Previously unknown monumental temple discovered near the Tempio Grande in Vulci

Researchers discover temple as part of the Vulci Cityscape project launched in 2020

10 November 2022


Archeologists from the universities of Freiburg and Mainz identify one of the largest known sacred buildings of the Etruscans. The strata of the temple offer insights into more than 1,000 years of development of one of the most important Etruscan cities. The new temple has approximately the same dimensions and similar orientation as the neighboring Tempio Grande and was built at about the same time in the Archaic period. This doubling of monumental buildings in an Etruscan city is rare and special.

An interdisciplinary team headed by archeologists Dr. Mariachiara Franceschini of the University of Freiburg and Paul P. Pasieka of the University of Mainz has discovered a previously unknown Etruscan temple in the ancient city of Vulci, which lies in the Italian region of Latium. The building, which is 45 meters by 35 meters, is situated west of the Tempio Grande, a sacred building which was excavated back in the 1950s. Initial examination of the strata of the foundation of the northeast corner of the temple and the objects they found there led the researchers to date the construction of the temple towards the end of the sixth or beginning of the fifth century BCE. "The new temple is roughly the same size and on a similar alignment as the neighboring Tempio Grande and was built at roughly the same Archaic time," explained Franceschini. "This duplication of monumental buildings in an Etruscan city is rare and indicates an exceptional finding," added Pasieka. The research team discovered the temple when working on the Vulci Cityscape project, which was launched in 2020 to research the settlement strategies and urbanistic structures of the city of Vulci. Vulci was one of the twelve cities of the Etruscan federation and in pre-Roman times was one of the most important urban centers in what is now Italy.

New discoveries about city design and development

"We studied the entire northern area of Vulci, that’s 22.5 hectares, using geophysical prospecting and Ground Penetrating Radar," explained Pasieka. "We discovered remains from the city's origins that had previously been overlooked in Vulci and we are now better able to understand the dynamics of settlement and the road system, besides identifying different functional areas in the city." In 2021, the researchers had already uncovered the first sections of wall, made of solid tuff. "Our knowledge about the appearance and organization of Etruscan cities has been limited until now," said Franceschini. "The intact strata of the temple are offering us insights into more than a thousand years of development of one of the most important Etruscan cities."

Over the coming years, the scientists intend to study the different phases of use and the precise architectural appearance of the temple in more detail in order to learn more about the religion of the Etruscans, the social structures in Vulci, and what the lives of the city's inhabitants were really like.

Fritz Thyssen Foundation and Gerda Henkel Foundation funding the excavation

Die Abteilung für Klassische Archäologie der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg und der Arbeitsbereich für Klassische Archäologie der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz arbeiten mit der Stiftung Vulci, die den archäologischen Park „Parco Naturalistico Archeologico di Vulci“ verwaltet, sowie der italienischen Denkmalpflege „Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per la provincia di Viterbo e per l’Etruria meridionale“ zusammen.

The Vulci Cityscape project is being funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation (2020-2022) and the Gerda Henkel Foundation (2022-2023) along with the top-level research area "40,000 Years of Human Challenges: Perception, Conceptualization and Coping in Premodern Societies" of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The Department of Classical Archaeology at the University of Freiburg and its counterpart at Mainz University are working together with the Vulci Foundation, which administers the archaeological Parco Naturalistico Archeologico di Vulci, and with the Italian national monument authority, Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per la provincia di Viterbo e per l'Etruria meridionale.