Opened in 1985, the museum documents mainly the Roman period in the town of Spoleto and the surrounding area. There are numerous busts and inscriptions, including the famous “lex spoletina,” a stone inscribed in archaic Latin that establishes punishments for the profanation the woods dedicated to Jupiter. The bust of Augustus and (probably) of Julius Caesar from the Roman theater are other significant examples of Roman sculpture. There is also photographic documentation of the various Roman monuments found in town.
The oldest periods are represented by Bronze and Iron Age artifacts and by a 7th-century BC tomb, found in the area and at excavations done on the hill where the Rocca (fortress) stands.
The theater, built in the 1st cent. AD and in part incorporated in later buildings, was partially dismantled during the Middle Ages. Systematic restoration work begun in the 1950s has made it possible to recuperate the entire complex, with the seating being restored. The lower floor is well-preserved, and the ambulatory is still functional. The theater is used for performances during the Festival of the Two Worlds.
The Archaeological Museum of Spoleto occupies the former monastery of Sant’Agata. This monumental complex is built over the structures of the Roman theater, and part of the theater’s materials and walls were used in the monastery’s construction.
The museum documents the history of the town and surrounding area through permanent exhibits, which display materials both from recent excavations as well as from the civic collection. Fragments of materials attributable to the late Bronze Age found inside the town define the original nucleus around which the urban settlement of Spoleto developed. The Roman period is represented by marble busts and inscriptions, together with photographs documenting the principal remains of monuments found inside the town.
One section is dedicated to the use and organization of the territory following the founding of the Latin colony in 241 BC, documenting the vast project for dividing the cultivable land into parcels assigned to colonists and the systematic consecration to the gods of the areas of the surrounding woods. Of exceptional interest in this regard are two inscribed stones from the late 3rd cent. BC, which stand as legal and linguistic documents of fundamental importance, as they are two different variants of a law for the protection of these sacred woods (Lex Luci Spoletina).
The second floor of the museum is dedicated to the Valnerina, an area closely related to Spoleto economically and culturally. The oldest periods are represented by findings from the protohistoric Monteleone di Spoleto necropolis at Colle del Capitano. Numerous votive materials, mainly small bronzes characteristic of Umbrian cultural areas, come from sanctuaries found in Monteleone di Spoleto and in Montefranco. Some anatomic votive terracottas are a sign of the Roman influence and of the continuing of worship in the sanctuaries, even after being Romanized. The funerary objects, mainly black varnish pottery, found in the late 1800s in the Santa Scolastica necropolis near Norcia are from the Hellenistic Age. In one tomb with several chambers a large number of fragments were found from the decoration of a carved bone burial couch.
The Canzio Sapori collection is on exhibit in a small section. Donated to the State in 2001, this collection includes numerous and important artifacts and materials mainly from the Valnerina and the area around Spoleto. Among these are a ceramic cinerary urn with geometric decoration from Ponte di Cerreto and an excellent Late Republican male bust from Ferentillo.