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Chapter 9: The Villa(?) and Cemetery(?) at Site 13

At the very end of the 1976 season of excavation the crops had been cut and harvested at what was presumed to be Site 13. Therefore, it was possible to test the site with three trenches, one 4 meters east-west and 2 meters across and the other two 3x1 meters. Again luck followed us. The two smaller trenches produced the foundations of concrete walls and opus signinum floors while the larger one a pipe of rectangular section running east-west.86 Since this type of pipe is unknown to me from antiquity, I rather think it was set down in the 20th century and had some function in the irrigation of the field, the water probably pumped from the underlying aquifer and nearby well.87 However, it was obvious that this pipe was no longer in use. All three trenches, after recording depths and finds, were back-filled on the last day of the season.

The walls and floors were discovered at depths of 1.18 and 1.20 meters below the surface of the field. The recently ploughed earth or top soil was less than 0.58 meters. There was no continuity in plan for the walls and floors (likely they represented different rooms of a fairly large structure) despite the fact the trenches were no more than 4 meters apart and on the same grid.

Finds from the trenches included: various colored marbles, either revetment or opus sectile fragments; white cube tesserae in matrix; red-painted wall plaster; opus spicatum tiles; roof tile fragments; one rim piece of black glaze pottery; a range of fine ware and coarse ware shards (1st and 2nd century A.C.); animal and perhaps even human bone fragments.88 Unfortunately none of the bricks or tiles bore stamps. The catalogue of surface finds in the Ward Perkins/Kahane article (72) matches much of what was discovered in the excavation; so do the dates offered in the article.89

After our 1976 discoveries at Site 13 the Vaselli Tenuta managers kept this area planted in crops of greater value than the rotated urba medica of sites 10 and 11. This fact made it especially difficult for us to return in subsequent seasons to Site 13 if we were to keep cordial relations with the Vaselli owners. When we had finished our work at Site 10 (the end of 1989) to begin anew at Site 13 would have required financial resources well in excess of what we might be able to raise. It would also have involved legal battles not only with the Vaselli family, but perhaps the Italian State as well.90 Much of this area was earmarked for suburban development. As we know, what we regard as progress is often at the cost of knowledge of our past.

Probably Site 13 will never be scientifically excavated. A sad truth indeed. At least we have the judgement of Coste, Schutzmann-Bolzon, and Ward Perkins/Kahane that at Site 13 there was once a villa during the 1st and 2nd centuries, even occupation in the Republican era, with a nearby cemetery or necropolis. The size of the villa, if our work at sites 10 and 11 provides comparative examples, would likely have been larger and richer than that guessed at from surface survey. Yet a major question remains: to what degree, if any, would the villa have been involved in agricultural industry and cooperation with its neighbors (see "Speculations")?

All text and images copyright © 2002 by Walter Widrig and Rice University. Last updated May 2007 by dmc-info@rice.edu.