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AXIA (Castel d'Asso) Etruria, Italy.

An Etruscan center 9 km W of Viterbo, on a branch of the ancient Via Cassia that led from Veii-Caere and Tarquinia to Orvieto and the N. After a phase of cultural predominance by Caere in the 6th c. B.C., it was absorbed by the state of Tarquinia, enjoying a particularly flourishing period in the 4th and 3d c. B.C. In 68 B.C., Cicero defined it as a castellum in the territory of Tarquinia. In the Middle Ages it contained a feudal fortress conquered by the citizens of Viterbo at the end of the 12th c. Later the site was abandoned.

The Etruscan settlement occupied the level top of a hill wedged between the valleys caused by the erosion of the Riosecco and Freddano rivers, which flow together at its base and carve out an area roughly triangular in shape. At the base of the triangle ran a large, irregularly shaped ditch, quite visible in an aerial photograph. A second ditch, equally irregular in shape, separated the actual settlement from the acropolis, which corresponds to the upper half of the triangle. Finally, a third ditch, dating from the Middle Ages, isolated the feudal fortress set at the vertex of the triangle in a dominating position. The second ditch was bordered by an isodomic tufa wall of which there are a few remains. There are drainage channels visible, traces of streets cut into the tufa, and chamber tombs set on the slopes of the settlement, together with caves carved out in the Middle Ages as dwellings or as shelters for animals. Architectural components in terracotta embellished by figures have been found in the area of the settlement, which has never been an excavation site.

The necropolis surrounds the settlement on every side. The section in the Freddano valley facing the acropolis was begun in the middle of the 4th c. B.C., and has taken on a certain monumentality because of the carvings on ca. 50 rock-cut tombs in the tufa slopes of the main valley and of a smaller side valley. There are simple, square tombs and two-story tombs with a closed or porticoed lower story, decorated with moldings, false doors in relief, plinths, etc. On the upper terraces are the remains in situ of tombstones that are mainly undecorated but that often bear large inscriptions with the family name or the name of the person who built the tomb. The inhumation chambers (the greatest 17 m long and containing 62 graves) are quite deep and unadorned, for the most part containing earthen graves covered by stone or tile lids. The tombs are distributed, in the main valley, in two or three rows one above another, almost paralleling the system of streets coming from the city. After 150 B.C., the use of the monumental necropolis continued until A.D. 50, but burials were made only in existing tombs.


F. Orioli, Dei sepolcrali edifizi dell'Etruria media e in generale dell'architettura tuscanica (1826); G. Dennis, The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria (1907) 272-85; G. Rosi, JRS 15 (1925) 14ff; E. Colonna Di Paolo & G. Colonna, Castel d'Asso I-II (1970).


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