Key to Umbria: Gubbio

Ikuvina: Ancient Gubbio

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Grimshaw 

Iron Age

Excavations that began in 1975 at the summit of Monte Ansciano have revealed a Bronze Age settlement that was abandoned in ca. 950 BC.  (This photograph of the  summit ridge of Monte Ansciano is courtesy of Dr Simon Stoddart, Cambridge University).  Other nearby mountains have been less comprehensively excavated, but it seems that the area was populated by similar hillfort settlements.

These people and the other the scattered communities that occupied neighbouring peaks seem to have coalesced in a settlement that its inhabitants called Ikuvina (Roman Iguvium).  This was probably on the on the site of modern Gubbio, on the lower slopes of Monte Ingino.

The Iguvine Tables (from an unknown date in the period from the late 3rd to the 1st century BC) describe a ritual civic tradition for Ikuvina that seems to have had earlier roots.  The processional rituals described in the tables suggest a sophisticated urban settlement.  However, the surviving archaeological evidence throws very limited light on the location and size of this settlement.  Three city gates are mentioned: Trebulana, Tessenaca and Vehia.   Although the locations of these gates have not been securely identified, it seems likely that:

  1. Porta Tessenaca was to the south west, in near San Giuliano in Largo del Bargello;

  2. Porta Vehia was in the south east, on or near the site of the present Porta San Marziale (below); and

  3. Porta Trebulana was to the north.

The gates were probably connected by a triangle of city walls: traces of the stretch between  Porta Tessenaca and Porta Vehia survive along the present Via XX Settembre and Via Consoli.  The section of cyclopean walls at the start of the path up Monte Foce might have protected the Augural Way of Ikuvina.

There is no archaeological evidence in the city itself to suggest the level sophistication in the pre-Roman era that the Iguvine Tables imply.  Indeed, very little survives from urban  Ikuvina in this period: 

  1. An ancient necropolis that was discovered during the work of repaving Via dei Consoli in 2007 contained some 30 burial urns (11th - 10th century BC) that were mostly intact, albeit that some had been crushed by the weight of the earth.  

  2. The upper part of the necropolis at Fontevole, west of Gubbio was in use from the 6th century BC.

  3. The oldest part of the necropolis near the Chiesa della Vittorina seems to have come into use in the late 5th century BC, probably at the time that the urbanisation of Ikuvina began.

  4. A terracotta antefix found in Via degli Ortacci suggests that there was a temple or sanctuary (4th-3rd century BC) in Iguvium itself, although not necessarily on the site where the antefix was found.

From the 6th century BC, the Ikuvines seem to have worshipped at a number of simple sanctuaries that were built on the surrounding peaks, and this complex of ritual sites is one of the most distinctive features of Ikuvina.  Monte Ansciano (above) seems to have been the most important of these sites.  A simple sanctuary and some 65 bronze votive statues (late 6th -  late 4th or early 3rd centuries BC) have been excavated on the summit.  Other finds from the site suggest that the sanctuary remained in use, albeit less intensively, into the Roman era.   

Surface finds on Monte Ingino itself and at Monte Loreto and Fraticiola Selvatica, indicate the presence of similar sanctuaries here.  This complex of ritual sites is one of the most distinctive features of Ikuvina, which seems to have been a religious centre (albeit a modest one) for the surrounding rural communities.

Read more:

S. Sisani, “Tuta Ikuvina: Sviluppo e Ideologia della Forma Urbana a Gubbio”, (2001) Rome

C. Malone and S. Stoddart (Eds.), "Territory, Time and State",

Cambridge (1994) 

Return to History of Gubbio.