Exploring Etruscan endurance

Recent investigations in southern Tuscany have found a Late Etruscan and Roman Republican village, manufacturing district, sanctuary, and a necropolis.

A 2nd-century BC burial site under excavation in Italy is revealing insights into the continuing of Etruscan traditions in one small community after the Roman conquest of this part of Etruria. As part of the Interconnected Mobility of People and Economy along the River Ombrone (IMPERO) project, archaeologists led by Alessandro Sebastiani of the University of Buffalo have been exploring the southern Tuscan site at Podere Cannicci, in Civitella Paganico, where previous construction work had found evidence of a settlement. Recent investigations by the IMPERO project have found a Late Etruscan and Roman Republican village, manufacturing district, sanctuary, and a necropolis.

A bronze vessel excavated from one of the Podere Cannicci burials in the summer of 2022. Image: © IMPERO Project

The excavation of one 2nd-century burial from the necropolis in 2021 has recently been published in the journal Etruscan and Italic Studies. Fieldwork has continued this summer, exploring more burials with grave goods including Etruscan bronze and ceramic vessels. The burials investigated so far at Podere Cannicci also contain jewellery such as gold earrings and a bronze ring with a gem engraved with the image of the hero Hercules drinking. The material from the burials and the settlement site, including inscriptions in Etruscan both here at Podere Cannicci and at the nearby necropolis of Casenovole, points to continued Etruscan traditions into the 2nd century BC, after the Roman conquest of the area in 294 BC.

An early-2nd-century BC bronze ring depicting Hercules, found inside an urn at the burial site.
Image: © IMPERO Project

Sebastiani notes in the article in Etruscan and Italic Studies that Podere Cannicci (and the wider Civitella Paganico area, marked by the Ombrone, Farma, and Mers rivers) was something of a liminal location, and its sacred area possibly served as a boundary sanctuary, where votive offerings were made consistently between the late 5th century and the end of the 2nd century BC. These offerings mainly consisted of terracotta wombs, which highlight the importance of the fertility of the agricultural land surrounding the village, something that is also reflected by a bronze bovine figurine.

Though Etruscan life at the site continued under Roman dominion, it came to an end in the 1st century BC. The study concludes, ‘Ultimately, the Etruscan identity and traditions of the small community at Podere Cannicci decreed its brutal end. The sanctuary and its related village, marking the still surviving territorial boundaries of the Etruscan administration system, were violently destroyed by Sulla during the Social Wars. The clear traces of the fire documented within the entire settlement and the abrupt interruption of votive depositions leave no other room for interpretation.’