Caere Excavation Project

Archaeological Excavation of an Etruscan city in central Italy

Cerveteri is a town on the West coast of Italy, 48 km North of Rome, which lies on the site of the Etruscan city of Cisra, called Caere by the Romans. Caere was one of the metropoleis of the ancient Mediterranean, a rich and powerful city which was an ally of Carthage and developed good relationships with its southern neighbors the Romans. The site is famous for its necropolis of rock-cut tombs imitating houses complete with carved furniture and decorations, recently listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Many of the most famous Etruscan artworks, such as the Sarcophagus of the Spouses, were found in the tombs of Caere. While the cemetery had early attracted scholarly attention, the exploration of the city was begun much later. Though some sanctuaries are known, the general plan of the city is still largely unknown. 

The team of the Queen’s University is investigating a subterranean building in the centre of the city, the so-called “hypogeum of Clepsina” featuring wall paintings, inscriptions and scenic architecture. The excavation will also explore the urban area near the hypogeum, where a regular urbanization pattern is coming to light, and explore a network of tunnels and wells dug beneath the ancient city.

Field activities will include classes on Etruscan and Roman archaeology, field methods of archaeology, field conservation, and other topics of interest. Weekend daytrips to Rome and to Etruscan and Roman sites and museums of the region will also be organized.

On Sundays, students have the opportunity to travel at their leisure. Cerveteri itself is only 48 km outside of Rome, making the larger city easily accessible by train. There is a train station within walking distance. Although Rome is one of the primary destinations for Sunday Travels, students have travelled to Florence, Pisa, Tarquinia, and Vatican City.

Overhead view of Cerveteri, photos of decorated tomb walls in Caere, and a photo of the Sarcophagus of the Spouses, a sarcophagus with carved depictions of both husband and wife relaxing together.

Caere Course Option

CLST 409 / CLAS 809 / 6.0 units
Archaeology Fieldwork Practicum II

The Department of Classics offers an intensive introduction to archaeological methods and interpretation, including laboratory practice and field activities (excavation, survey, mapping) in ancient sites of Etruria. 

Evaluation: Students will be advised on field excavation techniques, which they will apply at the site under the instructor's supervision. Students are expected to keep careful excavation notebooks according to the procedures and the forms specified by the project (30% of the final grade). The supervisor will also appraise the students' progress and achievement (30%). Participants in the course will also be asked to present a final report containing a general evaluation and analysis of the relationship of their excavation area/s to the rest of the excavation field and site as a whole (40%).

Pre-requisites: Permission of Department required in advance; Classics concentrators will be given preference; second year standing or above; students must have taken one of CLST 303, 304, 305, 306.

Permission may be given to students who have not taken any of the above courses yet, but are Classics concentrators and/or are especially interested in archaeology for their future graduate studies.

Enrolment: 30

Application Deadlines: Students are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible, since the number of places is limited. Student cannot self-enrol for this course. Non-Queen's students may ask for a credit transfer and must apply for transfer by April 15th. For any questions regarding the credit transfer process, please contact Dr. Fabio Colivicchi.

Contact PersonDr. Fabio Colivicchi, Watson 502

An aerial view of part of the Caere dig site, a student digging with a pickaxe, and another student piecing together pottery sherds.

Caere Costs

Course fee: $2,700 

Fee includes: housing and dinner from Mondays to Fridays, trips to sites and museums, museum tickets.

Fee does not include: round-trip international airfare; passport; food during weekends; personal travel/activity/spending money; tuition for full credit course (for students of CLST 409/CLAS 809).

Visa is not required, unless you wish to stay in Italy longer than 90 days.

Accommodation and meals: Participants in the Caere Excavation are housed in rental properties in in the town of Cerveteri. Units have a small kitchen. The largest ones also have a washer. However, there are no dryers. There are drying racks available for use in the properties.

Please be advised that these units were designed for family vacations, so in each there are also double beds, some of which cannot be split.

Breakfast: self-catering.
Lunch: self-catering.
Dinner: at a buffet restaurant and pizzeria at Cerveteri. A main course and a side of your choice and a bottle of water. There are a variety of food options, including vegetarian options.


Funding opportunities for excavation participants:

Participants in the excavation are encouraged to apply for our travel awards.

Archaeology Field Work Application


2023 Excavation Dates: May 13th - June 9th (check out on the 10th)

Download and complete the Application Form.   

Please return your completed form in one of the following ways:

Email: A scanned copy of your completed form can be sent to Dr. Fabio Colivicchi -
Mailing/Drop-off Address

Classics Department
​505 Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston, ON     K7L 3N6

Please call the Classics Department with any questions at 613-533-2745.

Bibliography on the “hypogeum of Clepsina”

F. Colivicchi, ‘After the Fall: Caere after 273 B.C.E.’ Etruscan Studies 18:2, 2015, pp. 178-199.

F. Colivicchi, G.L. Gregori, M. Lanza, A. Lepone, M. Scalici, A. Trentacoste, C. Zaccagnino) ‘New excavations in the urban area of Caere (2012-2014),’ Mouseion, 13:2, 2016, pp. 359-450.

E. Benelli, F. Colivicchi and C. Zaccagnino), ‘Iscrizioni, sigle e segni non alfabetici dai nuovi scavi nella Vigna Marini di Cerveteri (2012-2016),’ Mediterranea 14, 2017, pp. 157-165.

F. Colivicchi, B. Klempan and K. Helwig, ‘Examination and analysis of Etruscan wall paintings at Caere, Italy,’ Archaeometry, vol. 59, issue 6, December 2017, pp. 1082-1094. (first published online 26 April 2017)

F. Colivicchi, ‘Le strutture orientalizzanti della Vigna Marini-Vitalini,’ in A. Naso and M. Botto (eds.), Caere Orientalizzante. Nuove ricerche sulla città e la necropoli, Pisa-Rome: Serra Editore, 2018, pp. 19-30.

F. Colivicchi, “A Blurring Frontier: the Territory of Caere in the Fourth and Third Centuries BCE,” Etruscan and Italic Studies 23, 2020, pp. 107-129.

Cristofani, M.: C. Genucius Clepsina pretore a Caere. in: Archeologia nella Tuscia, 2. Atti degli Incontri di studio organizzati a Viterbo 1984. (Roma 1986) 24-26.

Cristofani, M.; Gregori, G.L.: Di un complesso sotterraneo scoperto nell’area urbana di Caere. – Prospettiva 49 (1987) 2-14.

Carandini, A.: Il templum sub terra di Caere. in: Roma. Romolo, Remo e la fondazione della città. (Milano 2000) 261-262.

Torelli, M.: C. Genucio(s) Clousino(s) prai(fectos). La fondazione della praefectura Caeritum. – in: The Roman Middle Republic. Politics, religion, and historiography, c. 400 – 133 B.C. Papers from a conference at the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae, September 11 – 12, 1998. (Rome 2000) 141-176.

Colivicchi, F.: Il mundus di Clepsina e la topografia di Cerveteri. Scavi dell’Università di Perugia nell’ex vigna Marini-Vitalini, campagne 2001 – 2002. – Science and technology for cultural heritage 12 (2003) 11-42.

Cucarzi, M.; Rosa, C.: Prospezione geo-archeologica presso la vigna Marini di Cerveteri. – Science and technology for cultural heritage 12 (2003) 43-45.

Zaccagnino, C.: La ceramica di periodo orientalizzante. – Science and technology for cultural heritage 12
(2003) 47-63.

Romizzi, L.: Le terrecotte architettoniche della vigna Marini-Vitalini. – Science and technology for cultural heritage 12 (2003) 65-89.

Miliani, C.; Rosi, F.; Borgia, I. et al.: Studio della tecnica pittorica dei dipinti murali arcaici dell’area dell’ipogeo di C. Genucius Clepsina. – Science and technology for cultural heritage 12 (2003) 91-97.

Tarantini, L.: Metodi e tecnologie applicate al rilievo archeologico. Il caso dei rilievi effettuati nella vigna Marini-Vitalini a Cerveteri. – Science and technology for cultural heritage 12 (2003) 99-108.

Torelli, M.; Fiorini, L.: Le indagini dell’Università degli studi di Perugia nella vigna Marini-Vitalini. – Mediterranea 5 (2008)[2009] 139-163.

Colivicchi, F.: The Mundus of Caere and Early Etruscan Urbanization. – Urban Dreams and Realities. Proceedings of the Interdisciplinary Conference on the City in Ancient Cultures, Edmonton October 21st-23rd 2011 (Leiden) in press.

Fabio Colivicchi,  La Vigna Marini: la phase la plus récente, in Les Étrusques et le Méditerranée. La cité de Cerveteri, Exhibition catalogue, Lens, Musée du Louvre-Lens 2013-Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 2014, In press.

Fabio Colivicchi, Mariafrancesca Lanza, Michele Scalici, Nuovi scavi nella Vigna Marini-Vitalini, paper presented at the conference, ‘Etruria in Progress: La ricerca archeologica in Etruria Meridionale 2012,’ Roma Museo Archeologico di Villa Giulia, June 19-20th 2013, in press

Fabio Colivicchi, Deconstruction of an Ancient Frontier: Caere and Rome, paper presented at the Conference ‘Frontiers in the Iron Age Archaeology of Europe,’ 20th – 22nd September, 2013. Magdalene College and the McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge, forthcoming.