The Ancient Town of Satricum Buried Beneath the Vineyards at Casale del Giglio


The Ancient Town of Satricum Buried Beneath the Vineyards at Casale del Giglio

06 March 2019

As far as ancient lands go, Italy is no new thing. So, when a winery discovers that their vineyards may sit atop ruins of an ancient town, what do they do? They dig.

[caption id="attachment_8177" align="alignleft" width="970"]satricum excavations Satricum Excavations, Casale del Giglio, Lazio.

The Satricum excavations date back to 1896 when the French professor Hector Graillot discovered remains of a sanctuary on a hill above the village of Le Ferriere some 60 kilometres southeast of Rome. In the following two years after his discovery, the Italian government conducted intensive excavations, revealing parts of the acropolis of the ancient town of Satricum. But after the original interest died out, the archeological site was forgotten about. That is, until the late 1970s when Dutch archaeologists were invited to take up excavations again. Apart from the acropolis, the land owned by Casale del Giglio became the focus of research. Since 1990, the excavation work at the site has been carried out by a team of the University of Amsterdam, headed by Professor Marijke Gnade. The collaboration between the winery and researchers has been ongoing for more than 30 years, and the finds have been important in understanding the history of the Latins, the Volscians, and the Romans. Nowadays, the winery’s 180 hectares of vineyards showcase excavation sites that contain ancient remains, bringing a unique concept to the idea of terroir and territory. Many of the wines carry names lent from the ancient setting, most notably the winery’s flagship label, Mater Matuta. [caption id="attachment_8179" align="alignleft" width="497"]satricum excavations Mater Matuta, Casale del Giglio, Lazio.

Mater Matuta was an indigenous Latin goddess equivalent to the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora. Her largest sanctuary and place of worship was the temple discovered in 1896 atop the acropolis of Satricum. The ancient town developed around her temple. From the early fifth century BC, Satricum was taken by the Volscians, an Italic tribe that occupied the area for 150 years. They fought many battles against the Romans along the banks of the Astura River, to the right of which lay Satricum. The town was an important site to the Romans due to its favourable position and famous sanctuary. Twice the town was burnt to the ground, and twice the temple of Mater Matuta was spared. After the second razing, the Volscians surrendered to the Romans and their people were absorbed into the Roman state. However, it is not just the battle history that makes the Satricum excavations so important. The town's favourable location at the crossroads between the Etruscans to the north and the Greeks to the south meant that it was a place of cultural exchange. The archeological findings from the site show remarkable diversity. It is also believed to be one of the earliest sites of worship to the goddess of Mater Matuta. Three different temple buildings have been discovered, along with the original cult hut. As well as large votive deposits which testify to continual worship over an extended period. Casale del Giglio has collaborated with research institutions and the Italian government over thirty years to support the excavations and importance of the site. In fact, all of their guided winery tours include a complimentary entrance to the Satricum Museum in Le Ferriere, and the excavation sites are clearly visible between the vineyard rows. There are not many other places in the world, or even Italy, to experience the intersection of viticulture and archeology. So, although the wines may not be ancient, the land sure is. 
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