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Etruscan archaic settlement of Gonfienti

The archaeological reality of the Etruscan Gonfiente was discovered by the excavations in the span of a decade from the report of the first accidental discovery (4 November 1996) to the final commissioning of the first protected area of over 20 hectares, and the numbers themselves can demonstrate the uniqueness of the site. 
In fact, from the muddy quagmire explored around the historic village of Gonfienti, near an alluvial morphological embankment placed on the left side of the river Bisenzio, having so far excavated only 1/100 of the land of archaeological risk, rose the largest Etruscan city which is known today, for its size and the urban structure. 
Without any doubt this discovery proves also that the large settlement of Gonfienti corresponds to a very early colonization of the plaine that appears, belonging to archaeological surveys, already well structured at the beginning of the Iron Age, absolutely anticipatory of what later will be better known as the "Roman land division" going to affect a very vital territory, seamless space of time since the Bronze Age. 
In fact, together with the great Etruscan settlement, founded by the Tyrrhenian princeps, was discovered in the same place a large settlement in the Middle and Late Bronze that returned extraordinary materials and unpublished evidence of strong links with the Po Valley developed in the trans-Apennine migration routes. 

However, what today seems like an overwhelming archaeological reality, able to rewrite the ancient pre-Roman history, is a demonstration of that, what recent historical studies had already suggested based only on observation of places, historically evoked by literary contributions of the past, which suggested supremacy of the Northern Etruria in the period of all glory of Etruscan civilization (VI-V century BC).

These assessments were further corroborated by the opinions of retired etruscologists from Francesco Nicosia to Michelangelo Zecchini, especially after the discovery by the latter, in 2004 in the village Frizzone in the Plain of Lucca, of a section of the legendary glareato metals road that joined the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic, as mentioned in the sixth century BC by the geographer and explorer Scilace di Carianda. 
Therefore the presence of an Etruscan metropolis in the territory in the north of the Arno is not a surprise.

On the other hand it would have been enough to read with attention the essays and the so-called documents of the "pre-scientific" Etruscology. The current discoveries are linked to the descriptions of geographers and archaeologists of the 19th century, from Repetti to Micali, from Tagioni Tozzetti to Dempster. "When the Lydien came to Tuscany, the Estruscan nation took its origin of this period, they found the country already populated by people living there more or less time, and they were dwelling in cities surrounded by walls, that were built by themselves. These persons and the Lydian formed together the body of the nation, which once had the name of Etruscan…." (F. Inghirami, History of Tuscany, T. 2, Fiesole 1841)

It seems not to be real to find today in those expressions, previously regarded as apodictic statements, confirm by archaeological findings. Returning to the Etruscan city on the Bisenzio, it is quite clear considering the findings so far recovered, that this settlement was at its peak in the mid-sixth century BC, although if in reality have been found previously important substrates, related to Etruscan orientalizing period and beyond.
This aggregation phenomenon of urban type, known as "Etruscan Synoecism", also produced a migration to plain of populations previously established in the hills, likely to consist of a series of villages on the slopes of the mountains on the feet of the Calvana mountain and the massive Morello. They can be defined with the Latin term of "pagi" and can be considered as proto-urban matrices of the city that was building up in the plains. 

In summery, in the early fifth century BC, the urban organization of the city, archaeologically characterized by the presence of a great plateia (or cardo massimo) of over 10m70 meters wide (Lot 15F), can be seen through an urban complex, with the presence of stores, houses and well-structured infrastructure systems, very advanced for the period, ranked areas of geometric rectangular designed within wider territorial squares. They were well drained for agricultural and residential use with deep pipelines and wells. 
The other, and in some ways even more surprising discoveries concerning the site of Gonfienti are given by the discovery of a domus regis of more than 1440 square meters (Lot 14) and to the east of this, a stretch of a glareato suburban road, similar to that of Frizzone of Lucca, about six meters wide. This pattern corresponded to a decumanus (gr. Stenopoi), oriented at 122° south-east, 302° north-west, perfectly consistent with the territorial grid of the "land division" which marks the northern part of the plain. 
Gonfienti was therefore the crossroads of canalized rivers and large overland routes, assuming that the main Etruscan iron route from Pisa to Spina passes there. The city was wealthy, as evidenced by the magnificence of the great domus, confirmed by the splendour of architectural decorations they encounter in the excavations (antefixes, painted tiles, etc..). The elegance of jewellery found in it, and above all, the rich ceramic set (over 2000 boxes of pieces), among them a beautiful Kylix, unanimously attributed to the period of artistic maturity of the pottery painter "chiusino" Douris (about 475/470 BC).
The buyer of a lot of refined wealth should not have been a second-class person.
These characters demonstrates the political importance of the city in the Etruscan arena. Considering these elements, we can say that nothing like this has ever bee found in Etruria, much less to the north of the river Arno. Although the proximity of the Etruscan Fiesole and the monumental tombs of the Mula and the Montagnola, 7 km to the east, and Montefortini and Boschetti of the Montalbano, 98 km to the south, could lead one to suppose that there is a nerve centre of such massive proportions, corresponding precisely to the area occupied by the Etruscan city now discovered. 

At the moment we don't know the name of the city, perhaps evoked by the idonomo Visentius (deriv. from accad. Waşitū = canal, or rather from accad. Wişentū = regulated spring water, in the sense of very ancient names assigned from the early age of metals), and by the assigned name of Rusellae survived to this day until the ruins of the city that etymology would identify precisely the high morphology above which was to be built the town crossed by canals: a city of water, or if we want to say it in a medieval key, of the mill races. The archaeological finds demonstrates that this settlement was founded around river docks that made the river navigable and along the major trading routes, which was a meeting point of different ethnic groups and populations from different origins, of Umbrian-Celtic matrix. 
This ancestry would indicate the presence of the ancient poleonimo Camars, assignable to the primitive city at the top of the hill, to be associated with the torrents Camerella and Marina which flowed into the Bisenzio near by Gonfienti (from Lat. Confluentes).
The Etruscan city of Gonfienti was a big metropolis six hundred years before the founding of Civitas Florentiae, a settlement that occupied the whole access to the Val di Marina, big enough to contain metallurgical plants and, a little further north, the remains of another settlement, also found in 2004 at the hill of Chiuso di Calenzano (lat. Clusium). It was equipped with powerful walls at the beginning of the fourth century BC, as well as, to the west at the right bank of the river, the installation of a new Bisenzia (ancient reminiscent of the city of Prato).
These places have survived the end of the first river town Bisentia after it's dissappearance because of a disastrous flood, both will be destroyed, as reminiscent of the medieval chroniclers, at the hands of Silla in the first two decades of the first century BC. 

Nevertheless, all these painful episodes only accredits the existence, since Etruscan Archaic to the Hellenistic period, of two cities under one name, Chiusi in Val di Chiana and Chiusi in Val di Marina, supporting the literal interpretation texts on the history of Rom bequeathed to us by Tito Livio that distinguishes one from the other, pointing specifically only as "ad Clusium quod olim appelabant Camars" and that, ultimately, might just be the metropolis Bisentina.

by Giuseppe Centauro

Ritrovamento archeologico di Gonfienti

Addresses and contacts

Via di Gonfienti
, 1
- 59100
Prato
Phone: 0574 1837313 (Servizio Cultura del Comune di Prato)
Opening time The area is not open to the public area but there are often guided tours organized by the Municipality of Prato.
Caricamento Google Maps.......attendere

Data ultima revisione dei contenuti della pagina: gioved 20 ottobre 2016

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