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Understanding Urban Identities (UUI) from the Bronze Age to the Roman time. The case of Vulci in the context of southern Etruria

During fall 2018, a research program aiming at understanding the early history of the Etruscan settlement of Vulci was initiated by the Department of Historical Studies of the University of Gothenburg in close collaboration with the Vulci Archaeological and Naturalistic Park (Parco Archeologico Naturalistico di Vulci) and the area’s Heritage Board (Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per l’Area Metropolitana di Roma, la provincia di Viterbo e l’Etruria Meridionale). This program could start thanks to the generous support of the Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation.

The project

The main aim of our project is to enhance our understanding of urban processes in southern Etruria from the Bronze Age until Roman time with a focus on Vulci. The interdisciplinary expertise of the team (see project members) will allow for a diachronic approach that grasps the dynamic relation between continuity, development, and transformation of the urban population and their identities over time.

A comprehensive research project that will bring together the study of the evidence from the ongoing fieldwork and from previously published fieldwork in the area is under development.


Vulci (Etruscan Velch/Velc[a]l-, Latin Vulci, Ancient Greek Ólkion) was a large city of ancient Etruria in Italy. The present archaeological site lies by the river Fiora and is close to Montalto di Castro in the Province of Viterbo. Vulci is a unique, stratified urban site that includes Bronze Age, Iron Age, Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval archaeological evidence and is relatively free of modern structures. The Etruscan city occupied an area of over 100 hectares and probably had a large population, as witnessed by the thousands of monumental Etruscan tombs surrounding the site.

Vulci was one of the most prominent and wealthy Etruscan cities from the late seventh through to the early fifth century BCE, deriving its wealth from the production and exchange of valuable goods all over the Mediterranean. Its geopolitical influence declined towards the end of the fourth century BCE, due in part to Roman expansion. The Roman consul Tiberius Coruncanius defeated and triumphed over the inhabitants of Vulci in 280 BCE and it became a Roman municipium (town) in 90 BCE. Archaeological evidence indicates Vulci was inhabited until at least the fourth century CE.

The Vulci fieldwork

The Vulci fieldwork aims at investigating an area in the eastern part of the plateau between the eastern gate and the so-called acropolis, directly east of the Mithraeum (see map 1). The area is situated on the edge of the plateau on which the urban area of Vulci is located, overlooking the river valley below, the monumental bridge (Ponte Rotto), with a clear view of the Etruscan necropoleis flanking the river valley.

The first field season took place in summer 2019 (29 July – 2 August) and consisted of a detailed geophysical survey approved by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali – MiBAC). The geophysical survey concerned an area of around half a hectare and was carried out using the combined techniques of magnetometry (Bartington Dual Grad 601-2) and ground-penetrating radar (GSSI 400 MHz). The geophysical survey was conducted with the expert technical and scientific support of Stephen Kay and Elena Pomar from the British School at Rome. The results of the geophysical survey will expand our understanding of this liminal area situated between the urban centre and the suburban areas of Vulci; they will also be used to select areas to examine further through future archaeological excavations.

1. Picture of the area where the geophysical survey took place
2. View of the area during the geophysical survey

We are very grateful to the following organisations:
• Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation
• Parco Archeologico Naturalistico di Vulci
• Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome
• British School at Rome
• Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per l’Area Metropolitana di Roma, la provincia di Viterbo e l’Etruria Meridionale
• Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg

The project matured as an independent research program after an earlier collaboration with Duke University and Prof. Maurizio Forte, currently investigating the area of Vulci’s West Forum.


Serena Sabatini
Kristian Göransson
Irene Selsvold
Lewis Webb
Anna Gustavsson













1. Picture of the participants in the 2019 season (L to R: Elena, Stephen, Serena, Kristian, Lewis, and Irene).

We aim to publish the background of the UUI project and the results of the geophysical survey conducted in 2019 in a longer article in an international journal in the near future.

Page Manager: Katarina Tullia von Sydow|Last update: 9/19/2019

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