The modern town of Fabriano lies on the eastern coast of Italy, approximately 60km inland from Ancona, in the Upper Esino Valley, which runs from the high Appenines, to the Adriatic coast. Between the 17th and 31st of October 2006, a program of geophysical survey was carried out on four sites around Fabriano by the Archaeological Prospection Services of Southampton and the British School at Rome.
The work was conducted on behalf of the Upper Esino Valley Project. Established in 2002, the project, conducted in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Archeologica delle Marche has the aim of understanding the development of the cultural landscape of this important valley on the transapennine communication route.Balancing the Geoscan Research FM36 Fluxgate gradiometer prior to survey at site 158.
Site 312 lies to the north-east of Fabriano, along the Strada Provinciale di Genga in an area known as Serbatoi. The surface material appeared to suggest a prehistoric site, with both pottery and flints being collected. The aim of the survey was therefore to identify any features associated to this material, and to locate areas suitable for future direct investigation.
The magnetometer survey was able to show clear evidence of human occupation on this site. A series of overlapping enclosures of varying sizes dominate the results, within which there is evidence of structures, pits and related ditches.
Site 347 is located in the Esino valley, at the foot of Monte San Croce, lying between the Esino River and a modern road (SP 256). The field had been identified by earlier research as the probable location of a Roman villa.
The results showed clear evidence for a large building complex which covered a significant portion of the survey area. This is comprised of structures of various sizes and types, from rooms to larger open spaces that could represent courtyards. There are also a variety of larger, miscellaneous structures, whose orientation and form is more difficult to interpret. The variety of circular features on the site could range from storage buildings to cisterns. The complex nature of this site confirms its hypothesis as a Roman villa.
The third site examined by the geophysical survey lies close to Site 347, 10 km east of Fabriano, close to the villages of Albacina and Borgo Tufico. The area of Borgo Tufico has been identified as the location of the Roman city of Tuficum, but otherwise remains largely unknown. The aim of this survey was to map and locate sub-surface features of this city.
Some important aspects of the site were evident in the geophysical results. It is clear that there was at least one building phase on the site, with a clear difference between several walled, linear features, and more organic ditched features which appeared to lie on a different alignment. From the layout of the different traces of walls, different structure types and possible roads which were visible, it is very possible that these are features associated to the Roman town.
Site 158 lies to the north east of Fabriano, a few kilometres north of Moscano in an area known as Casa Pellicciaro. The collected material suggested this as the site of a lower-status Roman settlement, such as a farm or outbuilding. The aim of the survey was to locate any features associated with this material in order to identify the function of the site.
The results from this survey proved difficult to definitively interpret due to their ephemeral and scattered nature. However, the site did appear to be comprised of both walls and ditches, with a variety of building materials giving different relative signals.
J. Pearce, M. Pretzler, C. Riva, 2005, The Upper Esino Valley survey: methods and interpretation in a transitional landscape, in P. Attema, A. Nijboer and A. Zifferero (eds.) Papers in Italian Archaeology VI. Communities and Settlements from the Neolithic to the Early Medieval Period. Proceedings of the 6th Conference of Italian Archaeology, Groningen, BAR International Series 1452 (II): 1016-1023.