This thesis discusses the archaeological remains in the Etruscan bridge complex, found during the excavations at San Giovenale in 1959–1963, and 1999. The aim has been to reach a holistic perspective of the bridge complex with the bridge seen as a link between topography, economy, social relationships, politics, symbols and ritual, reflecting its importance for the whole community at San Giovenale and its surroundings. Situated at the border between the two largest city-states Tarquinia and Caere, the site seems to have been an important middle range transit town for foreign ideas, goods and people.
The character of the remains and the various levels of contextual analyses made it possible to distinguish five distinctive functions for the structures at the bridge over the Pietrisco. From a more generalised point of view these suggested that specialized functions may be divided into practical, social and symbolic functions and these aspects have been of help in identifying an object or a structure. Besides practical functions of everyday use, economic and strategic functions have also been considered.
These functions were more or less in use contemporaneously, at least during several hundred years, from about the middle of the 6th down to the first century B.C. Pottery and small finds show that some activity has taken place at the site from the 9th century. Features of continuity, such as in the choice of crossing, the direction of the bridge construction after its destruction, the architectural ground-plans, the use of basins and a well, pottery fabrics of local and Greek imports and shapes, as well as changes in ground-plans, slight changes in the environment due to water erosion, earth-quakes and slides, have been observed. The physical as well as the liminal boundary between land and water as well as between man and spirits was accentuated by the tufa building, the water installations, and the road at the northern abutment. The thesis raises the hypothesis that the Etruscans believed that a crossing of a river via a bridge could violate the spirits of nature on land and in the water and therefore special rites were needed to restore the balance between nature and man before entering the bridge in order to reach safely at the other side of the ravine. The bridge itself can be seen as sacred, a liminal area where time and space do not exist and a place where it is easy to gain contact with the supernatural world.