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POGGIO CIVITATE (Murlo) Province of Siena, Italy.

One of the many hills within the metal-bearing mountains of N Tuscany, lies to the S of Siena near the Ombrone river. Excavations have revealed an Etruscan structure, probably a sanctuary, daring from ca. 650 to slightly before 525 B.C.

The latest building phase at the site is represented by a monumental sanctuary. The complex (over 61 m square) has a central court. Colonnades flank three sides of the court and a small rectangular enclosure, perhaps a templum, dominates the W flank. The building techniques consist of rubble stone foundations, pisé walls, and wooden structural members. The various units forming the complex were richly decorated with architectural terracottas: acroteria in the form of life-size standing and seated human figures, crouching and walking animals, and fantastic creatures adorned the ridgepoles. Gorgon antefixes or lateral simas molded with feline water spouts, rosettes, and human heads terminated the eaves while a raking sima, decorated by hounds chasing hares, edged the gables. Four frieze types further embellished the sanctuary. These are in low relief and depict a banquet, a procession, a horse race, and an assemblage of divinities.

The building's plan, its precision of construction, and the homogeneity of its architectural decoration suggest that the complex was constructed at one time. The stylistic evidence from the terracottas points to the period ca. 575 B.C. Ionic bowls and a middle Corinthian skyphos came from the burned debris of an earlier building, sealed under the sanctuary's floor of beaten earth. These pieces indicate that the sanctuary could not have been built much before 580 B.C.

The archaic sanctuary stood until the third quarter of the 6th c. when it was deliberately torn down. Its architectural terracottas were buried in specially constructed dumps and existing ditches, and an earthen mound was thrown up around the entire area of the sanctuary. This destruction, probably a ritual act intended to set the total area of the sanctuary out of bounds for future occupation, seems to relate to the rise of Chiusi as a city state.

The structures under the 6th c. sanctuary are only partially cleared but they display similar building techniques and were also adorned with architectural terracottas. As mentioned above, they were destroyed by fire around 580 B.C. and then sealed under the earthen floors of the later sanctuary. The debris layer is unusually rich in pottery, metal objects, and bone and ivory ornaments. Included are molded bucchero cups whose handles are decorated with winged women, ivory figurines in the shape of crouching animals, ivory and bone furniture inlays, and bronze, silver, and gold jewelry. These objects appear to be the contents of a rich dwelling, perhaps the house of a chief magistrate or priest.

During the summer of 1972 a small necropolis was discovered in the area of the site farthest W, a location known as Poggio Aguzzo. Simple fossa tombs and inhumation were found. The pottery has its best parallels with the material from the earlier structures.

No literary sources identify Poggio Civitate. Because of the rich finds and because of the well-planned and well-constructed buildings of both phases, the area appears to be a sanctuary. At the hub of N Etruria, Poggio Civitate perhaps served as a political and religious center for the N cities. Ultimately it may have incurred the wrath of one or more powerful centers and was thus ritually destroyed, much as Rome desecrated Veii.

The sanctuary from Poggio Civitate gives us a first glimpse of monumental archaic Etruscan architecture. This architecture rivals that of the Greek world and appears strong enough to influence later Roman Republican forms.


K. M. Phillips, Jr., Poggio Civitate (Murlo, Siena) The Archaic Sanctuary (1970), reviewed by G. Caputo in StEtr 38 (1970) 409-11; L. Meritt, “Architectural Mouldings from Murlo,” StEtr 38 (1970) 13-25; M. Cristofani & K. Phillips, “Poggio Civitate: Etruscan Letters and Chronological Observations,” StEtr 39 (1971) 409-30; T. Gantz, “Divine Triads on an Archaic Etruscan Frieze Plaque from Poggio Civitate (Murlo),” StEtr 39 (1971) 3-24; J. Small, “The Banquet Frieze from Poggio Civitate,” StEtr 39 (1971) 25-61. A. Andrén, “Lectiones Boëthianae I: Osservazioni sulle terrecotte architettoniche etrusco-italiche,” Opuscula Romana 8.1 (1971) pls. 18-22. For further bibliography see AJA 76.3 (1972); 77.3 (1973); 78.3 (1974).


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