If it weren't for the well-signposted routes, walkers enjoying the footpaths that criss-cross the wooded rocky slopes of Monte Bibele would be in for quite a surprise coming across a partially reconstructed Etruscan-Celtic village and archaeological site dating from the 5th-3rd centuries BC.
The initial discovery of the village in the late 1950s has a group of local hunters to thank – the WWII explosives they used to flush out an unsuspecting badger brought to light the first traces of the ancient settlement. Decades of archaeological digs, led by teams from the University of Bologna since 1978, have since uncovered a village that has been particularly well-preserved through the ages due to the large-scale fire which caused its abandonment. Now the Arc.A association of archaeologists has made it visitor-friendly and more easily accessible with paths, a visitor centre and sign-posting.
For over 20 centuries the naturally terraced site at Monte Bibele in the hills south-east of Bologna had hidden the buried ruins of a series of dwellings complete with fireplaces, cooking utensils, tableware and even foodstuffs such as lentils, broad beans, barley, grapes and the remnants of meals in the form of animal bones. The numerous loom weights and spindle whorls discovered point to textile-making as the main occupation of the village women, while artefacts of the time originating in other parts of the peninsula – including amphorae and decorated Etruscan mirrors from the south – together with a stash of coins which helped date the village, bear witness to the busy trade that took place around here several centuries before the Romans came to dominate the area.
Following in-depth research, two of the huts have been rebuilt to resemble the original dwellings as closely as possible: making use of the terraced land, they were on two floors with a wooden skeleton and stone lower-walls which would have been completed with wattle and daub. Charred remains of wooden floors have been found and the huts are topped with steeply slanting reed-thatched roofs.
A large sunken cistern used to store water, snow or foodstuffs has been unearthed at the foot of the terraced village, whilst a lateral terrace now hosts a scaled-up version of one of the site's most important finds: a solar dial. Working along the lines of a sun dial, the instrument can be used to locate true north and the find has helped prove that this scientific knowledge was put into practice as early as the Etruscan era. Another fascinating discovery in anthropological terms, came from the excavation of the necropolis close to the village, where the grave goods from nearly 200 burials show how the Etruscans, who lived here from the 5th century BC, were joined a couple of hundred years later in a close and peaceful coexistence by Celts.