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The OU Via Nova Traiana Roman Villa Project
at Castel Viscardo

In June of 2006 the OU Center for Classical Archaeology and Civilizations began a new long-term archaeological excavation project of a Roman villa in Italy.   The excavation is the “OU Nova Via Traiana Roman Villa Project at Castel Viscardo.”  The 2006 OU archaeological team was composed of some forty students and staff.

The project was directed by Professor Farland Stanley Jr (The University of Oklahoma) and Professor Claudio Bizzarri (Istituto Internazionale di Studi Classici di Orvieto).   The OU Archaeological Field School was directed by Professor Stanley and Associate Director Professor David George (St. Anselm College, Manchester, New Hampshire).   The Field Director was Doctor Silvia Simonetti.  Trench supervisors were Jennifer Stabler, Shawn Gralla, Teddy Whitehead and Joseph Drake.  

We would particularly like to thank the Soprintendenza archeologica per l'Umbria and Mayor Massimo Tiracorrendo and Vice Mayor Daniel Longaroni of Castel Viscardo for effecting permission to initiate our long term project that began in 2006.   We also express our appreciation to ex-Mayor Marcello Tomassini of Castel Viscardo for all of his help, guidance, and friendship.  Special appreciation is extended to the commune and citizens of Castel Viscardo and Monterubiaglio for their kindness and to the Italian students who worked with the project.

The archaeological project involves the excavation of an extensive villa complex only fifteen minutes to the Northwest of the beautiful town of Orvieto in the Roman province of Umbria.  This villa site is within the comune of Castel Viscardo and is situated immediately beneath the slopes of the neighboring hill-top village of Monterubiaglio.  The villa is several acres in size and has a majestic view of the Paglia River Valley and the Alfina highlands.   Only a few miles away from the villa site the Paglia River empties into the Tiber.  

In the Etruscan and Roman eras the region around Orvieto and Castel Viscardo was a rich agricultural area, as it is today.   Numerous Etruscan tombs and Roman sites are in the area.  Both the Etruscans and the Romans took advantage of the presence of the many local springs, both fresh water and thermal.  One of the fresh water springs is located immediately on our site and its cool refreshing waters were enjoyed throughout the day by our archaeological team.     

In the general vicinity of the villa there passed two important Roman roads, the Cassia Via and the Via Nova Traiana (New Trajan Road), the latter giving its name to our project.   In June the Center reopened excavations of a villa site which had been initially discovered in 1996.  Both the 1996 and 2006 excavations have illustrated that the villa location had a long history that extended through the latter Etruscan period, the Roman Republic, into the Roman Imperial era.   The long-term habitation is partly illustrated by the villa’s several building phases, its strategic location, and the environmental benefits that it enjoyed.   Our excavations continued to reveal architecture and artifacts that confirmed the large size, wealth, and sophistication of the villa.     

The excavations produced numerous artifacts that support the interpretation of the villa as important and significant.  Our student archaeologists exposed new walls and found many artifacts.  The artifacts included lead water pipes, a ceramic lamp, a bronze fibula, a column base, many small mosaic tesserae of unique colors, coins, numerous fragments of fresco wall painting with “band” designs, a large amount of pottery sherds and roof tiles.  The discovery of a large dolium or earthenware vessel was of special interest because it is of a type frequently associated with a burial or religious rite.   Such a large villa suggests the need for a necropolis and the dolium may be a clue.  In all, the quality and quantity of the artifacts that were found hold the promise for the discovery of many more important cultural features of the site as we excavate over the coming years.

 The excavation project is part of the activities of the Center’s Archaeological Field School which also includes lectures, study-tour excursions in Italy, and academic credit.   All University and college students in Oklahoma may participate and no prior excavation experience is required.  Students with an interest in the 2007 summer excavations (May 20 – June 23) are welcomed to apply.  The 2007 activities will include our regular activities as well as study-tours to Rome, Pompeii, Tarqinia, and other sites and places.

Interested persons may contact the Director for the Center, Professor Farland Stanley Jr.: Room 111 Kaufman Hall, 325-7667; 

Summer 2006

Enjoy photos from the 2006 dig in Orvieto, Italy!

A Home in Monterubiaglio

A morning ritual, move the equipment to the site

Aerial view of Orvieto
Cody and sons
Cody and sons

Pottery sherds

Roman lamp

Caitlin Corbett with a pottery piece

Excavating a Roman column base

Fibula found in excavations

varied posherds

Co-directors Professor Claudio Bizzarri and Prof. Farland Stanley with sectin of lead pipe

Field Staff

Field Supervisor Dr. Silvia Simonetti with section of Roman lead pipe


Farland with Massimo Tiracorrendo, mayor of Castel Viscardo

Farland with Marcello Tomassini,ex Mayor of Castel Viscardo

Jason Earls

Kelsey Rule and Teddy Whitehead

Kristin and Kelsey getting acquainted with a wheel barrow


Lisa, Brian, Mirranda in the Lab

Map of Italy showing location of Orvieto

Map of lower Umbria location of Orvieto, Castel Viscardo and Monterubiaglio

Once in a while even the director works

Our architect Simone with Silvia and Claudio

Our team stayed at the Hotel Oasi dei Dicepoli

Photographing Trench C

Preparing Trench B for excavations

Prof. Bizzarri lecturing at Crocifisso beneath cliffs

Prof. Bizzarri lecturing at Crocifisso necropolis

Prof. Bizzarri lecturing at Crocifisso

Professors Farland Stanley (left) and David George

Silvia and Shawn

Susan washing pottery

Teddy with surveying instrument

Entrance to the castle at Castel Viscardo

Monterubiaglio a distant view

Monterubiaglio as seen from the site

View of Orvieto

Early morning view of trenches, A and B

The 2006 archaeological team

The project's hotel is the tan building in the lower left corner

Trench A and Jennifer supervising

Trench A excavation scene with Joseph and Caitlin

Trench A general excavation scene

Trench C excavation scene over 1ooking the Paglia valley

Trench C Excavation scene, with Jill and Chelsey

Trench C excavation scene

Trench C, Jason Wiggins with wheelbarrow

Trench C, Lisa working with wheelbarrow

Trench D excavation scene looking North to Paglia valley

Trench D excavation scene with Prof. David George

Trench D excavation scene with Teddy and Adrienne

Trench team A

Trench Team C

Trench team D

View of cliff-side homes at Orvieto
Pot sherd
Ampora fragment


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