'Monte Bisenzio' from north (photo: RGZM / A. Babbi).

Settlement and cemeteries in Bisenzio (graphic: V. Gruenewald, edited by A. Babbi).

Bisenzio, Olmo Bello necropolis, grave 16, plan and section (graphic: after R. Paribeni, Capodimonte – Ritrovamento di tombe arcaiche. Notizie degli Scavi 1928, Abb. 40-41).

Bisenzio, Olmo Bello necropolis, grave 22, model bronze wagon carrying a cauldron (after M. Pallottino ed., Die Etrusker und Europa, Mailand - Paris 1992, p. 162).


Bisenzio. Multi-disciplinary research on a major Etruscan centre from the Late Bronze Age to the Archaic period

deutsche Version

Bisenzio is located in the northern part of the modern Italian administrative region of Lazio, in the Comune of Capodimonte. The Villanovan and Etruscan settlement is centred on Monte Bisenzo, a volcanic hill on the western bank of the volcanic Lake Bolsena, separated from flat plains to the north and south by gentle or steep slopes. To the west are the steep scarps of the caldera rim, which encircles the entire lake. The first major period of settlement is in 10th century BC (later part of the Final Bronze Age); earlier finds seem to be rare. The Final Bronze Age material mainly derives from systematic excavation on the summit of Monte Bisenzo in 1978 and 1979, but material was also collected in the surrounding foothills. Our knowledge of Bisenzio was greatly improved by the fieldwalking projects conducted by Klaus Raddatz and Jürgen Driehaus in the 70ies and early 80ies (University of Göttingen). In both cases, the great majority of the finds documented were Early Iron Age and early Etruscan - later (Roman and Medieval) finds are rare. The latest finds date to around 500 BC or the start of the 5th century BC, and this is generally accepted as the end of Etruscan Bisenzio. The cemeteries are spread over a distance of around 4 km to the south-east, west and north-west of Monte Bisenzo. Apart from some earlier discoveries, systematic excavations took place between 1884 and 1894. Between 1911 and 1933 excavations concentrated on the area to the south of Monte Bisenzo. While the published reports on these excavations provide useful information on grave structures and associated furnishings, only a small minority of the grave goods has been illustrated. After the Second World War, numerous small excavations were carried out by the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell’Etruria Meridionale, mainly in response to the activities of grave robbers. According to the burial types and the funerary assemblages the earliest graves can be dated back to the early 9th century BC, while the latest Etruscan burials date to around 500 BC or the start of the 5th century BC. The most important burials were discovered in loc. Olmo Bello where more than 200 tombs were uncovered between 1927 and 1931, but only 16 graves were published in 1928.

Scientific Goals

The aims of the DFG Project is to sketch out an accurate archaeological, social, and historical framework of the Bisenzio settlement and society between LBA and Archaic Period by achieving the following goals: study and publication of the evidence from archaeological excavations carried out on Mount Bisenzio in 1978 and 1979; study and publication of the preserved funerary contexts from the Omo Bello cemetery; study and publication of the evidence from new fieldwalking surveys; study and publication of the already uncovered underwater findings from the lake bottom near Mount Bisenzio; accurate geophysical analysis of the whole settlement and Olmo Bello cemetery areas; geological analysis of the region through fieldwalking and micro core sampling; set up of an on-line GIS of the investigated area.

Scientific Structure

The project is a scientific co-operation between the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (Prof. Dr. Markus Egg) and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Institut für Altertums-wissenschaften Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie (Prof. Dr. Christopher Pare). The Soprintendenza Archeologia del Lazio e dell’Etruria Meridionale, (director Dr. Alfonsina Russo Tagliente / coordination with the PB Dr. Valeria D'Atri) conceded Dr. Andrea Babbi the necessary permits to study and publish the ancient centre of Bisenzio. Besides, the Soprintendenza is facilitating the research activity as far as some important logistical aspects are concerned. Furthermore, it has allowed the access to part of the Italian Cultural Heritage such as the documents stored in its own archives, and the almost completely unpublished finds and quite rich burial assemblages located in its storerooms, aiming for their publication. Finally, the Soprintendenza makes available to the projekt its own knowledge of the since long protected cultural heritage and landscape. Dr. Andrea Babbi, who initiated the research project, made the contacts and partnerships, and negotiated the necessary permits, is responsible for the coordination of the various research activities.

Apart from the scientific coordination Dr. Babbi will be responsible for/as: scientific, logistic and politic support/connections with the Italian institutions and administration; study and publication of the Olmo Bello cemetery; study and publication of the archive documents and daily reports concerning the  archaeological excavation carried out in 1978 and 1979 at Bisenzio; organization and supervision of the 6-Weeks-Season fieldwalking surveys; study and publication of the Bronze Age evidence from the fieldwalking surveys.


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; 2015-2017).The total duration of the project is six years.

Publications/Outputs to date (chronological order)

Reports in Research Blog

  • A. Babbi, 'Etrurien und Mittelmeerraum. European Joint Doctorate in ARchaeological and Cultural Heritage MATerials Sciences, Universität Rom ‘La Sapienza’, 24.-26. Juni', Report on the Weblog of the Research Training Group 1876 'Frühe Konzepte von Mensch und Natur: Universalität, Spezifität, Tradierung', Johannes-Gutenberg-Univesität Mainz, 24 July 2019


  • A. Babbi, 'Progetto multidisciplinare 'Bisenzio': nuovi dati sulle dinamiche insediative in Etruria meridionale tra età del bronzo ed età arcaica, i modelli teorici tradizionali alla luce delle recenti scoperte', Invited Lecture, Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per l'Area Metropolitana di Roma la Provincia di Viterbo e l'Etruria Meridionale - Palazzo Patrizi Clementi, Via Cavalletti 2 - ROMA, Sala delle Colonne Doriche, 22 May 2019
  • A. Babbi, 'Bisenzio am Bolsenasee (Italien): die Wiederentdeckung einer florierenden etruskischen Stadt', Invited Lecture, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum - Wintervortragsreihe, 22 January 2019
  • A. Babbi, 'Bisenzio (Viterbo - Italien) von der Bronzezeit bis in die Archaische Periode. Kleineres Zentrum oder eines der bedeutendsten Knotenpunkte Südetruriens? (Weltsystem- vs. Network-Theorie)', Invited Lecture, Universität Bonn, Institut für Archäologie und Kulturanthropologie, 22 November 2018
  • A. Babbi, F. Delpino 'L’Etruria meridionale interna in età protostorica: riflessioni e suggestioni di ricerca', Invited Lecture, 29th Convegno di Studi Etruschi e Italici ‘L’Etruria delle Necropoli Rupestri’ - Teatro Il Rivellino "Veliano Lucchetti", Piazza F. Basile - TUSCANIA (VT), 26th October 2017
  • A. Babbi, ' Progetto multidisciplinare 'Bisenzio': nuove prospettive di ricerca', Invited Lecture, Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per l'Area Metropolitana di Roma la Provincia di Viterbo e l'Etruria Meridionale - Palazzo Patrizi Clementi, Via Cavalletti 2 - ROMA, Sala delle Colonne Doriche, 29 May 2017
  • A. Babbi, "'Bisenzio' sul lago di Bolsena: il lago, il territorio, l'insediamento e le necropoli. Conoscenze pregresse e nuove ricerche', Invited Lecture, Università della Tuscia - Viterbo, Dipartimento di Scienze dei Beni Culturali, 12 April 2017
  • A. Babbi, ‘Bisenzio (Viterbo - Italy) between the Bronze Age and the Archaic period: the current state of knowledge of a frontier town between powerful Etruscan cities’, Invited Lecture, University of Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Later European Prehistory Group, 28 April, 2016.
  • A. Babbi, F. Miketta, Chr. Pare, ‘Bisenzio un progetto multidisciplinare’, Invited Lecture, Soprintendenza Archeologia del Lazio e dell'Etruria Meridionale, Polo Museale del Lazio, Università della Tuscia (Viterbo), 15 December, 2015
  • A. Babbi, ‘Progetto Multidisciplinare Bisenzio’, Lecture given at the XXIII Convegno Internazionale di Studi sulla Storia e l'Archeologia dell'Etruria: 'Dalla CAPANNA al PALAZZO Edilizia abitativa nell’Italia preromana', Orvieto, 11-13 December, 2015.

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