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Translated Jeff Matthews

The Italian word is fossato, from the late-Latin fossatus, in turn derived from the term for 'dig', referring to the excavations within fortifications or around the outer defensive perimeter or, beyond that, in the most exposed sectors. Indeed, trenches may be dug within the walls, as, for example, in the Renaissance bastioned enceinte of Milano or even within the Porta Giovia castle. (Padovan G. ed. , La fortezza celata. I sotterranei del Castello Sforzesco, Diakronia, Vigevano 1996). A trench may be permanently filled with water, filled only when attack is imminent, or left dry. [trans. note: English terminology changes to 'moat' for a trench filled with water.]

Within the trench, itself, and depending on the historical period, there may be special permanent or semi-permanent structures designed to reenforce the defenses of the main fortification.


Padovan Gianluca (ed. ), Archaeology of the Subsoil. Lectures and studies of artificial cavities. British Archaeological Reports, International Series 1416, Oxford 2005.

Basilico Roberto et alii, Italian Cadastre of Artificial Cavities. Part 1. (Including introductory comments and a classification), B.A.R. International Series 1599, Oxford 2007.

Gianluca Padovan (Associazione S.C.A.M. – Federazione Nazionale Cavità Artificiali)

Click on images to enlarge

Trench with underpass (Borgatti M., La fortificazione permanente)

Trench at the Porta Giovia castle, with loopholes in the counterscarp gallery. (photo, G. Padovan)

Trench at an armored battery in Sweden (ph. G. Padovan)

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