Fifteen Centuries of Life in Chianti


November/December 2014


The excavation of an ancient well in Cetamura del Chianti, Italy, has yielded a veritable treasure trove of information about the site’s Etruscan, Roman, and medieval inhabitants. Over the last four years, archaeologists led by Florida State University’s Nancy de Grummond have retrieved thousands of artifacts spanning 15 centuries—generally well preserved by the watery setting—from the 105-foot-deep well. Many of the objects, including hundreds of votive cups, animal bones, and coins, were intentionally thrown into the well as part of sacred and ritual activity. Among the numerous metal objects recovered are at least 14 bronze Etruscan and Roman water vessels, some finely decorated with mythological creatures. The waterlogged environment also preserved wood and even grape seeds. Researchers are hoping to analyze the seeds’ DNA to further understand the composition of ancient wine, and to match the seeds with modern grape varieties. Says de Grummond, “This rich assemblage of materials in bronze, silver, lead, and iron, along with the abundant ceramics and remarkable evidence of organic remains, creates an unparalleled opportunity for the study of culture, religion, and daily life in Chianti and the surrounding region.”