Italy

1027

A postcard from San Vincenzo Al Volturno

Thirty years ago my career took a memorable new turn. I had been trained in settlement archaeology and the theory and practice that this entailed. Much of this was controversial because I subscribed to the so-called New Archaeology championed by a generation of American archaeologists and emulated with some skill by the rising stars of […]

1028

Book Review: Herculaneum: Past and Future

Herculaneum’s destruction is a familiar story. On the 24 August AD 79 Vesuvius erupted, sending superheated mud cascading though the town, killing all before it, and carbonising timbers, foodstuffs, and documents. The helpless inhabitants died in the opening salvo of a geological catastrophe for which the only warning had been an earthquake over a decade […]

1012

Palatine Hill

The remains – remarkably unprepossessing amid the spectacular ruins of classical Rome all around – comprise postholes, wall-slots, and drainage gullies, defining three small structures.

990

Venusia’s supersize colony

The Samnites were hardy folk. Living in a region dominated by the Apennine mountains to the southeast of Rome, they proved reluctant to submit to the fledgling power’s imperium. Tensions flared into open conflict around 343 BC, when Rome was drawn into a land dispute. The Samnites were eager to be able to graze their […]

989

Metapontum and Tarentum

The fate of the inland cities of Southern Italy depended to a considerable extent on the fortunes of the Greek colonies springing up along the coast; and for Botromagno in particular, on those of Metapontum near the mouth of the Bradano River. The greatest of these colonies was Tarentum (modern Taranto), founded in the 8th […]

986

Hannibal’s Revenge

In the summer of 1911, the young Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) went on a bicycling tour around Rome and began to realise that the history of southern Italy was different from that of the north. When he returned to Oxford, he gave a series of lectures on the subject, but then his mind turned to higher […]

987

Botromagno: Becoming Urban

Today, Gravina is one of those little-known Italian towns that every tourist falls for. Meaning ‘ravine’ in Italian, the town is aptly named, as it teeters alarmingly on the brink of a precipice. This picturesque, if precarious, position lies some distance inland – 40 miles west of the provincial capital of Bari on the east […]

988

Fieldwalking

In 1996, Alastair Small and his wife Carola launched a major fieldwalking project to examine the countryside near Gravina. Focusing on the area along the Basentello River, they undertook ten seasons of survey here, covering an impressive 100km². Small teams of students assisted by local volunteers would scour the fields, walking 15m apart, and subdividing […]

991

Life and Death at Vagnari

Throughout most of Italy, the 2nd and 1st centuries BC were a time of increasing prosperity. Towns sprang up and flourished, while the countryside grew ever more affluent. There is only one blot on this picture of rude economic health: the area of southern Italy we are examining. Growth appears particularly stunted in the vicinity […]

992

Down to Today

The convulsions in land use that usher in the post-Roman period are vividly laid bare by the Vagnari survey. In the 4th and 5th centuries, pottery distribution on the Imperial estate undergoes a fundamental change. Instead of clustering at the tilery and villa sites, there is a denser, more widespread scatter of Late Roman painted […]

980

Pompeii problems

Questions are being asked about the cultural priorities of the Italian Government in the wake of recent structural damage to the ancient Roman ruins at Pompeii. Italy’s own President, Giorgio Napolitano, described as ‘a disgrace’ the collapse on 6 November 2010 of the Schola Armaturarum Juventus Pompeiani (‘the House of the Gladiators’), and with it […]

997

Postcard from the Asso Valley

For years I have directed small armies of excavators through a project manager, so returning to the role of quartermaster (and co-director) was, to be truthful, both nostalgic and scary. I have always said an excavation runs on its food and accommodation. Rather like a well-honed army, fuel up the excavators, create an atmosphere of […]

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