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Etruscan temple found on Monte Giovi, Florence


A team of researchers from the University of Florence discovered an Etruscan temple on Monte Giovi, the mountain of Jupiter. On the summit, almost a thousand meters above sea level, the Etruscans studied lightning strikes to interpret the will of the gods and predict the future.

Etruscan temple found on Monte Giovi, Florence
Students of the University of Florence at work on Monte Giovi [Credit: Luca Cappuccini]
We still know little about the Etruscan religion and for this reason the news fascinates scholars and history lovers. This is also because it is one of the few sacred areas of Etruria that have survived to this day. To find it, six years of work were needed, with the participation of students from the University of Florence, an archaeological team led by Professor Luca Cappuccini.

Etruscan temple found on Monte Giovi, Florence
Panoramic view from the summit of Monte Giovi [Credit: Luca Cappuccini]
The site sits on a plateau of the mountain range that separates Mugello from the plain of Florence, above the Etruscan city of Fiesole. Aerial photographs had already revealed the presence of a rectangular embankment on the summit. "In the seventies," Cappuccini explains in La Stampa, "three small bronze and some iron-arrow and javelin tips were been found in the area."

Etruscan temple found on Monte Giovi, Florence
Fragment of the iron lituus found on Monte Giovi [Credit: Luca Cappuccini]
The new excavations have brought to light three different layers of occupation from different periods. In the oldest there is a small structure with a paved area around it. A lituus was found in the ground, an iron instrument used by priests to establish the boundaries of a sacred area. It is one of the oldest in the world and among the few discovered in a temple, since most of these objects have been found in the tombs of priests.

Etruscan temple found on Monte Giovi, Florence
Ceramic cup found on Monte Giovi [Credit: Luca Cappuccini]
"The lituus had been broken and buried in the ground in the middle of the paved area", says Cappuccini. "From the location it can be assumed that this was a 'auguraculum', a celestial temple. A place used to interpret the will of the gods."

Etruscan temple found on Monte Giovi, Florence
Painted pottery fragment found on Monte Giovi [Credit: Luca Cappuccini]
"The Etruscans divided the sky into sixteen parts, each corresponding to a different divinity. For this reason it was important for the Etruscans to observe natural phenomena such as lightning", explains the archaeologist.

Etruscan temple found on Monte Giovi, Florence
Restored vase from on Monte Giovi [Credit: Luca Cappuccini]
It is likely that the temple was dedicated to Tinia, the Etruscan version of Jupiter and Zeus. He was not the only divinity to cast his arrows, lightning strikes, towards men. But he was the most important and probably also gave his name to the mountain, named "di Giove" by the Romans.

Etruscan temple found on Monte Giovi, Florence
Remains of the perimeter wall of the complex [Credit: Luca Cappuccini]
The discovery does not solve the many mysteries that still envelop the religion of the Etruscans: what we know is thanks to the Latin texts. Lightning strikes were probably studied with regard to shape, position and colour: but we don't know what meaning each of these characteristics had.

The results of the research, which began with excavations in 2010, have been published in a book titled: Monte Giovi. “Fulmini e saette”: da luogo di culto a fortezza d’altura nel territorio di Fiesole etrusca.

Source: La Stampa [November 09, 2017]
TANN

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