Spina is the principal port in northern Adriatic Sea, between late Archaic and Hellenistic period, and one of the cornerstones of Etruscan presence in northern Italy. In the course of the VI century BC throughout the Padan Etruria there is evidence of an important phenomenon of urban structuring of the cities, with the reorganization of Felsina-Bologna, the employment and exploitation of large areas of the plains and the foundation of new centers in nevralgic sites- Marzabotto, Mantova , and Spina. The function of the latter is essentially related with its geographic placement- Spina becomes a focal point of Etruscan commercial routes in the Adriatic, a passageway for the goods coming from the Po Valley and travelling towards Thyrrenian Etruria and Northern Europe.
The choice of the site, one or more islets exactly at the crossroad of the Po and the Reno rivers and the Adriatic Sea, was certainly the result of a shrewd economic and territorial strategy. The Etruscan discipline, in fact, regulated even the foundation of the city by rules found in ritual books, – the foundation was the earthly transposition of a cosmogonist vision that envisages the space order as a division in regions after the cardinal points, disposed by the Augur, a political and religious figure in charge of setting the temple boundaries.
The Etruscans accept the results of Greek urban planning, intended as the science of town and country space planning, that had numerous applications and developments in the colonies of Magna Graecia and Sicily. Here the Greeks carry out a process of organised occupation of new areas, that will be managed independently and continuously afterwards.
Based on the available archaeological data, the foundation of Spina can be placed around 540 BC. As for Marzabotto, we can speak of ktìsis (-foundation), a Greek term that indicates the creation of an urban complex, newly projected and inhabited.
The town of Spina was originally located 3 ½ km (20 stadia according to the Periplus of Scylax) from the mouth of the Padus Vetus (the ancient Po river).
The main nucleus rose on a stretched, roughly triangular dune at the joining of two riverbeds: an ancient branch of the Po (called Spinete) to the East, and a minor river to the South, and was delimited by embankments made of ranks of logs embedded in the soil and connected by horizontal beams, which have been discovered in some parts of the excavation.
The birth of the town was preceded by reclamation works consisting in placing clay on layers of reeds, barks and branches.
The east side of the town flanked the old river Po for about 600 mt and was delimited by a steep slope strengthen by a log-made embankment. The west side was marked by a straight bank, about 400 mt long, which connected north to the Po bank forming an acute angle. This side too was reinforced by numerous rows of thin poles embedded in the soil which formed a 10 mt-wide structure.
This area was about 6 hectare wide, but evidence of other quarters in its proximity lead to think of a settlement organised on various isles.
Houses and inhabitants
The urban system was realized inside the pole-made bank: the houses were made of perishable materials (wood, straw), with piling foundation, wooden walls covered with a clay plaster and a light roof. The excavations carried out in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s of the last century brought to light, in the eastern part of the town, a rectangular building, about 80 smt wide, divided into different rooms, with a roof supported by large beams placed on a foundation planking and a clay floor. The perimeters of the houses were marked by rows of poles embedded in the ground and walls in perishable materials: the use of the technique of opus craticium is hypothesized, a coating of clay applied on a wooden framework filled with wattle for load-bearing walls, while the interior partitions could have also been made of wooden boards embedded in the ground.
The roofs, made out of light materials, could have been structured with different materials, as is suggested by the presence of covering bricks. The clay pavements were placed onto bundles with drainage functions, wooden floorboards were rarely used. Numerous fireplaces were found on the floors, usually positioned in a corner of the house.
Daily activities took place inside the houses, articulated in multiple rooms with different functions. Female prerogative is spinning and weaving, testified by distaffs and spindles,bobbins and loom weights.
The distaff is a rod with a central bulge of variable length between 30 (type by hand) and 125 cm (arm type), with expanded margins, on which is coiled the raw wool; the spindle, consisting of a barrel with a thinned end, is the tool where the wire coming out of the distaff is fixed; at the base a spindle whorl was applied as a counterweight to facilitate the rotational movement that produced a thin and uniform thread, which was wrapped on bobbins.
The threads thus obtained were weaved on a vertical loom, consisting of a transverse beam, supported by two vertical elements, to which the warp threads are attached, separated and maintained in tension by weights called precisely loom weights.
Among the domestic activities, the main one was obviously the preparation of food, which took place in the part of the house where the hearth was placed. The fire was lit on stones, and jars were laid over these.
Food preservation was instead located in separate rooms. In plain contexts storage rooms can be partially underground, but this solution is not found at Spina as it is incompatible with its geomorphological characteristics.
The locally produced pottery, found in the area of the settlement as well as in the necropolis, is part of the kitchen and canteen repertoire also characteristic for other contemporary sites. Some forms, closed, are functional to the preservation and cooking of solid food and mixing the liquids, others, open, compose the tableware, and are also used in the preparation of certain food. The vessels are made with different ceramic mixtures according to the function that the finished form will have: those designed to preserve and cook the food with the direct action of the fire are made of unglazed ceramic, where the clay is less purified and treated with degreasing agents that reduce the plasticity but increase its resistance. A canonical form for this class is the dolium, a large container used for the storage of food, and the olla, a smaller container pan. Also pitchers, bowls and mortars could be made of raw ceramic, although the tableware was produced preferably in classes defined as refined: in particular products in purified pink-orange ceramic, possibly treated with waterproof slip or decorated with bands or complete coating in red-brown color, typical of Padan-Etruscan productions from the late sixth to the third century BC. Another class frequently found at Spina is grey ceramics, in which the clay, subjected to the same refining treatment, was cooked in a partially reducing (= oxygen-free) environment to obtain a different coloration, which probably recalls the archaic bucchero and metals. Grey ceramics as well could have been waterproofed and possibly decorated: in this case the colors are in shades of gray-black. The local production of bucchero, a poorer version of the precious black ceramic production, characteristic of the Etruscan world, occupies the earliest phase of the settlement. Among the best documented crafts of the city of Spina is the ceramics manufacture. The making was preceded by the preparation of the raw material, clay (washing, decantation and possible addition of degreasing agents) to reach the modeling of the vessel on the slow lathe, drying, possible preliminary technical or decorative treatments, and finally cooking. There are numerous production scraps, unfinished products or finished ones but with evident flaws (deformation of the body, vitrification of ceramic or coatings alterations): the most significant findings in Spina are from the Hellenistic period and come from an area external to what is believed to be the urban perimeter, perhaps due to precautionary intent in the danger of fire. Hence the hypothesis of real craft areas, where are concentrated those activities previously carried out at home, for personal use. It is believed that these pottery workshops were furnished with multiple furnaces, that the division of tasks implies the collaboration of several people (at least six) and that there was a control or a sort of a serial work, to which the graffitis and crosses on the bottom of the vessels may allude. The available sources that speak of Athens of the fifth century BC reveal the use of the lower classes of the population and of slaves as laborers.
Trade and Commerce
The finished products were traded in shops or on the street, and we can also not exclude the presence of home workshops as attested at Marzabotto. To identify the craftmaking destinations of some areas, in addition to the evidence on the ground, such as redness, carbonized organic materials and structural elements related to the furnaces, are also some ceramic objects linked to productive activities, the “spacers” . In addition to their use as separators for the vessels during the cooking in the furnace, it is also believed that they could support the perforated plate which separates the cooking chamber from the combustion area, acting as flame arrestor and facilitating the uniform distribution of heat in the cooking chamber. The highest specimens served as support for large pots which were cooked upside down. The function of these objects probably varied depending on the context in which they were used: on perforated plates that isolated the cooking chamber they were used for spacing between the vessels, otherwise, when the vessels were cooked in direct contact with the fuel, they could support them and isolate them from the fire. In both cases the holes along the walls of the tubular type ensured a better diffusion and circulation of heat.
Since its first phase the presence of Greek ceramics of high quality and winary amphorae are attested at Spina. Corinth, after the Phoecians and perhaps the Euboeans, is one of the first commercial partners in the resumption of contacts with the Greek area through the Adriatic. Afterwards came the Aegineans, while in the middle of the fifth century trade with Attica prevails.
The exports are likely in raw materials, grains and wheat in particular, conveyed to Spina from Padan Etruria, which according to some scholars becomes between the fifth and fourth centuries BC the "granary of Attica", replacing the Egyptian and Siceliot commercial channels, precluded to Athens due to the historical and political events of the time.Other products from the plain were intended for Greek markets: Etruscan bronzes, raw metals, timber, salt, meat, especially pork. It is likely that local products, such as eels and sturgeon of the Po delta, also found their place on the market. In addition to exports intended for the Greek market, the redistribution of goods to the hinterland must also be considered: the natural waterways and canals, the result of hydraulic engineering in which the Etruscans were masters, allowed Spina to transport Greek imports to Bologna, to Marzabotto in lesser extent, in Western Emilia, Mantova, in Veneto, Lombardy, as far as Western Europe (valleys of the Rhone, Rhine and Danube) and the eastern Danube regions. Especially wine was transported to these areas, both in its original container (amphora) or within bottles or casks. Along with the primary product also tableware, equipment for the feast (pottery, bronzes, furniture), reached these areas.
The redistribution of the wine is much less towards the Emilian plain, south of the Po, which was probably able to meet the local demand. In exchange for the wine Etruscans imported from the North precious materials such as gold, silver, tin, amber.
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