The Etruscan settlement lay nestled on the Poggio di Sermugnano, in the municipality of Castiglione in Teverina, until it came to light by chance during roadworks in 2013. On that occasion, portions of important archaeological structures and stratigraphies were discovered, which were saved from the raids of looters who would have erased the most important traces. Instead, thanks to the timely intervention of the Superintendence, we can still admire them, the discovery having revealed to us one of the most important sites for the reconstruction of Etruscan daily life. Our knowledge is actually based almost exclusively on the study of tombs, but in this case we are dealing with a residential building of a small Etruscan community, which was violently destroyed by fire, but which has remained in the same state until today, collapsed on itself, thus protecting all that was left inside for centuries, and coming back to us as a breath-taking snapshot of its last day of life. The elevated position with respect to the gentler plain, and the undisturbed view as far as the banks of the Tiber, suggest that it was a strategic point of control at a time when Roman incursions into Etruscan territory were becoming increasingly insistent and dangerous. The destruction that marked the end of life on the Poggio di Sermugnano seems, in fact, to be attributable to one of the military episodes that characterised the last phase of the clash with Rome, probably the campaigns of the Roman consul Tiberius Coruncanio in 280 BC, which also marked the end of the main centres of Vulci and Volsinii, as well as the definitive conquest of Etruscan territory. Archaeologists are still excavating to make new discoveries and collect new data. So far, they have unearthed the 'vase room' for storing and preserving food, oil, and wine, and the 'loom room' for textile production. Thanks to their work and the recording of all the stages of the excavation, we can look at the site through the eyes of an archaeologist and browse through it as if it were a scrapbook of all the episodes in the building's history: life, fire, collapse, and finally abandonment.
STANZA DEI VASI
The food storage room (Stanza dei vasi) is one of the rooms unearthed by the archaeologists with everything inside, which had been crushed under the rubble on the last day of the building's life. It is a large, fairly sheltered room illuminated by small windows. The floor is covered with large vessels for storing oil and wine, cereals and wild apples, as established by laboratory analysis of the charred remains still present at the bottom of some vessels. The room would have had wooden tables and shelves, which have not been preserved, on which bowls, saucers and small vessels rested. The storeroom worker took the products and carefully closed the mouths of the pots, even with fresh clay caps that he kneaded there and then and on which his fingerprints remained, which have now been found during excavations. A small glimpse that opens a little window on the daily life and eating habits of the Etruscans, in their last snapshot before the end.
LISTEN TO THE AUDIO
STANZA DEI TELAI
Opposite the Room of the Vases is another large room. Here too, archaeologists first found the collapsed walls and roof, which preserved what was present at the time of the building's destruction and which had survived the fire and the passage of time. The walls, in this case, were not preserved in their elevation because, unlike the Room of the Vases, they did not rest on walls excavated in the tufa stratum and, therefore, they collapsed completely. During the excavations, it was a real surprise to find one, then ten, then fifty... up to about one hundred and twenty loom weights and other small tools for weaving, such as spools for winding the thread or spindles, used for spinning. The loom weights are a sort of brick in the shape of a truncated pyramid with a square base, made of terracotta, with a hole at the top for the threads to pass through. The threads were attached to the loom at one end and were kept perfectly straight and taut by these bricks, which were left hanging at the other end of the loom. This is an exceptional find: such objects were usually part of the grave goods of women in antiquity, and therefore found in small quantities in tombs. In this case, a large number of weights found in an almost aligned position (so much so that it is thought that they were still attached to the frame at the time of the fire) conceal a further surprise: there is a symbol engraved on the head of each of them. Some of them can be traced back to letters of the Etruscan alphabet, others are stylised figures such as a net that could indicate a piece of cloth, a leaf, a floral motif or other geometric motifs. This discovery is a real treasure for archaeologists who will study and try to decipher what is hidden behind each of these symbols!l
LISTEN TO THE AUDIO