Poggio Colla

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Poggio Colla
Italy Tuscany location map.svg
Archaeological site icon (red).svg
Shown within Tuscany
Location Vicchio, Province of Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Coordinates 43°55′27″N11°28′48″E / 43.92417°N 11.48000°E / 43.92417; 11.48000 Coordinates: 43°55′27″N11°28′48″E / 43.92417°N 11.48000°E / 43.92417; 11.48000
Periods Iron Age to Hellenistic
Cultures Etruscan
Site notes
Excavation datesyes
ArchaeologistsP. Gregory Warden
Website Mugello Valley Archaeological Project

Poggio Colla is an Etruscan archaeological site located near the town of Vicchio in Tuscany, Italy. [1]



The site of Poggio Colla preserved undisturbed habitation layers related to the Etruscan civilization and appears to have been inhabited by Etruscans at least as early as 7th century BCE and was abandoned or destroyed in the late 3rd century BCE. The site suffered a violent destruction and was rebuilt during the Hellenistic period. [2]


The first excavations at Poggio Colla were directed by Francesco Nicosia from 1968 to 1972. From 1995 to 2012, the site was excavated annually by the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project (MVAP) under the direction of Gregory Warden and Michael Thomas; MVAP is sponsored by Southern Methodist University and the University of Pennsylvania. [2] Excavations have revealed fortification walls, a necropolis area, and the remains of an archaic monumental building (possibly, a temple).


The faunal remains recovered from Poggio Colla primarily contains the remains of cattle, sheep/goat and pig, as well as the remains of dog and wild species. The relative importance of pigs increases over time; this trend is linked to the intensification of meat production and rising urban populations. Similar faunal assemblages have been found in other Etruscan settlements. [3]

A black-glaze olpe filled with one hundred Roman silver victoriati was discovered in 2001 in the west end of the Poggio Colla acropolis. The significance of the finding is that it is found in the context of a sanctuary and it was buried after the sanctuary was destroyed in the late 3rd century BCE. [4]

The use of a rounded molding on the base of monumental tombs, temples, and altars is the characteristic of Etruscan architecture; and it was consistent between the 6th and the 2nd century BCE in different Etruscan cities. A large number of such moldings were discovered in Poggio Colla; the large single or double round fits into the known pattern of Etruscan architecture. [5]

A large number of roof tiles of the monumental structure on the Poggio Colla acropolis and workshop/farmhouse of Podere Funghi have been discovered during ongoing excavation. A geochemical study has been done in an attempt to characterize the composition of ceramics, tilesm and the local sediments discovered at the site of Poggio Colla. [6] Using methods like X-ray, petrography, thermogravimetric analysis, macroscopic observations, it is found that typical pottery sherds and tile fragments constituent of abundant quartz, feldspar, minor amount of mica, lithic, and grog. The compositions of tiles and pottery of Poggio Colla and Podere Funghi are similar, but the rock and sediment specimens were different; which supports the hypothesis that diverse ceramic industry co-existed in close proximity to Poggio Colla acropolis.

Paleoethnobotanical studies have been done at Poggio Colla [7] to identify the plants utilized by the Etruscans; this could provide potential information about Etruscan diet and common plants used in weaving. The soil samples from features and stratum, are floated to obtain botanical remains, which includes modern roots, charcoal, whole seeds, and seed fragments. Thus far, the identified seeds include cereal, mainly barley, wheat, broad beans, chickpeas, and grape pips. This is an ongoing research of MVAP.


This excavation resulted in two highly significant archaeological discoveries: a stone stele "evidence of a permanent religious cult with monumental dedications, at least as early as the Late Archaic Period, from about 525 to 480 B.C. Its re-use in the foundations of a slightly later sanctuary structure points to deep changes in the town and its social structure.". [8] The stele itself is 226.8 kg, and roughly 1.2 m in height, with approximately 120 Etruscan characters along the sides, making the stele the source of one of the longest inscriptions in the Etruscan language, which has eluded comprehension from scholars since its initial discovery. The inscription attests to Uni being the primary recipient of worship and sacrifice at the Poggio Colla sacred site. The head archaeologist, Gregory Warden, stated that “the slab was discovered embedded in the foundations of a monumental temple where it had been buried for more than 2,500 years. At one time it would have been displayed as an imposing and monumental symbol of authority.” [9]

The second significant discovery was the birth-stamp; a small image of a woman giving birth that was found on a shard of bucchero pottery. The image shows the head and shoulders of a baby emerging from the mother, who is represented with her face in profile, with one arm raised, thought to be holding on to possibly a tree for support. The artifact’s closest Etruscan iconographic parallels—the scenes found on the Archaic relief slabs from Tarquinia—illustrate a crouching female but without the baby. Additional Etruscan scenes combine the crouching pose with a range of animals, suggesting an association with the “Mistress of the Animals.” A survey of the few related images from around the Mediterranean not only establishes the rarity of childbirth images in the classical world but also the uniquely Etruscan character of the shard’s imagery. When its context—a redeposited occupation stratum of a settlement dated to the end of the Orientalizing period—is assessed in conjunction with its iconography, it becomes possible to view the stamp’s imagery as alluding to concepts of fertility and reproduction tied to the power of nature and regeneration, all of which would have been appropriate in an Etruscan banqueting context attended by elite men and women. [10]

  1. Etruscan Studies. Volume 16, Issue 1, Pages 75–105, ISSN (Online) 2163-8217, ISSN (Print) 1080-1960, DOI: 10.1515/etst-2013-0001, May 2013
  2. Etruscan Studies. Volume 15, Issue 1, Pages 19–93, ISSN (Online) 2163-8217, ISSN (Print) 1080-1960, DOI: 10.1515/etst-2012-0001, May 2012


For additional information concerning the excavation, and the various conferences, exhibitions, and public lectures that have been given concerning the stele and the birth stamp, as well as the overarching significance of the archaeological project itself, visit: *Mugello Valley Archaeological Project and Poggio Colla Field School website or/and the MVAP Website

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  1. Becker, J. "Places: 34221419 (Poggio Colla)". Pleiades. Retrieved April 5, 2021.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. 1 2 "MVAP Project History". Poggio Colla Field School, MVAP, Southern Methodist University. Archived from the original on 2014-04-07. Retrieved 2011-07-19.
  3. Trentacoste, Angela. "Faunal remains from the Etruscan sanctuary at Poggio Colla (Vicchio di Mugello)" Etruscan Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, 2013, pp. 75-105. https://doi.org/10.1515/etst-2013-0001
  4. Thomas, Michael L. "One Hundred Victoriati from the Sanctuary at Poggio Colla (Vicchio di Mugello): Ritual Contexts and Roman Expansion" , vol. 15, no. 1, 2012, pp. 19-93. https://doi.org/10.1515/etst-2012-0001
  6. Weaver, I., Meyers, G. E., Mertzman, S. A., Sternberg, R., & Didaleusky, J. (2013). GEOCHEMICAL EVIDENCE FOR INTEGRATED CERAMIC AND ROOF TILE INDUSTRIES AT THE ETRUSCAN SITE OF POGGIO COLLA, ITALY. Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry, 13(1).
  8. Turfa, Jean MacIntosh. "Inscribed Etruscan Stele Unearthed in Italy". archaeology.org. Retrieved 2020-03-12.
  9. "Archaeologists Find Etruscan Stele with Rare Inscriptions". sci-news.com. Retrieved 2020-03-12.
  10. Perkins, Phil (2012). "The bucchero childbirth stamp on a late Orientalizing period shard from Poggio Colla" (PDF). Etruscan Studies. 15 (2): 146–201. doi:10.1515/etst-2012-0014.