The project of the Archaeological Museum of Verucchio
The Archaeological Museum of Verucchio is located in the ancient Monastery of Saint Agustin, just outside the medieval village walls; the building goes back to the XIIth century and had been enlarged in the XVIIth century adding the church and the spinning-mill; it was subsequently used for different purposes and finally abandoned in the seventies. Restoration of the building and Museum fitting were afforded by the local administration to exhibit archaeological remains discovered since the XIXth century in Verucchio’s territory. The villanovan finds from Verucchio play a most important part in the general frame of protohistoric cultures in Central and Northern Italy. The exceptional conservation state of objects produced in organic materials, such as wood, textiles or vegetable fibres, offers unusual possibilities to study aspects of ancient life which can normally be only indirectly approached.
First opening of the Museum took place in 1985 thanks to co-operation between the State Regional Office for Archaeology (Soprintendenza) and Verucchio’s Municipality. A small selection of finds was then exhibited and publication of Gentili’s diggings in Moroni necropolis started the scientific edition of data. In 1986 two princely graves were restored ad exhibited in Bologna Archaeological Museum; only in 1992 the Soprintendenza and the Municipality, with generous help from SCM Group and simple citizens started a new project for the study and cultural exploitation of Verucchio’s villanovian finds. An International Committee was founded with the partetipation of Rome and Milan Universities, Paris Ecole ded Hautes Etudes, Koln Fachhochschule and Mainz Romische-Germanische Zentralmuseum.
A new Museum project, in the completely restored building, was then started on the basis of the deeper knowledge of Verucchio’s villanovian cultural aspect, acquired thorugh systematic cataloguing. Due to funds availability and time required for restoration and systematic studies, the project was realised in subsequent steps from 1995 to 1999. It was thus possible to make the public aware of “work in progress” results, a necessity where funds come from both public and private subjects. We also liked the “Museum in progress” model; we hope to be able to offer ever new results as new studies and analysis proceed; this can be obtained both through exhibition of new archaeological contexts, taken from the deposits, as well as producing up to date critical and didactic media.
The exposition is chronologically ordered, from the most ancient graves to the most the recent.
Great attention has been dedicated to illustration and didactic panels media which have been elaborated taking into consideration help and suggestions received from our visitors. Three main aspects are stressed in the Museum project, through the choice of exhibited items and didactic apparatus: the topographical organisation, the socio-economic structure of the iron age community, its dynamics through time and how all this affects archaeological documentation. Grave furnishing from all different necropolis have been selected, in such a way as to stress groups and family relationship, different types of graves (feminine, masculine, soldiers’ etc.) and different chronology from the IXth to the VIIth century BC.
The Ancestor’s Room
This room show a group of the most ancient graves of the necropolis with an introduction to the villanovan culture and the role of the Verucchio’s village in the iron age.
The Soldier’s Room
Warriors represent a large part of the social groups as can be recognised in the funeral furnishings of Verucchio.
In fact weapons are often present in men's burials, which proves that warriors role had a great significance in the social organisation of this community. In the earliest stages this is demonstrated by the helmet-shaped lid of a cinerary urn; in later phases the same values are documented by weapons deposiyted in the graves and by men in arms illustrated on the wooden thrones. Warriors' function had probably to do with territorial control, the protection of economic activities and possibly ritual and ceremonial roles.
The Cloak Room
Small fragments of textiles, or more often mineralised traces of them, are quite often recovered from Iron Age tombs, yet unique for protohistoric Italy are Verucchio almost intact clothes. It is thus possible to appreciate the design, to identify the raw material used for spinning and dyeing, and the weaving techniques.
The images painted on Etruscan tombs and other iconographic documents of the Etruscan-Italic world testify the quite generalised use, for both men and women, of tunics and mantles. In particular, Etruscans wore a semicircular mantle called "tebenna", preceding the Roman toga.
Some of the pieces at present exhibited have been restored in the seventies; recently in Koln Fachhoschule other finds have beerestored and all have been studied, set in shape and “cleaned”.
For conservation reasons this room has been chosen to exhibit the textiles, independently of the context they belong to. This is the only case where the basic criteria of keeping together items from the same grave has been forfeited. Textiles cannot be exposed to normal light and only in this room thanks to its architectural structure this could be achieved with no damage to the visibility of other objects.
In the other half of this room a group of three tombs, from Moroni Necropolis is exhibited. They represent a very particular situation: topographically near to each other, in the north-western area of the cemetery, these three feminine graves, show common ritual peculiarities (i.e. the urn placed in a basket), and some special objects rarely present in other graves. A first analysis of Lippi Necropolis has shown how groups of tombs often share peculiar rituals of costume features, a fact that could be interpreted as the existence of family traditions reflecting in the funerary ritual.
The Weaver’s Room
Circular pit tomb belongs part of a group of three contemporary burials, separated from the largest group of graves in the necropolis (as far as can be judged from the excavated sectors). The analysis of bones cremated remains reveals that the burial concerned two individuals, one of which a very young woman, the other probably an older individual whose gender is not anthropologically established. All gender related items are, however, feminine. The two burials seem to have taken place in different chronological moments.
Difficult issues spring from the analysis of the very rich personal ornaments in bronze, amber and gold, that include items of a great significance (such as the bronze fibula with amber inlets, or the open-work amber pendant). Besides the duplication of certain elements (eg. earrings, distaffs), some objects seem to suggest the presence a complete miniaturised furnishing. The very small earrings, a fibula in amber, the miniature sized spools, and a very small whorl might belong to a baby girl, whose fragile bones could be completely lost
The furnishings include a lot of bronze objects and pottery of considerable quality (such as the cups with the bone inlets) although in minute fragments. Also very rich are weaving tools. The existence of a wagon is indicated by the horse bits, by harnessing elements and the foot-board hook . Exceptional there are the fragments of a clay model cart and a small woman clay figurine whose size suggest a possible connection with the above mentioned cart. The food offerings include fresh water fishes (luces) and ovocaprine (sheep and goat) remains.
The Amber Room
Very deep pit grave with “dolio” covered by a wooden lid “dressed” with textiles decorated by amber fibulas and bronze belt. Inside the dolio was the bronze cinerary urn also “dressed” and wearing extremely rich amber and bronze ornaments. Some fibulas prove the knowledge of a highly sophisticated technology.
Other grave goods, parts of the wagon (for which a reconstruction can be proposed) and horse harnessing were placed between the dolio and the urn. The rest of the furnishings were in the pit outside the dolio.
The position of the burial is very close to Grave Lippi 89 (The Throne Grave) both being part of a small central group, apparently reserved to members of one of the leading families between the end of the VIII and the first half of the VII century BC.
The grave belongs to an adult woman; the furnishing includes many items chosen in order to stress her rank: bronze cinerary urns are extremely rare as are the bronze vessels, particularly when enriched by amber inlets.
The traditional role of this woman as “the lady of the house” under whose control fell spinning and weaving activities is documented symbolically by the amber distaff; nevertheless a different role, probably in community ritual and ceremonial spheres, is proved by the bronze decorated axe.
The grave is particularly rich in amber fibulas, some of which are unique products obtain through a highly sophisticated technology.
The Throne Room
In this room the firt showcase containing the large chest and the throne from Grave Lippi 89, reproduced the size of the pit. The large chest, the throne and the footboard are exhibeted in the position they had at the time of burial, covered by wooden boards. All the rest of the furnishing (in the second showcase) was inside the chest.
The dead man probably had several roles within the community in the military as well as in the political and religious fields: in addition to the weapons of was a military chief (two helmets, two shields) objects used to express power were also placed in his grave: fan, axes. Mosty likely he was not a “king” but rather che head of an aristocratic family possibly sharing power with other princes of the same rank.
To his family belonged other important persons such as the lady in grave 47 (the so called ambers grave, in the Amber Room) and the man, possibly a religious chief to wohom grave 85 was dedicated.
The Sacred Area Room
At present the only non funerary objects, as proper settlement diggings are still due, are the finds from the “Sacred Area” and the well located on the hilltop of Pian del Monte.
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