Vetricella: the third season

Our nEU-Med excavations at Vetricella, near Scarlino re-started four weeks ago and have benefited from blissful weather. Five months of open-area excavations now reveal what a complex and fascinating early medieval site this is.

Vetricella's first (11th-century) woman

The forensic excavation of the central tower within the three concentric ditches has now been completed. Thanks to gridded phosphate analyses we know there was a small hearth and perhaps a kitchen on the ground floor, as opposed to storage. Stored vessels appear to concentrate around the outside of the tower. If correct, this suggests a shift towards domestic living on the ground floor with representational activities focused on the first floor.

We still do not know if the small tower belongs to the period of the three concentric ditches, or pre-dated them. Around it at one point is an enclosure or outer peristyle of sorts. The post pits are large and so are the posts. No nails were used anywhere in the 9th- to 10th-century construction.

From the later 10th-century levels we are learning more about the cemetery on the south side of the site. Forty burials, mostly malnourished children, are accompanied by a group of men, and as of this week, by an elderly woman. With the eye of faith the beam slots for a insubstantial church seems to be the focus of the cemetery. On the north side of the site more metalwork from simple forges continues to be found. Prick spurs are this year’s special find.

Vetricella prick spur

A late afterlife has now been identified. Everything but the memory of this place had gone when this spot was used as a threshing floor, probably for animal fodder, during the 12th century.

Such is the intriguing wealth of evidence, made possible thanks to the EU’s ERC support, that we are working on a master plan for the valley and with that in mind, one of the excavators, Francesco, is preparing a series of striking and vivid reconstructions. He is working with a sketch-book as well as auto-CAD. These drawings and the material we’ve discovered will be on display at Scarlino on the afternoon of 31 October – where Riccardo Francovich started his investigations of early medieval Tuscany 40 years ago – when our nEU-Med team presents its first book.

Francesco and his sketchbook

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