systems and the PyArchInIt application; and preparing a catalog of artifacts from the most recent field seasons (2013 – 2017) and the artifacts from initial excavations 1989 – 1994. This season, a microseismic and geoelectric survey was conducted to investigate a circular structure of travertine blocks inside the bath complex that likely pre-dates early-Imperial modifications of the site. This structure is interpreted either as a large basin, a well / cistern, or the foundations of an industrial structure. The data from this survey are still being processed. In the “Agricultural Zone” excavations continued investigating the connecting walls of a late-antique structure (Structure B) built on the edge of a huge depression that measures approximately 20 m in diameter. This building itself is rectangular (ca. 10.5 x 5 m) and constructed of reused, medium-sized stones, without mortar, only a few courses in height, and without foundation trenches. The construction of Structure B is hypothesized as ongoing and multi-phase, with activity and the building’s form regularly modified. Activity inside Structure B itself dates to the Late-Antique period, during which time a dismantling of the “Residential Zone” occurred. The depression adjacent to Structure B contains a large amount of carbon, domestic waste (ceramics, animal bones, glass, glass scoria, and fragments of iron, lead, and bronze), and discarded building material from the “Residential Zone” (fragments of brick, limestone, and travertine). The oldest layers within the depression date to the 2nd C CE. Excavations in the villa’s “Residential Zone” investigated the first phases of habitation at the site datable to the 1st C BCE. A foundation trench of the villa’s perimeter wall was identified, and adjacent to this wall is a squared masonry structure, currently interpreted as a base for the wall. In the same location there is a 1st C BCE portico with columns of stone and brick and an "L"-shaped feature, likely a water duct of the bath complex. At a later phase, the area was modified to add a door opening from the bath complex onto the porch. In the praefurnium area of the bath, surface layers show episodes of periodic leveling of residue from firing and cleaning. The soil contains charcoal and ash with alternating red layers of concotto. Slightly later in date is also a squared ditch framed by two wooden beams in the opening of the hypocaust. These beams created a contained area for the furnace’s residue. Here, there is also a masonry floor used as a storage space for equipment and fuel, and a circular pit formed by an amphora base used to hold water. The results of the 2017 season support the following hypotheses: a) the construction of the villa, in its monumental form observable today, occurred in the early 1st century BCE and was completed by the 1st century CE; b) the site was abandoned during the 4th and 5th centuries CE; c) the area to the east of the villa was organized for agricultural and craft production prior to the abandonment of the villa’s Residential Zone; d) the Agricultural Zone was in full swing during the late 4th and 5th centuries CE, first with active agricultural production and, later, with spoliation of the villa and recycling its architectural materials.
      • During the 2018 season, excavation and survey continued in both the Agricultural Zone and Residential Zone of the site. Ongoing work included digitizing plans of all excavated Areas to position them via GIS coordinates, studying the scale and nature of agricultural production at the site to determine its role in the regional and Mediterranean economy, and analyzing unprocessed materials found in the first excavations at the site (1989 to 1994). In the Agricultural Sector, large contiguous Areas were reopened to understand and establish a chronology of habitation outside the site’s hypothesized domestic area. In previous campaigns, a wall-course from a late-antique structure (Structure B) was found on the edge of a huge depression, whose diameter is currently about 20m. The large depression and Structure B are located ca. 50m east of the residential part of the villa. Structure B is rectangular (10.5x5 m) with a north/east-south/west alignment and was built with recycled material without mortar. Its west face is made of travertine blocks of different size and its southern portion is interrupted which may indicate a large opening. The east and south walls are both made of worked and unworked limestone river rocks and brick fragments. The presence of different methods of construction for Structure B suggest prolonged building occurring in several phases or a switch in the building’s intended use over time. It is currently evident that the walls of Structure B were built with reused materials, were thin in comparison to the “residential” sector of the villa, and they lacked foundations and mortar. These data suggest a single-story building, either with low walls or a partially-elevated ground level within the structure. The fill of the adjacent depression has a large presence of charcoal and a large amount of refuse that includes ceramic, animal bones, glass, fragments of iron, lead, and bronze. Most of the pit’s layers also have architectural debris that include fragments of various sizes of bricks, limestone rocks, and some pieces of travertine blocks. It appears that the layers near the bottom of the depression are datable prior to the third century CE and the fill of the depression occurred during the third and fourth centuries CE. In the Residential Zone, investigation continued immediately east and north of the bath complex, and in the bath’s interior near the _praefurnium_ . Outside the bath complex and portico, stratigraphic layers corresponding to the site’s construction phase contained fragments of bricks and stones that were used level an area between the columns of the portico. In the southern section of the large internal courtyard adjacent to the bath’s praefurnium, the layers excavated indicate industrial activity that pre-dates the addition of the bath and its hypocaust. At present, the hypothesized phases of activity are a) an earlier, first, phase with an iron forge and metal working, and b) a second, later, phase when the area was repurposed for the bath’s furnace. .Layers relating to the bath complex are rich in charcoal and ash, and were formed during the use, cleaning, and maintenance of the furnace’s opening. The iron working activity is evidenced by the presence of a low-fire kiln set into a shallow pit. This pit is circular, has vertical walls, and measures about 60 cm in diameter. On the east side of the pit and set partially into the ground is a large stone, likely for the placement of the bellows’ nozzle. The bottom of the pit consists of a large, singular piece of iron slag, likely formed through repeated use of the iron kiln. Inside and outside of the pit there are small iron slag pieces. In the second phase of activity in this area, iron processing was abandoned and replaced by new manufacture activity, evidenced by a series of holes and pits formed around a square structure of bricks. In this courtyard production Area, there is increasing evidence of an intermediary, spoliation phase of activity that significantly transformed the function of the internal space. In this phase, some structures’ poles were removed and bricks of the square structure, mentioned above, were removed, though one large brick remains partially preserved in situ. During this spoliation episode, a large pit (either pre-existing or newly dug) located within the courtyard was filled with layers of earth, ceramics, and brick fragments – including the missing half of the brick partially preserved in situ. The layers of this pit suggest that there was an effort to renovate this zone of the site, dump the architectural waste material into the pit, and perfectly level the pit for subsequent use of the area. Hypothesized dates for these episodes are: late 2nd/early 1st C BCE (iron forge); mid to late 1st C BCE (spoliation); 1st C CE (praefurnium of the bath).


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