A Life History Approach: Working on the Site of Il Pizzo (Nepi VT, Italy)

Article excerpt

Fieldwork executed on Il Pizzo in central Italy, outside the small modern town of Nepi, 45 km northeast of Rome (FIGURE 1), was part of the Nepi survey project under the umbrella of the Tiber Valley Project of the British School at Rome. The aim was systematically to study the Bronze Age site (cf. di Gennaro 1991-1992; di Gennaro et al. in press) which preceded nearby Nepi. As an example of a Bronze Age promontory site with multi-period use, the biographical approach discussed recently by Cornelius Holtorf (cf. 2000-2001; http:// www.arch.cam.ac.uk/~ch264/igraja/ introduction.htm) is key for understanding the site through its various transformations. `Life history' not only emphasizes the modifications on a site, but stresses the changes in both the meaning and the use of a site.


A small team of four worked over two weeks during March/April 2000. The research strategy had four main aims. First, a baseline was drawn through the narrow promontory along its southwest-northeast axis and a systematic pickup was performed along this line. Secondly, a pragmatic strategy was used for the collection of eroded material in the northern slope. Thirdly, a general map was drawn using traditional methods. Finally, a total station was used to draw a 3D image of the summit.

Il Pizzo overlooks a canyon-like ravine at the junction of two rivers. Structurally, there are two levels: the upper promontory surface and the lower level on the way down to the river. The upper surface is divided into two by walls and gateways; the southwestern part is dominated by a modern sheep shed, the northeastern summit has been modified by tuff quarrying during at least two major observable phases. On the highest point, a foundation trench of a building lies next to two cisterns. On the eastern rock face below the building foundation, there are five rectangular niches cut into the rockface. On the western face, there is a larger, barrel-vaulted niche. All these niches are formally similar to Roman loculus tombs (cf. Frederiksen & Ward-Perkins 1957: 88, 91). On the southern side of the summit, a series of terraces are supported by cyclopic walls. The material from the collapsed profile was very mixed and it is clear the area has been ploughed. The date of the walling could be Archaic or mid-Republic. On the lower level, a path meanders down to the river and around the point of the promontory. The lower level is dominated by a terrace supported by an Archaic-type wall. There is no definite way of telling if it is late Archaic or Roman.

The major part of the finds on the upper surface was fairly recent (see FIGURE 2), showing the intensity of later use. Most notable of a small number of earlier finds is a rim of vernice nera and one piece of heavy terra sigillata. …