P. Gregory Warden

The True Story of the 2001 Season

Looters struck in the spring of 2001, and it became immediately clear that we had a problem. Our policy has been, since our initial season in 1995, to make all general information about the excavation available on the web site. We publish plans, photographs, and detailed reports on the finds. Our policy of total disclosure is idealistic, and it has presented methodological problems. For instance, how can we present information, data, before we properly understand the meaning of that data ourselves? But the bigger and-now-more obvious problem is that we have set ourselves up for looters. We might as well have printed up a map, marked the spot with an "X", and said "Dig Here. Here, right smack in the center of the temple, which we have carefully delineated and plotted for you, this is the place to dig!" The looters did just that, and after last season, we can be sure that they got away with something good. We know this because of what we found in the vicinity, in Trenches 21 and 22, and in the scarp of a Trench 19 (which had been opened in 2000).

Conservator Karen Stamm excavating the bronze schnabelkanne shown below.

For background on the looters' pit (in Trench 21) and the layout of the trenches in the western part of the monumental building, see the apposite web pages in the 2000 and 2001 reports. What I will present here is the untold story, the discoveries made in the 2001 season that we dared not publish on the web for fear of more looting, for the finds made in 2001 were indeed spectacular and surprising for a habitation site. It all began in Trench 21 where we cleaned out the looters' pit and bisected it leaving the northern part un-excavated. As the season progressed it became apparent that the looters had not cleaned everything out; that a great deal of metal remained. Indeed the looters in their haste-perhaps they were startled, or possibly found something so good that they did not need to bother to take the lesser stuff-had left a plastic bag that contained a sherd of decorated pottery, a small fine-ware vessel, and a series of bronze lumps, some quite heavy, that are clearly metal-working by-products, chunks of "runners," the residue of bronze casting. Well, we kept on finding metal, chunks of it, often unidentifiable, and as the season progressed we built up an inventory of remarkable small finds, for instance a large bronze boss (for a door) with some of the wood attached to the underside of the cap; a beautiful little palmette that served as a decorative attachment; or three pointed implements with acorn finials, too thick to be pins, possibly styli.



And then there were the coins. Up to this point we had found only a few identifiable coins, which we had stupidly illustrated on the web site and published in our excavation reports. Last season we found many more, over twenty bronze coins, many very well preserved, and interestingly they fall into the same two groups as the previous years: bronze coins struck in southern Latium and Campania in the second quarter of the third century BC (with the head of Athena on the obverse and a rooster on the reverse) and a series of Roman bronze coins of different denominations struck after 211 BC (with heads of various divinities on the obverse and a ship's prow on the reverse). It seems likely that there were other coins in this area and that the looters may well have made off with a hoard of bronze coins.

I had never really given serious consideration to the possibility that our site, or rather the settlement as opposed to the necropolis, might contain treasure. I probably should have, for if you really do have a temple, and I have no doubt that our monumental structure is just that, then you should have votive gifts, even votive deposits. The wealth of the site was confirmed later in the season, on the last day of excavation, when in Trench 22 one of the excavators came upon a lens of intrusive soil in the hard mud brick packing behind the west wall of the temple. That soil formed a pit in which was placed a single small Black Glaze pitcher that was extraordinarily heavy when it was lifted from the pit. It weighed about a kilo and we could see that it was filled to the brim with coins.

The coins appeared green at that point, so I thought that they were bronze coins, but our Head Conservator, Karen Stamm, removed two of them from the neck of the vase and upon cleaning they turned out to be silver, Roman "Victoriati," as they are called, struck after 211 BC. The coins have the head of Jupiter facing left on the obverse and a Victory, hence the nickname of Victoriati, crowning a trophy on the reverse, along with the inscription "ROMA." Since the excavation was coming to an end, we did not have time to perform proper conservation of the vase and its contents, and I therefore consigned it to the Gabinetto di Restauro of the Florence Archaeological Museum where it was looked after by a talented conservator and old friend Renzo Giachetti, who had worked with my teacher and mentor, Kyle Phillips, at Murlo. I hoped to return to Italy in October to find out more about the contents of the vase.

Two weeks before my return trip to Italy I received a fax from Dr. Mario Iozzo, Director of the Gabinetto di Restauro, congratulating us on the fact that they had removed 95 more silver Victoriati from the little vase, a grand total now of 97 coins, quite a hoard indeed.

Co-Directors: Gregory Warden and Michael Thomas
Excavation house phone during the field season: (011-39) 055-844-9834