Excavations at Poggio Colla (Vicchio di Mugello)

by Gregory Warden


Our first two seasons at Poggio Colla were so fruitful that it's hard to imagine that we could come back from our third season with even more to report, but in fact 1997 turned out to be our most successful campaign to date. We managed to answer, or at least to redefine, some of he major questions posed after our 1996 season, and at the same time, as should be the case in any scientific endeavor, we raised a whole new set of questions that already have us anticipating the new year and the prospects of another summer at Poggio Colla. I write these words while in Italy at the end of October 1997, as I prepare the requisite annual report for the Soprintendenza of Tuscany, and as I prepare to submit our request for a new permit. As the autumn deepens here in the Mugello, as farmers go through the annual rituals of grape gathering and chestnut harvests, it is a time to reflect on the work of last summer and to think ahead to the harvests of a future season. Archeology, I think, works in similar ways. When asked why we excavate for only six weeks out of the year, I answer that in this part of the world, at least, we can only count on good weather in late June, July, and early August. This is only part of the truth, however, for just six weeks of excavation turns up such a wealth of information that it takes us the full rest of the year to ferment and distill the data into a comprehensible picture that can then be used for further research and excavation. This process of distillation, in a less dramatic and more intellectual way, is just as satisfying as the process of excavation. The real discoveries are often made well after the trenches have been closed down for the summer.


The Site

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 three seasons, since 1995. Poggio Colla was first excavated (from 1968 to 1972) by Dr. Francesco Nicosia, the former Superintendent of the Archaeology of Tuscany. With Dr. Nicosia's permission and encouragement, the SMU excavations have revealed 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&emdash;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 may be the earliest one of these to have a monumental temple in situ.


Previous Seasons

The first season at Poggio Colla was only three weeks in length. That first brief season revealed the remains of monumental architecture that had first been noted by Dr. Nicosia as well as evidence for a surprisingly wealthy settlement: decorated bucchero of high quality, imported wares, and a bronze head from a votive figurine. (Figure 13).

The 1995 season focused on the center and northern edge of the site. (Trenches 1-3, Figure 1). 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 (Archaic-Classical Periods). The second phase is approximately fourth and third century BC in date (Late Classical-Hellenistic Periods). 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.

Figure 1. The 1997 site plan.

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, hereafter referred to as the "Monumental 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 1) The base 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 second season at Poggio Colla was a regular, six-week season that confirmed the site's potential. We continued to find evidence, in the form of superb Orientalizing bucchero, for the early prosperity of the settlement in the seventh and sixth centuries BC. We also continued to find evidence for monumental architecture, two more Tuscan column bases, and several more podium blocks. Our second base (counting the 1995 base as our first) was found under the northern monumental wall, flipped into the foundation trench of that wall in an area excavated by Dr. Nicosia. The third base was found at the eastern end of the southern monumental wall (Trench 6) next to three podium blocks which, we thought, had been aligned in the Hellenistic period to form the foundation of a wall. Here we seemed to have further later re-use of Archaic architecture from the site. In the 1996 season we also excavated a storage area on the north flank of the hill (Trench 8) that had been discovered by Dr. Nicosia. This area, of the Hellenistic phase, contained large storage jars (pithoi) filled with grain. The main question at the end of the 1996 season was the location of the Archaic monumental structure (which we suspected was a temple). A secondary and related question was the relationship of the two main occupations of the site. Was there continuous occupation, or was there some kind of interruption that might explain why we had evidence for sacred architecture in the early phase but no evidence for any similar architecture or context in the later phase?


The Excavations

The strategy of the 1997 season was conservative (Figure 1). We continued to excavate in three of the most productive areas on the north slope (Trenches 3, 6, and 8) and also extended Trench 1, the original sondage in the center of the hill. We also placed a new trench (Trench 9) in the center of the hill, about fifteen meters to the east of Trench 1. The overall strategy was to reveal the stratigraphy and architectural layout of the highest part the hill, the area that we have presumed was the acropolis, the area of the monumental building whose remains (three Tuscan column bases and numerous podium blocks) were found during the first two seasons of excavation.

The three northern trenches (3, 6, 8) are directly over the site's main architectural feature, the two previously mentioned monumental walls. These walls are perplexing. At the beginning of the season they were the only architectural feature from this later phase. This seemed odd indeed, a site whose only architecture consists of two walls on one edge of the hill, and we had dubbed the two walls a "building," even though they hardly seemed to constitute a structure; they are very thick, very close together, and almost thirty meters long (so far). We now believe that they are more likely terracing walls, possibly of different date, but it seemed clear to us, even last year, that there must be other architecture from the Hellenistic phase. A second consideration was that we had not yet found the foundations of any structure from the earlier (Archaic-Classical) period: we had plenty of pottery of that period, and massive architectural remains as well, but no original context for any of this material. Trench 9 was an attempt to rectify the situation, for in this area a 1995 magnetometer study by Prof. Frank Vento (Clarion University) had suggested underground features (walls, we hoped!) running in a direction oriented to the cardinal points rather than to the orientation of the sides of the hill.

Let's begin with Trench 6, the area where in 1996 we had unearthed the impressive (our third) Tuscan column base. This area was once again supervised by Michael Thomas, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas. His team included Matt Badanes (Oberlin), Caroline Darwin (SMU), Elayne Freidel (University of Pennsylvania), and Laura Proud (University of Virginia). This team continued to clean and define the area around the base and also extended the trench to the south in the direction of the three beautifully carved podium blocks, also unearthed in 1996.

Our priority here was as much one of conservation as excavation. The Tuscan base is made of local sandstone and has proved to be extremely fragile, subject to weathering from ground water and the damage of temperature changes. (These changes are more extreme once an area has been excavated.) Even though our conservator, Jane Williams, had bandaged and wrapped the base in 1996, it was clear that we could not leave the base in situ indefinitely; it would eventually have to be removed to our storerooms. We thus had to clear and define the area, to establish and document exhaustively the base's context before its removal. It seemed likely to us in 1996 that the base had been moved and reused, along with the podium blocks, but we were not at all certain about the nature of its new context. We believed that these blocks had been moved for several reasons. First, we have evidence that other monumental architectural remains from the Archaic phase were no longer in their original position. The first base, found in Trench 3 in 1995, had no foundation underneath it and was wedged up against a foundation wall. The second Tuscan base was upside-down in the bottom of the foundation trench of the northern monumental wall. The moulded blocks excavated by Dr. Nicosia at the northern edge of the site had been tossed in between the two monumental walls. Furthermore, the new blocks in Trench 6 do not seem to have any foundation supporting them and the column base continues the axis of the southern monumental wall; the impression is that they were put down here as the foundation for a later structure. Our suspicions, as it turned out, were confirmed by further excavation.

Figure 2. Detail of the 1997 site plan, showing the five areas
of excavation in the 1997 season: Trenches 1, 3, 6, 8, and 9.

The new, southern extension of Trench 6 (See plan, Figure 1) was designed to clarify these problems, and so it did. We left a half-meter baulk between the new and old areas to document the stratigraphy. As it turned out, the line of podium blocks did continue, and there turned out to be five of these blocks in all. (Figure 2) They form a line that continues to the south, at which point another wall, a stone rubble foundation, abuts into it from the west. This foundation can be seen on the left side of Figure 2. We have now defined three sides of a structure that dates to the Hellenistic phase of the site (the date is based both on the fabric and orientation of the south wall and on the pottery associated with the stratum of the architectural remains). This structure employs elements of the earlier architecture, the column base on the north, and the podium blocks on the east. The structure's western end is still unexcavated.

One thing that became clear, thanks to extremely careful excavation by Michael Thomas and his team, was that the podium blocks had been roughly re-cut to make them less tall (there is a jagged line on their underside) and they had been placed in a way that left their top moulded edge exposed. When the structure was destroyed, its tile roof crashed down on the outside (eastern edge), and the tile fall (Figure 3) rests on the edge of the blocks. This might indicate that the eastern edge of the building was open and that the blocks formed a kind of raised or stepped area. In fact, the southernmost block is badly worn and its upper edge has been chewed away, as if from heavy traffic. The blocks and column base were re-used not merely as fill for the foundation trenches of later walls, as was the case with our second Tuscan base, but in a decorative manner, so that the moulded edges of the blocks could be seen. The nature of the building is still unclear, but the re-use of decorative blocks suggests that it had certain pretensions.

Figure 3. View of Trench 6 from the west showing the Tuscan column
base (#3) and the line of five re-used podium blocks. Note the new rubble
foundation on the left and the pit in the center left behind the podium blocks.

Finds from Trench 6, so far, do not add much to the general interpretation: there is pottery both inside and outside the building, and this pottery includes the Black-Glaze that helps us attribute the structure to the later phase. Another bronze coin was found, alas unidentifiable, the third bronze coin found in this area. The most unusual feature is the large pit in the center of the structure; it can be clearly seen in Figure 4, a photograph taken after the baulk between the old and new excavations was removed. The pit was filled with carbon and dark earth, and is about the size of the large column base to its north.

Figure 4. View of Trench 6, showing tile fall
on podium blocks. Photo: Michael Thomas.

Because so many questions remain about this structure, and because the whole structure needs to be excavated in 1998, we decided to leave the column base and podium blocks in place for another season. The base was again bandaged, and the trench was back-filled. This was an agonizing decision that had to be made well before the season was complete, for the removal of such monumental architecture is complicated and requires coordination with conservation experts from the Gabinetto di Restauro of the Museo Archeologico di Firenze, as well as with the Comune of Vicchio and its mayor, Alessandro Bolognesi, who provide manpower and transport. My decision to leave the blocks in situ for at least another season was based on the belief that the context of the structure was more important than the preservation of its parts; that is, that context is more important than the value of a column base or podium block. That is not to say that preservation of objects is not important, but I did not feel comfortable removing a large section of what seems to be an important structure, thus destroying part of this structure, before it could be fully excavated, documented, and analyzed. I feel comfortable with this decision at the moment, but it will be with some trepidation that we will re-open the trench in June of 1998, hoping that the column base and its brethren will have weathered well the winter rains and cold.

The problem of conservation also pertains to the beautiful podium blocks excavated by Nicosia and left interred between the two walls on the north flank of the hill. They have been excavated several times now, and this year we decided to move them into new quarters, two rooms in the basement of the Museo Beato Angelico in Vicchio. These rooms, in the newly refurbished museum of sacred art, are large, clean, well-lighted spaces that will serve as study areas for visiting scholars and as clean storage space for monumental finds. This past summer we moved several of Nicosia's podium blocks from the site to these rooms. Next summer we plan to have metal scaffolding built and to begin moving material here from the processing rooms in the House of Giotto. In any case, conservation is a major consideration, and the success of the excavation, the proliferation of finds of almost every kind, has increased pressure for storage and study space. The removal of the podium blocks from the north end of the site will allow us, eventually, to continue excavation in that interesting and promising area.

While excavation in Trench 6 provided our first evidence for the architecture of the site's later phase, the major question that we wanted to answer this year was the original placement of the archaic building, the 'temple' whose existence we had postulated on the basis of the three monumental Tuscan column bases and numerous podium blocks found during our first two seasons and by Dr. Francesco Nicosia in his 1968-1972 excavations. At the end of the 1996 season had postulated that two large blocks in Trench 8 might have formed the foundation of the temple. This hypothesis was based on the size and quality of the blocks; they are much larger than the blocks normally found in walls at the site, and also of better manufacture, well finished and squared. Also, the blocks are aligned in a north-south direction and they form the only wall at the site that is oriented to the cardinal points (all the other walls are oriented to the edges of the plateau).

This summer we extended Trench 8, under the direction of Abbi Holt (University of Virginia). Her team included Frances Bolton (Georgetown University), Jill Brockelman (Oberlin), Richard Marius (University of Michigan), and Emily Zeugner (Oberlin). Abbi's careful excavation of this area revealed that the blocks were set on bedrock and that they continue to the south. (Figure 5) They must have formed a massive foundation for a very large building, and I am now convinced by their size and orientation, as well as by the stratigraphy, that they formed the foundations of the early temple. The orientation is especially telling because Etruscan temples were normally oriented to the cardinal points and often faced south. The evidence of the fabric and size of the blocks, coupled with their orientation and their placement at the highest point of the hill, seems to me to be conclusive. An early temple, as was postulated by Dr. Nicosia after his excavations, existed here and was violently destroyed, even dismembered, sometime in the fifth or forty centuries BC. The temple had a beautifully finished podium and large sandstone bases. In fact, this temple may have had more than single phase judging by the difference in the moldings of the bases and podium blocks. The temple almost certainly dates to the sixth or early fifth century BC judging by the profiles of the bases, the terracotta antefix found here as a stray find in 1992, and by the pottery and other finds associated with the early phase of the site.

Figure 5. View of Trench 8 showing the foundation of the
monumental Archaic structure, the large blocks just right of center.

The destruction of the temple must have been especially violent. Only a few massive blocks remain in place. The archaic material comes from mostly disturbed deposits, and looks as if the entire site was heavily rearranged in the later periods. In fact, our extension of Trench 8 has revealed several walls of later date, forming part of later structures directly above the foundations of he Archaic temple. (Figure 6) These later walls await further excavation and explication in the coming season, but they promise to help unravel the complex history of the site.

Figure 6. Aerial view of Trench 8 showing abutting walls
and paving blocks? of varying fabric and/or period.

Two of the most interesting finds that reveal the nature and wealth of the earlier phases at Poggio Colla came from Trench 8. The first is the exceptionally well preserved bronze appliqué in the form of a satyr head (cover illustration), found in the southern scarp of the trench. This satyr formed part of a handle for a bronze situla, probably part of a pair of masks on either side of the bucket. Swing handles would have been inserted through the loops at the top of the head. Judging by its style, the head dates to the first half of the fifth century BC. It was found in a mixed stratum that included both early material and later pottery such as Black Glaze. Its circumstance is similar to that of the exceptional Archaic bronze head that we found in 1995. I suspect that these bronzes, as well as other more mundane bronze objects that we are finding at the site, are a kind of metallic detritus from the early phase, bronzes that were part of larger objects (probably dedications) from which they broke off and remained unobserved in the earth fill that was used in the modifications of the later phase. As is the case with our exceptional Orientalizing and early Archaic bucchero, they are evidence for a wealthy early phase at Poggio Colla.

Figure 7. Attic Red-Figure sherd from Trench 8.
Fifth century BC. Inv. no. 97-110a.

The other important find from Trench 8, again found in a corner of the trench, embedded in the southern balk, is a fragment of what seems to be an Attic Red Figure cup (Figure 7), the largest of several fragments of imported fine ware from this corner of the trench. The figural decoration of this fragment shows the upper torso and left arm of a male figure. The line of the pectoral muscles, left nipple, and navel are clearly indicated. Professor Keith De Vries of the University of Pennsylvania has looked at a photograph of the sherd and has suggested, based on the foreshortening of the breast and arm, that the vase dates to the second quarter of the fifth century BC, a date comparable to our date for the bronze satyr head.

Figure 8. Openwork wing handle from a bucchero cup.
Trench 3. Seventh century BC. Inv. no. 97-68.

One of the most perplexing phenomena of our site has been the near absence of clear Orientalizing and Archaic (7th-5th century BC) strata. So much work went on in the later phase, terracing, rebuilding, re-cutting, that we have encountered very little original architecture, and very little undisturbed stratigraphy of the early periods. That the site was inhabited as early as the middle of the seventh century BC seems clear from the ceramic evidence, but it seems that all the early material from the top of the hill was moved about in the late Classical and Hellenistic periods. The only exceptions are from the edges of the hill, in an area where the strata are deeper and where the later re-terracing had little effect on the deepest levels. Some of the most interesting early pottery from the site has surfaced in Trench 3 which this year was supervised by Christian Wells, a Ph.D. candidate at Arizona State University. The Trench 3 excavation team included Rebekah De Wit (University of Maryland), Harriet Fleming (UCLA), Amber Gozney (SMU) and Jessica Walton (Oberlin). Christian and his team continued to excavate in the area that had been opened up in 1995 and 1996 and managed to finish excavating the middle and southern parts of the trench; Trench 3 is divided into three parts by the two monumental walls at the northern end of the site. (Figure 1) The northern sector, where the strata are extraordinarily deep still awaits completion.

Figure 9. Two fragments of a bucchero strap handle decorated with a
row of sphinxes. Seventh century BC. Trench 8. Inv. no. 97-22a-b.

One of the more interesting revelations in Trench 3 was that there is an undisturbed early stratum, seventh to sixth century in date, of heavily burned earth. This stratum runs under the monumental walls and was only partially disturbed by their construction. Included in this carbonized earth are some exceptionally fine examples of bucchero, the characteristically Etruscan black ware. Most dramatic are two beautiful openwork wing handles for a fine drinking cup, one of which is illustrated in Figure 8. Another such handle was found in 1996 (published in our 1996 annual report: fig.
14). Vases with handles of this type are quite rare and exceptional, and they make it clear that Poggio Colla was a very wealthy place indeed in the seventh century BC. Also extraordinary are the two fragments of a bucchero handle (Figure 9), again seventh century BC in date, decorated with two striding sphinxes. The sphinxes are truly a delight with their bug eyes and prominent, rather goofy-looking, profiles. Finally, we might also note the tubular neck of an exceptional bucchero vase (Figure 10), decorated with stamped deer, rouletted horizontal rows, and stamped
concentric circles. The deer stamps have good parallels with material from Artimino, on the Arno River to the west of Florence. Trench 3 has by now produced an impressive variety of decorated bucchero, much of it late Orientalizing, that is, late seventh century BC in date.

Figure 10. Fragment of a cylindrical neck of a bucchero vessel, decorated
with stamped deer. Trench 3. Seventh century BC. Inv. no. 97-67.

Trench 3 has also revealed much new information about the nature of the two monumental walls and of the later phase of the site, thanks to Christians careful excavation and excellent observations. In an earlier report I suggested that the history of Poggio Colla may only be unlocked through a careful study of the walls, their construction techniques and chronology. In Trench 3 this past summer we began to gather and analyze some of this important evidence. It became clear that a spur wall in the north-eastern part of the trench, one of the many spur walls that subdivides the northernmost edge of the hill, is later in date that the northern monumental wall into which it abuts, and that the spur wall is also very different in technique. We also discovered that the northern monumental wall may be later than the southern monumental wall, and that it (the southern wall) probably has more than one phase. One part of this southern wall (Figure 11) is quite peculiar; some of the stones have been robbed out to form a niche, and one of the lower stones is quite large, well squared, has a cutting in its side, and matches the fabric of the foundations of the temple in Trench 8. Another such massive block, again suspiciously similar to the blocks of the temple foundation, was also cleared in the south end of Trench 3. If we remember that it was in Trench 3, in 1995, that we found our first Tuscan base, it seems likely that several pieces of the Archaic temple were moved down here, some of them re-used in the later construction. Our second Tuscan base is still interred, up-side down, in the northern monumental wall just east of Trench 8.

Figure 11. Drawing of Trench 3, viewed from north, showing the north monumental wall
with robbed-out section (to left) and reconstructed pithos (front left). Drawn by Nick Griffiths.

In the north-west corner of Trench 3 we continued to find evidence that the northern slope was terraced into a series of storage areas. Here we found a third large storage jar (two others had been found in the northern edge of Trench 8, just a few meters to the west of the present one). This vessel was crushed and its rim may have toppled farther down the north slope, but the majority of the body was still in place. Among the vessel's body fragments were large concentrations of grain, now carbonized and probably barley, that had been stored in the vase. (Figure 12) These seeds, along with other paleo-botanical remains from the site, will be analyzed by Sarah Kupperberg (Oberlin) this coming year. Sarah has written an excellent senior thesis on our botanical evidence, and she is now working with Dr. Naomi Miller of MASCA, the applied science arm of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology. Sarah has undertaken an exhaustive program of botanical collection from all trenches and strata at the site, a program which last summer produced a wealth of new material. She plans to return to Poggio Colla next summer to continue this project.. Much new evidence for the later economy of the site is forthcoming in Trench 3 and other areas on the north slope.

Figure 12. The large storage jar (pithos) in the north-west
corner of Trench 3, now crushed, with carbonized grain.

The fourth area of excavation, and yet another area where we were continuing work begun back in 1995, is the center of the hill. Trench 1 was one of our original sondages (test-trenches) that was intended, along with Trench 2, to give us a clearer understanding of the site's stratigraphy at the beginning of the first season. This it did, although no architectural remains turned up in this area, the very center of the hill. The one surprise from this trench was the bronze head from an Archaic votive figurine, mentioned above and illustrated in our 1996 report. Susan Kane and I will publish this head (Figure 13) in a forthcoming issue of Etruscan Studies. The fact that this head turned up in the western baulk of the trench led us to extend the trench in that direction in 1996. In that year's report I mentioned that we had found some tantalizing finds (a beautifully finished stone disk, a terracotta disk, some bronze fragments) that would keep us working in that area in 1997. We thus extended the trench farther to the south.

Figure 13. The bronze head found in 1995. Trench 1. Inv. 95-1. Drawn by Nick Griffiths.

The excavation of this new area was supervised by Melissa Stoltz (Oberlin). Her team included Mary Lindsey Bateman (SMU), Kimiko Domoto-Reilly (Harvard), Sonja Krefting (Oberlin), and Noah Mewborne (Oberlin). Little did I realize that the students, when they were assigned to different trenches and trench supervisors at the beginning of the season, decided that Trench 1 was the most unappetizing of the trenches. Why so, I am not sure, possibly because no architectural remains had appeared and they thought that the bronze head was a fluke. I only realized their distaste for poor old Trench 1 after the season was over, when I read an article by Geoff Mulvihill in the Philadelphia Inquirer (Monday, September 1, 1997). Geoff, a newspaper reporter, had visited us, worked in Trench 1, and then published his experiences. He revealed a truly pessimistic streak in Trench 1 at the beginning of the season. I quote from his article: "Warden, an art history professor at SMU, said there's easily another decade's worth of digging to do at Poggio Colla. Some people at the project would rather it be done in areas other than Trench 1. Word was, it was a bum trench." Well, I am happy to report that "Warden's Folly" had a happy ending. Geoff went on to write about his surprise at what eventually turned up, some of the most important new evidence for the later architecture at the site. The success of Trench 1, I am afraid, is not the result of any great insight on my part; it is merely evidence that Poggio Colla is an extraordinarily rich site. And by the way, another decade is not nearly enough; to get any real insight of the site's complexity would require several decade's work.

Figure 14. View of Trench 1 from the west showing the two parallel walls.

What was revealed in the southern part of Trench 1 (Figure 14) were two parallel walls, actually the foundations of walls, one at a slightly higher level than the other, that run in an east-west direction. At this point we have only cleared a small section of the walls, but I think that we have hit a small part of two buildings, of different dates, that sat on the southern flank of the site. The northernmost foundation is the earlier one. It is made of large, well-dressed blocks of sandstone. The second wall, just a few inches to the south, is later in date and is made up of stone rubble, the kind of
fabric that characterizes the later walls in Trenches 6 and 8. It is difficult to be certain at this early stage, but I would hazard that the earlier building was destroyed, a second similar building was built just south of the previous building, and the area to the north of this new building, directly over the earlier wall was filled in with earth that contained a wealth of broken pottery and other fragmentary finds. Most interesting was the material north of the second wall: numerous doughnut-shaped terracotta loom weights and lots of utilitarian pottery. They can be seen clearly in the foreground of Figure 15. This evidence is particularly tantalizing; might there have been an outdoor weaving area here? We have evidence of this kind from the Etruscan site of Acquarossa, near Viterbo in southern Etruria. Trench 1 will certainly be continued to be excavated in the next few years.

Figure 15. South east corner of the 1997 extension of Trench 1 showing
crushed pottery and doughnut-shaped loom weights between the walls.

Similar evidence was forthcoming in Trench 9 (Figure 1), our new trench in the center of the hill, about twenty meters east of Trench 1. We decided to excavate here because of a geo-prospective survey conducted by Dr. Dario Monna of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche in Rome, Italy's National research Institute. Dr. Monna's researches had revealed some anomalies in this area that we decided to investigate.

Figure 16. Trench 9 under excavation viewed from the north-west.

Trench 9 was supervised by Justin Winkler (SMU). His team included Mindy Biancardi (University of Texas at Austin), James Caldwell (SMU), Jocelyn DeShon (SMU), Brad Hutchison (Ohio State University), and Jesse Kelly-Landes (University of Texas at Austin). Once again, we came down on some new architecture: a wall in the south end of the trench that seems to be aligned with the south wall of Trench 1, and possibly another wall, running north-south, in the eastern part of Trench 9. (Figure 16) Here the bedrock is quite high up, resulting in very shallow strata. There may also be post-holes in the northern part of Trench 9, but the overall plan of the architecture is difficult to fathom at the moment. Part of the difficulty is a huge chestnut stump in the middle of the trench which, as often seems to be case, sits right on top of the most important feature, an extensive tile fall. (Figure 17) Whatever building existed here in the later phase of the site, that structure came crashing down and its roof fell straight down into the building's interior. This heavy tile fall, once the pieces have been assembled and studied, should provide us with more information about the nature of the Hellenistic architecture at Poggio Colla. We have some new types of tiles from Trench 9, but more importantly, we have more evidence for the urban structure of the upper part of the hill. We started our season, as you will recall, baffled by the fact hat we had two monumental walls, on the northern edge of the hill, but little else. Now, in Trenches 6, 8, 1, and 9, we have extensive (though at this point fragmentary) evidence for architecture of the Hellenistic period.

Figure 17. Trench 9, showing the tile fall embedded under a chestnut root.

One of the more interesting finds from Trench 9 was a fragment of a vase that links our site with the nearby Etruscan settlement at San Piero a Sieve. This sherd (Figure 18) is the rim of a plate. The fabric is yellowish and rather gritty, tending towards the kind of ceramic that we would classify as "coarse" rather than "fine" ware, but the fragment is beautifully decorated with a row of stamped palmettes outside of another row, this one of impressed "tridents" (for lack of a better descriptive term for these three-stroke motifs). Similarly decorated pottery has been found in the excavation
of a ceramics' manufacturing area at San Piero a Sieve a nearby site where a predilection for stamped coarse ware was documented. The excavators at that site have reconstructed plates such as ours as large stands or serving trays, for they seem to have been made in one piece with a tall stand or support. In this regard, the large stand that we published in our 1996 report (Fig. 4 in that publication) may have been of similar type. In any case, we now have a firm ceramic link to our neighboring site to the north.

Figure 18. Fragment of impasto (coarse ware) plate with impresses decoration,
a type of vessel found at the nearby site of San Piero a Sieve. Trench 9. Inv. no. 97-11.



It is becoming a standard refrain for me to say, in each succeeding annual report, how much we have found but how little we know. We still have a lot to learn, but we have also learned a great deal in the past season. We have a much clearer sense of the layout of the Hellenistic architecture. We can now differentiate between two kinds of wall foundations: the earlier walls (in Trenches 1 and 8, and possibly a few blocks in Trench 3) are made of larger, better-squared blocks. We can be more certain that we have found part of the monumental Archaic structure to which the column bases and podium blocks probably belonged. The alignment of this structure suggests our hypothesis that it was a temple. We have more evidence for the agrarian economy of the Hellenistic phase. We have even more evidence for the impressive wealth of the site, and for its wide trading contacts, from the seventh to the fifth century BC.

One season has produced a great deal of evidence that will have to be put into the context of a broad and extensive research project. That project includes continued geo-physical prospection at the site by Dr. Dario Monna and his colleagues at the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche. It also includes the integration of archaeological and geological evidence, a project which will be coordinated by Professor Paolo Canuti of the University of Florence and his colleagues and students. In this regard, I should also note that we have undertaken a study of the local sandstone with the aim of finding out more about quarrying and stone working at the site. This study is being done by Dr. Christopher Hayward, Natural History Museum London, in collaboration with Prof. Norman Herz, University of Georgia. We are grateful to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for a grant that allowed us to begin the project.

Also important is a survey project that will begin in the spring of 1998 and continue, we hope, for several seasons. This project will begin with an archeo-topographic mapping of the area immediately around Poggio Colla by Dr. Mark Corney of the University of Bristol (UK). Dr. Corney is an experienced surveyor who has dealt with difficult terrain of the type that we have in the vicinity of Poggio Colla. His researches will be coordinated with Dr. David Romano of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology who will oversee the broader research projects that involve survey, geology, and geoprospection. In this regard I am grateful for our collaboration with the University Museum which, after all, is one of the premier organizations in the world for archaeological research.

One of the pleasures of excavating at Poggio Colla this summer was to have so many colleagues visit the site. Our proximity to Florence, in the center of things, so to speak, has allowed many friends and colleagues to visit us. Their advice and opinions are much appreciated. I am especially grateful to Prof. Erika Simon for her visit and for a sterling lecture on Etruscan religion which was greatly appreciated by both students and staff. It was also a pleasure to greet our colleagues excavating at other Etruscan sites: Prof. Erik Nielsen, director of the Poggio Civitate (Murlo) project, Prof. Nancy De Grummond, director of the Cetamura excavations, and Prof. Jane Whitehead, director of the La Piana archaeological project and editor of Etruscan Studies. Dr. Patricia Lulaf of the Satricum excavations, Dr. Stefano Giuntoli, of the Massa Marittima excavations, and Dr. Claudio Bizzari, who has worked extensively around Orvieto, added an international flavor to our pantheon of archaeological guests. Finally, visits by Prof. Larissa Bonfante (NYU), Prof. John Dobbins (University of Virginia), Prof. Charles Williams (University of Pennsylvania), Prof. David Romano (University of Pennsylvania), and Dr. Carole Brandt (Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU) were also a great pleasure.

We once again have an ambitious project of excavation and research planned for 1998. I have already mentioned the survey by Dr. Mark Corney, planned for April of next year. Next summer we plan to continue to focus on the center of the hill in the area of the temple and monumental walls. We also plan to continue excavation of the new buildings on the south flank (Trench 1). In walking the plowed fields, last March and this past October, on some lower terraces to the north of the poggio, Andrea Santoni and I noticed that deep plowing had disturbed what seem to be the remains of Etruscan structures. We have applied for a permit to excavate in this area, and we plan to sink at least one trench on one of these terraces next summer. We hope that by doing so we may gain some sense of the greater settlement pattern of the region, as well as to preserve the archaeological remains on these lower terraces from further encroachment and damage.

As the excavation has grown in scale and scope, I have also begun to formulate a publication plan. We will continue to publish short reports on excavation results and on any object or any group of artifacts that deserve individual attention. For instance, a report on the first two seasons of excavation is forthcoming in the next issue of Etruscan Studies. An article on the bronze head found in the 1995 season will appear in the following issue of this same journal. Prof. Sam Carrier (Oberlin) plans to have a new CD-ROM, on the 1996 and 1997 seasons, out by the end of the year, I will also continue to write annual reports such as this one, eschewing footnotes and other scholarly apparatus, geared to a general audience of friends and supporters. The long-term plan is to excavate in four or five year increments, and to have a study season after each period of excavation. After each study season, we hope to publish a monograph that summarizes the excavation results as well as the current state of research on the more important classes of materials from Poggio Colla. This would be a collaborative effort that involves all the scholars and students working on material from the site. In this way we might avoid the bane of many large-scale excavation projects that proceed over a long period of time, a resulting mass of information that only gets published, if at all, well after the excavation has been completed.



Professional Staff

Director Prof. Gregory Warden, Southern Methodist University
Research Director Prof. Susan Kane, Oberlin College
Architect Jess Galloway; M.Arch., Booziotis & Co., Dallas
 Technology Professor Sam Carrier, Oberlin College
 Materials Processing Karen Vellucci, University of Pennsylvania
 Conservator Jane Williams, Independent Practice
 Geology Prof. Paolo Canuti, Università di Firenze
 Geology Prof. Norman Herz, University of Georgia
 Geology Dr. Christopher Hayward, London, Mus. Natural History
 Geology Riccardo Fanti, Università di Firenze
 Geophysicist Dr. Dario Monna, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
 Survey Consultant Mark Corney, University of Bristol
 Illustration Kathy Windrow, Eastfield College
 Illustration Nick Griffiths
 Field Supervisor Abbi Holt, University of Virginia
 Field Supervisor Michael Thomas, University of Texas at Austin
 Field Supervisor Christian Wells, Arizona State University  
 Field Supervisor Justin Winkler, Southern Methodist University
 Field Supervisor Melissa Stoltz, Oberlin College
 Research Assistant Sarah Kupperberg, Oberlin College
 Research Assistant Tofa Borregard, Oberlin College
 Media Assistant James Leutz, Oberlin College
 Conservation Asst. Suzanne Davis, New York University

Field School Particpants

 Matt Badanes  Oberlin College
 Mary Lindsey Bateman  Southern Methodist University
 Mindy Biancardi  University of Texas at Austin
 Frances Bolton  Georgetown University
 Jill Brockelman  Oberlin College
 James Caldwell  Southern Methodist University
 Caroline Darwin  Southern Methodist University
 Jocelyn DeShon  Southern Methodist University
 Rebekah DeWit  University of Maryland at Baltimore
 Kimiko Domoto- Reilly  Harvard University
 Harriet Fleming  UCLA
 Alayne Freidel  University of Pennsylvania
 Pamela Generie  Johns Hopkins University
 Amber Gozney  Southern Methodist University
 Brad Hutchison  Ohio State University
Jesse Kelly-Landes  U. Texas at Austin
 Sonja Krefting  Oberlin College
 Richard Marius  University of Michigan
 Noah Mewborn  Oberlin College
 Laura Proud  University of Virginia
  Archie Stone  University of California at Berkeley
 Jessica Walton Oberlin College 
 Emily Zeugner  Oberlin College


Donors and Supporters

I am most grateful to Dean Carole Brandt, Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, for her continuing support of the Poggio Colla project. Thanks should also be expressed to colleagues at Southern Methodist University for their interest and encouragement, foremost among them Dr. Ben Wallace and his staff (Karen Westergaard, Sandra Trostle, and Mary Beth Lewis) in the Office of International Programs. I am also grateful to colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, especially to Dr. Jeremy Sabloff, Charles K. Williams II Director of the museum, as well as to Dr. David Romano, Keeper of the Collections, Mediterranean Section, and to Karen Vellucci (Director of Publications) and her staff. Finally, I am most indebted to Roberth Eckelcamp, Dallas, for his great help with development, fund-raising, and organization of our "Friends of Archaeology" group. I also wish to thank Becky Sykes, Director of Development for the Meadows School of the Arts, SMU, for her support and encouragement. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for a grant that allowed us to begin our study of stone extraction at the site by bringing Dr. Christpher Hayward and Prof. Norman Herz to Poggio Colla. A grant from the Etruscan Foundation helped defray the expenses of our intern in conservation, Suzanne Davis.

Major funding was once again provided through the generosity of Mrs. Barbara Lemmon, Dallas.

Our friends in Italy, without whose support our work would not be possible, should also be acknowledged. First of all, I should note Dr. Angelo Bottini, Soprintendente Archeologico della Toscana, for permission to work at Poggio Colla, as well the Archaeological Inspector of our area, Dr. Luca Fedeli, for his help and good counsel. Dr. Carlotta Cianferoni and Dr. Stefano Bruni have also been generous with their time. Andrea and Lorenza Santoni, their family, and the Gruppo Archeologico di Vicchio, have done so much to help us that it is difficult to thank them properly in this short space. We also wish to express our gratitude to 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 two lecture and dinners for the excavation staff, including a 4th of July party that made our students feel at home in Vicchio. There many other friends who have helped us in so many ways: Giuseppe Ancarani of Dicomano, whose enthusiasm for local archaeology is infectious, Luca and Monika Cateni, for helping arrange housing and helping us in so many other ways as well, and Filippo Viola, on whose land the wonderful finds described in this report were found. Dr. Mario Cyegelman and Dr. Mario Iozzo, of the Gabinetto di Restauro of the Soprintendenza Archeologica in Florence, should also be noted for their help in matters of conservation.


Major funding was provided by:



We are also grateful to:

Prince Livio Borghese, New York

Mary Ann Danenberg, Oberlin

William and Anabel Perlik, Oberlin

John and Martha Price, Philadelphia

The Etruscan Foundation

1996 Annual Report

1998 Annual Report

1999 Annual Report