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I complessi archeologici di Trestina e di Fabbrecce nel Museo Archeologico di Firenze

July 2011 (115.3)

Book Review

I complessi archeologici di Trestina e di Fabbrecce nel Museo Archeologico di Firenze

Edited by Fulvia Lo Schiavo and Antonella Romualdi (MonAnt Serie Miscellanea 12). Pp. 204, figs. 56, pls. 56. Giorgio Bretschneider, Rome 2009. €230. ISBN 978-88-7689-214-1 (paper).

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This volume of Monumenti antichi offers a wealth of drawings of artifacts discovered more than 100 years ago at the sites of Trestina and Fabbrecce, as well as full presentation of original documents (some graphically reproduced, some transcribed) relating to their discovery. Because of this, it is breathtakingly expensive and sadly will not be acquired by many smaller libraries and scholars that might benefit from a closer study of the material. (Frankly, one trembles to slit the pages at this price.)

Publication rectifies a wrong often perpetuated in the archaeological community, when sensational finds gain a notoriety that causes individual pieces to be spotlighted and the rest to languish unknown. This is the situation for Faliscan architectural sculpture, as eloquently noted by Harari (“The Imagery of the Etrusco-Faliscan Pantheon Between Architectural Sculpture and Vase-Painting,” in L.B. van der Meer, ed., Material Aspects of Etruscan Religion: Proceedings of the International Colloquium, Leiden, May 29 and 30, 2008. BABesch Suppl. 16 [Leuven 2010] 83–103). When two different sets of finds were first discovered a century ago near Città di Castello northeast of Cortona and Lake Trasimene, only the most striking bronzes were publicized, so no one realized that they likely represented disturbed princely tombs rivaling those of Cerveteri and Praeneste. The objects have now been moved from Florence to the newly reinstalled Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona, and also appear on the museum’s website. For those researching orientalizing art, Iron Age and Archaic-period exchange, or Etruscan “princely” society, this catalogue is indispensable.

Editors Lo Schiavo and Romualdi are experts in pre- and protohistoric metalwork and the early history of this region and, with Albanese Procelli and Naso, have produced the catalogue begun by the late Clelia Laviosa. Specialized studies in English are provided by Macnamara and Shefton for the metal cauldrons, stands, and vessels, building on and correcting past surveys (see J. Swaddling, ed., Italian Iron Age Artefacts in the British Museum: Papers of the Sixth British Museum Classical Colloquium [London 1986]; L. Bonfante and V. Karageorghis, eds., Italy and Cyprus in Antiquity 1500–450 BC: Proceedings of an International Symposium Held at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University, November 16–18 2000 [Nicosia 2001]). Materials analyses are appended by Ferretti, Palmieri, Formigli, Pecchioli, and Miccio (173–93).

Impressive and unusual bronze vessels, stands and helmets, iron firedogs and a sword blade, orientalizing horse tack, and some extravagant impasto pottery were discovered at Trestina by farm workers in 1878. The cauldrons and stands fitted with protomes of stags, ibex, and bulls were shown and illustrated, and the other material was stored. Parallels with the then newly found Brolio votive deposit seemed evident; later, the griffin protomes came to be incorrectly attributed to it. The Trestina bronzes were assumed to represent a hoard or sanctuary deposit, but they actually resemble the contents of late seventh-century B.C.E. princely tombs, including pottery but lacking the aes rude and bronze figurines characteristic of votive deposits. The editors suggest that excavation could target the old locations and resolve the issue.

The presumed necropolis served several generations, beginning prior to the founding of a nearby village, as attested by a two-piece proto-Villanovan serpentine fibula and winged axe blade. A seventh-century parade axe preserves part of its wooden handle; pottery published for the first time includes an Etrusco-Corinthian oinochoe and flamboyant impasto vases. The latest item is a late sixth-century bronze lion-headed vase handle. An infundibulum handle (57–63, cat. no. 36) represents a series that saw wide Mediterranean export, as discussed by Naso. A few items are illustrated in old photographs but are no longer available.

Macnamara describes unusually sophisticated techniques of manufacture of the seventh-century bronze and iron cauldrons, stand, and attachments (85–106) (some protomes have ivory inlays; see the appx. by Formigli [173–82]). The Trestina tripod is the largest known of a type familiar in Assyrian palaces and Greek sanctuaries. In the absence of Italian or Sardinian comparanda, Macnamara suggests a Greek workshop skilled in the Near Eastern tradition.

Shefton writes on the so-called Rhodian bronze oinochoai and related vessels that occur at Trestina in unusually large quantity (107–41); there are also a fine, imported Laconian oinochoe and some remarkably abstract Italic bronze amphora handles (63–7). Shefton furnishes an updated list of Rhodian oinochoai (128–38) and after much consideration changes the assessment he gave in his 1979 publication (Die rhodischen” Bronzekannen. Marburger Studien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte 2 [Mainz]): his Types A and B are not Greek but Italian—either Etruscan or Campanian. This alters his picture of archaic Mediterranean trade, too, since some reached Sicily (Ragusa), Spain (Huelva), the Danube region, and even Rhodes, where an Etruscan oinochoe was buried in Kameiros Tomb A22.

By 1901, 1 km to the north at Fabbrecce, a rich selection of metal goods and pottery was turning up in farm fields. Excavation has identified a necropolis, with the discovery of an untouched trench tomb with remnants of a cart or chariot (end of seventh–early sixth century, first completely published here [155–65]). Some odd rituals and structures, such as apparent cenotaphs and mounds of river boulders, were found. A bronze orientalizing situla handle (151, cat. no. 1), obtained in 1895 from a Florentine dealer named Pacini (who supplied many foreign collectors), has been linked to the necropolis; its human figurine wears a kardiophylax.

The destroyed tombs of Fabbrecce (151–65) yielded proto-Corinthian and Corinthian pottery; impasto vases carved with horse-chimeras; and an array of Etrusco-Corinthian vases, bronzes (including a tunic-clad centaur), horse tack, spears, an unusual shield (154, cat. no. 10), a Picene helmet (155, cat. no. 25), and vessels similar to finds at Praeneste, Populonia, and Olympia. Lo Schiavo and Romualdi suggest that the preserved tomb belonged to the principe of an Umbrian tribe of the left bank of the Tiber, whose town controlled a strategic interchange between central and northern Etruria and the Adriatic. They surmise that his cremated bones, never found, may have been wrapped in cloth and placed in the cauldron-lebes.

If such significant finds are to be rescued from scientific anonymity, it remains essential that archival material be preserved in this way, no matter how banal it may seem, and it is comforting to know that Monumenti antichi continues to uphold its standards.

Jean MacIntosh Turfa
Mediterranean Section
The University of Pennsylvania Museum
33rd and Spruce Streets
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6324

Book Review of I complessi archeologici di Trestina e di Fabbrecce nel Museo Archeologico di Firenze, edited by Fulvia Lo Schiavo and Antonella Romualdi

Reviewed by Jean MacIntosh Turfa

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 115, No. 3 (July 2011)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1153.Turfa

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