The Mugello Valley Archaeological Project and Poggio Colla Field School center on the excavation of Poggio Colla, an Etruscan settlement site in the Mugello near the modern town of Vicchio, about twenty miles northeast of Florence, Italy. The project is co-directed by Professor P. Gregory Warden, a Classical archaeologist and Associate Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, and by Professor Michael L. Thomas of The University of Texas Center for the Study of Ancient Italy. Sponsoring institutions include the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, Franklin and Marshall College, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.


View of the Mugello Valley, northeast of Florence in Tuscany, Italy

Poggio Colla was first excavated from 1968 to 1972 by Dr. Francesco Nicosia, the former Superintendent for the Archaeology of Tuscany. With Dr. Nicosia's permission and encouragement, the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project continued excavation in 1995. The research design of the project combines stratigraphic excavation with land survey and geophysical prospection to form an interdisciplinary regional landscape analysis of Poggio Colla and the surrounding area. We plan 20 years of field work followed by a series of comprehensive multi-authored reports. Additionally, we have published, and will continue to publish, timely interim reports in scholarly journals. These can be found in both Etruscan Studies and in the Journal of Roman Archaeology.

Map of the environs of Poggio Colla and Vicchio di Mugello

Poggio Colla was left untouched between 1972 and 1995, when the SMU/Penn excavations (Mugello Valley Archaeological Project) began. The initial season of the MVAP was conducted during July 1995, and excavation has progressed on an annual basis since that initial campaign. The excavation season normally runs from mid-June to the beginning of August.

View of Vicchio in the Mugello Valley from the southwest

Poggio Colla is important because it has undisturbed habitation layers that span much of Etruscan history. The site seems to have been inhabited by the Etruscans at least as early as the seventh century and was abandoned or destroyed in the late third century BCE. Excavations to date have revealed well-defined fortification walls, an extensive necropolis area, and the rare remains of an archaic monumental building, probably a temple. Poggio Colla was inhabited at least as early at the seventh century BCE, and had monumental architecture on its north-eastern flank, probably a temple, by the early sixth century. The site suffered a violent destruction and was then rebuilt during the Hellenistic period. Remains of the Hellenistic fortifications can still be seen on the three sides of the Poggio today.

Fortification walls at Poggio Colla

Excavation of Etruscan habitation sites has been rare, although in the past few decades some important habitation sites (for instance Murlo and Acquarossa) have increased our knowledge of Etruscan life substantially. Still, the Etruscans are known primarily from funerary remains, and much of our knowledge of Etruscans comes from the wealthy southern centers, Veii, Caere, and Tarquinia. One of the problems is that the Etruscans chose their sites so well that the major centers were repeatedly built upon in the Medieval and later periods. We know where the Etruscans had their major cities, places like Volterra, Orvieto, Cortona, and Fiesole, but the sites are covered over with modern towns or cities and are therefore almost impossible to excavate. Poggio Colla thus offers us an exceptional opportunity, to excavate and study an important Etruscan settlement, and to do so with up-to-date methods and technologies. The site of Poggio Colla should prove singularly important for the information it will provide about Etruscan urbanization, architecture, and daily life.

View to the north from the plateau of Poggio Colla

Of further importance is the archaeological topography of the Mugello basin, a region at the edge of the Apennines at the north-eastern periphery of Etruscan territory. This area is little-known archaeologically but could provide important information about Etruscan connections and trade routes with their Italic neighbors to the north and along the Adriatic coast to the east. Poggio Colla is located at a strategic location at the point where the broad Mugello basin narrows into the Sieve River Valley (Val di Sieve) that forms a natural communication route to the Arno, and hence to the region around Florence (Agro Fiorentino, as it was dubbed by Nicosia). The site is actually made up of two plateaus with a saddle of land in between. The northernmost plateau, Monte Sassi, has a dominant position over modern Vicchio and the Mugello. Poggio Colla, on the other hand, dominates the Val di Sieve and affords a more protected location.

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2012 Field Season 2011 Field Season
2010 Field Season 2009 Field Season
2008 Field Season 2007 Field Season
2006 Field Season 2005 Field Season
2004 Field Season 2003 Field Season
2002 Field Season 2001 Field Season
2000 Field Season 1999 Field Season
1998 Field Season 1998 Annual Report
1996 Annual Report 1997 Annual Report

For other scholarly reports and information, see the following:

Research Architecture
Publications Bibliography
Selection of Finds