Visualizing Vulci: Reimagining an Etruscan-Roman City

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The Etruscan-Roman city of Vulci is one of many Etruscan cities which lacks a detailed and holistic understanding of its urban development. Vulci represents a rare site that was not covered by modern structures and thus presents a unique opportunity for a city-scale examination of the transformation of urban space over a millennium of occupation. In order to address this query while most of the site is still unexcavated, an innovative method was created for this project. This ‘n’-dimensional approach layers a series of geospatial and historical data, largely relying on new, non-invasive remote sensing surveys. The main sensors and data sets include a series of older aerial photographs (1954, 1975, 1986), a geological and landscape survey from 2014, multi-spectral aerial images from surveys between 2015 and 2017 ranging from normal-colored to red edge to near infrared bands, and two ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys from 2015 and 2018. The analyses and interpretations from this multi-modal method builds a more holistic and nuanced understanding of the urbanization and transformation of Vulci. Conclusions from spatial analysis suggest a relative order for the development of the Etruscan-Roman street-grid, offering a new framework for the contextualization of other urban features. Further, evidence points to the northeast area with its unique structure orientation and connection to Northeastern Acropolis as the first settled space on the plateau during the 8th century BCE after shifting away from the Villanovan era settlement on La Pozzatella. Analysis also indicates numerous new features, including multiple public buildings in the Western Forum with major phases of transformation first in the 6th-5th century BCE while under Etruscan control and then again during the early Imperial period while under Roman control. Other features include a ‘basilica’-like/Augusteum structure, at least one additional temple, several administrative buildings, and multiple residential structures with atriums and impluviums. The urban development of Vulci implies a revitalization of the city and re-emergence of power during the Roman Imperial period, contradicting the previous notion that Vulci slowly but steadily declined post-conquest. These conclusions situate Vulci in a new place in not only in Etruscan urbanization but also in period the cultural transformation during Rome’s expansion into Etruria. Furthermore, the success of the multi-perspective, layered approach allows for its use in other studies as well as further refinement and advancement of the methodology.





McCusker, Katherine Lynn (2021). Visualizing Vulci: Reimagining an Etruscan-Roman City. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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