Excavations at Poggio Colla (Vicchio di Mugello)

by Gregory Warden


The site of Poggio Colla is located in the Mugello, about twenty miles northeast of Florence. A team of professional archaeologists and students, under the auspices of Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, with Oberlin College and the University of Pennsylvania Museum as sponsoring institutions, has now excavated at the site for two seasons, during the summers of 1995 and 1996. Poggio Colla was first excavated by Dr. Francesco Nicosia, now Superintendent of the Archaeology of Tuscany, from 1968 to 1972. With Dr. Nicosia’s permission and encouragement the SMU excavations have continued to reveal a site that promises to contribute tremendously to our knowledge of Etruscan Italy. Poggio Colla is particularly important because it has undisturbed habitation layers that span much of Etruscan history (from the 7th to the 3rd centuries BC), well-defined fortification walls, an extensive necropolis area, and the rare remains of an Archaic monumental building, probably a temple. Etruscan habitation sites are uncommon—Etruscan culture is known mainly from funerary remains. Poggio Colla is one of a handful of such Etruscan habitation sites accessible to archaeologists today, and it is the earliest one of these to have a temple in situ.

In this report I hope to present to you, in an informal way, the promising results of our most recent campaign. The excavations at Poggio Colla have turned out to be a large-scale enterprise whose success would not have been possible without the help of an excellent staff, headed and directed ably by Prof. Susan Kane of Oberlin College, who served as Field Director for the 1995 and 1996 campaigns. The staff is listed at the end of this document, and many of the students and staff members will be mentioned throughout this report. I am grateful to them for their dedication and their unstinting commitment to the project, but in order for a project such as this to succeed, we are also dependent on a broader circle of friends and contributors, here in the United States a well as in Italy. These many friends are acknowledged at the end of this document, but a few deserve special thanks and a more specific acknowledgment, most especially Dr. Francesco Nicosia, Soprintendente Archeologico della Toscana. Invaluable help in almost every phase of excavation and planning has been provided by Andrea and Lorenza Santoni and the Gruppo Archeologico of Vicchio. Funding for the excavation was provided by the SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, thanks to its Dean, Dr. Carole Brandt, and by the generosity of private donors, especially Mrs. Barbara Lemmon of Dallas. A generous grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation provided travel support for the three graduate students, Ph.D. candidates at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas at Austin, who served as field supervisors.

The 1995 Season
Our first season at Poggio Colla was brief, only three weeks in length, but did confirm the archaeological potential of the site. That first brief season produced the remains of monumental architecture that had first been noted by Nicosia, architecture which seemed to be early (as early as the beginning of the sixth century BC) and sacred in nature. We were also surprised by the wealth of the site: we found decorated bucchero of high quality, imported wares, and a bronze head that seems to have broken off a votive figurine. The head was cleaned at the Gabinetto di Restauro of the Florence Archaeological Museum and was presented at a symposium in honor of Emeline Hill Richardson at the 1995 annual meetings of the Archaeological Institute of America in San Diego.

Figure 1: Bronze head.

This head (Figure 1), which will be discussed in detail by Susan Kane and myself in a separate publication, is of exceptionally high quality. It dates to the late Archaic period, ca. 500 BC, and was part of a standing male figure, either a nude kouros or a togatus. The hair style, so carefully detailed, is composed of a long mass of hair behind the head that is looped over and under a double fillet that crosses over the ears. This coiffure is vaguely reminiscent of late Archaic hair styles in Greece and Etruria, but the exact treatment, particularly the double fillet with its over-and-under looping, is unique.

In the 1995 season we focused on the center and northern edge of the site where we laid out three small trenches (Units 1-3). Although brief, only three weeks in length, this first season managed to achieve our primary goal, to define in broad terms the general history or chronology of the site. We determined that the site had at least two phases. The early phase runs from the seventh through the fifth century BC. The second phase is approximately fourth and third century BC in date. The fortification walls that surround the upper part of the plateau seem to be part of this later phase. The impressive tumulus tomb, the so-called Tumulo Barsicci, that can still be seen on a terrace south-west of the plateau belongs to the early phase. It now turns out that the chronology may be more complicated than this, but the general outlines were helpful in giving us broad ranges for the main periods of settlement at Poggio Colla.

The most important discovery of our first season, however, was architectural. On the northern edge of the site we continued to excavate two long walls, discovered by Nicosia, that run in an east-west direction. The walls are over a meter thick and fairly close together. Between the walls, and at a deeper level, were a series of carved sandstone blocks from an earlier phase of the site, again discovered by Nicosia. These blocks seem to have been the crowning elements for a podium of some kind. Most remarkable, however, was the discovery of a large column base, again made of sandstone, just south of the south wall in what we have called Unit 3.

Figure 2: Carved sandstone column base in Unit 3.

The base (Figure 2) was found in a mixed deposit that included early bucchero pottery of seventh and sixth century date; it had been moved from its original position during a later phase of the site, but it seemed, along with the bronze head, an indicator that we had found a temple of early, possibly sixth century BC, date.

The 1996 Season
One of the major questions raised by the first season of excavation was the nature of the north building, that is the "structure" defined by the two east-west walls. This building seemed to belong to the later, Hellenistic phase of the site, but the proximity of the new sandstone column base and of Nicosia’s podium blocks to these seemingly later walls also needed to be explained. We therefore concentrated our efforts this past summer on this northern area (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Site Plan.

We continued and expanded Unit 3 at the western end of the north "building," sank a new trench at the eastern end (Unit 6), and also put in a large trench (Unit 8) nearer the western end. All three of these trenches can be seen on this year’s site plan which has been expanded to include the entire plateau and part of its slopes, thanks to the efforts of our architect, Jess Galloway, and his assistant, Dan Gonzalez, presently studying architecture at Columbia University, who worked valiantly with a laser Total Station, despite the difficult topography and dense brush of a forested site.

Unit 3
The expansion of Unit 3 to the south and west was designed to give us a clearer picture of the area and, we hoped, to define the western end of the north "building." The trench was supervised by Julia Shear, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. The bad or good news, depending on how we look at it, is that we have not found the western end of the two walls. Both continue to the west and are almost thirty meters in length. Excavation in Unit 3 was particularly slow going because the trench kept filling up with water during the first few weeks of excavation; we had an especially wet June in the Mugello. Also, the stratigraphy of this area is tricky; the trench is divided into three sections by the two walls, and each of the sections has different stratigraphy. Unit 3, which still has not been taken down to its lowest levels, produced some excellent early pottery. An almost complete bucchero vase (inv. no. 96-138), quite large and of unusual shape, perhaps a stand, was found in the southern section and emerged from conservation at the end of the summer (Figure 4). Its restoration was tricky because it had been smashed against the sloping bedrock, but it was painstakingly assembled by Jane Williams, our conservator. Having a full-time conservator on staff this summer was a godsend. Jane was kept busy excavating tricky finds up at the site (pottery, bronzes, and the pithos discussed below) and supervised the conservation labs. There she worked on the more difficult projects while instructing students and volunteers in the simpler tasks of cleaning and mending.

Figure 4: Bucchero vase from Unit 3.

The northern part of Unit 3, where the ground slopes away steeply, may turn out to be the most interesting. Here, the stratigraphy is complex, and the area seems to have been used for agricultural purposes, for the storage of cereals and perhaps the processing of agricultural products. The floor levels here were littered with organic remains. Many of the seeds were visible with the naked eye and were collected by the excavators. Soil samples were also taken, and soil from this area and from a similar area to the east (in Unit 6) were processed by flotation in order to harvest paleobotanical remains. These remains will be studied by Sarah Kupperberg, an Oberlin student, who plans to write a thesis on the results with the advice and collaboration of Dr. Naomi Miller, a paleobotanist at MASCA, the archeometric research arm of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

One of the most important discoveries of the summer, both here and in Unit 8 as well, was the realization that the northern wall is substantially different from the southern wall. At first glance this may not be evident, for the walls are roughly parallel, the foundations are approximately the same size (over a meter thick) and both foundations are made from similar stone rubble. The southern wall, however, is quite straight, while the northern wall curves, as can be seen on the site plan (Figure 3). We had also noted last year that underneath the north wall, in Unit 3, there was a dressed block of reddish sandstone which seemed to have a half round molding, similar but not quite the same, as the so-called podium blocks. This year, in Unit 3 as well as Unit 8, we unearthed a series of perpendicular walls that abut into the north wall from the north, dividing the very northern edge of the site into compartments. These abutting walls and the north wall, once cleaned, revealed several beautifully dressed blocks of stone that clearly had been reused from an earlier building at the site. Figure 5 shows one such block, just right of center in the photograph, finished edge out with a clear rounded curve to its profile. One part of the northern wall, in Unit 3, even has a small dog-leg jog. All this suggests that the northern wall may be later, and that the abutting walls are certainly later, dating to the time when this northern edge was turned into an industrial/agricultural zone. This confirms Nicosia’s findings of what may have been a pottery kiln on the north-eastern slope, and of an agricultural storage area at the north central crest of the site.

Figure 5: Dressed stone block in a wall in Unit 8.

Unit 8
Unit 8, directed by Margaret Woodhull, a doctoral candidate in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, in fact revealed another large storage jar in one of these northern compartments at the very northern limit of the trench. Nicosia had already excavated one of these large storage vessels, a pithos, and it has been restored and exhibited in the Vicchio Museum. We found one right next to it, crushed but still in situ, and carefully excavated by Justin Winkler and Melissa Stoltz, SMU and Oberlin undergraduates respectively, with the supervision of our conservator, Jane Williams, who can be seen wrapping the large sherds of the pithos in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Jane Williams wrapping the large sherds of the pithos.

In this instance there may very well have been two vases, a smaller vase placed on top of the larger pithos, perhaps serving as a temporary lid as well as a convenient way to handle smaller quantities of whatever was being stored in the larger vase. An exact reconstruction will have to await the restoration of the vessels which is scheduled for next summer; at this point, the pieces have been carefully numbered, recorded, and stored in our facilities in the House of Giotto in Vespignano. It will be exciting next summer for we will have the possibility of discoveries and surprises in our conservation-processing labs as well as on the site. One question that we hope to answer, apart from what kind of materials were being processed and stored in the north end of Unit 8, is why the pithos that we excavated, as well as the one excavated by Nicosia, was found with several terracotta wheel-shaped loom weights around it mouth. (Figure 7). These pierced terracotta disks are rather large, but they are of a standard type know at other Etruscan sites, and can be identified as loom weights. Here at Poggio Colla they may have been used to wedge the large vases in place, or possibly as spacers, to hold the superimposed vases apart. A more exact reconstruction will have to await the restoration of the vases and the full excavation of the area, but the wealth of paleobotanical evidence and the other finds from the north slope will make for interesting excavation during the next few years. The only thing that we can be certain about at this point is that this agricultural/industrial activity and the coeval restructuring and compartmentalization of the north slope, belongs to the later phase of the site, to the fourth and third centuries BC.

Figure 7: Terracotta loom weights around the mouth of the pithos in Unit 8.

It is also becoming more and more clear that our understanding of the site and its extraordinarily complex stratigraphy will depend not only on careful stratigraphic interpretation but also on a very careful analysis of wall construction, on the decipherment of the multiple mural phases, on the "reading" of the walls through the interpretation of the use and reuse of architectural elements. This will be a challenging but fascinating task of interpretation that will have to be shared by the field supervisors, our architect, Jess Galloway, and Susan Kane and myself. In any case, the results from Unit 8 were highly gratifying, but here as in Unit 3 we have not reached the lower levels in the northern part of the trench, where the bedrock slopes away sharply and where the strata are deeper and more complex. There is still much to be learned here and some surprises, I am sure, await next year’s continuation, but the biggest surprises of the past summer came not in Units 3 or 8, but farther to the east, in an entirely new direction.
At this point let me back-track a little to the summer of 1995. When we first found the large Tuscan column base in Unit 3, I believed that we had found confirmation of Nicosia’s theory that an early monumental temple had existed on Poggio Colla. The theory was supported by other evidence as well, a female antefix discovered as a stray find several years ago, the line of podium blocks discovered by Nicosia between the two north walls, and the bronze head, probably part of votive figure, found in Unit 1 during the 1995 season. At this point the evidence strongly supported Nicosia’s temple theory, but the sobering hand of reality reached out in the fall of 1995 when I went to the University of Texas at Austin to visit Dr. Lucy Shoe Merrit and Prof. Ingrid Edlund-Berry. Dr. Merrit, the world’s leading authority on architectural moldings of the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman world, pointed out that our splendid base might very well be a column base, as I believed, but that it was unusual for such an early context, and that I should not rule out other possibilities, for instance that it might have served as an altar rather than as the base of a column. Now, an altar base is nothing to scoff at, but it is not exactly in the same league as a temple, and I drove back to Dallas somewhat deflated and muttering to myself. I e-mailed Susan Kane the disappointing news, but we quickly came to the conclusion in our correspondence that there was no use whining and hardly much use speculating at this point. If indeed we had a temple, then we would find more bases. Stone architecture of this kind is difficult to eradicate. We would just have to find other column bases in the summer of 1996.

The Area of the Podium Blocks
The fates of archaeology, or whoever looks after this kind of thing, were kind to us in 1966. While we were laying out and starting to dig the three major trenches, Susan directed a small group of excavators to clear the set of podium blocks excavated by Nicosia over twenty years ago. In 1995 we had only had time to clear one of these blocks which we measured, documented, and then re-buried. Now we wanted to document all of them, to get some sense of their placement and relationship to the two north walls, and to prepare the blocks for study by Prof. Ingrid Edlund-Berry who was planning to visit at the end of June to study these architectural blocks. The blocks were re-excavated, cleaned, and documented. They are impressive, large sandstone blocks of two types, flat blocks without moldings that we have dubbed "pavers," and blocks with a large, beautifully carved half-round molding that seem to have crowned a podium or some other large structure. These blocks were found in a line between the two north walls, but at a lower level, as if toppled off one of the walls. They seem to belong to the earlier phase of the site, and their alignment has led me to wonder if the destruction of the earlier phase was not deliberate, if some of the more monumental elements might not have been deliberately buried, a kind of ritual dismantling that sometimes occurs at sacred structures.

Figure 8: Upside down column base in the foundation trench of a wall.

The biggest surprise in clearing this area, however, came when we cleaning around one of the podium blocks. Just a few centimeters below the plastic sheeting that Nicosia had put down to mark the lowest level of his excavation we came upon a rounded stone block embedded underneath the footing of the northern wall. This block, on further cleaning, turned out to be yet another Tuscan column base, this time upside down, flipped into the foundation trench of the wall (Figure 8). Because we were not prepared to dismantle the north wall, we left the base in situ, but we now had proof that a series of blocks existed. The new base is larger and of different profile than the base we found in 1995. Most important, its location is clear proof that the colonnaded building to which it belonged predates the building of the north wall. Presumably this column base was part of the same archaic monumental complex as the podium blocks and the reused blocks in the walls of Units 3 and 8. The exact date of this early phase, or possibly even more than one phase, still eludes us as does the original location of the monumental building. We hope to find out more about the building’s location next summer, but there are a few clues. A magnetometer prospection of the hilltop done in 1995 indicated the possibility of walls running in a north-south direction, aligned with the cardinal points rather than the axes of the hilltop. In the southern part of Unit 8 we found two massive squared blocks of stone, again aligned north-south that may be part of the original footings for a very large structure (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Massive squared blocks of stone in Unit 8.

Unit 6
This is all tantalizing evidence, but it is still too early to be certain. We have yet to find the any of the early monumental architecture in situ, even in Unit 6 where another surprise awaited us. Unit 6 was supervised by Michael Thomas, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, who was assisted by Abbi Holt, a student at the University of Virginia. Here we hoped to define the eastern end of the two north walls. Almost immediately, just below the surface, we found more monumental architecture, yet another Tuscan column base. This base is very large, about a meter in diameter with a broad, fatter profile to its half round than the 1995 base (Figure 10). We thought at first that the base might still be in situ for it sits even to the ground level and is aligned with three molded blocks of the kind that we have called podium blocks. Another large block, this one of the kind that we have called a paver, is aligned with it, forming a right angle. Here, we thought as these elements were emerging, we finally had our monumental building, our temple.

Figure 10: Large column base, podium blocks, and small base (possibly an altar) in Unit 6.

Even though we have yet to finish excavating in Unit 6, it looks as if the original placement of the building may still elude us. The three podium blocks do not have the same profile as the blocks excavated by Dr. Nicosia. But most important, the elements are in the wrong stratum, close to the surface, in the context of the later, Hellenistic phase of the site. There are archaic strata here in Unit 6, but they are father down, and we have yet to reach those levels. It may be premature to speculate, but my guess would be that these blocks were placed here to serve as a foundation for the continuation of the southern of the two walls. As can be seen on the plan, the northern wall continues to the east (and its terminus has yet to be excavated) while the southern wall ends abruptly while its axis is continued by the large block and column base. One of our priorities in 1997 will be to continue Unit 6 to the south, to see what happens to the line of podium blocks, as well as to excavate the lower strata of the trench.

One of the more tantalizing areas of Unit 6 is the area immediately north of the long "paver" block where we found a carved circular stone that resembled a small base. (It can be seen clearly in the photograph on the cover of this report.) The base is worked, rounded on all sides, but too small to be a column base. I have wondered if it might not be a small altar, for packed around it is a heavy burned layer that still awaits excavation. While excavating this burned layer we found a fragment of a bucchero vase (inv. # 96-251), probably a cup, decorated on its inner surface with superimposed palmette and animal friezes (Figure 11). Unfortunately, only the upper part of one of the animals is preserved.

Figure 11: Fragment of bucchero vase decorated with palmette and animal friezes, found in Unit 6.

Unit 6 has also provided us with clues about the chronology of the later phase of the site and its destruction. In the heavy tile and burn layer in the upper part of the trench we found two bronze coins. Both were heavily corroded but one was identifiable after cleaning. Its obverse has a profile head of the goddess Athena facing left; the reverse has a standing rooster. The coin was minted in southern Latium or Campania in the second quarter of third century BC. Unfortunately the reverse inscription, which would identify the city, is obscured, but the candidates are cities like Aquinium, Cales, Suessa Aurunca, and three or four other cities in the region. This coin confirms our suspicion that the site was destroyed near the end of the third century BC, probably due to Roman conquest of the region. The site seems to have been dismantled and the inhabitants moved to the valley below, to modern Vicchio whose name can be traced back to the Latin "vicus" or "town." This seems to have been a normal procedure during the conquest and Romanization of Etruria. Supporting this theory is the fact that the latest datable pottery from the site is 3rd-century-BC Black Glaze ware of the "Petites Estampilles" type, another import from the south, either from Latium or southernmost Etruria.

Other areas of excavation and exploration:
About halfway through our season we decided that we had the time and the manpower to expand Unit 1 which had been excavated in 1995. This trench had been sunk in the very center of the plateau to provide us with a sense of the site’s stratigraphy. As we were closing down the trench in 1995, while cleaning the western scarp, we discovered the bronze head discussed above (Figure 1). The possibility existed that rest of the figurine might be nearby, or, even more important, that we might find out something about its original context. We therefore dug out part of Unit 1 and expanded the trench to the west (designated as Unit 1, Extension A). The results were mixed. We did not find the rest of the figurine, but we did come up with some intriguing finds that will lead us to continue excavation in this area next season. We found a few more pieces of bronze, although in unrecognizable form, but more interesting was a beautifully finished stone disk which will have to undergo conservation next summer. Near it was a terracotta disk which seems to have been the base of a vase, neatly broken all the way around. Again, it is too early to make much of this, but the finds are tantalizing.

Somewhat less successful was our foray on the nearby hill of Montesassi where we had applied for a permit to survey and to clean out a cistern and spring on the north-west slope. Montesassi is an extraordinarily interesting hilltop that has a majestic view of the entire Mugello basin. There are 19th and early 20th century notices of archaeological finds in this region, and most intriguing is the fact that in the 19th century there were visible remains of stone monuments in this area that may date back to the bronze age. Much of the hill is now covered with dense brush and forest, but we hope to survey the area, and Susan Kane is particularly interested in documenting and studying the many quarry pits, most of which seem of recent date, that lie between Poggio Colla and Montesassi. The cistern that we excavated was important because we are especially interested in documenting the water sources in the area and because springs often were related to cult in ancient Etruria. One of the more interesting aspects of the entire Montesassi-Poggio Colla area is that there are large rocks that rise out of the natural bedrock forming small cliff faces, and that these faces often have large niches carved into them. The cistern that we excavated is cut into one of these natural rock faces, and the area in front of the face has been carved out to form a basin. The excavation of this area proved particularly difficult. It was supervised by Susan Kane who was assisted by Prof. Donald White, University of Pennsylvania, and Andrea Santoni, Director of the Gruppo Archeologico of Vicchio. The surface debris, accumulated sediments, and mud were cleared from the entrance to the spring, but unfortunately the spring itself, underneath the rock face, is still clogged from disuse, and there are significant rock spills in the area that prevent going deeper without heavy equipment.


Architectural Moldings:

I have been amazed at the amount of architecture produced in just two seasons of excavation. Etruscan architecture is rare, and temple architecture of early date exceedingly so. In the spring of 1995, just before our first season at Poggio Colla, I visited the University of Texas at Austin where I met with Lucy Shoe Meritt and Ingrid Edlund-Berry. I told them about our excavation plans, and as I was leaving Dr. Meritt's house she wished me luck and, almost as an after-thought, asked me to find her some new moldings. I laughed and said that I would try, but I certainly did not think that new monumental architecture was even a possibility. Dr. Meritt's request, however, has been fulfilled, and I can't help but think that her invocation brought us good fortune. I recently met with Dr. Meritt again to show her photographs of our two new bases, the new podium blocks, and the blocks that were reused in the later phase of the north slope. We seem to have two types of podium blocks; the three new blocks in Unit 6 have a broader profile to their half round than the blocks excavated by Dr. Nicosia. We also have two types of column bases; the two new ones are larger and once again have a fatter or broader profile to the top round. We may have two buildings, for instance an altar as well as a temple, or at the very least two phases of building. Again, what is remarkable is the amount of material as well as the variety of forms. Dr. Meritt pointed out that our site now has the best opportunity of any to provide new blood for the corpus of moldings on which she and Ingrid Edlund-Berry are working.



Excavation is producing so much ceramic material that storage is already becoming a problem. Much of the material is coarse ware, utilitarian pottery, whose study will be important for the history of the region. A regional ceramic typology from Early Iron Age to the Hellenistic period remains one of our goals. Other goal are the study of production technology, the determination of material sources, and differentiation of local and imported wares. While study of the ceramics from the full range of the site's history is important, what is becoming increasingly apparent as excavation progresses is the exceptional quality of the early material, especially the Orientalizing and Archaic bucchero (7th-6th centuries BC).

Figure 12: Griffin on a bucchero rim fragment decorated with a frieze of fantastic animals.

One of the finest pieces is the bucchero sherd reproduced in Figure 11, but other decorated pieces have been found. A bucchero rim fragment (Inv. no. 189) was decorated with a frieze of fantastic animals; particularly well preserved is a griffin striding to the left with one of its front legs raised (Figure 12). Other fragments are beautifully incised: illustrated in Figure 13 is a bucchero rim fragment, joined from two pieces, from a cup (Inv. no. 96-113).

Figure 13: Joined pieces of a bucchero rim fragment decorated with incised six-petal roses.

The interior of the cup was decorated with crisply incised six-petal rosettes. Another important fragment is a wing handle of a bucchero skyphos or two-handled cup (inv. no. 96-283). In this case the horizontal handle is decorated by means of geometric cut-out decoration (Figure 14).

Figure 14: Fragment of the wing handle of a bucchero skyphos or two-handled cup.

These three pieces illustrate the kind of range of decoration found on our late Orientalizing bucchero: stamping, incision, and cut-outs. Of these three techniques, stamped decoration seems to be the most popular, and the love of stamped motifs parallels the kind of pottery decoration found at the nearby site of San Piero a Sieve. Stamped decoration can also be found on coarser pottery and on some utilitarian objects. This past summer we found two stamped rocchetti, terracotta spools. One of these rocchetti (Inv. 96-17) is decorated with a horned animal, a goat or a deer (Figure 15). The other (Inv. no. 96-10) has an unusual swastika motif made up of two intersecting S-shaped bands (Figure 16). Considering the fact that we have not fully excavated the three trenches begun this summer, that the early strata are mostly untouched, the wealth of this early material is notable.

Figure 15: Rochetto with horned animal (left). Figure 16: Rochetto with swastika motif (right).


Future Plans:

We have undertaken an ambitious, multi-disciplinary program of research at Poggio Colla. Success of future campaigns will depend on the coordination of these research programs, and this very important area will be supervised by Susan Kane while I undertake to oversee the actual field work at the site. The nature and scope of these programs, which I think are impressive, will be discussed below by Susan and Karen Vellucci of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

We are also fortunate that we are receiving support and encouragement from the people of Vicchio. The Comune of Vicchio has loaned us the use of the upper floor of the House of Giotto, that artist's house and birth place in nearby Vespignano. We have set up research labs, processing areas, and conservation facilities there, not far from our main excavation house. Next summer this important component of the excavation will be supervised by Karen Vellucci. I cannot overemphasize the contribution to our project of Andrea and Lorenza Santoni. Their energy and enthusiasm, as well as their deep knowledge of the region, are an inestimable resource. This past summer I was asked to present two lectures on our recent archaeological work in Vicchio, one sponsored by the Comune and the other at the Associazione "il Paese" which hosted a wonderful dinner for us. I was heartened by the positive response and by the dialogue that ensued. The rich archaeological and cultural heritage of the Mugello is an important resource that needs recognized, valued, and protected. It is also in some ways an endangered resource, and one of the best suggestions made during the after-lecture discussion was that the oral history of the region needs to be recorded and preserved. Some of this oral history would have a specific relevance to our archaeological research.

The excavation is so young that it may be premature to discuss publication plans, but it is important to any research project to consider publication from the very beginning. Prof. Paolo Canuti, of the University of Florence, and Dr. Dario Monna, National Research Council of Italy, will participate in the annual AIA meetings in New York in December of 1996. Susan Kane and I will also present a summary of recent work at Poggio at those same meetings. Susan has also been working on some of the earlier finds from the site; she and Andrea Santoni, with the help an architect who visited last summer, Jerry Swendsen, have been working on the reconstruction of an extraordinary roofing system that may have covered the early tumulus, the so-called Tumulo Barsicci. Susan presented a paper on this topic, entitled "An Archaic Tumulus: Old and New Evidence from the Poggio Colla Necropolis," at Experientia Docet, a Symposium in honor of Lucy Shoe Merrit held at the University of Texas at Austin in September of this year. I had the honor of presenting a paper, at this same symposium, entitled "Excavations at the Etruscan Site of Poggio Colla: Fiesole and the Cultural Geography of the Mugello Valley."

Although we have barely scratched the surface at Poggio Colla, we are planning an ambitious research project of wide methodological range that will take up over at least five to ten years of concentrated effort. We hope to keep you abreast of what happens, year by year, through the publication of reports such as this one, through the issue of yearly CD-ROMS on the site, and through the maintenance of a World Wide Web site. Our commitment to using current technologies for the dissemination of information included having our web site updated on a regular basis during the summer of 1996. We are, I believe, the first major archaeological excavation to do this, and the success of this first attempt at interactive excavation is due to the continuing contribution of our Information Technologist, Dr. Sam Carrier of Oberlin College.

As I stated in last year's report, our project has three major goals, research, pedagogy, and outreach, and we take all three of these areas seriously. I am happy to report that our field school this year was a resounding success in no small measure to the exceptional quality of our students, as well as to the dedication of our staff. Our expectations were high. We expected our students to learn the physical side of archaeology, the actual excavation process which naturally includes much more than just digging, as well as the theory of archaeology, and the historical and art historical contexts of the Etruscan world. We therefore had an ambitious lecture schedule that included presentations by me, Susan Kane, and other members of the staff, as well as distinguished visiting scholars such as Professors Ingrid Edlund-Berry and Donald White. It is hard to listen to lectures, and to read and study, after a day of physically and mentally demanding labor. I am grateful to so many people for the success of the past season, but most of all I am thankful for the quality, intelligence, and humor of our students, many of whom, I hope, will continue in Mediterranean archaeology.



Professional Staff:

 Prof. Gregory Warden  Director  Southern Methodist University
 Prof. Susan Kane  Field Director  Oberlin College
 Jess Galloway  Architect  Booziotis & Co., Architects
 Prof. Sam Carrier  Information Technology  Oberlin College
 Kathy Windrow, MA, MFA  Illustrator  Eastfield College
 Jane Williams, MA  Conservator  Brooklyn Museum
 Karen Vellucci, MA  Ceramic Studies  University of Pennsylvania
 Prof. Donald White  Consultant  University of Pennsylvania
 Prof. Ingrid Edlund-Berry  Consultant  University of Texas at Austin
 Jerry Swendsen  Architectural Consultant  
 Prof. Paolo Canuti  Geologist  
 Prof. Frank Vento  Survey Director  Clarion University
 Dr. Jon Berkin  Survey Director  Goodwin Associates
 Dr. Dario Monna  Prospection  National Research Council, Italy
 Dr. Ivo Brunner  Prospection  National Research Council, Italy

Graduate Students and Returning Undergraduates:

 Julia Shear  Field Supervisor  University of Pennsylvania
 Michael Thomas  Field Supervisor  University of Texas at Austin
 Margaret Woodhull  Field Supervisor  University of Texas at Austin
 Brandt Heitzman  Operations Manager  Southern Methodist University
 Amy Neihengen  House Manager  University of Chicago
 Shawna Leigh  Cataloguer  University of Pennsylvania
 Abbi Holt  Assistant Supervisor  University of Virginia
 Jennifer Kerschner  Assistant Supervisor  Southern Methodist University
 Justin Winkler  Assistant Supervisor  Southern Methodist University
 Dan Gonzalez  Architectural Intern  Columbia University
 Beth Taylor    Southern Methodist University
 Shanna Kennedy    Southern Methodist University
 Susan Sanders    Southern Methodist University


 Sara Allen  University of Virginia
 Tofa Borregaard  Oberlin College
 Jessica Brown  Oberlin College
 Marian Drake  Bates College
 Patrick Fisher  George Washington University
 Karen Gardenier  Oberlin College
 Amanda Glikbarg  Savannah College of Art
 Lori Haylett  Clarion University
 Sarah Kupperberg  Oberlin College
 Charlotte Shiska  Clarion University
 Julie Smith  Clarion University
 Jennifer Sova  University of Texas at Austin
 Peter Swendsen  Oberlin College
 Cindy Tomasini  University of Puget Sound
 Antonio Trujillo  Oberlin College
 James Wolcott  Oberlin College

Master of Liberal Arts Students, SMU:

 Rachael Dedman
 Mary Dilworth
 Robert Eckelcamp
 Margery Huge
 Kevin Jenkins
 Nancy Kirk
 Darlene Kupke
 Keith Oncale



Cover. View of Unit 6 from the west.

Figure 1. Bronze head found in 1995 (Inv. no. 95-1).

Figure 2. The sandstone base discovered in 1995. (Inv. no. 95-100).

Figure 3. The 1996 site plan.

Figure 4. Bucchero vase (stand?) found in the south section of Unit 3. Inv. no. 96-138.

Figure 5. Wall in north end of Unit 8 showing re-used block.

Figure 6. The conservator, Jane Williams, wrapping the pithos in Unit 8.

Figure 7. The top of the pithos in situ with loom weights.

Figure 8. The new column base (#2) in situ under the north wall.

Figure 9. The south end of Unit 8 showing the two blocks that may form part of a foundation for a monumental structure.

Figure 10. View of Unit 6 from the east showing the new column base (#3) and the three new podium blocks.

Figure 11. Bucchero fragment from Unit 6. Inv. no. 96-251. Width: 0.032 m.

Figure 12. Bucchero fragment with stamped decoration. Inv. no. 96-189. Length: 0.038 m.

Figure 13. Bucchero rim fragment with incised decoration. Inv. no. 96-113. Length: 0.094 m.

Figure 14. Bucchero handle with cut-out decoration. Inv. 96-283. Width: 0.051 m.

Figure 15. Terracotta rocchetto with stamped decoration. Inv. 96-17. Diameter: 0.031 m.

Figure 16. Terracotta rocchetto with stamped decoration. Inv. no. 96-10. Diameter 0.030 m.


Donors and Supporters:

I am most grateful to Dr. Carole Brandt, Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, SMU, for her enthusiastic encouragement and support. Many of my colleagues and friends in the Meadows School, too numerous to mention, should also be thanked for their interest and support. I am also grateful to Dr. Ben Wallace, Office of International Programs, SMU, and his excellent staff, for his help in allowing us to run our field school through his office.

We also wish to acknowledge the support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, which provided a grant for the transportation expenses of the three graduate students who served as field supervisors. The Poggio Colla excavation project is also sponsored by Oberlin College and by the University of Pennsylvania Museum. We are grateful to Dr. Jeremy Sabloff. the Charles K. Williams II Director of the University Museum. Major funding was also provided by Mrs. Barbara Lemmon of Dallas.

Our many friends and supporters in Italy should also be mentioned. First of all, Dr. Francesco Nicosia, Soprintendente Archeologico della Toscana, without whose prescience, knowledge, and support this excavation would never have taken place, and Dr. Carlotta Cianferoni, Archaeological Inspector for the region. Andrea and Lorenza Santoni, their family, and the Gruppo Archeologico di Vicchio, have done so much to help us that it would take another volume to thank them properly. We also wish to thank the Mayor of Vicchio, Alessandro Bolognesi, the Cultural Assessor, Bruno Becchi, for all they have done for this project, the firm "Rosari Romano" for the loan of a storage shed, and the Associazione "il Paese" for hosting a lecture and dinner for the excavation staff. There many other friends who have helped us in so many ways: Giuseppe Ancarani, Luca and Monica Cateni, and Filippo Viola come immediately to mind. Dr. Mario Cyegelman and Dr. Mario Iozzo, of the Gabinetto di Restauro of the Soprintendenza Archeologica in Florence, have also assisted us greatly with conservation of the bronze head and the column base excavated in 1995.


1997 Annual Report

1998 Annual Report

1999 Annual Report