Reconstructing the Wagon

Hi everybody!

It’s been quite a hectic period and I had very few time to report here the progress of my work. Anyway, little by little I will update you, in this and the next posts!

Once the restoration of all the bronze coverings was over, it was important to understand where they belonged to. Therefore, the second stage of the work had been the study of the sources available on the excavation of the Monte Michele number 5 tomb of Veio. The precious help of Francesca Boitani, the archaeologist who excavated the tomb, and of Adriana Emilozzi, an expert in Etruscan carriages, has been very important to come up to a proposal of 3D reconstruction of the wagon.

The Monte Michele tomb number 5 is a chamber tomb excavated in the tuff. It is composed by a long corridor, the dromos, on which are opened two small side rooms, the cellae. The dromos ends in the main chamber, approximately 4,5 m by 4,5 m.

Monte Michele 5 tomb (photo: Villa Giulia museum)
Monte Michele tomb number 5 (photo: Villa Giulia museum)

Archaeologists found four interments in the tomb: one in each cella and two in the main chamber. The skeleton of a child was found on the ground in the left side cella; while in the right side a large olla (a piece of pottery) contained the cremated remains of a young man.

The large room contained the interments of a man and a woman. The woman was on the left side: none of her bones had been found in the tomb, but the grave goods, which included typical feminine objects, confirmed her presence. On the right side was the male interment: a cinerary urn in bronze contained his cremated remains.

Mpnte Michele 5. Plan of the main chamber whith an indication of the matherials.
Monte Michele n.5. Plan of the main chamber whith an indication of the matherials. (Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologica dell’Etruria Meridionale)

The urn stood on a rectangular wooden chest that was probably part of the wagon. The digitally restored plates were strewn on the floor all around the chest: some of them had been found alongside the right wall in vertical position, suggesting that they originally covered the side of the wagon.

As you already know from previous posts, only seven of the plates were found in a good state of preservation, but there were also several fragments of various dimensions. In order to reconstruct the structure of the wagon it was really important to have the total length of the bonze coverings.

Boitani, the archaeologist who excavated the tomb, helped me to identify the plates position in the excavation drawing and provided me with their total length: 3,20 meters of folded plates and 1,80 meters of flat ones, for a total of about 5 meters. Unfortunately their position was not decisive to determine the structure of the load bed: the roof of the tomb, collapsing on the objects, scattered them disorderly.

At first these measures led us to think to a four-sideboards load bed of about 0,90 m by 1,60 m, with the flat plates decorating the short sides and the folded plates decorating the lateral ones, with the banded part to cover the side of the wooden plank.

The first hypotesis of reconstruction.
The first hypotesis of reconstruction.

But the remains of wood found in the tomb covered an area of almost 3 m by 1 m, suggesting a wider load bed. In support of the hypothesis of a bigger wagon were the objects lying on it: the urn, as we have already seen, a sceptre, a dagger and three spears. While the length of the other objects could perfectly fit in a smaller wagon, the spears needed a bigger one to lie on, as they were about 2 meters long.

As a second hypothesis we then considered a wagon open on the back side: this allowed us to make it longer. Considering the length of the plates we came up with a 2,13 m by 0,78 m wagon.

The second hypotesis of reconstruction.
The second hypotesis of reconstruction.

That’s all for now. In my next post I will explain how we define the structure of the wagon!

See you soon!


  1. Boitani 1982, Veio: nuovi rinvenimenti nella necropoli di Monte Michele, in Archeologia della Tuscia. Primo incontro di Studio, Roma 1982, pp. 95-103.
  2. Boitani 1985, Veio: la tomba principesca della necropoli di Monte Michele, in Studi Etruschi LI, 1985, pp. 535-556.
  3. Boitani, Aurei 1985, Conservazione sullo scavo e restauro in laboratorio: alcuni recenti interventi, in Etruria Meriodionale. Conoscenza, conservazione, fruizione, Viterbo 1985, pp. 127-130.

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