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special issue


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the museum shops View our selection of gifts and books highlighting our Egyptian galleries. Gifts from the Museum Shops can now be purchased online at museum-shops.

3260 south street philadelphia, pa 19104 (215) 898-4040

special issue


contents summer 2011






By Kim Bowes, Mariaelena Ghisleni, Cam Grey, and Emanuele Vaccaro





By Elizabeth Fentress, Caroline Goodson, and Marco Maiuro

By Giuliano Volpe






By Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio

By Giovanna Bianchi



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From the Director From the Guest Editor Museum Mosaic—People, Places, Projects Looking Back—Minturnae Penn Museum Staff List on the cover: The “Bikini Girls” mosaic, thought to represent an athletic competition, dates to the 4th century AD. Two of the ten athletes are portrayed here: a young woman with hand weights and another woman about to throw a discus. The complete mosaic from Piazza Armerina is on page 34.

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Expedition® (ISSN 0014-4738) is published three times a year by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 3260 South St., Philadelphia, PA 19104-6324. ©2011 University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved. Expedition is a registered trademark of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. All editorial inquiries should be addressed to the Editor at the above address or by email to Subscription price: $35.00 per subscription per year. International subscribers: add $15.00 per subscription per year. Subscription, back issue, and advertising queries to Maureen Goldsmith at or (215)898-4050. Subscription forms may be faxed to (215)573-9369. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. We welcome letters to the Editor. Please send them to: Expedition Penn Museum 3260 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19104-6324 Email:

from the director

Penn Museum and Italy

the williams director

Richard Hodges, Ph.D. williams directors emeritus

Robert H. Dyson, Jr., Ph.D. Jeremy A. Sabloff, Ph.D. chief operating officer

Melissa P. Smith, CFA chief of staff to the williams director

James R. Mathieu, Ph.D. director of development

Amanda Mitchell-Boyask mellon associate deputy director

Loa P. Traxler, Ph.D. merle-smith director of community engagement

Jean Byrne director of exhibitions

Kathleen Quinn associate director for administration

Alan Waldt

expedition staff editor

Jane Hickman, Ph.D. associate editor

Jennifer Quick assistant editor

Emily B. Toner subscriptions manager

Maureen Goldsmith editorial advisory board

Fran Barg, Ph.D. Clark L. Erickson, Ph.D. James R. Mathieu, Ph.D. Naomi F. Miller, Ph.D. Janet M. Monge, Ph.D. Theodore G. Schurr, Ph.D. Robert L. Schuyler, Ph.D.

design Anne Marie Kane Imogen Design


Froelich Rainey (at right) and others survey with underground detecting equipment at Sybaris, Italy, ca. 1965. UPM Image #195316

he archaeology of italy, the bel paese or beautiful country, has long held a deep attraction for archaeologists and members of the Penn Museum. As early as 1895 the Museum engaged Arthur L. Frothingham, Secretary of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome (forerunner of the American Academy), to excavate the spectacular Etruscan warrior tombs at Narce and Vulci in Latium. A decade later Lucy Wharton Drexel funded Leonard Woolley, future excavator of Ur-ofthe-Chaldees, then an assistant keeper at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, to excavate the Roman baths at Teano in Campania. In the 1930s, at the height of the Depression, the Museum found the prospect of sharing the finds from the massive urban excavations at Minturnae, also in Campania, irresistible. From there came a rich array of busts and statues that today set the grandiose tone of the Museum’s Roman Gallery. After World War II, Director Froelich Rainey was no less seduced by the treasures of the peninsula, and collaborated with the Lerici Foundation in a ground-breaking geophysical survey of ancient Sybaris (Calabria) in southern Italy—a great Greek colony that is now an archaeological park. But just as the emphasis towards science engaged Museum expeditions in the 1960s, replacing the pre-war lure of statuary and armor, so today with a 21st century generation of archaeologists—as this issue of Expedition illustrates—contemporary projects are focusing upon big historical questions about the past. Methodological and theoretical advances in archaeology have been adopted by modern practitioners in Italian archaeology, making the bel paese one of the most exciting places to be engaged in archaeological research. Endowed with a long and endlessly fascinating history, Italy, it seems, will always hold a special fascination for those interested in new directions in world archaeology.

C&B Graphics

FPO richard hodges, ph.d. The Williams Director


Penn Museum


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editor’s note Thank you to Emily Toner for her many contributions to Expedition magazine. Her friends at the Museum wish her the best. JH

from the guest editor

Reimagining Ancient Italy

Penn Museum


n the modern imagination, Italy is a land of rolling vineyards, in italian dramatic coastal vistas, and of archaeology course, extraordinary food— infinite varieties of pasta, delicate pastries, rich cheeses, and earthy wines. Italian archaeology does not perhaps conjure up quite such an image of richness and diversity. The great monuments of Rome—the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and the catacombs—have dominated foreigners’ experience of Italian archaeology since the era of the Grand Tour. The practice of archaeology was, until the 1960s, similarly limited: the search for Greco-Roman antiquities— sculpture, vases, temples, and rich houses—preoccupied Italian and foreign archaeologists alike, and modern archaeological technique was slow to take hold. No longer. Archaeology in Italy is now on par with its food—some of the best in the world. Cutting-edge technologies and techniques are a staple of archaeological education in Italy; large-scale projects are subjecting whole landscapes to archaeological scrutiny, while an interest in worlds beyond the Greco-Roman has begun to illuminate Italy’s Middle Ages, which are now anything but dark. This issue of Expedition showcases some of the most exciting examples of current Italian archaeology. Included are two Penn Museum excavations, plus three other projects spanning prehistory to the Middle Ages, and ranging from the Tuscan coast to central Sicily. Cam Grey, Mariaelena Ghisleni, Emanuele Vaccaro, and I begin things with a project the Grand Tour never would have visited—the first-ever excavation of Roman peasant farms. Elizabeth Fentress, Caroline Goodson, and Marco Maiuro present another Penn project—their extraordinary work at the imperial Villa Magna. Both of these projects have been training Penn graduate and undergraduate students in field techniques. Giuliano Volpe’s article is a prime example of modern techniques revealing a heretofore totally unknown but incredibly rich archaeological landscape—Roman Apulia. New work on Later Roman new directions

This special issue of Expedition focuses on five current excavations that range from Tuscany to Sicily. Read on, and enjoy your trip!

archaeology is represented by Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio’s article on the great villa of Piazza Armerina in central Sicily, famous for its mosaics and now revealed in all its splendor. Giovanna Bianchi’s discussion of silver mining in Tuscany—an industry that literally paid for the Early Renaissance—shows the advances in medieval archaeology that have not only shed new light on Tuscan castles and cities, but have begun a significant trend in Italian archaeology, namely, the building of archaeological parks and the empowering of local communities. All this great archaeology makes for hungry work, so each article also presents a brief showcase of local food, wine, and restaurants. Travel directions and other visitor information are also provided. All that is left is to book your ticket! Buon viaggio—and enjoy this special issue of Expedition–Italy.

kim bowes Associate Professor, Department of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania

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Excavating the Roman Peasant by kim bowes , mariaelena ghisleni , cam grey , and emanuele vaccaro


e view the roman world through the eyes of the wealthy—the lettered elite who penned ancient history and literature, and the ruling classes whose monies built Roman cities and monuments. The poor are nearly invisible to us, their textual and material traces ephemeral, in many cases nonexistent. This is particularly true of the rural poor: by some estimates the rural poor constituted some 90% of the overall Roman population, and yet their textual traces are limited to a handful of laws, asides in agricultural handbooks, and some images. The richest potential source for these persons is archaeological evidence, but Roman archaeology has been largely disinterested. With some few exceptions, archaeologists have principally excavated the opulent and visually striking rural villas of the landowning

rich. The humble farmsteads of the rural poor—less beautiful to look at, but arguably more critical to an understanding of Roman society—have been for the most part ignored. There exists no real archaeology of these lower classes, and thus our understanding of their homes and farms, their diet and agricultural methods, and even their relationship with their landscapes is extremely limited. We began the Roman Peasant Project to try to answer some of these questions. The result of a collaboration between four young archaeologists at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Cambridge, and the Università di Siena/Grosseto, the Project constitutes the first organized attempt to excavate the houses and farms of peasants living between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD. By revealing the buildings in which they lived and worked, by analyzing the seeds and

Textile Museum of Canada

In the shadow of the medieval castle of Porrona, the Roman Peasant Project excavated its first site, the farm of Pievina.


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Roman Peasant Project (left and right), Penn Museum (top right) , Paolo Nanini, ( by kind permission of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana (bottom right)

animal bones that remain of their meals, and by mapping their local resources, we hope to reveal the lived experiences of this largest, most invisible group of ancient Romans. We also set out to challenge perceptions of what it meant to be a “peasant” or “poor” in the Roman world. Most historians have assumed that Roman peasants lived hand to mouth, producing only enough food to survive and living at the mercy of great landowners. We suspected this was too simple. Inspired by new economic studies on the modern poor, we hoped that analyses of the ceramics, coins, animal bones, and geological materials from peasant sites would show that Roman peasants not only drew on local resources, but were simultaneously engaged in broad, even global economic networks. Contrary to most historical studies which emphasize the oppression of this group by wealthy elites, we assumed instead that the principal force in these peasants’ lives was not the imposing figure of a distant landlord, but their own peers, while mutual dependency, through the small-scale exchange of basic foods and consumer goods, was as potent a factor as hierarchical exploitation.

A People without History: Finding and Excavating Roman Peasant Houses But how does one find the farms and houses of the Roman peasant? While they may have been largely ignored by excavation, their whereabouts are hardly unknown. Surface field survey reveals their presence at every turn. The majority of sites uncovered in most archaeological field surveys are small scatters of ceramics and roof tiles, under 0.5 hectares in area. Even

Above, the Roman Peasant Project is based in Cinigiano in western Tuscany. During the Roman period, this area was dominated by houses and farms of the rural poor. Below, this aerial photograph shows a peasant seasonal work site at San Martino.

Field survey results from Cinigiano show the many Roman-period sites in this area.

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smaller scatters of surface material, often termed “off-site scatters,” are similarly numerous. Field-survey archaeologists typically place these small “sites” and “off-sites” at one end of a size-based site spectrum, at the opposite end of which are the great villas. Between the two are other forms of small sites, such as small agglomerations or mini-villages. These small sites almost certainly represent the farms, huts, outbuildings, and villages of Roman rural non-elites. We may imagine that the wide spectrum of size, relative wealth, and configuration suggested by the surface evidence is paralleled by the many social classes who are known from the textual sources that we term “peasants”—agricultural slaves, tenants, wage-laborers, overseers, and traders. Yet while field surveys throughout the Roman Mediterranean have revealed thousands of such sites, and a handful of examples have been excavated, they have seen no systematic analysis or programmatic study. We hope to excavate up to ten of these sites over a five-year period. These will include the tiniest hut to the larger village, revealing the rich diversity of what it meant to be a Roman peasant.


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The Project is based in the small township of Cinigiano, in western Tuscany, an optimal landscape for such an endeavor. One of the Project’s co-founders, Mariaelena Ghisleni, has spent the last three years doing surface and geophysical survey in the township and has uncovered over 500 new archaeological sites. She found that unlike the better-studied coastal region around Cosa and Roselle, areas rich in elite Roman villas, inland Cinigiano was dominated in the Roman period by small sites that represent the farms and houses of the rural poor. Also unlike the coastal region, which has been subjected to deep plowing, these sites are generally better preserved. As a consequence, the potential rewards to be gained by systematic excavation are great. But how can one be sure that these scattered remains of surface pottery actually represent preserved peasant houses? One way is to undertake geophysical survey prior to excavation. By using various forms of magnetometry, the Project tries to determine the extent of plow damage, and test the special relationship between subsurface remains and surface scatters.

Roman Peasant Project

The Roman peasant’s landscape in Cinigiano, Tuscany, with one of the authors’ excavations in the foreground. The highly varied terrain is typical of the region and provided a number of different ecological zones that could be exploited by peasants. The continued prevalence of wheat farming here has meant generally shallow plowing and thus better preservation of archaeological remains beneath the surface.

Roman Peasant Project (top), Paolo Nanini, ( by kind permission of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana (bottom right)

Matteo Sordini with Differential GPS equipment (left), kite photography in action (right), and a product resulting from use of these tools (inset): an accurate, three-dimensional model of the site of Pievina, made in just a few hours.

Once the sites are confirmed, the Project excavates them somewhat differently from traditional archaeological projects. Many digs linger for decades over a single site. For our project this is not an option, as the farmers who generously allow their fields to be excavated need their land back so that they can plant it again the following agricultural year. The Project is also based around the principle that excavating one site does not reveal much about a whole subsection of the population: rather, many such sites must be excavated. Thus, each of the small sites is excavated in about 30 days, or sometimes less. We use relatively large teams in small areas, and make maximum use of modern technology, like employing highly accurate GPS systems to map finds, which cuts down on laborious hand-drawing. We also use high-resolution aerial kite photography to produce quick overall site views which, when “draped” over a detailed topographic survey, produce threedimensional site sketches and can also be used to shorten hand-drawing of walls and other features.

small village with its own ceramic kiln. The fact that the field was scheduled for transformation into a vineyard—a process which would have destroyed the site—made it a particularly attractive place to begin. When the landlord generously offered the Project an opportunity to excavate before the plantings, we jumped at the chance. In 20 work days, the team, composed of 20 American and Italian students, excavated about 30% of the site. We uncovered a well-preserved farmstead, with two major but distinct phases of occupation, intact stratigraphy, and a rich collection

Proving It Can Be Done: The Excavation of Pievina In June 2009, the group put their theories and new methods to the test, excavating a pilot site called Pievina, about 3 km from Cinigiano itself. The site had been located during field survey and subsequently subjected to geophysical survey. At about 1.5 ha of dispersed remains, the site lay at the “large” end of the peasant spectrum and was composed of seven distinct concentrations of materials and thus interpreted as a

This kite photograph of Pievina includes students for scale. Major buildings and other features are labeled.

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Alexis Galfas holds a drinking cup from Pievina. The tablewares here were as diverse as those from the nearby city of Roselle, with dozens of different kinds of plates, bowls, serving platters, and drinking vessels.


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Roman Peasant Project

Above, the geophysical survey at Pievina has been mapped over the actual excavated remains. Below, top, Phase 1 at Pievina was a late Republican/early Imperial (late 2nd century BC–early 1st century AD) farmstead. Below, bottom, Phase 2 at Pievina was a Late Antique (late 4th–late 5th century AD) house.

of ceramics, coins, and animal bones. The geophysical results proved to be hyper-accurate, correctly pinpointing not only the general location of the major remains and the kiln site, but even showing the smallest post-holes. The Roman peasant, it turned out, could be found and excavated quickly and accurately. But these were not Roman peasants as historians had imagined them. In the early 1st century BC, the farmstead possessed a large cistern, a possible granary for the storage of wheat, and a kiln for producing tiles. We never found the house that went with this farm, which probably lay in the unexcavated areas to the north. The granary, some 12 m in length, would have held surplus grain beyond family needs, either for tax payments or local sale, possibly by a collective group. While much of the stone for their buildings came from local (2–12 km distant) sources, the millstones to grind the grain were carried from special quarries over 60 aerial km away, perhaps near Orvieto. Their cooking and dining wares arrived from regional sources along the Tuscan coast, while a modest collection of coins suggests these peasants were plugged into a monetized economy. In short, peasants from the age of Cicero were not engaged in mere “subsistence” living, but were producing surpluses, paying in coin, and tied into a much broader economic world. At some point in the late 1st to early 2nd century AD, the farm was abandoned and covered by a major earth movement, perhaps the slump of the adjacent hill. Two centuries later, in the later 4th century, its ruins were reoccupied by a new fam-

InkLink, Florence

This artist’s reconstruction shows the seasonal work building at San Martino, which dates to the late 1st century BC.

ily. This household reused the walls and the roof tiles of the old farm to build a much smaller house, to which was appended a post-built wooden structure, perhaps a stable. The granary was abandoned, as was the kiln, and the family lived almost atop heaps of their household garbage—all initially suggesting that these peasants’ economic world had contracted and their quality of life declined. Yet the quantities and origins of their cooking pots, tablewares, and coins were surprisingly rich. Unlike their Republican-period predecessors, this family had access to a much wider range of domestic goods, from North African olive oil shipped in amphorae to relatively large quantities of low-value coins. Indeed, the tablewares they dined on were almost equal in variety to those used by occupants of the nearest city—Roselle. Their house may have been smaller and surrounded by garbage, but like the peasants of modern Third World countries, with satellite TV and cell phones, they, too, were connected to a globalized economy. While the Pievina peasants may have shopped globally, they ate locally—at least as far as their animal diet was concerned. Analysis of the animal bones indicates a diet distinct from rich villa sites: far lower in pig, a staple of Roman elite diets, and considerably richer in old, tough cattle. The cattle evidence is important: some scholars have thought Roman peasants were so poor they could not even afford work oxen. Clearly this was not the case at Pievina, where oxen were worked until

they reached old age and then slaughtered. The most commonly eaten animals, however, were sheep and goats, species which provide one-stop-shopping for milk, wool/hides, and meat. While the pots and coins describe a world with access to a Mediterranean market, the animal bones reveal one of scrimping and saving, making careful use of each animal’s productive life.

Commuting Peasants, Cooperative Peasants While in general a success, there were problems with this first pilot season. We realized in retrospect that the site we chose was too monumental to provide a real test of the geophysics, too big to be completely excavated in a short season, and too rich to really represent the poorest of the poor. We also wondered what role the great distance of the site from the region’s only villa might have played in its obvious prosperity. Were these peasants able to operate relatively independently of landlord control and thus enrich themselves? Our next season in 2010 thus focused on two very different kinds of sites: a very small (15 x 10 m) scatter of 1st century BC date (San Martino), and a complex of three 10 x 10 m scatters located some 500 m from the villa (Case Nuove). This second season allowed us to further test our working methodologies

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Above, the plan of the Case Nuove production site has been overlaid with an aerial photo. A – Dump B – Work Surface C – Silo D – Dolium Base

E – Basin F – Post-holes G – Channels H – Cistern

Left, postholes for the base of a press, with posts modeled by Penn undergrads L. Caitlin Foley, ’10 (left) and R. Sarah Hilker ’11 (right).


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Paolo Nanini, ( by kind permission of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana (top), Roman Peasant Project (bottom)

and began to suggest a rather different kind of peasant settlement landscape than we, or others, had assumed. San Martino was revealed to be a somewhat plowdamaged, but largely intact small (8 x 8 m) rural shelter with a single-pitch thatched roof, clay walls, and beatenearth floor. Dating to the late 1st century BC and occupied for only a short period, the absence of faunal remains, cooking installations, and significant ceramic rubbish suggested to us that this was not a house, as we initially thought, but a seasonally occupied work building. Set in a valley of prime agricultural land and facing the prevailing northern winds, the structure may have been used in the summer months during grain harvest. Those who used this work building may have come from a contemporary village, located through field survey 1 km along the valley. Case Nuove revealed yet another site type—a smallscale agro-processing point. The site was established on a hilltop during the late 1st century BC through the 2nd to 3rd century AD for the processing of some agricultural product. A waterproof work surface, processing basin, storage jars, a storage silo, a cistern, and post-holes for a possible press point to oil or plant-fiber processing. Residue analysis on the dolia (storage jars) and work surface, carried out by Alessandra Pecci of the Equip de Recerca Arqueológica e Arqueomètrica de la Universitat de Barcelona (ERAUB), has indicated the presence of some kind of vegetable oil, but not necessarily olive oil. Although the whole of the hilltop was surveyed and excavated, no habitations were found. This, plus the waterless hilltop location pointed to a purely industrial site. Given the small size of the processing tanks (one of the smallest

ever excavated from the Roman period in central Italy), we believe the Case Nuove site represents a collective pressing point, much like the modern cantine in Italian villages to which small proprietors take their harvest to be processed. Both of these sites are surprising for what they do not represent. We had assumed, along with scholarly consensus, that the small surface scatters at San Martino and Case Nuove would reveal peasant houses. In fact, none of the sites we have excavated conform to the standard notions of a single-structure peasant farmstead. Not only were peasant socio-economies more diverse than we supposed, but it now seems that, at least in this region, peasants inhabited and utilized a wide variety of functionally diverse, possibly complementary sites. This in turn suggests a mobile peasantry, exploiting distant and functionally distinct spaces. Furthermore, the paucity of habitation space in our excavations to date may indicate that the smallest surface survey sites are not the real homes of the peasantry in this region. Rather, it is possible that these sites were used periodically by a “commuting” peasantry that lived in the posited agglomerated villages.

to visit All the sites described here have been backfilled as part of the agreement between the Project and the landowners. However, the landscape of the Roman peasant is easily retrievable in the extraordinary and little-changed township of Cinigiano. Cinigiano is located about an hour east of Grosseto: take the road towards Siena, then exit at Paganico and continue for about 20 minutes. Excellent lodging can be found at nearby Castle Porrona where a tiny medieval borgo has been entirely transformed into a fine resort, or at nearby Poggio di Sasso, where the Salustri vineyard also includes a beautiful agriturismo.

Peasants in Their Environment

Roman Peasant Project


Each black circle on this Land-Units map shows the original location of stone used in the construction of the Pievina farmstead. The stone comes from all over the landscape, not one single source, and was probably gathered piecemeal during trips taken for other reasons: working distant fields, pasturing animals, or visiting friends.

The environmental analysis from both seasons reveals in detail how the inhabitants of these sites exploited their landscapes. For each site we excavate, we produce what is termed a LandUnits map—sections of territory with coherent and homogeneous soil, substrate, geomorphology, hydrology, and topographic characteristics. These Land-Units in turn permit the reconstruction of basic soils viability, forestation, human mobility opportunities and challenges, and possible geological resources. We also track down the probable topographic origin of each stone used in our sites’ structures. This data has already provided some suggestive conclusions. For instance, the two excavated 1st century BC buildings (Pievina Phase 1; San Martino) are composed of stone types derived from a variety of sources, both proximate (1–3 km) and distant (10+ km). The distant sources are almost all in areas challenging

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the hungry archaeologist Cinigiano stands with one foot in the Maremma, whose cuisine is described elsewhere in this issue (see page 45), and one foot in the Tuscan heartlands to the east. For the latter, thick ragus made with game cover local pastas, like tagliatelle con selvaggina, and all manner of mushrooms and rich stews, like scottiglia, are hearty fare. In all seasons, steak lovers can find the thick and juicy fiorentina—thick-cut porterhouse steaks—and seafood fans will find fresh fish. The local wines are particularly fine

ogy is formed by the selective grazing of animals. Thus, the peasants’ pastoral landscape was very much shaped by their own animal husbandry choices.

Looking to the Future The Project hopes to continue to excavate two sites per year for the next five years, continuing this summer (2011) with a Penn Museum field school, run in collaboration with the School for Liberal and Professional Studies, designed to teach basic field practice to Penn undergraduates. By the end of this period we hope to have assembled the first-ever collection of archaeological data on peasants’ lives, diet, and landscapes in Roman Italy. It is a small start, perhaps, but represents an attempt to restore to the archaeological and historical record the 90% of the population which has too long remained in the shadows.

and fall within the famed Montecucco production vineyards are both to be found in the township and produce rich Sangiovese reds and fresh Vermentino whites. In Cinigiano itself, excellent food and a warm welcome will be found at ‘Il Rintocco,’ in the town’s tiny medieval piazza.

to access, involving steep slopes and difficult stream crossings, and typically with relatively poor soils. This indicates the collection of building stone over time from various points in the landscape, implying a mobile peasantry. Our analysis has further revealed that good agricultural soils around both sites are highly clayey, heavy, and thus difficult to plow except during the fall months. A major reliance on plow animals to work these soils is further indicated by the relatively high number of cattle remains. More unexpected results are coming from initial pollen analysis carried out at Case Nuove and San Martino. While Case Nuove today is set in a partially wooded landscape, the pollen analysis reveals that in Roman times, the wood might have receded. Pollen associated with vines and olives was also very low. Instead, pollens associated with pasture plants, selectively maintained by animal grazing, are among the most numerous. Taken together with the animal bone evidence from the first season at Pievina, it would seem that pasturage and pasture animals—sheep and goat—dominated this peasant environment. We must remember that the pastures detected by the pollen analysis are not “natural”—their ecol-


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kim bowes is Associate Professor in the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. mariaelena ghisleni has just finished her doctoral thesis at the Università di Siena/Grosseto. cam grey is Assistant Professor in the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. emanuele vaccaro is Marie Curie Post-doctoral Researcher at the MacDonald Institute of Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.

The 2010 excavation team stands at Case Nuove. Visible in the background is the modern vegetation dominated by woodland, olive trees, and vines. The Roman-period landscape seems to have been very different, with far more land devoted to pasture.

Roman Peasant Project

region: the Colle Masssari and Salustri


Wine, Slaves, and the Emperor at Villa Magna by elizabeth fentress , caroline goodson , and marco maiuro

Villa Magna was built on a ridge. To the far left, one can see the modern farmhouse. In the center is the site of the “slave barracks,” and through the trees is the church of S. Pietro in Villamagna.

W Villa Magna Excavation Project

riting to his tutor Fronto in about AD 141, the future emperor Marcus Aurelius describes his stay at the imperial estate of Villa Magna, near Anagni southeast of Rome:

We are well. I overslept a bit on account of a slight cold, but this seems to have subsided, so at the eleventh hour of the night until the third hour of the day I read from Cato’s De Agricultura, and wrote a little bit, less badly than yesterday, thank god.…So with my throat tended to, I set out for my father and stood by him at the sacrifice.…Then we set ourselves to the task of picking the grapes; we sweated, and rejoiced, and, as another author says, “we left the high-hanging vintage surviving.” …[T]he gong rang, that is, it was announced that my father

had gone over to the bath. Having bathed, we therefore dined in the pressing room (we didn’t bathe in the pressing room, but, having washed, we ate there) and we happily heard the peasants bantering. (Fronto, Letters, book IV, letter 6, tr. M. Andrews) This passage shows Marcus, then around 21 years old, as a willing if playful student of agricultural technique, performing for his tutor. It also emphasizes the importance of his father’s villa as a wine-producing estate. The ceremonies of the day included a sacrifice, perhaps to Jupiter, the plucking of the first fruits of the Latian vintage, and a banquet in the winery where the emperor, Antoninus Pius, and his guests enjoyed a performance by the slaves who trod the grapes on the high pressing floor, which acted as a sort of stage. Music may have accompanied the treading of the grapes, as we know from many mosaics depicting this sort of scene.

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This plot of the magnetometer survey of Villa Magna shows the likely extent and layout of the villa. The red areas indicate areas with high value magnetic anomalies and thus likely walls and other features.


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The ruins of the villa today cover around 17 ha in the Valley of the Sacco. Now called Villamagna, it has been known to scholars since the 18th century when the antiquarian Gavin Hamilton visited it and declared that it had too few statues to be worthy of further excavation. No scientific expedition had ever taken place at what was one of the most important imperial villas in Latium until 2005, when a team sponsored by the Penn Museum, the British School at Rome, the International Association for Classical Studies, and the Soprintendenza Archeologica of Lazio arrived at the site. Our aim was to study an imperial estate over the longue durÊe, exploring how such a property would change over time. The five-year campaign, supported by the 1984 Foundation, the Banc’Anagni, and the town of Anagni, has produced quite extraordinary results, showing the vicissitudes of an elite property over 1,200 years of (almost) uninterrupted occupation. The project began with a geophysical survey of the site which generated a surprisingly clear vision of the buildings scattered along two low ridges of the Monte Lepini. To the northwest a large peristyle, or colonnaded courtyard, is clearly

Villa Magna Excavation Project (top), Sophie Hay (bottom)

Janine Young excavates one of the dolia sunk into the marble paving of the winery.

visible, perhaps the porticus duplex or double porticus characteristic of imperial villas. South of the peristyle lies the area of the medieval church of S. Pietro in Villamagna, standing today abandoned and roofless on the hillside. Further south large courtyards seem to succeed each other up the ridge towards the site occupied today by a 19th century farmhouse. On the east side of the modern drive are other buildings, including a curious structure whose small rooms appear to form a checkerboard, with an area of symmetrical rooms resembling bath buildings, and the lines of underground drainage pipes and cisterns. Based on the survey, we decided to work on three sites of the villa: the farmhouse itself, still supported by Roman vaults; the “checkerboard” building; and the area around the church where we imagined the medieval monastery, recorded in parchments in a local archive, to have been located.

The imperial estate of Villa Magna is located southeast of Rome.

Penn Museum (top), Andrew Dufton (middle), Villa Magna Excavation Project (bottom)

The Imperial Winery

Above, this plan of the winery was created when the excavation was completed in 2010. Below, a reconstructed view from the emperor’s couch shows dolia half buried in the floor.

By enormous good luck, the first trench opened in the courtyard of the farmhouse showed that we were within the winery of the villa. The floor was made in the herringbone (opus spicatum) technique characteristic of Roman service floors—but rather than of terracotta, the “bricks” were made of portasanta marble! The floor left space for sunken dolia (singular, dolium), or large fermentation jars, while a platform visible at the start of the excavation proved to be the pressing floor; below it, a marble-lined vat caught the juice from the pressed grapes. By the end of the next two seasons the plan of the winery had become clear. The cella vinaria, or press-room, held 38 dolia, with spaces between them for the transfer of the juice from the vat. In front of it, a large curved room, probably open to the sky, must have been the site of the emperor’s banquet. Sadly, none of its floor survived the later leveling of the area, but the floor preparation, like that in the rest of the building, left no doubt that it was originally marble. We may imagine the emperor and his guests lying on couches in the center of the semi-circular exedra, amusing themselves by watching the treading of the grapes. The winery was entered by two routes. One was a little service stair, to the east, while another, to the south, was an ele-

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tional buildings and requires us to see it as a ceremonial space. Clearly the emperor was representing himself as a Bonus Agricola, a good farmer, whose careful husbandry at his villa was a metaphor for the care he took of the empire. But there is more going on here than simple ruler self-representation. The villa may have been the site of an annual ceremony, similar to that carried out by the flamen dialis, the high priest of Jupiter, at the vintage festival feast called the vinalia, when the sacrifice of a lamb to Jupiter was followed by the cutting of the first bunch of grapes, signaling the beginning of the Latian harvest. The villa’s construction, which appears from brick stamps to date to the reign of Hadrian, would have had a symbolic importance in displaying the interest of the emperor in wine production for Rome, something that is oddly absent from Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli.

Below from left to right, the “imperial” stair led to the winery. A reconstruction of the marble wall treatment in the corridor leading to the stair is shown here. A fragmentary statue of Hercules and Hippolyta was excavated from a medieval dump.


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Villa Magna Excavation Project (bottom left and right), Dirk Booms (top and bottom middle)

gant, wide staircase, clearly the imperial access to the building. The spacing of the latter’s marble stairs, separated by wide landings, allowed the emperor to be carried up on a litter. To the south, a passage led to the stair, past a set of bath buildings—probably those referred to in Marcus’ letters. The collapse of the marbles lining this corridor, and their traces in the mortar on the walls, allowed supervisor Dirk Booms to reconstruct the extraordinarily rich decoration of this space. This gave us a glimpse of the kind of material that would have been destroyed in the medieval lime kilns, which burned marble and limestone to make quicklime for mortar. Not all the statues were destroyed, however; a medieval dump gave us a substantial fragment of a statue depicting Hercules seizing Hippolyta. Only the torso of the Amazon queen survives, with Hercules’ hand clutching her breast. Professor Ann Kuttner, of the University of Pennsylvania, is studying this at present, along with the large number of other Roman statue fragments which must have decorated the villa. The plan of the whole building is tentatively reconstructed in a 3-D model, which allows us to analyze access and circulation, as well as giving an idea of the scale of the structure, which occupied at least three stories. The central location of the winery, within the grounds of the villa, and the astounding luxury of its decoration, removes it from the sphere of func-

A sketch reconstruction of the winery by Dirk Booms includes the exedra and the pressing room.

Villa Magna Excavation Project (top left and bottom), Andrew Dufton (top right), Dirk Booms (middle)

The Slave Barracks The excavation of the checkerboard building to the north of the winery provided a necessary complement to that prestigious building, allowing us a glimpse of the lives of the people who actually carried out the work. The building has two wings, separated by a narrow alleyway with a drain running down the middle. The south wing consists of a row of ten rooms with, to the south, a portico along a road paved in white paving stones. There were no passageways or doors, however, between the portico and the rest of the building, and it may have simply served as a resting place for people arriving at the villa. A mortar foundation in the alley, suggesting a staircase, as well as various pieces of pavement from the collapse, together seem to show that the building had two stories. On the other side of the alley were two rows of ten rooms each, again, probably from a two-story building. With one exception, the rooms measured 10 x 12 Roman feet (2.95 x 3.54 m) and were paved with beaten earth. In one corner of most rooms were found traces of a dolium, probably used here to contain a grain ration, while hearths and querns, or hand grain mills, were common. The regimented structure of the building, and its similarity to numerous barracks in legionary fortresses, at first suggested that we were dealing with army barracks, but the general poverty and structure of the rooms, with their individual cooking and storage facilities, convinced us that they more likely

Clockwise from left to right, the slave barracks were excavated in 2009. An “ideal� plan of the barracks is superimposed over the plan of the excavations. This reconstruction sketch shows what the barracks may have looked like when it was in use. Below, the hollows of the robbedout dolia in the 6th century winery are shown in this photograph. Note the trace of a dolium base preserved in mortar in the lower row.

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The facade of the 6th century church of S. Pietro in Villamagna is still preserved.


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The Church and the Monastery The church of S. Pietro in Villamagna was constructed in the 6th century on the remains of an earlier building with the identical plan. Built in the late 4th or 5th century, the earlier building lies at the center of a large court paved with smaller versions of the same white paving stones we find on the road. It was probably built as a church, as its form and burials both inside and outside suggest. In the middle of the 6th century the church was rebuilt in the opus vittatum technique composed of local tuff (volcanic stone) blocks and irregular brick bands, traces of which still survive in the standing walls. A narthex or vestibule was added to the facade, and the whole church continued to serve as a cemetery for the community. The church was the center of the 6th-century settlement, and in front of the narthex we have identified a new winery, constructed in the portico of the large imperial building to the north. Like those of the earlier winery, the dolia of the 6th-century win-

Villa Magna Excavation Project

constituted the quarters for slave families, or, less possibly, free workers on the estate. Evidence for a large presence of women in the barracks came from the large numbers of hairpins and sewing needles recovered from the drain, as well as the tombs of newborn babies excavated under some of the floors. The skeletons of these children show considerable signs of anemia, which may be evidence for thalassemia, or Mediterranean anemia, in the people living in the barracks. Built in the middle of the 3rd century, the barracks remained in use until the third quarter of the 5th century, when it seems to have been abandoned and collapsed. While much work has been done on slavery in the Roman world, very little is known of it archaeologically. If, as we believe, we are dealing here with slave barracks, excavation of the structure sheds important light on a period when agricultural slavery is generally assumed to have been on the wane, and allows us to see the continuing investment in production at the villa—probably, in this period, still concentrating on wine.

ery were robbed out, leaving large holes where they had been placed, two by two, under the shelter of the portico. The winery is, for the moment, one of the last to have been built in Roman Italy. We do not know who built it, or who the owners The site is on private property and now of the property were in this period—the Byzantine treasury, largely backfilled. However, the church can the church, and a member of the local elite are all candidates. be visited, perhaps in conjunction with a However, the estate was clearly still in the hands of an owner trip to the splendid medieval hilltop town prepared to undertake serious investment in its structures, of Anagni with its Romanesque cathedral both ceremonial and productive. This winery does not seem and crypt, covered in extraordinary 13th to have survived the 6th century, and after the construction of a couple of huts for storage or domestic use, the site seems to century frescoes, and its walls in polygonal have been deserted. masonry, attributed to the general Sulla in Around two centuries passed before the next occupants the 1st century BC. appeared on the site; traces of them are found in the substructures of the ancient winery, and in large deposits of appears to confirm its date in the last quarter of the 10th cenearth for cultivation found over the Roman pavement north tury. Around a century later, the abbey was rich enough to of the church and in the ancient winery baths. A little village undertake major building campaigns that brought its plan was forming around the ancient winery and energy was being more in line with those of contemporary monasteries. A bell invested in reviving agriculture on the site. Glazed Forum tower was put up in front of the church, and the courtyard Ware pottery dates this occupation to the first half of the 9th was transformed into a square cloister. This cloister is unusual century. By the end of that century we find the first houses of in having the function of a rainwater collection space rather the village. They were huts constructed, once again, over the than a garden; the center of the cloister contained four great remains of the winery baths. This village continued to grow for funnels, which fed rainwater into the large cistern below them. the next three centuries. The water was filtered through the thick layers of pozzolana The cemetery for the inhabitants of this village, per(local volcanic stone) and gravel which filled the funnels, and haps as well as for others in the area, again formed near the drawn out again from the cistern through a well to the side. church, where 499 burials were excavated during the course This remarkable technical solution is for the moment unique of the project. These are now being studied by Dr. Francesca among Italian medieval buildings, and suggests the sophisticaCandilio of the University of Rome La Sapienza, assisted by tion of the architect employed by the abbey. Penn graduate students Rowan Brixey and Samantha Cox. The use of the cemetery covers a period lasting almost a millennium. Together with A section of the cloister and its cistern at S. Pietro in Villamagna is shown in this sketch reconstruction isotope analysis of the bones, underway by Nick DePace. at Oxford, the study of the skeletons will provide vital evidence for changes in diet, stature, and general well-being over that time. A document of AD 976 indicates that four local noblemen gave the church property, together with several estates, to a monastery which henceforward took the name of S. Pietro in Villamagna. The first archaeological traces perhaps associated with this event are the remains of a large buttressed wall, creating an open courtyard north of the church. Pottery from the layers associated with this wall

Nick DePace

to visit

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The 2007 team sits in the winery, in depressions which once held dolia.

wood from their houses, as long as they continued to provide the work and rent they owed. Although the abbey regularly won these cases, the ascent to the papacy of Boniface VIII, who came from an elite family in Anagni, changed the balance of power. The monastery was suppressed, the abbot and the monks were excommunicated, and the estate was turned over to the cathedral of Anagni.

The Castrum Documents of court cases from the 12th and 13th centuries show a continuing quarrel between the abbot of the monastery and the local elite, particularly the lords of the nearby castle at Sgurgola. Through these parchment records, we catch glimpses of the peasants on the abbey lands, who testify to the relatively onerous unpaid labor to which they were subject, as well as to their freedom to leave the estate, taking away the

the hungry archaeologist Anagni’s food traditions are those of the Ciociaria region, the market gardens for Rome. The most famous local dish is the timballo of Boniface VIII, the pope famously slapped in 1303 by Sciarra Colonna at the orders of the French king. The timballo consists of fettuccine with meat sauce and meatballs, baked in a pie with an outer layer of prosciutto; this is delicious, but not a dish for the faint-hearted. Fettuccine and gnocchitti feature large among the first courses, accompanied by the dense and tasty ragù ciociaro. Seconds are more traditional: local meat cooked on the grill, particularly abbacchio alla scottadito. All of this

The last chapter in the long occupation of Villamagna is perhaps the least clear. A large defensive wall was built around the church and part of the area once occupied by the monastery, forming a castrum, or fortified settlement. The cemetery seems to have remained in use, but we are unsure about the buildings which lay inside the castrum wall. Our excavations revealed only a substantial lime kiln, which must have been used for the burning of stones from earlier Roman buildings on the estate. We do suspect, from the large number of finds relating to horse equipment, particularly spurs, that the cloister was used as a stable, and that the castrum might have housed a small mounted force. The last document relating to the site in this period is a sentence in a legal document from the cathedral archive for 1498, which records the burning of the site by a neighboring town: Villamagna combusta est. If a general outline of the life of the estate over these many centuries is now clear, our excavations have, as usual, posed more questions than they have answered. Where was the residence of the emperor? Where were the main baths of the estate located? Was the winery replaced with a larger structure when it went out of use in the mid-3rd century? Who was responsible for the rebuilding of the church and the creation of the 6th-century winery? Who settled the estate in the 9th century? What form did the monastery take in its early phases? And what was its plan in the later ones? Was the castrum an elite residence or simply a fortification? What is obvious, however, is the central role this estate played in the life of the surrounding territory for over a millennium. The imperial investment on the site continued to pay dividends for many centuries.

del Piglio, and finished off with small cookies, or ciambelline al vino rosso, made even better by dunking them in a glass of Cesanese! In Anagni, eat at ‘Lo Schiaffo’ on via Vittorio Emanuele 270, ‘Osteria della Fontana’ on the Via Casilina, or ‘Antica Osteria della Noce.’


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elizabeth fentress is a Consulting Scholar in the Mediterranean Section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. caroline goodson is Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at Birkbeck College, University of London. marco maiuro is Assistant Professor in Roman History at Columbia University.

Villa Magna Excavation Project

is washed down by the local wine, Cesanese


Rediscovering the Heel Archaeology and History in Northern Apulia by giuliano volpe

Archaeologists excavate the Roman Villa of Faragola (Ascoli Satriano Fg).

Giuliano Volpe


aunia, the ancient territory that occupied the modern province of Foggia in northen Puglia, is extraordinarily rich in cultural heritage. Artistic masterpieces abound, such as the great Norman cathedrals at Barletta and Trani, or the polychrome marbles recently found in Ascoli Satriano. Less well known, but now becoming ever more visible, are its archaeological treasures, which span every period of human history. For the prehistoric period, one may visit the caves at Apricena or Grotta Paglicci as well as the Neolithic villages of the Tavoliere, while the Daunian culture of the 11th to 4th century BC is exemplified by the houses and burials of Arpi (near

Foggia). The great cities of Herdonia (near Ordona), Luceria (modern Lucera), and Canusium (modern Canosa di Puglia), villas like Faragola, and the great roads used for commerce and transhumance document the spread of Roman occupation to the region. The pilgrimage sanctuary of St. Michael at Gargano, Byzantine churches, cathedrals, and Norman castles alike describe a rich and cosmopolitan Middle Ages. The real uniqueness of the Daunia’s heritage, and indeed its real identity, lies in the integration of natural landscape and human history. The modern inhabitants of Daunia live with its past every day, and the visitor can easily capture these traces simply by passing through its countryside. These landscapes,

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The four Apulian universities/Regione Puglia project has catalogued many ancient sites: each of the red dots on this map shows cultural heritage sites now documented in Apulia.

eval farms, we set out to record history over the long term, from the Roman through the end of the medieval periods, using every tool available. Such an approach is termed “total landscape archaeology,” and, in what follows, we describe four Daunian landscapes for which this approach has yielded unexpected new results.

Ancient Daunia is located near the heel of Italy. Below, this map of Daunia shows the major river valleys and ancient Roman cities in the region.

rich not only in aesthetic value but also as a source of ancient and modern identity, constitute one of the region’s most precious cultural assets. In 2000, the Università di Foggia began a program to better understand the story of Daunia’s past. In collaboration with regional government and with three other Apulian universities, our objectives were to not only map these archaeological resources, but also to understand how they functioned within their diverse local landscapes. From Roman cities to medi-


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Our point of departure is the land itself, selecting specific topographies—such as river valleys or the sub-Apennine hills—as units of study. We then bring to bear a whole range of tools: textual data such as epigraphy, as well as literary and documentary sources; aerial photography; laser mapping; field survey; and excavation. We then use the many different kinds of resultant data to assemble a total history of each locale. For us, the modern landscape is itself also an object of research. In it are conserved traces of the past and the transformations impressed upon it by man and nature throughout the ages—by settlement patterns, by the working of the land, by technology, and even by religious conventions. The object of research thus becomes not simply artifacts but extends to “eco-facts,” or natural objects used by humans, and their relationship with their human users. “Total” in our sense of the word does not presume to produce “total knowledge,” but rather refers to a totality of approach. One landscape tool used to great effect in Daunia is aerial photography, particularly that taken at low altitudes during optimal moments. In Daunia, these moments occur during May and June after the winter rains, and when the first growth of wheat vividly captures the outlines of buried structures. Aerial photography has a long tradition in Puglia, begun in World War II by British archaeologist and RAF officer John Bradford. In more recent years, we have compiled an archive

Penn Museum (left), Giuliano Volpe (top center, top right and middle), L. Tadeschi and F. Taccogna (bottom right)

A Total Landscape Archaeology

of some 50,000 photos and located over a thousand new sites of various kinds, dating from the prehistoric to the medieval period. Many of these sites were also subjected to extensive geophysical survey: geophysics carried out over whole landscapes. These modes of research have also been important as rescue tools, particularly in the face of the large-scale windfarm construction in the region that has threatened many archaeological landscapes.

San Giusto and the Celone River Valley

Giuliano Volpe (top and middle), L. Tadeschi and F. Taccogna (bottom)

Top, Motta della Regina, a Neolithic village and a superimposed Medieval Village, is one example of an archaeological site found by aerial photography. Middle, San Giusto (Lucera) is an early Christian complex with a double basilica and baptistery. Bottom, this computer reconstruction shows the interior of the early Christian basilica at San Giusto.

We first began this approach to landscape in 1998 in the Celone River valley. The Celone lies in the territory of ancient Luceria, the first Latin colony in Apulia, founded in 315–314 BC. The project began with an emergency excavation at the site of San Giusto, carried out in difficult conditions inside a dam. Here we revealed a large Roman villa provided with wine production facilities, warehouses for grain, structures for the washing and working of wool, a kiln for ceramic production, and other agro-industrial facilities. In the 5th and 6th centuries AD, a great church complex was built at this site, composed of two connected churches, one with fine mosaics and the other designed for purely funerary uses; a centrally planned, monumental baptistery; residential spaces; and a small bath house. On the basis of historical and epigraphic sources, we identified the site as the seat of a rural diocese; one of the bishops was Probus, episcopus Carmeianensis or bishop of the Carmeia estate, present at the synod of Rome convened by Pope Symmacus in AD 501–502. The bishopric or diocese grew up within a large imperial estate called the saltus Carminianensis, which the Notitia Dignitatum, an official administrative document drawn up in the 5th century, tells us was administered by a particular official, the “imperial property manager for Apulia and Calabria.” In addition to the excavations at San Giusto, we also carried out intensive field survey in the Celone River valley. For the late antique period (4th to 6th century), a time when other areas of Italy experienced a steady decline in rural settlements, we discovered an unexpectedly populous landscape, with numerous villas, villages, and small farms. Particularly significant was the discovery of a vicus, or village, at Montedoro, set along the north-south road that joined the Roman city of Benevento with the port of Siponto, and along whose length were located the cities of Aecae (modern Troia) and Arpi (near Foggia). Montedoro may be the roadside station called

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Above, at the Villa of Faragola (Ascoli Satriano), cut marble, or opus sectile, panels covered parts of the floor and the sides of the couch in the dining room. Left top and middle, the summer dining room of the Villa of Faragola (Ascoli Satriano) was used in a recent restaging of 4th century author Macrobius’ Saturnalia, a philosophical dialogue that takes place during a dinner party. Left bottom, the Roman baths at Herdonia (Ordona Fg.) are visible along traces of the Via Traiana.


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De arte venandi cum avibus, facsimile of Ms. Pal. Lat. 1071 (top), Giuliano Volpe (bottom), page 24: LAD, Univ. Foggia (top left), Giuliano Volpe (remainder of images)

Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, the Swabian king of Sicily, was passionate about hunting and wrote a book entitled On the Art of Hunting with Birds. The King’s vacation home and zoo were located at Pantano and were recently excavated by our team.

the Praetorium Lauerianum, known from the 4th century map called the Peutinger Table. In other villages in this territory were found early Christian churches, pointing to a profound diffusion of Christianity to rural areas. Recently, we have also begun excavation at the nearby site of Pantano, which in the early 13th century served as a vacation home for King Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, the Swabian King of Sicily, who would go on to become Holy Roman Emperor. The site was outfitted with a park—a kind of zoo with exotic animals and gardens—all to accommodate the king’s passion for hunting, as described in his famous book of ornithology and falconry, On the Art of Hunting with Birds.

cut marble and glass. Inside the dining room emerged a surprising find: a very rare example of a built stibadium, or curved Roman dining couch, encrusted with marble, in the center of which was a fountain of water, cascading to a shallow pool— designed to cool residents and guests in the summer heat. All these luxuries suggest the wealth of the Roman aristocracy whose monies derived from farming the surrounding lands. After the villa was abandoned in the late 6th century AD, a village grew up over its remains, its small huts, graves, and industrial installations for ceramics, glass, and metal in sharp contrast to the luxurious house that preceded it. Faragola is currently being conserved as an archaeological park and can be visited as part of a network of such parks, including the Archaeological Park of Daunian Culture and the archaeological museum of Ascoli Satriano. As in the Celone Valley, our field surveys found the surrounding Carapelle River valley to be rich in Roman settlements and dotted with other villas, villages, and small farms. The most notable settlement, however, is the Roman city of Herdonia with an important medieval occupation, abandoned only in the early modern period. The history of Daunia from the prehistoric through the later medieval periods is found in layers at this significant site. Thanks to systematic excavations run since 1962 by Belgian archaeologist Joseph Mertens and, later, a Belgian-Italian team directed by myself, Herdonia is one of the most important urban sites in southern Italy. Unfortunately, the land is privately held, and although it is open to the public, it has not yet been developed into an archaeological park.

The Villa of Faragola, the City of Herdonia, and the Carapelle River Valley In another valley, that of the Carapelle, a large, luxurious Roman villa was excavated at Faragola, and a survey carried out in its surrounding territory. Faragola was one of many sites in Daunia with an unusually long history. First occupied in the Daunian period (6th–2nd century BC), the earliest site was a domestic structure and included a room paved with a pebble mosaic. Abandoned in the 3rd or 2nd century BC, the site was later reoccupied by a great Roman villa. The villa was organized as a series of rooms around a peristyle, and was enlarged in late antiquity with mosaic-paved baths and a great summer dining room paved with a highly unusual floor composed of

A plan of the Roman forum at Herdonia shows the market (macellum), shops (tabernae), temples, senate house (curia), and other structures.

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The excavated area represents a portion of a Roman city that witnessed particular expansion between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. It was during this period that a great highway, the Via Traiana—built by the emperor Trajan—ran through the site, connecting Benevento with Brindisi. The city also boasted a Roman amphitheater, built over an earlier Daunian defensive ditch; Roman houses and industrial buildings; and a plaza seemingly used for gymnastic shows. The city’s forum preserves the remains of a civic basilica, senate house (curia), the remains of two temples, and a covered market or macellum, specializing in the sale of meat and fish. Our own recent excavations revealed a large bath complex of imperial and late antique date, with hot and cold rooms all richly decorated. At the extreme north of the city are the remains of a medieval church; the church was later transformed into a fortified nucleus, surrounded by a ditch, within which was built a hunting lodge for Frederick II.

Canusium and the Valley of Ofanto Urban archaeology is also part of the study of landscapes, and we have focused much of our recent efforts on the urban land-


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scape of Canusium, modern Canosa di Puglia, another city with a particularly long life. Canosa was very much a product of its landscape, and was advantageously set along the course of the Ofanto River, which in antiquity was navigable for much of its length. Canosa was adjacent to a great fertile plain and was set at the junction of a series of major roads. As a result, the city was consistently wealthy, evident from its rich Daunian tombs to its impressive Roman remains. Our work has focused on the later Roman period, when Canosa become the most important city of the province of Apulia et Calabria, which extended over most of Italy’s boot. It thus became the capital of the provincial governor and seat of the province’s highest-ranking bishop. Our work in Canosa has focused on two major early Christian complexes: the church of Saint Peter, and the city’s cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin. The city played a key role in the Christian politics of its day, thanks to a consistently energetic community led by a series of powerful bishops who attended all the most important church councils of their day. These bishops also played significant diplomatic roles, particularly in relationships with the East. By the 4th century, Canosa had a bishop named Stercorius, who took part in the Council

A. V. Romano

The early Christian complex at San Leucio is shown in this aerial view at Canosa di Puglia.

Giuliano Volpe (top left), A. V. Romano and G. De Felice (top right), G. Sibilano (right)

Above, this brick includes the monogram of Bishop Sabinus of Canusium. Right, at Canosa di Puglia, an aerial view shows the early Christian complex of Saint Peter.

of Sardica (modern Sophia, Bulgaria). It was in the 6th century, however, that the church of Canosa really came into its own under its most famous bishop, Sabinus, who led the diocese for over half a century (514–566). Friend of Saint Benedict, confidant of various popes, emissary to the East, and leader during the tumultuous years when war decimated the southern provinces, Sabinus was also an active builder. In Canosa, the textual evidence claims he built a church of Cosmas and Damian, later dedicated to San Leucio, a baptistery dedicated to John the Baptist, and the church of the Savior near the cathedral. Bricks bearing his monogram have been found in numerous churches in Canosa, as well as in Canne and Barletta, showing the reach of his ambitious building projects. A 9th century account of his life, the Life and Translation of Saint Sabinus, Bishop, shows that by this time, Sabinus was regarded as a saint, called the restaurator ecclesiarum—restorer of the churches. This biography describes the miraculous events of his life, the discovery of his tomb in the Middle

Ages, and the movement of his relics, and constitutes the richest, if not always most reliable, source of information on his buildings. This source also credits him with the construction of a church of Saint Peter, in which Sabinus himself was buried. The tomb was then lost and only rediscovered in the 7th century when it became an object of holy pilgrimage. Later, during the 9th century, Sabinus’ relics were transferred to the city’s new cathedral and then again to Bari.

to visit Most of the sites and museums mentioned here are easily visited, such as Ascoli Satriano, Canosa, Herdonia, Foggia, Luceria, Montecorvino, San Severo, Siponto-Manfredonia, and Monte Sant’Angelo, while San Giusto is unfortunately covered by the waters of the nearby dam. The University of Foggia has also begun an archaeological guide service (, info@, in collaboration with a local tour operator (GTours, www., which allows you to visit these

This reconstruction depicts the early Christian complex of Saint Peter at Canosa di Puglia during the 6th century.

and other sites in the company of an archaeologist.

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The excavations carried out between 2001 and 2006 in Saint Peter’s have revealed a huge complex composed of a large church with three aisles, preceded by an ample atrium and surrounded by residential and funerary structures. The discovery of many bricks bearing his monogram shows that the complex was, in fact, built by Sabinus himself. If we believe the Life, Sabinus was buried in this church, and his tomb may

the hungry archaeologist Daunia’s cuisine is like its archaeology, close to the land, and many dishes are based on peasant food that varies enormously with the seasons. Among the most notable dishes are pancotto, made from wild seasonal vegetables, bread, and potatoes; homemade pastas like cicatelli served with arugula or troccoli with cuttlefish; lamb with thistles and eggs; baked torcinelli with potatoes; and various cheeses, particularly caciocavallo podolico (made from local, free-range cows’ milk). For desserts, try the calzungidde or grano dei morti (literally, wheat for the dead), available only in the first days of November; wafers filled with almonds from the Gargano; and mostaccioli, or fig cookies. It is also amazing to see (and taste) the huge wheels of bread from Monte Sant’Angelo and Orsara. Finally, while little

be identified with an elegant, apsed mausoleum, paved with mosaics, which formed part of the first phase of the complex and later came to hold other privileged burials. We suspect that the apse of this mausoleum originally contained the sarcophagus of the bishop, later removed during the many relocations of his remains. The excavations at Saint Peter’s may have also revealed a rarity in early Christian archaeology: the residence of the bishop. The various structures discovered around the church comprise a central courtyard surrounded by finely decorated rooms, complete with underfloor heating, and paved with both mosaics and with those same monogrammed tiles bearing the insignia of Sabinus. To the south of the church another elite two-story house was also found, one room of which contained a type of throne, perhaps for the bishop. Another of Sabinus’ projects was the baptistery of Saint John, a large 12-sided building. An outer gallery connected four rooms in a cruciform arrangement, while the center of the building held a great octagonal baptismal font. This fine example of late antique architecture was preceded by a narthex, or vestibule, and an ample atrium surrounded by porticoed walkways. The Life of Sabinus claims that the bishop built this baptistery “next to the church of the most holy and ever virgin mother of God, Maria,” that is, alongside a pre-existing church which should be the first cathedral of Canosa. To test this hypothesis, in 2006 we began excavations to the south of the baptistery and revealed a three-aisled church which dated to the 4th or 5th century AD, preceding the time of Sabinus. Sabinus nonetheless left his mark here, restoring and embellishing the church and connecting it to his new baptistery via a corridor.

known in America, Apulian wines are excellent, particularly the reds: San Severo, Nero di Troia, and naturally, Daunia are some of the notable vineyards, while San Severo has also begun to produce a fine spumante. In all the cities of Daunia one can find good, modestly priced restaurants and trattorias. Many can be found in the town of Orsara di Puglia, winner of the Italian slow-food prize and complete with a beautiful historic center. Here, try the ‘Pane e Salute,’ a small trattoria, where they still use a 16th century straw-burning oven and seasonal products at their absolute freshest.


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A Journey through History This article highlights the work carried out by the Università di Foggia, but Daunia has many other treasures to offer. Those who have a passion for culture will find the region’s cities and countryside rich with other monuments, from cathedrals to caves. Italo Calvino, one of Italy’s most beloved authors, said that “for the traveler, the past changes according to the trip they make.” A trip through Daunia offers any number of pasts, some of which we have helped uncover and others of which still wait, unexplored, in the region’s haunting landscapes. by giuliano volpe is President (Rettore) of the Università degli Studi di Foggia, where he is also Professor of Early Christian and Medieval Archaeology.


The Villa del Casale of Piazza Armerina by patrizio pensabene and enrico gallocchio


It has also uncovered more of the villa’s residential sectors, and revealed a whole new life-phase—a large medieval village settlement that grew atop the villa site during the 10th through 12th centuries.

The Villa The Villa del Casale constitutes one of the grandest examples of a late antique Roman villa. Architectural and decorative elements found in other contemporary villas throughout the western empire are combined here with unparalleled richness and complexity, a complexity which in turn suggests a villa with many varied functions. Indeed, the study of later Roman villas in recent years has underscored the degree to which these great buildings were not only residences, but also public spaces: centers of political and administrative power for the territories in which they resided. Thus, the trends in late Roman archi-

Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio

he villa del casale, near Piazza Armerina in south-central Sicily, is arguably one of the bestpreserved and best-known Roman villas, iconic of the villa form as it developed during the late empire (4th and 5th centuries AD). The villa contains one of the most important collections of late Roman mosaic pavements in the Mediterranean, with its most notable phase in the early 4th century. While the archaeological excavation of the villa, carried out first in the 1950s and sporadically in the 1980s and 1990s, was concerned almost entirely with these mosaics, other questions—about its agricultural apparatus, its chronology, and its post-Roman occupation— have been largely ignored. New excavations carried out since 2004 by the Università di Roma “La Sapienza” have resumed work on the villa and made possible a comprehensive study of the earlier archives. This new work has revealed the complexity of the villa’s decoration, including its marbles and frescoes.

The to-scale photoplan of the mosaic in the baths’ palestra depicts circus races in the Circus Maximus in Rome.

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tecture impacted not only urban houses but also rural ones, both types reflecting the new social practices of late Roman aristocrats. Now such elites preferred to conduct their affairs in their private residences, building great spaces for receptions (audience halls or banquet halls), which increasingly took on an official, that is to say, public character. As a consequence, public buildings ceased to be the stage sets against which elite competition took place, competition that instead migrated to the house, where the use of public architectural vocabularies—


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such as columns, revetments, and mosaics—began to proliferate and became ever more important. The Villa del Casale is spread out along three great terraces at the foot of a hill. Most unusual for such villas, it is organized around three different axes. To the east lies the first terrace, bounded by an aqueduct and containing private apartments, the basilica, and the corridor of the so-called Great Hunt. From here one moved to the second terrace centered on a rectangular peristyle courtyard that included a triclinium (dining room) complex and its oval courtyard, both accessible from the corridor of the Great Hunt. The third terrace was composed of the baths and the monumental entrance to the villa marked by a tripartite, niched arch. This late Roman building developed atop an earlier villa. Excavations suggest the early building was also organized around a central peristyle, had a bath complex, and occupied more or less the same area as did the late antique structures that were built atop it in the 4th century. Recent excavations indicate that the earlier villa probably originated in the 1st century and persisted through the second half of the 3rd century.

Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio

This aerial view of the villa was taken from a helicopter. The old plastic cover built by Minissi is visible, as well as part of the new roof. At the top are the new excavations of Università “La Sapienza.” Below is a three-dimensional reconstruction of the villa during the 4th century phase.

This drawing of the basilica shows the marble opus sectile pavement and the connection, via two sets of stairs, between the basilica, the corridor of the Great Hunt, and the peristyle.

Penn Museum (top left), Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio

Villa del Casale is located in south-central Sicily. Below, plan of the Villa del Casale. Medieval structures, indicated in blue, were set over the Roman remains and expanded towards the river, occupying a much larger area than the one covered by the villa.

The Mosaics It is for its mosaics that the Villa del Casale is justifiably famous. Stretching over some 3,500 square meters, these mosaics reflect themes common to the era, using both direct and symbolic means to laud the dominus, or landowner. The mosaics also reflect themes appropriate to the rooms in which they appear. Thus, although much previous scholarship

tended to consider them in isolation, there is a fundamental relationship between the pavements and the architectural contexts in which they were set. It is also important to note that arguably the grandest space in the villa—the great basilica—does not have a mosaic floor, but rather was paved in opus sectile, or large slabs and roundels of cut marble. This fact is instructive: it was marble, not mosaic, which constituted the material of greatest prestige in the Roman world. As one considers the mosaics of the reception areas, the most striking piece is the corridor of the Great Hunt, in which a long hall capped by apses at each end was covered with scenes of the hunt, capture, and transport of animals. In the apsidal ends appear female personifications of both the province of Mauretania, with a bear and a leopard, and the land of India, shown holding a tusk and surrounded by a tiger, an elephant, and a phoenix. In the hunt mosaics one can recognize a depiction of the port of Carthage, the departure point for the caged beasts; an arrival port on the Italian coast, perhaps Pozzuoli or Portus; and even the port of Alexandria and an Egyptian landscape marked by pagoda-like buildings along the Nile. Another landscape scene of rocks and forests, also identified as Egyptian, is associated with a depiction of two soldiers flanking a bearded man who wears a uniform and

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a so-called Pannonian hood and carries a rod identifying him as an authority figure—perhaps the dux or military leader of the province or the conductor of the hunt. An extraordinary


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Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio

This crane photo was taken during the excavation of the oval peristyle. The excavation revealed the canals necessary for the pipes and drains that served the peristyle’s numerous fountains. As is evident from some fragments, the entire peristyle pavement was covered in mosaic. The large circular holes are traces of wells and silos created during the ArabNorman occupation that in large part destroyed the Roman remains.

method of hunting tigers around a sphere of glass, described in 4th-century sources, is shown in another scene depicting the capture of Indian animals and their caging and transport to ships. The Great Hunt scene is now generally interpreted as an allusion to the high rank of the proprietors, who may actually appear in the mosaic—one as a bearded man in the lower level and another, younger man depicted in the center of the composition. These landowners are thus shown supervising the capture of animals destined for the venationes, or beast-spectacles. The other large reception space was the nucleus composed of the great tri-apsidal hall or triclinium that opened onto an ovoid peristyle. This complex was connected to the villa by two small and irregular courtyards, one that led from the Hall of the Great Hunt, and another from the peristyle. This fact has led some to suggest that the oval peristyle complex was built after the rest of the villa, a supposition supported by the different style of the complex’s mosaics and, above all, by the latest excavation results. The facial expressions, the backgrounds, and the complex figural compositions of the mosaics all point to an artistic tradition with closer ties to Hellenistic iconographies, versus the African style of the other mosaics. Indeed, the mosaics of the

Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio

great triclinium, covered with scenes relating to the Labors of Hercules, are dramatic in tone, using large-scale figures. The apotheosis of Hercules in the triclinium has Dionysiac qualities, such as the crown of ivy leaves and the panther skin. Dionysiac themes—the harvesting and crushing of grapes, carried out by amorini or baby cupids—are also common in scenes in the rooms at the side of the peristyle. Other references to a Bacchic cult appear in many mosaics in the villa: in the thiasos or procession of Adriadne where the hippocamps (seahorses) wear panther skins; in the contest between Eros and Pan, where maenads and satyrs are in attendance; and in the frescoes that include a scene of Dionysius. While such Dionysiac motifs are common in late antiquity, their frequency here, combined with the unusual move of providing Heracles with such motifs, suggests a particular devotion to the god of wine. Another major theme is the circus games and athletic competition, particularly visible in the mosaics of the palestra, or gymnasium, in the baths (See page 29). Here the depiction of the Circus Maximus in Rome is presented from the bird’seye view of a spectator seated in the imperial tribunal on the south slope of the Palatine Hill. This is evident from the

orientation of the statue of Magna Mater, placed on the center-line of the circus, which is shown from the back. From the carceres or starting gates, four charioteers emerge representing the four factions, or racing clubs—the prasina (the greens), the veneta (the blues), the albata (the whites), and the russata (the reds)—while four chariots are shown racing on the track. In the central space of the circus are shown several moments of the same race, including a crash and the arrival at the finish line.

Above, the Great Hunt mosaic shows the hunting, capture, and loading onto ships of wild animals. Bottom, details from the Great Hunt mosaic show (left) two men associated with the ownership of the villa and (right) a hunting scene depicting the live capture of animals, perhaps for games in the arena. Here, a glass sphere is used to catch a tiger. This page bottom left, the apotheosis of Hercules and the capture of the mares of Diomedes (right) are shown in these details of the triclinium mosaic. Other deeds of Hercules depicted or alluded to in the mosaic include the slaying of the Nemean lion, the Hydra of Lerna, and the Stymphalian birds; the capture of the Cretan bull and the cattle of the monster Geryon; and the cleaning of the Augean stables.

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The “Bikini Girls” mosaic, originally thought to represent a beauty contest, is now generally interpreted as an athletic competition. In the upper left corner, the geometric mosaic of the preceding phase is visible.


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The Frescoes Although less well-known than for its famous mosaics and marbles, the Villa del Casale also boasts an amazing collection of mural paintings that covered the walls of the residence. These are rarely considered in the many studies of the site, but given the paucity of late antique domestic wallpainting, the examples at Piazza Armerina are an important corpus and form a critical part of the total decoration of the villa complex. Perhaps most extraordinary is the fact that these paintings covered not only the interior rooms but also exterior walls,

Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio

Other aristocratic elements of the games are visible in some of the villa’s most famous (or infamous) mosaics, which also date to a second phase, after the mosaics of the peristyle and Great Hunt. New scenes replace earlier geometric scenes and one depicts the famous “Bikini Girls,” an athletic scene with scantily clad women. Scholars now accept that the scene depicts an athletic competition (previous theories favored a beauty contest), examples of which are attested even in 4th century sources, but the significance of such competition again relates to elite status. The sponsorship of female athletic contests would have been associated with only the highest levels of society and thus reflected upon the elevated status of the proprietor.

frequently depicting imitations of marble revetments. One exterior painting appears on the long walls that formed the entrance court of the villa, where a scene depicts four larger than life-size figures, accompanied by military insignia, who are preceded by a sequence of men on horseback.

Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio

The Villa’s Owner Most scholars believe that the late antique phase of the villa dates to the early decades of the 4th century, and recent excavations generally support this. But as the style of the mosaics suggests, and our new work has confirmed, this phase is followed by later additions—perhaps after the AD 365 earthquake—including the oval peristyle, the triple-arched entrance, and the external painting near the entrance. Various historical personages have been proposed as the owner of the Villa del Casale. The great size of the basilica, the imperial viewpoint depicted in the Circus Maximus mosaic, the presence of animals associated with the emperor, such as the griffon or elephant in the Great Hunt, the figure of Hercules in the triclinium, the Tetrarchic military insignia in the entrance, and the likely Tetrarchic date of the mosaics have all led scholars to posit an imperial owner: Maximianus Herculis (co-emperor with Diocletian), Maxentius, or even an imperial procurator, or land manager. However, it is important to recognize that many of these symbolic associations were not exclusive to emperors: the marble-covered basilica was a typical element in domestic architecture in the 4th century, while the viewpoint of the Circus mosaic does not exclude

other impresarios, such as magistrates. Today it is generally accepted that the villa was the property of a high-level senatorial aristocrat and that it served as the center of a great estate (the massa Philosophiana, known from the Antonine Itinerary) whose lands were to be found nearby. It has been wrongly assumed that the villa was simply a seasonal residence, because no agro-industrial quarters had been located. The absence of an agricultural sector was almost certainly a product of the absence of excavation in the area surrounding the residential nucleus. Indeed, recent excavation has revealed two very large rectangular storerooms, divided into three aisles by brick piers. These storerooms lined one side of the great entrance complex and find parallels in other villas, including some near Rome. The rebirth of the villa in the 4th century should be seen in light of the resurgence of Sicilian agriculture in that period. Deprived of grain from Egypt, now diverted to the eastern provinces and to the newly founded Constantinople, Rome looked to the south. One suggestion posits that the proprietor may have been an urban prefect of Rome; in addition to supplying the city with grain—now increasingly drawn from Sicily—that official was also charged with organizing the city’s games, a duty perhaps alluded to in the Great Hunt scene. Thus, C. Ceionius Rufus Volusianus, urban prefect and consul under Maxentius and Constantine, and owner of great estates in Africa, and his son, M. Ceionius Rufus Albinus, consul in AD 355 and urban prefect, have been proposed as likely proprietors. This would help explain the heavy influence of North African traditions in most of the mosaics.

This fresco is from one of the rooms of the villa, probably a cubiculum, or bedroom. It is composed of a geometric frame surrounding figures associated with Dionysius: maenads and satyrs.

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At least until the end of 2011, the villa will be under construction, as the new roof is installed and mosaics conserved; thus visits will be somewhat hampered. Some parts of the villa will be closed on a rotating schedule, but it will be equally interesting to observe the restorers as they work to preserve the hundreds of square meters of tiny mosaic tesserae. The city of Piazza Armerina is also worth a visit with its great baroque cathedral, historic center, and winding streets filled with gastronomic specialties of the region.

The Medieval Phases It is likely that from the 7th century onwards, the villa’s buildings were partially transformed. The discovery of many lamps, some with Christian symbols, inside the frigidarium of the baths has led us to hypothesize that this space was eventually used as an oratory. The progressive accumulation of debris over the residence—one of the facts that permitted the excellent preservation of the mosaics—meant that only certain sectors were maintained, while in other cases, new residential structures were built that show no connections with the earlier buildings. This situation continued through the Arab-Norman period, between the 10th and 12th centuries, when the settlement exceeded the limits of the old villa, A medieval jug with sieve, found in the 1950s excavations, was a container for liquids.


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This fragment of a glazed bowl is from the recent excavations. The decorations in green, brown, and yellow are typical of Sicilian Arab-Norman production. The bowl was probably manufactured in Piazza Armerina.

The Medieval Ceramics The material culture of the Arab-Norman period is particularly interesting and reveals the wide cultural and economic territory to which the site was linked during the Middle Ages. The evidence from the new excavations has shown the strong connections that bound Sicily and North Africa from the early Fatimid period (second half of the 10th century to the early 11th century) through the 12th century—common ceramic production technologies, aesthetics, and trade relationships. An abundance of burnished and glazed wares for table, cooking, and storage use was found in the medieval settlement. Bowls, basins, cups, storage jars, bottles, and jugs with filters were all commonly found in these small houses. The latter pieces, characteristic of African production but also common in Sicily, were containers for liquids: the neck possessed a sieve formed of numerous punctures and incisions that served as both strainer and decoration. Many types of bowls and basins were found, the largest of which may have been used as communal plates, set at the center of the table, for the sharing of food. Plain table wares and lamps also appeared in decorated versions, the most precious of which had monochrome or polychrome lead glazes depicting geometric and floral forms.

Recent Work The new excavations were initially focused on the south of the villa, revealing a portion of the Arab-Norman settlement, including houses and artisanal quarters for ceramic production. These buildings were only a small portion of a

Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio

to visit

extending to the north and south towards the Gela River. This settlement consisted of modest houses of stone and earth, most of which had a main rectangular room around which were organized minor spaces either isolated or connected by irregular corridors. Atop this settlement would develop a center known in the 15th century as casale, or farmhouse, from which the site now takes its name.

Centro regionale per la progettazione e il restauro della regione Siciliana

much larger medieval settlement that had once covered the entire area of the villa, but which was destroyed by the previous excavations which sought only the mosaics beneath. The attempt to preserve these medieval structures for public view has slowed the pace of excavation, which nonetheless has also revealed Roman structures beneath. Indeed, a second bath complex was found close to the storerooms at the entrance. It dates to the late antique phase and shows rare wall mosaics— unusual in the villa—which belong to a basin or a fountain. This work has revealed how little is known of the extent of the late antique phase of the villa. The continuation of the excavations will hopefully uncover further Roman structures, and above all, well-preserved stratigraphy documenting both the use and abandonment of the villa.

the hungry archaeologist In Piazza Armerina, one should not miss the many pastry shops, where Sicilian specialties such as cannoli and cassate are found. ‘The Pasticceria Zingale’ is famous for its frittelle, fried sweets, while during winter, the ‘Restivo Pasticceria’ is known for its buccellati, special cookies made with dried fruit and fig marmalade. For a complete meal, one should not miss ‘da Nino’ where the products of the

Restoration Project

woods and fields around Piazza Armerina are on

Alongside the excavations, beginning in spring 2007, a major reconstruction project was launched throughout the villa, financed by the European Union. Aside from the mosaics, which needed major conservation, the project also began the replacement of the plastic cover over the site, built in the 1950s by architect Franco Minissi. Considered innovative for its time, the cover allowed for the mosaics to be conserved in situ, rather than being removed to a museum. This method, however, did not foster optimal conservation for the mosaics or for the surrounding architecture. A new project has begun in which the transparent cover will be removed and replaced by a solid roof. The elevated walkways will be maintained, providing an above-ground view of the mosaics over the original villa walls.

agli amarelle—a wild plant found in the fields—

fine display. In spring, a primo of maccheroni is a particular specialty, while an assortment of local grilled meats forms an excellent secondo. If you want a truly special dinner, a few kilometers outside Piazza Armerina towards Enna is the restaurant ‘Il Fogher,’ where local tradition is enriched with innovation.

patrizio pensabene is Professor of Archaeology at the Università degli Studi “La Sapienza” di Roma. enrico gallocchio is a Researcher at the Università degli Studi “La Sapienza” di Roma.

A major reconstruction project at the site includes erecting a new roof over the villa. Two models—views of a computer reconstruction (left and center) and a physical plastic model (right)—show the new roof currently under construction.

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The Silver Rush in Tuscany’s Wild West Medieval Archaeology in the Metal Hills


uscany is not only a land of gentle hills and Chianti-bearing vineyards. In the southwest is an area little known even by Italians, called the Metal Hills—the Colline Metallifere. It was described by Dante in the Divine Comedy, and even crossed, it is said, by Buffalo Bill in 1887, in response to a challenge by the butteri, the local Tuscan (Maremma) version of cowboys. This is not a world of cities. With only a few major urban centers, like the beautiful Massa Marittima, it is an area populated by fortified villages still preserving their medieval form. Between them lie dense woods and solitary valleys, against which rise the steep mountains that diminish only as one reaches the coast. On the littoral, marshes—salty, but fertile— constituted one major economic resource. But the true treasure of

The mining castle at Rocca San Silvestro, shown here in a reconstruction, was linked in the 12th century to the Della Gherardesca family.


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this region is underground, where the earth is packed with major mineral resources: iron, copper, lead, and silver. Silver was the most precious mineral of the Middle Ages owing to the fact that, in the 8th century, Charlemagne decreed the switch from gold to silver coinage, a change which was adopted in 781 in his Italian kingdoms. Silver thus became the principal material for money coined in the mints located in the major Italian cities. From the 9th through the 13th centuries this region, today isolated and far from the peninsula’s major communication networks, became one of the central places of medieval Italy. It was here that the era’s major political actors focused their gaze—from bishops and abbots who built settlements and developed the local resources, to the aristocratic families who followed behind them. In the Middle Ages there was no sharp division of power between clerics and laypersons, and thus the heads of aristocratic families might also be bishops or abbots, all part of a complex political economy aimed toward an ever-stricter control over the region’s two resources: its metals and its human communities. The Metal Hills is one of the most studied areas of medieval Italy. In the 1980s the great medieval archaeologist, Riccardo Francovich, began excavations here on projects which are now continued by his students as large-scale excavations, field surveys, mineral censuses, architectural analyses, and archaeological parks

Studio InkLink, Florence

by giovanna bianchi

Penn Museum

and museums. This now-massive quantity of archaeological research is matched by an equally important textual corpus on the region, mostly in the form of cartularies, monastic chronicles, and episcopal records, as well as some later medieval maps. The textual sources typically describe political affairs, economic transactions, and, above all, the histories of the great men: local bishops, lords, and abbots. The lives of everyday people, however, are largely ignored. Archaeological research, on the other hand, reveals the lived experiences of both peasants and potentates—their houses, diet, and health—as well as the specific dynamics of power that linked them. It is thus in large part due to archaeological research that the social and economic dynamics of this isolated region are now coming into focus. In Italy, the study of the medieval landscape has been a major research theme since the 1970s. In particular, the complex phenomenon of the birth of castles and of feudal power has been studied by the Sienese school of archaeology, headed by Francovich. In the Middle Ages the countryside of Tuscany was above all a constellation of castles, built during the 11th and 12th centuries as instruments of political and economic exploitation. It was thus logical that Tuscany should have become a laboratory for the study of the rise of feudalism and its socio-economic dynamics. From 1984 until today, 12 castles of the Metal Hills have undergone extensive excavations, in most cases revealing the larger part of their habitation area. Some of these projects have been completed, while others are still in progress. At the same time, large-scale field survey projects have explored the surrounding countryside with the aim of revealing as much as possible about the diverse forms of human habitation, and the places linked to mineral extraction. One of the major discoveries by Francovich and his teams was the fact that the majority of castles originated not from a tabula rasa, as has been suggested for other areas of Italy, but in places already occupied by large or small settlements beginning in the 7th century. It was at this time that the inhabitants of the region began to live on the tops of hills or mountains as one way of surviving the new, and at times dangerous, exigencies of life created by the collapse of the Roman Empire. These were communities that lived mostly at subsistence level and with low populations. Houses were huts built of wood, sometimes defended by a palisade. Beginning in the 8th century, these small communities attracted the attention of powerful urban potentates, such as

The Metal Hills area is located on the west coast of Italy. This map shows the region and associated archaeological sites.

those of Lucca or Pisa, who began to exploit these villages and their inhabitants as part of a larger project of rural political and economic expansion. The most recent research shows that this process of the organization and exploitation of both hilltop and, to a lesser extent, lowland sites really took off in the second half of the 9th century, thanks to the intervention of bishops and counts, who, in their role as representatives of state power, represented public law. The difficult and even chaotic situation in central-northern Italy following the end of Carolingian rule created the ideal conditions for the fragmentation of political power, such that, from the end of the 9th century onwards, public law began to fall into private hands. It was this historical process, called the “rise of feudalism,” that took place at various speeds throughout Italy, due to the rising power of individual aristocrats. This theme, now a major field of study of both historians and archaeologists, is the focus of our current work. The Metal Hills, distant from the influence of cities, was an area in which this privatization of power happened readily, and where it was easy for various lords to create individ-

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ual territories in which every aspect of the inhabitants’ daily lives fell under lordly control. From the 11th century onwards, in the textual sources, we find mention of these lords’ new rights, such as the collection of taxes, the exercise of justice, and the control of the economy via the mills and the roads. Also from this period, new actors appear on the scene— members of minor aristocratic families who attached themselves to preexisting powers. The centers for these new lords were the castles, which in the majority of cases were built over previous settlements. From the 12th century onwards, the lords living in the cities began to decamp to the countryside, exerting more direct control over their human subjects and their lands. In the older villages, they replaced the wooden palisade defenses with robust walls of stone, replaced wooden huts with masonry houses, and at the summit of the hills, constructed towers, palaces, and other fortified habitations. The names of these aristocrats are well-known: the Della Gherardesca, the Aldobrandeschi, the Pannocchieschi, and the Alberti; beneath them lay a dusting of minor families: the Della Rocca, the Da Cugnano, and the Lambardi. All, however, shared the same objective: the exploitation of the Metal Hills, particularly its mineral resources, and most especially silver. Recent archaeological research suggests that the exploitation of silver mines probably began in the early Middle Ages. Two open-pit mines for the extraction of silver have recently been found at the site of Cugnano and seem to date to a period


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before the 10th century. The form of these early mines and the modes of extraction, however, have yet to be discovered and will form one of the most exciting avenues of future research. The extraction of silver underwent a period of major expansion and reorganization between the 11th and 12th centuries under the enthusiastic support of the landed aristocracy; private administration of these operations took place inside castles specifically dedicated to mineral extraction. Of these “mining castles,” three have been excavated archaeologically: Rocca San Silvestro, Rocchette Pannocchieschi, and Cugnano. Life in one of these mining castles had both advantages and disadvantages. These centers offered the security afforded by great walls, the possibility of living in a stone (versus wooden) house, and the advantages of an economic system that assured a good diet, consumer goods of good quality, and thus a higher standard of living than was typical during the Middle Ages. The inhabitants of Rocca San Silvestro, for instance, lived to be 40 or 50 years old—a relatively advanced age in this period. These positives were counterbalanced by the hard work of

Studio InkLink, Florence

This reconstruction shows the many tunnels and tight working conditions of a medieval mine.

From left, the author and archaeologists Francesca Grassi and Jacopo Bruttini, surrounded by heaps of slag from metal working, found in the excavations at Cugnano.

Studio InkLink, Florence (left), R. Hodges (right)

This illustration of a work site depicts the smelting of silver. In the photograph below, one can see the remains of such an installation found at Cugnano.

mining. The castles founded for the exploitation of minerals were surrounded by a complex of small mines. Contrary to today, these mines were cavities of small to medium dimensions, accessed through cramped galleries where 8 to10 hour workdays could not have been pleasant or easy. The extracted stone had to be first crushed, typically outside the mine, and then transported along the narrow path to the castle by hand or by mule-back. Physical traces of these activities are evident in the pathology of the inhabitants’ skeletal remains, in which severe cases of bone malformation are evident. Inside the walls of the castles, aside from communal habitations, were industrial installations—furnaces for the pro-

cessing of minerals, which were managed by specialized personnel. To understand this process, some further explanation is necessary. Silver is not extracted ready to shape into coins. In the Metal Hills a significant percentage of natural silver was associated with lead. The first phase of work after ores were extracted required the use of furnaces: the crushed stone was placed in the bottom, and the furnace was heated to the lead/ silver fusion point through the use of hand-bellows. The lead thereby released, the resultant purified product could then be formed into ingots. In the excavations clear traces of this phase were found in the form of small furnaces built of stones faced with clay, inside of which was placed the metal plus the wood for heating. These were simple structures, which at the end of the cycle were often dismantled or partially destroyed, leaving traces not always easily detectable by archaeological excavation. At Rocca San Silvestro these structures have been interpreted as forming part of a system designed to test the quality of the extracted mineral rather than to produce large quantities of purified silver, which was carried out at some other, as yet undiscovered place and from there shipped out for minting. At Cugnano, only the continuation of the excavation will help us understand if this site was a true ingot production center, or merely set up for testing quality.

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Minting coins required another metal—copper—which had to be produced. Luckily this mineral was also abundant in the Metal Hills. To separate the metal from its impurities (especially sulfur), it was reduced in special furnaces, remains of which have also been found in the archaeological record, for example at the castle of Rocca San Silvestro and Cugnano. What was the destination for these products? In the castles, the minerals were extracted and subjected to preliminary processing. Then, thanks to the political ties between the local aristocrats who controlled the mine settlements and their respective cities, the ingots were transported to mints where coins were produced. The mints were typically associated with some kind of public entity—for instance, the bishop or


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the comune (town council)—that had received the authority (typically from the king) to mint their own coinage and to place it in circulation within a relatively wide territory. In the mint, thanks to the process of cupellation—the process of raising ores to high temperatures to separate out precious metals—more lead was separated from the silver, producing pure silver ingots valued by saggiatori or assayers to a determined denomination. The silver was then combined with copper. The resultant mixture was poured into metal bars, then reduced to sheets, and finally cut into thin strips and then into squares. These were then tested by the affilatori and finally shaped into circles before being passed to the saggiatori again who verified their weight. These roundels were

Studio InkLink, Florence

Different stages of production are shown in this drawing of the inside of a hypothetical medieval mint.

Daniele Ferdani, Laboratorio di Archeologia dell’Architettura e dell’Urbanistica Medievali, Università di Siena

Reconstructions of the medieval fortified settlement (above) and the mint (left) at Montieri, dated to the 13th century.

then treated with a substance like tartar or alum that enhanced their silver color. Lastly, the roundels were passed to the monetieri who stamped them with the desired imagery. One of the goals of our research in the Metal Hills is a more sophisticated understanding of the details of this process. In this respect, the new excavations in Monteleo are of great interest: here we have found furnaces for the production of alum, a mineral essential for lightening the color of coins in order to make them look shinier. Pisa, whose owner was the Della Gherardesca, lord of the castle at Rocca San Silvestro, was the mint of reference for the coastal portion of the Metal Hills. In the interior, the activities of the mining lords may have been carried out at not

only Pisa, but also the more ancient mint of Lucca or the later mints at Volterra and Siena. The recent research project around the current town of Montieri, originally a castle at the center of this inland portion of the Hills, has excavated an actual mint, opened by the bishop of Volterra at the end of the 12th century. The mint of Montieri had a short life, but its advent was the result of complex political alignments that linked the bishop to the lords who managed mineral extraction. In the historic center of modern Montieri recent excavations in a 13th century building have revealed the original seat of the mint, one of the few in Italy ever excavated. It was a large, multi-floored building, provided with an arcaded opening on the ground floor where all the activities for the coining

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To visit the Parco Archeominerario di Rocca San Silvestro, see the website of the Società Parchi Val di Cornia: www. For visits to the new excavations at Cugnano, Montieri, and other sites mentioned above, contact Giovanna Bianchi at, or the following archaeological associations: NESSO, or OPUS,

of money were focused. On the upper floor were probably living quarters for those connected with the mint. Excavations in the lower floor have revealed possible places for the mixture of copper and silver, as well as a large well that furnished the necessary water, and a forge in which the many tools necessary for minting—such as shears, pincers, sickles, and pans—were made and maintained. The broader project at Montieri has included a mapping survey of the many mine entrances around the original castle, as well as excavation of a monastery in the area called

Recent excavations of the monastery at Canonica near Montieri are located near a mine shaft. The site was controlled by the bishop of Volterra.


v olu me 53, n umbe r 2 expedi ti o n

Paolo Nanini, ( by kind permission of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana

to visit

Canonica, near Montieri. Here, between the 11th and 13th centuries, the bishops of Volterra built a monastic complex only 10 m away from the entrance to a large, clearly marked silver mine. Even before the opening of the mint in Montieri, the monastery was envisioned as essential in controlling the extraction of that precious metal in the region. The importance of the place as an arm of one of the most consistently powerful political actors of the day, the bishop, is evidenced in the monastery’s architecture: it has a church with not one or two, but six apses, the only example in Tuscany. The construction, around the cloister, of spaces used for more mineral exploitation, point to the close relationship between spiritual life and economic gain. Thanks to projects like this, we are beginning to understand the complex system of relationships that connected each stage of production, from the extraction of metal to the production of coins. In the process, we are also revealing the political forces that oversaw production and the role that the mining castles played, not simply as individual entities but as cogs in a complex wheel of political economies dominated by individual lords and urban entities. The future of this research will doubtless reveal more surprises, and for its continuation, the support of local government is essential. One of the mantras of my mentor, Riccardo Francovich, was that archaeological research was a public good, a tool in service to the people, in which historical interpretation must be made understandable to a wider public beyond academia. It was in this spirit that Francovich opened

the hungry archaeologist Throughout the Metal Hills, it is easy to find a restaurant where one can enjoy food that is both delicious and typical of the region. On the coast, there is excellent fish, while on the interior, dishes feature meats like pork or wild boar. In this area which has, until recently, been very poor, the philosophy of many dishes is tied to the idea of reuse—of day-old bread or of the least desirable parts of the animal. These are transformed into extraordinary sauces that cover a variety of local pastas. A typical meal in the Metal Hills might consist of the following: one begins with a fettunta—a piece of unsalted Tuscan bread roasted with garlic and brushed with some of the excellent olive oil of the region. For a primo, dishes that use old bread—such as pappa al pompdoro or acqua cotta maremmana—are popular. One also finds typical Sienese pasta like pici, fat, handmade spaghetti served with a sauce of tomato, breadcrumbs, and garlic, or tortelli maremmani, small pockets An information center at the mining castles of Rocchette Pannocchieschi and Cugnano will soon open to the public. The exterior and interior are shown here.

of pasta stuffed with ricotta, spinach, and chard. As a secondo, in the interior one finds cinghiale in umido, stewed wild boar, or other meats stewed with tomatoes,

Giovanna Bianchi

the first archaeological park dedicated to mining in 1996 at Rocca San Silvestro. It is in this spirit that our projects today seek to transform scientific results into public archaeology. Ultimately, we hope that our work will spawn new excavations, new parks, and new publications that will help a place like the Metal Hills recover its own historical identity and transform its archaeological heritage into economic benefits through tourism.

rosemary, and red wine. On the coast, a typical soup is the cacciucco made of small fish, slow-cooked with a tomato sauce and served in a dish with garlic-soaked bread. Finally, one should not forget the region’s excellent cheese, particularly the many varieties of pecorino.

giovanna bianchi is Associate Professor of Medieval Archaeology at the Università di Siena.

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museum mosaic

People, Places, Projects Landmark Symposium Held at the Penn Museum


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in Central Asia, the excavations of textiles in Xinjiang, and a reinvestigation of the Tarim Basin mummies. The program was supported by the Henry Luce Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ancient Studies. Publication of papers presented at the Symposium is planned. Above, participants in the Silk Road Symposium included, from left: Richard Hodges, Victor Mair, Christopher Thornton (who delivered remarks prepared by Philip Kohl), Peter Brown, Joseph Manning, David Anthony, J.P. Mallory, Elizabeth Barber, Michael Frachetti, Wang Binghua, and Colin Renfrew.

Penn Museum

On March 19, 2011, the Penn Museum held a public symposium, Reconfiguring the Silk Road: New Research on East-West Exchange in Antiquity. This was the first major event in over 15 years to focus on the history of the Silk Road and the origins of the mysterious Tarim Basin mummies. Since the last milestone conference was held on the topic at the Penn Museum in 1996, new archaeological discoveries and scholarly advances have been made, creating a need to critically reshape the very idea of the “Silk Road.” Major topics of discussion included ancient transportation and economies, the origins of early westerners

Penn Museum and the United Nations Penn Museum’s largest object from Alaska—a 15-foot Umiaq, or Iñupiaq boat—journeyed to the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where it took center stage in a new exhibition, The Right to Water and Indigenous Peoples, which ran from May 16 through June 30, 2011. The exhibition, which marked the Tenth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, highlighted water’s critical relevance to indigenous peoples’ cultural vitality as well as their social and economic well-being, and included contributions from indigenous film and photographic artists from all over the world.

Showing of the Matto Grosso: The Great Brazilian Wilderness film.

in film production history is that it is likely the first documentary to have used synchronized sound-on-film recording in the field.

Thank You, Penn Museum Volunteers!

This wooden frame boat is covered with stretched walrus hide coated with seal oil, and dates to the late 19th–early 20th century. Umiaqs are still used by Iñupiaq people for hunting whales and for summer transport. (Object #29-47-5, collected by William B. Van Valin)

On April 11, 2011, the annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon was held at the Penn Museum. About 250 Museum volunteers offered their time and talents in many departments throughout the year. Over the previous 12 months, volunteers logged an amazing 27,456 hours of service.

Penn Museum

International Archivists Attend Reception at Museum The Penn Museum Archives was honored to host a group of international film and sound archivists for a reception on November 2, 2010, to celebrate the restoration of one of the Museum’s most interesting films, Matto Grosso: The Great Brazilian Wilderness (1931). The event coincided with the first joint annual meeting of the Association of Moving Image Archivists and the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. The great significance of Matto Grosso

Museum volunteers on the outdoor steps in the Warden Garden.

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looking back – minturnae


he city of Minturnae, 50 miles from Naples, was built by the Romans in 295 BC as a fortified commercial center along the Appian Way. By the 20th century AD, the remains of several temples, a theater, an elaborate fountain, and baths were still visible, as well as the Minturnae aqueduct which ran from the city northeast to the mountains. In 1931, in cooperation with Italy’s International Society for Mediterranean Research, the Penn Museum obtained permission from the Italian government to excavate the ancient site. The excavators, including Dr. Jotham Johnson from the Museum, uncovered a large walled Roman colony, as well as a smaller pre-Roman town (4th century BC). The earlier finds included an acropolis and temple, with numerous architectural terracotta sculptures and roof ornaments. From Roman-period Minturnae, excavations uncovered a large forum, more temples, and towers, along with pottery, coins, inscriptions, and other artifacts. A rich trove of fine sculptures was also discovered, several examples of which are on display in the Museum’s Roman Gallery. — Alessandro Pezzati

Pe nn M us eu m

Agnes K. Lake washing a marble head of a Roman female found in the theater at Minturnae. Photograph by Jotham Johnson. UPM Image #144003


v olu me 53, n umbe r 2 expedi ti o n

staff 2011

U niversi t y o f P enns y lvania museum o f ar c h aeolog y an d an t h ropolog y

Foun d e d 1 8 8 7

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exhibits Kate Quinn Director of Exhibits, Lead Exhibit Designer Tara Poag Exhibit Project Manager Mary Anne Casey Exhibit Graphic Designer Allison Francies Exhibit Developer Kevin Schott Exhibit Developer Aaron Billheimer Exhibit Technician Benjamin Neiditz Exhibit Fabricator Courtney O’Brien Exhibit Assistant

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building operations Brian McDevitt Director of Building Operations William Stebbins Chief Custodial Supervisor Edgardo Esteves Mechanical Supervisor Michael Burin Night Events Supervisor David Young Mechanical Supervisor

community engagement Jean Byrne Merle-Smith Director of Community Engagement Tena Thomason Assistant Director, Special Events Prema Deshmukh Outreach Programs Manager Erin Jensen School Programs Manager Jane Nelson Volunteer and Staffing Manager Jennifer Reifsteck Family Programs Manager Kristin Hoeberlein Administrative Assistant, Community Engagement Rachelle Kaspin Administrative Assistant, Special Events

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european archaeology section Harold L. Dibble, Ph.D. Curator

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Xiuqin Zhou, Ph.D. Senior Registrar Chrisso Boulis Registrar, Records Tara Kowalski Registrar, Loans Robert Thurlow Traveling Exhibits Coordinator Scott Williams Database Administrator

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student programs Loa P. Traxler, Ph.D. Mellon Associate Deputy Director Elizabeth Heaney Assistant for Student Programs

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mediterranean section C. Brian Rose, Ph.D. Curator Ann Blair Brownlee, Ph.D. Associate Curator David G. Romano, Ph.D. Research Project Manager Lynn Makowsky DeVries Keeper of Collections Gareth Darbyshire, Ph.D. Gordion Archivist

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Richard L. Zettler, Ph.D. Associate Curator Renata Holod, Ph.D. Curator Holly Pittman, Ph.D. Curator Brian J. Spooner, D.Phil. Curator Philip Jones, Ph.D. Associate Curator Lauren Ristvet, Ph.D. Dyson Assistant Curator Patrick E. McGovern, Ph.D. Research Project Manager Naomi F. Miller, Ph.D. Research Project Manager Katherine Blanchard Fowler/Van Santvoord Keeper of Collections

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Upcoming Exhibitions Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments of 9/11 Opens August 20, 2011 Human Evolution: The First 200 Million Years Opens September 18, 2011 Vaults of Heaven: Visions of Byzantium Opens October 15, 2011 Maya 2012: Lords of Time Opens May 5, 2012

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Expedition magazine Summer 2011  

Expedition Volume 53, Number 2 Summer 2011 The “Bikini Girls” mosaic, thought to represent an athletic competition, dates to the 4th century...

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