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Excavation

  • San Pietro di Cantoni
  • Contrada Cantoni di Sepino
  •  
  • Italy
  • Molise
  • Provincia di Campobasso
  • Sepino

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Credits

  • The Italian Database is the result of a collaboration between:

    MIBAC (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali - Direzione Generale per i Beni Archeologici),

    ICCD (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione) and

    AIAC (Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica).

  • AIAC_logo logo

Summary (English)

  • The Italic sanctuary of San Pietro di Cantoni at Sepino stands at 665 m a.s.l. dominating the wide valley of the Tammaro. The sacred area is enclosed by megalithic polygonal walls forming an irregular triangle with sides a few hundred metres long. The cadastral map and aerial photograph clearly show the conformation of the enclosure with its apex pointing towards the plain below. The interior, obviously levelled, developed over a large artificial rock-cut terrace along the steep slope which from Terravecchia (953 m a.s.l.) descends sharply to Altilia (548 m a.s.l.) and the river Tammaro. It stands in a very pleasant position, not only because the sanctuary is constantly exposed to the sun, but also, and above all, because this position constitutes a balance, not least topographical, between summit areas destined for defence (Terravecchia) and valleys destined for trade and production (Republican phases at Altilia) within the community and district of the Saepinates.

    The sanctuary played a unifying role, situated at the centre of a settlement structure constituted by a diffusion of small and specialised (even if in an elementary way) nuclei.

    Although the north eastern side of the Matese appears to have been occupied some time earlier, the sanctuary is documented only at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. From this date the presence of artefacts becomes more conspicuous, more “structural” as they begin to show a precise destination of use, with common formal and dimensional characteristics which can be related to cult use.

    The 3rd century B.C. artefacts, mainly imported with some of local production, constitute an important document for the sanctuary of San Pietro di Cantoni, but are also a tangible sign of the new prosperity of the community of the Saepinates. Most of the materials from the excavation (from the few fragments of antefix to the appliqués in black glaze ware depicting pregnant women, from the anatomical votives to the shells, from the statuettes of Eros to the ring settings, from the loom weights to the balsamaria), are evidence of a standard of living that is in strong contrast with the period and the brutality of the war in progress. The cult seems to be that of a female divinity, documented with certainty in 2006 as Mefite (and the statuette dedicated by Trebis Dekkiis should reveal her features and attributes), who watched over maternity, the family, procreation and, more generally, related work activities, thus the fertility of the fields, the pastures, the herds. Finds of fragmentary statuettes of Hercules suggests the existence of two or more cults in the sanctuary, as often seemed to occur.

    In clear contrast with the increasing prosperity of the settlement in the valley (Republican phase of Altilia), the 2nd century saw the sanctuary’s progressive decline. There were still a substantial amount of finds for this period but the material did not seem to indicate that the sanctuary shared in the economic opportunities of the emporium of Altilia, situated along the tratturo, and its probable related production activities.

    The last century of the Republic and the early Imperial period were marked by the constitution of the municipium of Saepinum. Doubtless the town, as the capital of an extensive territory, took on all civil and religious roles. In this situation the sanctuaries in the ager soon lost all importance and, often, their original function. The structures were often used as quarries and left to fall to ruin. The excavation at San Pietro, especially in recent years has, however, began to produce material dating to the early and mid empire in a quantity suggesting that the area was still occupied. The finds, although mainly functional artefacts (spinning implements, lamps, coarse ware pottery), but also glass balsamaria, rings and coins, suggest a possible, although contracted, form of cult life on the site.

    At the beginning of the 6th century there was a recovery, with renewed occupation which occurred at the moment in which Saepinum lost all importance in the centralised administration of the territory. The community in part dispersed, often returning to the high lands and within a few generations re-proposing systems for territorial occupation and control that were of ancient date and tradition.

    A large ecclesiastical complex grew up on the ruins of the temple podium, which seems to have had a short life (perhaps due to repeated seismic events) between the 6th and 7th century.

    The finds dating to the subsequent centuries seem to be the result of sporadic occupation. The small amount of material was very fragmented, unhomogeneous and from widely differing periods.

    The excavation, undertaken by the Cattedra di Topografia e Urbanistica del Mondo Classico dell’Università degli Studi di Perugia began in 1991 following a survey in the municipal territory of Saepinum carried out between 1987-1989.

  • Maurizio Matteini Chiari - Università degli Studi di Perugia, Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Sezione di Scienze Storiche dell'Antichità 

Director

  • Maurizio Matteini Chiari - Università degli Studi di Perugia, Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Sezione di Scienze Storiche dell'Antichità

Team

  • Sara Venditti
  • Angelo Attavino
  • Maria Letizia Cipiciani - Università di Roma “La Sapienza”, Scuola di Specializzazione in Archeologia
  • Maria Letizia Cipiciani - Università di Roma “La Sapienza”, Scuola di Specializzazione in Archeologia
  • Maurizio Matteini Chiari - Università degli Studi di Perugia, Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Sezione di Scienze Storiche dell'Antichità
  • Studenti - Cattedra di Rilievo e Analisi tecnica dei Monumenti Antichi, Università degli Studi di Perugia

Research Body

  • Università degli Studi di Perugia, Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Sezione di Scienze Storiche dell'Antichità

Funding Body

  • Università degli Studi di Perugia, Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Sezione di Scienze Storiche dell'Antichità

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