The Girl of Porciglia
The reconstruction of the face
The reconstruction of the features of the owner of the earrings, undertaken at the instigation of the Colle Val D’Elsa Archeological Group, came about thanks to two groups of anthropolgists: the group under Elsa Pacciani at the Restoration Unit at the Tuscany Superintendency for Archeological Assets and the group under Prof Francesco Mallegni at the University of Pisa, adopting the methods refined by forensic scientists in the US, who have to put a face to people who have been killed, and whose skull has been found. After taking a plaster cast of the skull so as not to use the original (figs 1 and 2), some pegs were inserted on it at certain points of the face and the cranium. The exact relative positions of these are in proportion to the density of tissue in an individual of medium build. The pegs were joined together by small strips of plasticine (figure 3), and the spaces formed thereby were filled with more plasticine (fig 4). Subsequently, the face, the mouth, and the eyes were modelled, as well as the hair, taking into account her gender, her age at death, and her ethnic group, and consulting artistic reproductions from the time. The physiognomy has a 90 per cent probability of corresponding to the features of the girl while alive.
The site
In 1996, an excavation by the Colle Val D’Elsa Archeological Group led to the identification of an Etruscan burial area at ‘Le Porciglia’, between the ‘Le Ville’ necropolis and the Archaic Etruscan settlement of ‘Poggio di Caio’. It was probably an underground tomb datable to the 6th century BC, of which the only evident remains were two graves separated by a partition, below burial platforms. It contained skeletal remains belonging to eight individuals buried by inhumation, most of the bones being in their original position. The fact they appear in pairs suggests that there was a close kin relationship between them.
The material
The scant material found includes: a jar with three handles near the top, with painted geometric decorations in bands, reminiscent of models from southern Etruria; a lid with applied decoration which probably belonged to the same jar; fragments of a small jar made of grey bucchero; a spindle-whorl; an iron brooch; bronze material; and a splendid pair of gold ‘casket’ earrings found still ‘in situ’ on the skeleton of their owner (n. 1). The right-hand earring retained its original position with regard to the cranium owing to the rotation of the head to the right, which occurred before decomposition, and to a process of calcareous cementation as a result of water filtering into the tomb. During restoration, it was decided to maintain this connection, keeping a small column of earth holding it in place.