Etruscan scholarship has been thrown into a state of excitement by the announcement that the pre-eminent Etruscan sanctuary, Fanum Voltumnae, precisely written about by the Roman historian Livy, and for which scholars have been searching for some five hundred years, is now believed to have been identified as the site at the foot Orvieto known as Campo della Fiera. The Fanum Voltumnae Fanum meaning sacred area and Voltumna being the Etruscan god of the earth and patron of the Etruscan people was a sort of Mecca to which each year the political and religious leaders from the twelve Etruscan cities would go for a council. Here military and political decisions would be made and prayers offered to their gods, but it was also the occasion for an enormous fair, to which priests, soldiers, the faithful as well as merchants and peddlers would flock in their thousands, and for which vendors of one sort and another would even set off from Rome.
The present excavations there, financed by the Monte dei Paschi Siena and Mps Asset Management Sgr, have been going on for the last six years, and Simonetta Stopponi, lecturer in Etruscology and Italic archaeology at the university of Macerata and director of the excavations, has declared that she is almost certain, on the basis of the size of the site, the size of the temple and sacred area, wells, fountains and its continuous use for centuries from the sixth century BC onwards, as testified by finds of bronze offerings and shards of fine Attic pots, that it is the great sanctuary. Particularly significant has been the discovery of two roads in basolato (large stone blocks), one of which, five metres wide and passing in front of the temple, linked Orvieto to Bolsena, while the other, seven metres wide, was a sacred way leading up the hill of Orvieto.
However, absolute confirmation of the correctness of the identification awaits the discovery of an inscription to dispel all doubt.
EVENTS THIS WEEKview calendar