The Vienna Virginio Orme and Pesa Valley Project (VOPP)

by Dominik Hagmann (, Veronika Schreck ( and Raffaela Woller (, Department of Classical Archaeology, University of Vienna

Northern inland Etruria is one of the least investigated areas of Italy regarding the Roman period. Therefore, the research project P 27476 “Val di Pesa and Val Orme as a Changing Rural Landscape: an Integrated Approach”, funded by the Austrian Science Fund under the direction of Prof. Günther Schörner of the University of Vienna, deals with the area of the middle Arno Valley and is designed as a holistic and interdisciplinary archaeological landscape project.

Particular attention is paid to the tributaries of the Arno river, including the Pesa, Orme, and Virginio as well as their valleys (Fig. 1). Apart from the level river valleys, the region of interest is characterized by moderately steep hills. It is situated between the antecessor cities of Fiesole and Florence, Arezzo, Volterra and Pisa, which were well integrated in the ancient infrastructure network. The immediate urban centre was Empoli. Today, the territory is largely agrarian: there are vineyards and olive groves in the hillier parts, and legumes, sunflower and other crops are cultivated in the valleys. Human interaction in the study area is traceable from the Stone Age onwards, whereas the phase showing the main anthropogenic influence was from the 4th century BC until the 5th/6th century AD.

Project aims include the reconstruction of ancient landscapes, detecting continuity or change in the behaviour of Roman period inhabitants, and classifying land-use and settlement patterns in Roman times. To achieve these aims, the region is investigated at various scales around selected potential sites within the river valleys. For large-scale investigations, intensive systematic on- and off-site surveys were performed, with a total area of approximately 167 hectares surveyed by the end of the 2016 season. At the local scale, surveys and excavations have been carried out since 2012 as part of the teaching program of the University of Vienna, employing the latest documentation technologies in digital archaeology. Furthermore, various geophysical prospection surveys were conducted on several sites in the Orme and Pesa valleys in cooperation with the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Science. In addition to these techniques, the project includes complementary approaches, including systematic geoarchaeological investigations, zooarchaeological studies, pollen analysis, agricultural modelling, pottery analysis and remote sensing.

The different methods implemented in the project are used to compare and contrast the various kinds of data. Finally, the results should enable to determine site classifications and definitions by surface assemblages for the middle Arno-Valley and should give an impression of ancient rural life in Etruria.

Figure 1:  The surveyed areas and studied sites of interest within the Orme, Virginio, and Pesa valleys (red). (© D. Hagmann, Esri, Natural Earth 2017)

Research team
Günther Schörner, Erich Draganits, Roderick B. Salisbury, Veronika Schreck, Raffaela Woller, Dominik Hagmann

Staff members
Mona Baumgarten, Kevin Brandtner, Tanja Bruckmüller, Felix Eder, Katalin Élő, Sebastian Gradauer, Jasmin Hangartner, Martin Junker, Alarich Langendorf, Sabrina Leixnering, Thomas Leutgeb, Florian Oppitz, Marina Palmieri, Nicole Rottensteiner, Hadwiga Schörner, Andreas Steininger, Romina Weitlaner

More information
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Funding bodies
Austrian Science Fund FWF:
University of Vienna:

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