The Coriglia/Orvieto Excavation Project

Location: Umbria, Italy

May 19, 2015 to June 28, 2015

Application Deadline: 
Friday, May 1, 2015

Flyer: brochure2015.pdf

Program Type

Field school


Saint Anselm College and the Parco Archeologico Ambientale dell'Orvietano

Project Director:

David B. George, Saint Anselm College and Claudio Bizzarri, Parco Archeologico Ambientale dell'Orvietano

Project Description

CORIGLIA: At the Etrusco-Roman settlement, over the last nine years, we have uncovered a number of monumental structures.  Among the most striking features are two walls (one Etruscan, the other Roman) the most recent a retaining wall of Imperial date running more or less East-West for 55m then turning to the North and apparently running for 70m.  To the south of this wall runs the older Etruscan wall constructed of tufa and encased with basalt stone.  The Imperial wall seems to respect the footprint of this earlier wall dated from ceramics and construction to between the 6th to the 4th century BCE.  All of the ceramic materials found in this context are Etruscan or imported Greek.  Behind the tufa wall seems to have been a terrace surmounted by a series of inverted large pots (dolia) referred to as ziros. In this part of Etruria, these finds frequently indicate a sacrifice to gods of the dead.  If these walls mark out a temenos (sacred space), we do not know what direction if faced.  We did find evidence for postholes and collapse of a structure on the terrace.  An understanding of their context here requires further excavation.  Further to the south of these structures we found in 2009 a large basin (vasca) cutting through at least four phases of walls. In 2014 we found two more very large basins (large enough for two cars to fit into them).  These structures are of Roman Imperial date but we found evidence for their continued use until the 14th century.  Another area of particular interest is on the northwest corner of the site. In 2007 we uncovered an apsidal structure the inside of which was covered with hydraulic cement that we interpreted as either associated with a caldarium (the heated portion of a bath) or as part of a nymphaeum (a type of water feature).  In 2008 we found more rooms closely to the north of the apsidal structure but neither abutting or quite in the current state of preservation adjoining.  This past season we recovered another apsidal structure and remains of a hypocaust system at the far northern end of the trench but the association of the various parts to each other is as yet unclear.  Unrelated to these structures we have found a series of Etruscan wall one of which had an Etruscan ritual deposit beneath it. 

Our initial interpretation of the site was that it was an Etruscan settlement that, after the Roman conquest of Orvieto (the Etruscan Velzna) Italy, had developed into a Roman villa.  The finds are, however, incongruous with this idea; they are too monumental in some cases and wanting in the types of ceramic remains that one would expect to find associated with a villa.  In addition the roof tiles are more indicative of public and religious buildings of the Etruscan and Roman periods.  Our current working model is that Coriglia begins life as an Etruscan healing shrine around which a small town develops then grows.  Coriglia in turn, after the Roman suppression of Orvieto (Velzna) with which it is associated grows into a larger town with a bath complex/shrine along a branch of the Via Cassia during the late Republic.  The complex remains in use until at least the 5th century CE.  The settlement persists until at least 1000 CE with production activity lasting until the 15th century CE.

CAVITÀ 254 Orvieto, Italy: As for the underground pyramidal structure (hypogeum), we discovered it three summers ago and still have no idea what it is.  We do know what it is not.  It is not a quarry; it’s walls are too well dressed.  It is not a well or cistern; its walls have no evidence of hydraulic treatments.  Currently we are 15 meters down.  Below a medieval floor we have a mix of material from the prehistoric to the 5th century BCE.  This is followed by a meter and half of relatively sterile gray sandy material that was dumped from some point above at the center of the cavity.  Below this, are a series of strata that were deposited from a point on the wall where a flight of stairs cut into the tufa descends.  We are recovering material for these deposits that date to around the middle to end of the 6th century.  There are large quantities of Gray and Black bucchero, common ware as well as substantial Attic Red and Black Figure pottery.   From this, we know that the site was sealed toward the end of the 5th century BCE.  It appears to have been a single event.  Of great significance is the number of Etruscan language inscriptions that we have recovered – over a hundred and fifty. We are also finding an interesting array of architectural/decorative terra cotta.   Again as I said, we do not as yet know its original function or why it was “killed”. 

All participants excavate at both sites in a rotation.

 One component of the excavations is its Archaeological Field School that supervises the immediate excavations and offers lectures and other educational opportunities.  Academic credit is also available to those who wish.  Members of the archaeological field school will be required to attend regular evening lectures and a number of short excursions to other near by sites and museums. 

Period(s) of Occupation: Etruscan; Roman Republican; Roman Imperial, late antique

Project size: 
25-49 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 3 weeks

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

The fee covers room and board. The dig house is a 10th monastery, the Convento S. Lorenzo in Vineis, near the excavation - two to four to a room. Some additional rooms are in a Ex-School just down the road from the Convento.  These rooms are domatory style.  Both residences have laundry machines and drying racks.  Meals are taken in the refectory of monastery. They are prepared by a chef who is on staff. Pictures of the accommodations are up at under Photos.

$640 per week/ $3,840 for all six weeks.

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Saint Anselm College
Number of credits offered 4 to 8 credits for Archaeological Fieldwork (optional)
$1,200 for four credits (Credit is optional)


Contact Information
David B. George
Department of Classics; Saint Anselm College
(603) 641-7069