Seminar: "From Etruscan Town to Medieval Castle: Recent Excavations of a Central Italian Hilltop Settlement"

Feb 22, 2023, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
209 Scheide Caldwell



Event Description

Attendance is possible in-person or via Zoom. Zoom participants must register here prior to the event. 

Light refreshments will be provided. 

The archaeology of the past three millennia in central Italy offers insights into globally relevant questions about the interrelationships between settlement patterns and political centralization. The settlement pattern of Northern Lazio has seen cyclical shifts of habitation that can be studied in the long term only through archaeological work. In this area alternating periods of political fragmentation and centralization appears to be mirrored in two basic settlement patterns: one prioritizing defense, and a second privileging economic integration with a wider polity. One of the key regions to understand these shifts is the volcanic landscape of southern Etruria (northern Lazio, Italy), once the hinterland of the large Etruscan city-states (700-350 BC) and now part of the extensive hinterland of Rome. The region has always been a borderland territory between larger polities and different ethnic groups—between Etruscans and Faliscans in prehistory, between the Etruscan cities of Caere and Tarquinia in the 5-6th century BC, and then later between the Lombard Kingdom and Byzantine Empire, and finally between the Papal States and the Holy Roman Empire. The borderland status and the scarcity of historical documents has left this central region of Italy often neglected by historians, who have preferred to focus their studies on Rome and Tuscany, where historical documents are plentiful.

To help elucidate the cyclical shifts of settlement and understand the long-term historical patterns of change in this part of central Italy, we initiated the San Giuliano Archaeological Research Project (SGARP) in 2016. Since it’s initiation, we have uncovered a dynamic landscape of interlocking habitation and burial sites that span the advent of Etruscan civilization to the zenith of the High Middle Ages. We have documented over 500 Etruscan tombs, conducted excavations of house-like chamber tombs, and discovered a transitional Iron Age-Etruscan trench tomb cemetery dating to c. 700 BC. Excavations on the San Giuliano plateau that lies in the center of the Etruscan necropolis, have revealed a medieval castle complex, including a feasting hall, a defensive tower, and a crypt with dozens of burials associated with a private chapel. The work shows that an Etruscan urban center developed atop the San Giuliano plateau in the 7th century BC and flourished in the 6th and 5th century. After Roman Conquest in the 4th century, people left the site in favor of dispersed lowland habitation. In the Middle Ages—sometime around AD 1000—the local population reoccupied and refortified the earlier Etruscan acropolis, in a local manifestation of the wider Mediterranean settlement relocation phenomenon known as incastellamento (encastellation). This lecture provides an overview of the research project and the light that the work has shed on the nature and motivations of these settlement shifts.

Project website:

Speaker Bio

Davide Zori's research concentrates on the medieval world with research foci on the Viking expansion into the North Atlantic and the 8th-12th century phenomenon of Italian population movements onto defended hilltops. He employs a multidisciplinary approach to the Middle Ages, combining archaeology and written evidence. He conducts archaeological fieldwork in Iceland addressing the interaction of the Norse settlers with new environments, the construction of a migrant society, and the subsequent evolution of endemic political systems. As the director of the San Giuliano Archaeological Research Project, he has been leading excavations of an Etruscan necropolis and a medieval castle complex in central Italy. Zori is Associate Professor of History and Archaeology at Baylor University where he teaches in the Honors College and the Department of History.


Anna D'Elia