Accounts of the discovery of the Vicarello votive deposit (hoard)

Translations are machine assisted with heavy human editing.

From Marchi as quoted in Coloni 1967/8:

“I made the decision to create baths for “ten to twelve of the patients” in pools that received the water “from below up … at the distance of just over half a meter from the source …, the primitive manhole (?, chiusino) which was located in the only existing pool, we agreed should be demolished, in order to connect the water with the new bathing pools: and it was only a few minutes that the pistons (steam pump) sent the spring water out of the well, when under the surface we began to discover that the manhole was cluttered with ancient metal … The water from the source was found to be a little less than forty degrees of the Reaumur thermometer, so that the first of the men who put it inside, barely managed to remove that small quantity which lay on a ridge of tile, which divided the manhole in two levels an upper and a lower and an upper  … (then) a second worker went down both to destroy the part that was largely corroded by the heat and the force of the water and also to begin to bring out the metal that was ascending under that same partition. The work lasted several hours; thirteen workers took it in turns, all of whom came out badly burned and the metal retracted sufficed to fill 2  large tubs. On 22 January last, when the excavation was completed, we arrived at the site to take account of what had happened and to examine the metal. … ”

There is a little more but I am not completely certain of the meaning Italian phrasing, but believe it wonders at the miracle of discovery

Coloni also quotes De Rossi while bemoaning exact stratigraphy was not recorded as the material was removed:

“The layers of that heap of votive gifts kept exactly the chronological order, so that at first coins and vases of the imperial age were discovered, then coins of the Roman republic and of the surrounding peoples, bars and cast, and gradually passed from the aes signatum to aes rude, after which the metal ceased and even then the researches ceased, or rather, the search for objects that attracted the greed of the seekers failed. Under the metal clumps of rock appeared, which were considered to be the bottom of the basin. I am grateful to P. Tongiorgi, director of the Kircherian Museum, for having called my attention to some of the remains of these breccias that came to his museum along with most of the aes rude mentioned. I have learned that those stones are all flints, foreign to the nature of the volcanic rocks of the place; and in all the pieces, without exception, I saw visible traces of artificial cuts. Several are evidently knives, scrapers, small arrows and wedges, or from the paleolithic or neolithic age; the rest are fragments produced by the work that could belong to either era”.

Tognetti’s account of the ‘recovery’ of the gold and silver portion of the finds:

“Fr. Marchi wondered that not even the smallest silver and gold coin could be found among so many copper coins, and only a few silver pots of a few ounces each. Later it became simple to explain, as I understood it from the mouth of Fr. Francesco Tongiorgi.

Fr. Marchi died (10 February 1860).  One day a stranger, but who later was identified presented himself to Fr. Tongiorgi, who had recently become the new Director of the Kircherian Museum, and showed him some vases of gold and silver, found, as he said, recently in some excavations, and for which (so much was their value and rarity!) demanded no less than 20,000 scudi, or about 100,000 Italian liras.

As soon as Father Tongiorgi held them in his name, reading the name of Apollo in some, he began to suspect that they were part of the treasure of Vicarello. But he soon put down all doubt; because seeing that one of the silver jars had a broken off handle.  It was precisely that broken handle that Fr. Marchi had had since 1852, when he first went to Vicarello. That handle was kept in a display case in the Museum, and Fr. Tongiorgi found that it fit perfectly, and thus was part of that treasure.  He then requested the name of the stranger bringing the artifacts and  it soon came to be discovered that he was one of Vicarello’s workers in 1851-1852. Then Fr. Tongiorgi asked for some time in which to prepare an answer and immediately took himself to Fr. General Pietro Beckx, who in turn had recourse to S. Padre Pius IX.  The latter, hearing all the facts well, replied that the theft was so clear, that we with all rights could agree the guilty party in court. However, he continued, that wretch who would certainly be sentenced to jail for life, is the father of a large family. We concern ourselves with more than just him, but also his wife and children. Take all the objects, and I will pay the 100,000 lire: then one half of those remain at the Kircher, the other half with go to the Vatican Museum. And so it was done. “

Coloni himself writes (p. 43):

“The history of Vicarello’s vases is not over, because, on July 25th 1948, L’Osservatore Romano gave the sad news that – three days before – the gold jars had disappeared from the window in the room of the bronzes of the Vatican Etruscan Museum where they were kept and for all the work that has been done by the Vatican State police and
of the Italian State had not been recovered. I fear that they have been melted down: however it will not be bad that they are kept in mind if, on a happy day, they should reappear. We have luckily the photographs.”

Coloni then goes on to describe tracking down other vases that came out of the deposit and were illegally sold to other buyers, ending up in Cleveland, BM, V&A etc…

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