Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Previous archeological excavations at Vulci (Etruscan then Roman city) focused heavily on aristocratic tombs, funerary art, and ritual monuments that have shown the power of elite classes and their capacity to trade with the Attic region (in Greece). By contrast, less than 5% of the ancient urban area has been excavated and no stratigraphic documentation of Vulci has been published in the last decades. The decision of the Duke University team to dig in the Southern region of the tufa (limestone) plateau (2014-2022) near the intersection between cardo and decumanus, or perpendicularly laid out thoroughfares) was determined by a preliminary GPR (ground penetrating radar) survey in the area which showed very deep deposits (over 2.5 m.) and the overlapping of several monumental structures. In particular, the last two years of excavations unveiled the presence of a large network of Etruscan and Roman water systems: wells, cisterns, channels, tunnels, pipes, pools, fountains. Additional archaeological finds, such as a large monumental complex with several rooms and key objects like Etruscan inscriptions, ritual bowls and lamps, sculptures, and raw coral, seem to corroborate the idea of pre-existing water cults in the Etruscan and Roman times. This monumental complex was built in the Imperial Roman age (1st cent.CE) but on top of Etruscan buildings. The presence of Etruscan votive objects seems to demonstrate the pre-existence of an Etruscan sanctuary dedicated to water cults because of the presence of raw coral (documented in other sanctuaries and temples along the Mediterranean). Water is an outstanding research topic in pre-Roman and Roman archaeology; in fact, the Etruscans considered water an essential factor for everyday life making it paramount in their religion. Etruscan water systems were reused and imitated by the Romans and characterized urban settings and sacred placed for the entire first millennium BCE. Duke excavations in Vulci show complex water systems, originally Etruscan, then upgraded in Roman times. The Duke research team documented for the first time in Southern Etruria a very large (about 40 cubic meters) intact cistern (stratigraphically excavated) in 3D, including all the correlated tunnels, occluded shafts, well curbstone, and feeding conduits.