Skip to comments.Huge Etruscan Road Brought To Light
Posted on 06/17/2004 3:38:42 PM PDT by blam
Huge Etruscan Road Brought to Light
By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
The Excavated Road
June 16, 2004 A plain in Tuscany destined to become a dump has turned out to be an archaeologist's dream, revealing the biggest Etruscan road ever found.
Digging in Capannori, near Lucca, archaeologist Michelangelo Zecchini has uncovered startling evidence of an Etruscan "highway" which presumably linked Etruscan Pisa, on the Tyrrhenian coast, to the Adriatic port of Spina.
Passing through Bologna, the ancient "two-sea highway" runs just a few meters away from today's modern highway which links Florence to the Tyrrhenian coast.
"It all started with the discovery of four big stones. I realized they could not lie in an alluvial plain by chance. As we dug a sample area, we found a large road still bearing the ruts left by chariots 2,500 years ago," Zecchini told Discovery News.
Dating to the end of the 6th century B.C., the seven-meter-wide (23-foot) road supported intense chariot traffic towards Spina, an Etruscan-controlled trading emporium where Etruscan and Greeks lived and worked together, and through which were imported great quantities of Greek goods.
"A great amount of information, including tombs, monuments and villages, lie hidden along this road," Zecchini said.
The ancient highway was also mentioned by Greek geographer Skylax, who in the 4th century B.C. wrote that a great road linked Pisa with Spina by a three-day journey.
Zecchini and his team have so far brought to light a 200-meter-long (656-foot) section. The discovery took place in an area that, from the 6th century A.D. until 1850, contained a large and rather deep lake.
The lake gave birth to the legend of Sextum, a rich and powerful city that disappeared under a terrible flood.
Sixteenth-century texts found in Lucca's archives recount fishermen who could see the remains of a submerged city on the bottom of the lake. They even used the city's streets and square as reference points for their fishing.
"Our archeological survey has shown that the remains do not belong to the legendary Sextum, but to innumerable ancient Roman farms. Indeed the area has been dubbed 'the plain of the 100 farms.' But nobody would have ever imagined that this plain could hide such an imposing road," Zecchini said.
The archaeologist hopes to uncover at least 15 kilometers (nine miles) of the ancient road.
"This is a fantastically important discovery for many reasons. It confirms the importance of the Etruscan roads which linked the great cities of Etruria, which have not been found so far because they lay beneath the later Roman roads. This section of the road was long covered over by a lake, a fact which accounts for its excellent condition, which will allow archaeologists to study details of its construction," Larissa Bonfante, professor of classics at New York University and an authority on the Etruscan civilization, told Discovery News.
Bonfante added that the road's early date the archaic period of 500 B.C. means that it was made and used during the period of the Etruscans' greatest power and influence, when they had extended their influence south to Rome.
"They had craftsmen who specialized in making various types of chariots, including the sturdy vehicles with standard widths which left the ruts on this road," Bonfante said.
Good! Wake me when you find a Latin-Etruscan dictionary ;)
What happened to the lake?
Kind of reminds me of a road in the Bronx.
Pisa to Trieste maybe. The place must have already been jumping, tradewise, when Rome was founded.
Behold, two hitchhikers.
I'm thinking that perhaps traveling by chariot, while better than walking, wasn't a particularly pleasant way to travel long distances.
I htink of armies in chariots, not regular commercial traffic. Riding horseback would be preferable, IMO.
Now I need to look up chariot pictures....
As an elderly skateboarder  shot by me last night on campus and his board went the other way, I reflected on chariot riding. I would bet that a charioteer over 21 was a rarity. Most were probably 13-16 and immune to joint ailments.
I don't see any shocks on this thing.
I believe I'd prefer a chaise with netting and pillows conveyed by some lackeys with a very smooth gait.
Women drivers... bouncing up, it seems. The horses' back legs look so close to the wheels.
Goodness! Lots of fascinating archeological news tonite!
Yup. Messy party dresses, lol.
Yes, Mary Ludwig, it is a good day for archaeological news...two days worth actually.
I'll bet you're right. There must've been considerable noise, too.
The inscription says, "Do you want fries with that?...Drive ahead, please."
...also reminds me of the toll booth in "Blazing Saddles"....
Cobblestone roads, iron horseshoes, and iron rims on the chariot wheels = considerable noise and flying debris. They wouldn't be going much faster than a trot on long trips, that wouldn't be so bad, but around town chariots were a terror. The stories from Pompeii tell of pedestrians leaping for their lives to get out of the way of the young men in their galloping chariots.
:-) Mary Ludwig finds it all fascinating, too!
Thank you, blam...
I'm with you, Val... Where did the lake go?
I've tried Googling "6th"+"1850"+" lake"+"Italy" and got nothing to help.
Many private chariots had a rudamentary suspension that isolated the passenger area from the suspension via leather straps. Others used leather mesh in place of a hard floor to cushion a standing rider. Some combined both.
IIRC, fixed suspension chariots were pretty much only used in warfare or racing (where unpredictable bouncing could be dangerous). The ride in a leather-shocked chariot wouldn't have been perfectly smooth, but it wouldn't have jarred any teeth loose either.
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I bet there was plenty of commercial traffic unless the armies needed to march