Last week, the SACI Conservation of Archaeological Artifacts team including Nora Marosi took part in a press conference at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, announcing the results of recent archaeological excavations at the Etruscan-Roman site of Cetamura del Chianti on the property of the Badia a Coltibuono (Gaiole in Chianti), conducted by Florida State University, Studio Art Centers International (SACI) and ICHNOS, Archeologia, Ambiente e Sperimentazione, Società Cooperativa under the supervision of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana (Florence).
PRESS RELEASE – July 4, 2014 – Siena, Italy
An Etruscan well at Cetamura del Chianti near Siena, Italy, has yielded a cornucopia of evidence spanning a period of more than 15 centuries, embracing Etruscan, Roman, and medieval civilization in Tuscany.
The settlement of Cetamura, on the property of Badia a Coltibuono (Gaiole in Chianti) has been under excavation by Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida) since 1973, under the supervision of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana (Andrea Pessina, Superintendent and Silvia Goggioli, inspector for Cetamura). Emanuela Stucchi, proprietor of Coltibuono, announced the new discoveries.
The shaft in the sandstone bedrock of Cetamura, originally discovered by Alvaro Tracchi of San Giovanni Valdarno, has been explored under the direction of professor Nancy T. de Grummond of Florida State in collaboration with the Italian archaeological firm of Ichnos: Archeologia, Ambiente e Sperimentazione, directed by Francesco Cini of Montelupo Fiorentino and staffed by Lorenzo Cecchini, Andrea Violetti and Eva Cincar. Jordan Samuels, a graduate of Florida State, served as foreman for the handling of the finds.
Technically, the shaft is more properly called a cistern for storing water, though its great depth, nearly 31 meters (approximately 100 Etruscan feet) below ground level, suggests comparison with numerous known Etruscan wells.
The greatest interest is focused around some 14 Roman and Etruscan bronze vessels. These are of different shapes and sizes and with varying decorations, including sculptures on the Etruscan examples. These are under restoration by Nora Marosi and her students at Studio Art Centers International (SACI) in Florence, in collaboration with the Centro per Restauro of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana.
One of the Etruscan vessels, actually a wine bucket, is finely tooled and decorated with figurines of the marine monster Skylla. Another was adorned with a bronze finial of the head of a feline with the mane of a lion and the spots of a leopard, and featured African heads, probably sphinxes, for the handle attachments.
Closely associated with the vessels were c. 400 waterlogged grape seeds of tremendous scientific interest. Found in at least 3 different levels of the well, they can provide a key to the history of wine in ancient Tuscany over a period from the third century BCE to the first century CE. Their excellent preservation will allow for DNA testing as well as dating of Carbon 14 and dendrochronology. Already some seeds have been subject to study of the fine measurements that can help to identify the different varieties present. These are under investigation by Gaetano di Pasquale and Mauro Buonincontri at the Univeristy of Naples Federico II.
Banducci of the University of Toronto and Carleton College has begun the gigantic task of organizing the ceramics for study, with particular attention to the pottery made in the region of Cetamura.
As the finds go into analysis the task will be to integrate the detailed information from the column of stratigraphy of the well with other important discoveries made in recent years at Cetamura, and more widely in Chianti. Excavations at Cetamura in the Etruscan sanctuary of Lur and Leinth and an adjacent artisans’ zone, under the direction of Laurel Taylor of UNC-Asheville and Charles Ewell of Syracuse University and New York University in Florence, show that Etruscan artisans had an integrated crafts area for the working of iron, spinning and weaving, and the creation of ceramics, especially brick, tile, and weights for the loom. Activites of production show continuity into the Roman period, during a time when baths were built near the well. Professors Sowder, Ewell, and Taylor will present a study on the relationship between the artisans’ activities and tools from the well and religious rituals at Cetamura, at the annual meeting of the archaeological Institute of America in January, 2015.
Students from the various universities mentioned above have played a significant role in excavating and processing materials. The training of students in the field and in the laboratoy, in methods and principles of consercation, is one of the most important aspects of the excavations at Cetamura.
The results from the Cetamura well are important for many reasons. The rich assemblage of materials in bronze, silver, lead and iron, along with the abundant ceramics and remarkable evidence of organic remains, create an unparalleled opportunity for the study of culture, religion, and daily life in Chianti and the region surrounding, from ca. 300 BCE to the end of the Middle Ages. The sheer amount of Etruscan waterlogged wood, with some recognizable artifacts, could transform views about such perishable items. Perhaps most of all, the well provides dramatic information about the wine industry from the heart of the original geographical area of Chianti. The grape seeds are of primary importance, but their context is illumniated by the many objects that have to do with the drinking of wine — the wine bucket, the strainer, the amphora, and numerous ceramic vessels related to the storage, serving, and dinking of wine.
Below are some images of the SACI team working on the restoration of some of the objects from the Cetamura site. For more images and information, see The Well at Cetamura.