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3Jul

Evidence of Asisium

Asisium, a prosperous Roman commercial town, founded in the third-century B.C. is the ancient name of the modern Italian town of Assisi, located in the province of Umbria in central Italy. Although archeologists have known of Asisium for some time, little evidence had been found to tell a more in depth history of the ancient town.

An earthquake that shook Assisi on September 26, 1997 damaged many of the town’s medieval buildings and the frescoes decorating the Basilica of Saint Frances. The shattered frescoes of the basilica included thirteenth-century works by Renaissance masters, Giotto and Cimabue, among others. While the frescoes have since been restored, the event encouraged the town to begin a program of stabilization and modernization of Assisi’s oldest buildings, as a preventative measure.
 

 

Asisium, a prosperous Roman commercial town, founded in the third-century B.C. is the ancient name of the modern Italian town of Assisi, located in the province of Umbria in central Italy. Although archeologists have known of Asisium for some time, little evidence had been found to tell a more in depth history of the ancient town.
 

An earthquake that shook Assisi on September 26, 1997 damaged many of the town’s medieval buildings and the frescoes decorating the Basilica of Saint Frances. The shattered frescoes of the basilica included thirteenth-century works by Renaissance masters, Giotto and Cimabue, among others. While the frescoes have since been restored, the event encouraged the town to begin a program of stabilization and modernization of Assisi’s oldest buildings, as a preventative measure.

The Palazzo Giampe, built in the seventeenth-century and home to the town’s court, was to be renovated with the installation of an elevator. However, shortly after digging to access the buildings foundation for elevator installation had begun, stucco typical of the decorative capitals on ancient Roman columns was discovered. The plans for construction were stopped and an excavation of the site began. Supervising the dig was Maria Laura Manca of the Archeological Superintendent’s office in Umbria.

Soon after excavation was begun, three columns that formed a peristyle were uncovered. As digging continued the full peristyle, almost 300 square feet, was uncovered. In 2002, an oecus, a large hallway, was found. In 2003, a third room, believed to be the triclinium, dining room, was discovered. The highly skilled frescoes in the triclinium included architectural elements and the mimicking of luxury building materials, such as polychrome marble.

The excavations ceased for a time but recommenced in 2006. Manca decided to expand the dig to underneath a neighboring building. Soon the team had found a large cubiculum, bedroom, with elaborate frescoes and a geometric mosaic floor. One of the mosaics in this room may depict the house’s owner; he was likely a wealthy merchant.

This impressive villa is extremely well preserved and offers archeologists a look into Asisium’s past. In the future, Manca plans to continue excavation of Asisium in the ancient residential areas of the town.

Source: Assisi’s Roman Villa by Marco Merola, Archeology Magazine, July/August 2011

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