Archaeologists unearth Etruscan temple at Vulci

The temple is believed to date to around the end of the 6th or beginning of the 5th century BC.

A previously unknown Etruscan temple has been discovered at the ancient city of Vulci, situated around 80km from Rome on the banks of the Fiora River, in the region of Lazio, central Italy.

Aerial view showing the position of the newly discovered temple (left) next to the Tempio Grande (right), which was excavated in the 1950s. Photo: Mariachiara Franceschini

A team of archaeologists, led by Dr Mariachiara Franceschini of the University of Freiburg and Paul Pasieka of the University of Mainz, made the discovery during a second season of excavation at the site.

Vulci was one of the most important urban centres of the Etruscan civilisation. Over the course of the Mid-Late Roman period, however, the city lost its significance.

Today, visitors to the Vulci Archaeological Natural Park can explore remains of the ancient city’s walls and gates, necropolis, and Roman aqueduct.

Archaeologists uncovering the walls of the temple in Vulci. Photo: Mariachiara Franceschini

The newly discovered temple, which measures 45m x 35m, lies just west of the Etruscan Tempio Grande – another sacred building excavated in the 1950s.

The first sections of temple wall were uncovered during excavations last summer, following a programme of geophysical and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) surveys conducted across an area of 22.5 hectares, in the northern part of Vulci.

So far, the team have uncovered the north-east corner of the temple, revealing foundation walls constructed with large tuff blocks.

‘The new temple is roughly the same size and on a similar alignment as the neighbouring Tempio Grande,’ explained Dr Franceschini. It appears to have also been built around the same time, at the end of the 6th or beginning of the 5th century BC, as indicated by artefacts recovered from its foundations.

‘This duplication of monumental buildings in an Etruscan city is rare, and indicates an exceptional finding,’ added Pasieka.

The excavations have also unearthed evidence of early Iron Age occupation that may be attributable to the earliest stages of the city’s formation, along with various architectural terracottas, including a series of Campana slabs (dated to the early Imperial Roman period) depicting Bacchic themes.

The excavation team during the summer 2022 dig. Photo: Mariachiara Franceschini

Locally produced Bucchero wares, among them Etruscan-geometric and Etrusco-Corinthian pottery, have been uncovered, along with finds of imported ceramics, many of which originate from Attica. These finds testify to Vulci’s prosperous trade connections across the Mediterranean.

Pasieka said that, as a result of the investigations, we are ‘now better able to understand the dynamics of settlement and the road system’ at Vulci, ‘besides identifying different functional areas in the city.’

It is hoped that further excavation at the newly discovered temple will shed more light on Etruscan religion.

The project is being conducted in collaboration with the Vulci Foundation, the Italian national monument authority, Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per la provincia di Viterbo e per l’Etruria meridionale, and with funding from the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the Gerda Henkel Foundation.