In the last 20 years archaeologists have been busy excavating the castle of Miranduolo near Siena documenting a continuous habitation from the 8th to the 14th century.
The castle of Miranduolo lies in the municipal district of Chiusdino, located South West of Siena in Southern Tuscany. The area is a transition zone between the typical hills of Siena and the Maremma by the coast. It is sparsely populated and characterised by forests and mining activities plus small farms with a mixed production profile. As a consequence of European Legislation, much of the cultivated area was abandoned in the 80es. Driving through the region, it is evident that hunting plays an important role: vast areas of the forests are fenced in! Since the 90s rural tourism, though, is also playing a greater role and several medieval farms have been or are in the process of being restored. One on these is the Papena, which offers overnight stays
During the same period, a major archaeological excavation has been carried out at the Castello di Miraduolo in the Alta Val di Merse, uncovering a hilltop settlement from the 8th century and onwards. These excavations have been widely published in the forms of reconstructions, photo-documentation and as E-Books available from Archaeologia Medievale.
Recent excavations from the autumn of 2013 have uncovered a settlement of a farmer cum blacksmith consisting of a wooden house, a workshop, where iron smelting and forging took place, a storehouse used for foodstuffs and several grain pits. It is believed the social rank of the owner was intermediate, belonging to the power nucleus on the Eastern slope. However, the habitation is from the earlier case, before the foodstuff was hoarded centrally in the castle from the 9th century. The archaeologists were also able to identify a new section of the palisade enclosing the Western part of the hill, marked by the presence of a wooden church.
The Castle of Miranduolo shall be understood in the wider context of the settlement patterns in Early and High Medieval Italy. Especially important is to see it in connecting with the model developed by Marco Valenti, which outlines the development of such hilltop villages and castles as Miranduolo from the 5th to the 15th century. Formerly such villages were seen as examples of the movement of Incastellamento – Incastellation in the 10th to 12th centuries. Exacavations, such as those at Miraduolo, have helped to nuance this understanding. What was formerly considred a break is now regarded as the endresult of along process. Miranduolo witnesses to this.
Campagna di scavo 2013: nuovi dati sul villaggio di VIII secolo d.C.
By Marco Valenti: Miranduolo (Chiusdini –SI).
Life in the medieval castle of Miranduolo in Toscana in the 13th century. © InkLink Firenze