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Rionero in Vulture, Basilicata, Italy

Rionero, an area with a long but mostly undocumented history, exists within the Vulture region of Northern Basilicata, Italy.  One could quickly categorize the region of Basilicata as potentially the slowest, quietest, and most pastoral areas in the entirety of Italy.  Scholarship of this site has followed similar trends, i.e. in comparison with other sites, much information still needs to be acquired.  Despite what little knowledge we fo have, we know that this area, between the 1st millennia BC and AD, served as a frontier zone in which many cultures settled, primarily Bronze Age polities, Peuketiantes, Lucanians, Romans and Goths.

Before the Roman acquisition of the Vulture region, the bellicose Lucanian tribes, occupied the area.  The study of the area can provide a diachronic analysis of the various groups that used the land during the periods that lent themselves to transition and cultural exchange.

Site

An excavation and a survey are the two primary components of the archaeological work done in the Vultur Project.  Torre Degli Embrici, the name of the excavation site, of the Vulture project (named for the nearby volcano), sits between the quaint towns of Rionero and Atella in the Vulture Region of Basilicata, Italy.  The excavation includes a Roman villa, bath, and basilica complex with various stages of construction dating to the 2nd century BC to the 6th century AD, when the complex violently burned to the ground.  Some Medieval remnants are buried within the site.  The survey covers a broad region of Basilicata, essentially including all the places thought to have been inhabited by the Lucanians.  The site of a Lucanian Necropolis is one of the most complete surveyed areas; however, due to Italian politics and an abundance of farmland in the area, it may be a long while before any excavation work may take place.

An objective of the research attempts a reconstruction of the ancient borders of the various tribes moving in and around the Vulture region, including the contact that the Lucanians maintained with neighboring tribes, such as the Samnites in Campania, separated by the Ofanto River and those people in Puglia.  This is not a simple task as border definition in the area has proven a challenge, even in antiquity.  For instance, Horace, a poet from Venosa, writes about his trouble to identify as either a Puglian (Daunian) or a Lucanian, since Venosa sat somewhere around the shifting border of the tribes.  This, of course, is only one example of the difficulty in determining the border issue.  Another indicator of Venosa as a frontier city becomes clear through the usage of the town as a Roman colony.  In fact, it happened to be the first Roman colony in southern Italy, strategically placed along the crossroads of three of the major neighboring tribes—the Lucanians, Daunians, and Samnite—so that they could not join together and pose a greater threat to Rome.

The placement of the Lucanians between a number of peoples lent itself to a fair amount of cultural interchange.  This interchange can be seen through the material record.  In addition to this interchange, the material record shows that they were also a highly bellicose people that often gained their profits from warring against the Greek colonies to the South and offering their services as mercenaries to the same Greeks.  The borrowing of Greek culture would have been inescapable as well as the interchange with their fellow Italic tribes, specifically the Samnites and Daunians.

Click here for some images of the site.

Facilities

The facilities we used are converted from an old bottle watering plant in Rionero.  The volcanic springs provide a source of freshwater to the highly fertile valley that surrounds the site.  The stay is a bit cramped, but my colleagues here are great people mixed between Scandinavians, Americans, and Canadians.  The dig house is located approximately a 20 minute walk (downhill) from the site, so you can imagine the 6:30am “wake-up!” walk up-hill to the site every morning helps get the blood flowing to prepare for the long day at the site.  Click here for more pictures of the facilities.

Karen, an animal osteologist from Northamptonshire, England, studies freshly cleaned pottery.


Nearby Locations

This section will be the most frequently updated as I travel to various sites in Italy.  Please click on the town to be linked to a new page about my travel.

Capri 8/1/2010

Ercolano 8/7/2010

Melfi 7/21/2010

Naples 8/1/2010 & 8/8/2010

Pompeii 8/7/2010

GGVilla of Oplontis 8/8/2010

Rionero 7/18/2010-9/1/2010

Sorrento 7/31/2010

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