Giubiasco necropolis

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Field name
Site: Giubiasco [from first object]
Coordinates: 46° 10' 22.80" N, 9° 0' 39.60" E [from first object]
Objects found here:


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Large necropolis on the Magadino plain, which stretches along the course of the Ticino between the confluence of Ticino and Moesa (Mesox) at Bellinzona and the northern end of Lago Maggiore. Situated on the left side of the river at 226 m a.s.l, the site covers about 9000 m2 and is entirely urbanised today (Tori et al. 2004: 17–21 with maps and photos). 565 graves date between the late Bronze age (11th century BC) and the Roman Imperial age (2nd century AD).

Finds were made already in the late 19th century during the building of the Gotthard railway line; after an entire tomb was unearthed in October 1900 during agricultural work, the local carpenter and antiquities seller Domenico Pini initiated a private excavation with dubious and sloppy methods until the intervention of the Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum (Zürich), who was invited to buy the spoils. The museum installed a supervisor in Ferdinand Corradi and commissioned reliable maps and inventories in January 1901. Corradi largely supervised the excavation until November 1901. Further graves were found until 1969 coincidentally and during smaller excavations. See Tori et al. 2004: 22–39 for a detailed research history. The entire record and the (remaining) finds are presented in the three volumes of La necropoli di Giubiasco (TI) (Tori et al. 2004, Pernet et al. 2006, Tori et al. 2010). Lepontic and Latin inscriptions from the necropolis are discussed in Pernet et al. 2006: 228–235. Graves have also been found elsewhere in the Giubiasco area, most recently in Palasio (see Cardani Vergani 2014); the associated settlement is as yet unidentified.

The majority of the grave complexes excavated by Pini, especially in the months without supervision, are of doubtful integrity. This applies to the groups Pini 1, i.e. the graves from the initial unsupervised excavations December 1900–March 1901 (graves 1–104), and Pini 2, i.e. the graves claimed by Pini to have been excavated during Corradi's absence in June/July 1901 (graves 234–298). The grave complexes of Pini 1 seem to have been mixed up, so that the ascription of objects to these "graves" is uncertain, but they can be located and are marked on the map (inscribed objects: TI·9 Giubiasco, TI·13 Giubiasco, TI·17 Giubiasco, TI·18 Giubiasco, TI·46 Giubiasco, TI·47 Giubiasco, TI·48 Giubiasco). The graves of Pini 2 appear not to have existed and are probably entirely forged; objects from these "graves" may not in fact come from this necropolis, and their provenance must be considered uncertain (inscribed objects: TI·2 Giubiasco, TI·3 Giubiasco, TI·4 Giubiasco, TI·5 Giubiasco, TI·6 Giubiasco, TI·7 Giubiasco, TI·14 Giubiasco, TI·19 Giubiasco).

Though a considerable number of inscribed objects come from the Pini 2 "excavations", the inscriptions are fairly cohesive in terms of alphabet and text types, and it does not seem likely that Pini got any from the art market (in which case they would be expected to be much more heterogeneous). Pini appears to have brought in material from the Iron Age necropoleis at nearby Pianezzo and Sant'Antonio in the Val Morobbia, which would account for its similarity with the Giubiasco material. It may also be considered whether objects from Pini 2 come from graves excavated during Pini 1, kept back by him for future sales and eventually sold to the museum as the spoils of fake excavations when the supervision made the tampering with grave complexes impossible.

Corinna Salomon


Cardani Vergani 2014 Rossana Cardani Vergani, "Ricerche archeologiche in Ticino nel 2013", Bollettino dell'Associazione Archeologica Ticinese 26 (2014), 28–33.