Castiglione of San Martino

The Etruscan fortress of Castiglione di San Martino

Castiglione of San Martino (mid 5th – mid 2nd century BC), a small and massive fortress (approx. 40 x 20 m) occupies the summit of a hill at an altitude of 115 meters above sea level; the position allows full control of the Portoferraio harbor and a vast stretch of open sea. The first plant, dated around 430-420 BC, is followed by two ancient phases of occupation and a relatively recent one. The external walls (with a stone base) were born with the first phase, but the internal buildings are mainly built in wood and raw brick, with a tiled roof; in the southern area remain the pile beds, some roof collapses, a cistern and a complex “kitchen”, with a counter-hearth built around a large dolium.

The remains of the Etruscan settlement

In the northern area there is a forge, a small room and a courtyard. This phase ends with the destruction and the fire; on the leveled remains you can see the traces of reconstruction works: an open fire, a small forge, the garbage dump that accumulates in the cistern of the first phase. These works reuse the existing enclosure, which is equipped with the eastern door and the external reinforcement wall of the first southern wall. But above all, the southern building was built in stone and raw brick, consisting of two covered rooms and a central courtyard with a canopy.

The first phase ends with the first half of the third century. BC and the second begins seamlessly; the last materials that mark the end of the ancient occupation date back to the mid-second century. BC From the second phase the structures are better preserved than the materials, damaged by terracing works for agricultural purposes which, probably from 1600, partly exploit, partly incorporate the base of the walls, whose elevation, in the long period of abandonment, it had collapsed on the sides of the hill.

The ceramics of Castiglione di San Martino

While kitchen utensils do not change much over time, table ceramics follow the evolution of the market and the change is very clear also in transport amphorae. During the first phase, the presence of Attic pottery (with black paint and red figures) dated between the last decades of the V and the beginning of the IV century is of considerable importance. B.C; in the course of the fourth century, products of southern origin and Etruscan overpainted ceramics follow; with the third century the black glazed ceramics of the Atelier des Petites Estampilles, Lazio, as well as other factories of southern Etruria prevailed.

The most common amphora is the Etruscan one, accompanied by a modest presence of Massaliote and Greek-oriented ones. In the second phase (from the middle of the third century BC) the black glazed pottery comes from factories in northern Etruria and the Tyrrhenian coast; around the middle of the 2nd century the so-called “Campana A” arrives from Campania. The amphorae, very numerous, are the Greek-Italic ones very widespread in this period and manufactured in various centers of central-southern Italy; however, there are some fragments of a Punic amphora.

Buildings and daily life

Of the elevation of the walls only a few fragments of raw brick remain, half-fired by the fire that closed the first phase; there are numerous tiles and bent tiles from the collapse of the roof of the first phase, then covered by the beaten pavement of the second phase. The tiles were fixed to the wooden beams with iron and copper nails; splices are frequent.

The way of life, evidenced by the finds, seems to have no variations from the first to the second phase: we find kitchen pottery of coarse-grained ceramic (jars, pans, place settings, bowls, jugs) and more or less fine ceramic tableware, painted and decorated (especially cups and plates).

Doli are always abundant, large containers for foodstuffs, liquid and solid, and wine amphorae for transport, used here for storage, but also reused as generic containers, sometimes basement in the corner of a room. Among the tools for food preparation are mortars and a grinder. A miniaturistic drawing-hole and a hatchet in green stone are probably votive objects.

A family activity of spinning and weaving is testified by spindles, reels and loom weights; very few metal objects and a single coin from Populonia complete the picture of a life that is not luxurious but certainly comfortable, as evidenced by the canteen ceramics that are always part of the good products in circulation on the market. The large quantity of pantry and cellar containers suggests that the fortress, a sighting and refuge in case of danger, was also a “warehouse”, whose food reserve could feed numerous people when needed; normally, as far as can be deduced from the habitable space, but hypothetically, the presence must have been less than twenty individuals.

Food and economy

The ancient authors provide fairly abundant information on the most common foods of their times: from them we can deduce general data on the various types of diet and on the economy they reflect. The data, however, remain generic if they are not confirmed, expanded and quantified through the statistical examination of the archaeological finds, in this case the remains of a meal, essentially consisting of animal bones (faunal remains); more rarely seeds stored in the ground or in pantry containers are found (see Monte Castello ). Through the statistical method, when the quantity of remains is sufficient, reliable information can be obtained not only on nutrition, but also on the type of economy practiced by a more or less large group of individuals. The fortress of Castiglione di San Martino is a small site: the data obtained, however, open a glimpse of the island’s economy in the corresponding period.

The diet in the Etruscan settlement of Castiglione di San Martino

The faunal remains found in an excavation provide quite comprehensive information about the diet and economic strategies of an ancient community. Thus we know that in Castiglione di San Martino the following were consumed, in order of importance: cattle (approx. 20%), pigs (approx. 42%), sheep and goats (approx. 34%) and a much lower percentage of horses and poultry.

With the exception of the pig, however, not all domestic animals were raised exclusively for meat production. Based on the age of the subjects (which we deduce from a series of data such as the welding of some epiphyses, the eruption and wear of the teeth) we can conclude that cattle were exploited first of all as a labor force in agricultural activities and then slaughtered as adults if not in old age, while dairy production played a non-secondary economic role in the breeding of sheep and goats.

In a mixed flock it was generally cheaper to exploit only sheep for slaughter and a few goats for milk requirements, but if the two species are almost equal in number and the number of individuals slaughtered at a young age is discreet (conditions which both occur in Castiglione di San Martino) it is very likely that the breeding was also aimed at the production of dairy products, as well as the consumption of meat and the production of wool.

The diet was also supplemented by the products of hunting and fishing: we have remains of hares, birds, tortoises, fish and above all marine molluscs. The data of Castiglione di San Martino and of those few other sites where the study of bone remains was undertaken, substantially extend to much of ancient Italy what we know of the ancient eating habits of the Romans based on classical sources.

Castiglione of San Martino: kitchen utensils

The cooking “pots” (also recognizable by the blackening of the bottoms) is repetitive: deep and narrow jars (olle), wide and low pans, bowls lend themselves to obvious and not very indicative uses. A tool for preparing food is distinguished by specialization, the mortar with grinder, large, low and heavy: in it the cereals were put to macerate with water, which was then filled and the seeds were reduced to pulp by the rotating movement of the grinder. but no.

The resulting product, dried or not, mixed with water, milk, cheese or other was used for the packaging of baby food, porridge, focaccia. The grinder mortar (whose use is deduced from ancient sources) is a tool that supports the grindstone, but has a more familiar and multifaceted use; its wide diffusion contributes to testify a type of diet that for a long time, before leavened bread, was based on other forms of processing of spelled, barley and wheat, primary foods of nourishment for a wide range of social classes

How to reach Castiglione of San Martino

The area where the remains of the small fortress of Castiglione di San Martino are located, is located in San Martino, not far from the Napoleon’s Villa at about 3 km from Portoferraio .