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Department of Archaeology


The Montelabate Project


Simon StoddartCaroline Malone and Letizia Ceccarelli


The Etruscan View of the Frontier (David Redhouse)

The Montelabate estate of the Gaslini foundation straddles the frontier between Etruscan Perugia and Umbrian Gubbio. Field survey by Maurizio Matteini Chiari (in the late 1970s) and Gabriele Cifani in 2009 established the importance of this upland area. More recent field survey in September 2010 and excavation of the site of Col di Marzo in August 2011 has convincingly shown that the Etruscan frontier was established in the fifth-fourth century BC. A contrast can be drawn between the expansive political policy of the Etruscans projecting their influence beyond the Tiber and the more city centred focus of the Umbrians, concentrating on the city limits, as revealed by the third - first cent BC Iguvine tables.


Field survey and excavation have uncovered some Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic sites on the terraces above the tributaries of the Tiber that date to before foundation of the frontier. In the Final Bronze Age these became a network of intervisible sites, principally on the high mountains, but including Col di Marzo within the frontier itself. In the sixth-fifth century BC some of these same sites were reoccupied by small sanctuaries, including the very same Col di Marzo on the line of the later political frontier.


Plan of Col di Marzo showing excavation areas

The August 2011 excavation pushed the foundation of the frontier back to the fifth century BC, with the discovery of Etruscan bucchero and painted pottery at Col di Marzo. The principal occupation of the site is still dated to the fourth century BC, the moment of proper consolidation of the frontier, and comprised evidence of terracing, living areas (sealed under tile collapse), metallurgical activity, working of antler/horn, animal processing and storage of agricultural production (peas, beans, wheat) associated with storage jars.



In the Roman period, the frontier zone was absorbed into a much larger system, as shown by the implanting of a series of farmsteads and by the construction of a number of kilns for the production of amphorae and pottery. The products of these kilns had a very extensive distribution that employed the Tiber and its tributaries (e.g. the Ventia) as the main means of distribution. In the Byzantine period the area was very strategically placed along the road that led from Rome to Ravenna. In the Medieval period, the monasteries of S.Maria and S. Paolo di Valdiponte were constructed in the liminal zone between the two cities of Perugia and Gubbio. Subsequently, the territorial limits were defended by a series of castles, under study by the University of Rome. The same boundaries have been preserved in the administrative borders of Gubbio and Perugia, and their defensive potential re-emerged for ten days during the month of July 1944, as indicated by documentary and archaeological information.















The project is grateful to the Gaslini Foundation, the Province of Perugia, the cities of Gubbio and Perugia, the British Academy, The Rust Family Foundation, The Thriplow Trust, Queen's University Belfast, the European Commission and the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Umbria, as well as the McDonald Institute, for support.

  • Stoddart, S., Barone, P., Bennett, J., Ceccarelli, L., Cifani, G., Clackson, J. Ferrara, F., della Giovampaola, I., Fulminante, F., Licence, T., Malone, C., Matacchioni, L., Mullen, A., Nomi, F., Pettinelli, E., Redhouse, D. and Whitehead, N. 2012. Opening the frontier: the Gubbio-Perugia frontier in the course of history. Papers of the British School at Rome 80: 257-294.
  • Stoddart, S, Ceccarelli, L and Redhouse, D.  2012. Before the frontier: Gubbio and its landscape before the state. In Negroni Catacchio, N.  (ed.)   L’Etruria dal Paleolitico al Primo Ferro. Lo stato delle ricerche. Atti del decimo incontro Preistoria e Protostoria dell’Etruria. Settembre 2010. Milano, Centro Studi di Preistoria e Archeologia, 677-687.
  • Malone, C, Stoddart, S., Ceccarelli, L., Cenciaioli, L., Duff, P., McCormick, F., Morales, J. Armstrong, S., Bates, J.,  Bennett, J., Cameron, J., Cifani, G., Cohen, S., Foley, T., Fulminante, F., Hill, H., Mattacchoni, L., Neil, S., Rosatelli, A., Redhouse, R. and Volhard-Dearman, S.  2014. Beyond feasting: consumption and life style amongst the invisible Etruscans. In Boyle, K, Rabett, R. and Hunt, C. (eds.) Living in the Landscape. Essays in honour of Graeme Barker, McDonald Institute, Cambridge, 257-266.
  • Ceccarelli, L., Rossetti, I., Primavesi, L and Stoddart, S. 2016. Non-destructive method for the identification of ceramic production by portable X-rays fluourescence (pXRF). A case study of amphorae manufacture in central Italy. Journal of Archaeological Science: reports 10: 253-262.
  • Stoddart, S. 2016. City and Countryside. In Bell, S. & Carpino, A.A. (eds.) A Companion to the Etruscans.Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 55-66.
  • Stoddart, S. 2017. The Apparent Invisibility of the Non-Elite and Rural Settlement North of the Tiber in the Age of Tarquin. In Smith C.J. and Lulof P.S. (eds.)   The Age of Tarquinius Superbus: Central Italy in the Late 6th Century. Proceedings of the Conference 'The Age of Tarquinius Superbus, A Paradigm Shift?'  Rome, 7-9 November 2013  (Babesch Supplements 29). Leuven: Peeters Publishers,  187-194.
  • Ceccarelli, L. 2017. Production and trade in central Italy in the roman period: The amphora workshop of Montelabate in Umbria. Papers of the British School at Rome 85: 109-41.
Project results and reports

Preliminary project results :

The art gallery

  • Report in the 2009-10 Annual Report of the McDonald Institute Here
  • Report in the 2010-11 Annual Report of the McDonald Institute Here
  • Report in the 2011-12 Annual Report of the McDonald Institute Here
  • Before the Frontier (pre-print of Stoddart et al 2012) Here
  • Press releases 2011 Here
  • Press releases 2012 Here
  • Press releases 2013 Here
  • Superintendency report 2011 Here
  • Superintendency report 2012 Here
  • Summary report on Roman Kilns Here
  • You Tube film (20 minutes in Italian) Here
Project Team

Key participants in the project include (alphabetical order): Letizia Ceccarelli, Gabriele Cifani (Rome), Francesca Fulminante, David Redhouse and the artist in residence Charlotte Stoddart

Project Tags

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