The Northwest Bolsena Archaeological Project: Results from the 2022 and 2023 Seasons (15 min)


Lea Cline, Illinois State University; and Kathryn Jasper, Illinois State University


This paper introduces the Northwest Bolsena Archaeological Project (NBAP), an interdisciplinary research project focused on the Roman site of Valle Gianni (Lazio, Italy) and its surrounding landscape. The site of Valle Gianni is nestled into a tufa hill overlooking Lake Bolsena’s western shore, a region that has seen relatively little formal archaeological exploration. The site is characterized by two primary features: the partially exposed remains of a Roman Imperial period monumental fountain, possibly a nymphaeum, and an agricultural zone containing recessed vats, suggesting wine production, predating the fountain. Both these operations were supplied with water from a natural source emanating from the hillside.

The NBAP has two goals: to excavate and understand the longitudinal use of the site of Valle Gianni, from its initial use as a necropolis in the Etruscan period, to the architectural and agricultural adaptations in the Roman and Late Antique period; and, second, to create a regional map of ancient roadways, cropmarks, and farm sites, informed by both field survey and archival research, creating a useable tool for archaeologists interested in this region, its industry, and settlements.

The first two years of excavation have already yielded important discoveries that have prompted a reassessment of the site’s function in the landscape. Plate window glass, polychrome and gold leafed tesserae, and Tunisian lamps, uncovered in summer 2023, point to the presence of a late antique villa. Additionally, the once plain opus reticulatum fountain, devoid of surface decoration, has now been reunited with more than 1000 pieces of colored marble revetment and opus sectile pavement, likely originating from the Julio-Claudian period. The presence of such luxurious elements at a rural site in this region is unparalleled and has opened new research avenues, particularly regarding its connections to the capital and foreign markets.