- No period data has been added yet
- 25 BC - 180 AD
- Between the 11th and 17th October 2004, a geophysical survey was undertaken at the site of San Felice by The Archaeological Prospection Services of Southampton and The British School at Rome on behalf of Hans vanderLeest of Mount Allison University, Canada. Taking into account the pronounced topography of the overall survey area, the narrow terrace forming part of the southern edge of the field appeared to be the most likely area for habitation. Indeed, the surface collection survey had already indicated that the dense scatters of material were derived from this area. With that in mind, the results from both the resistivity and magnetometer surveys indicate evidence of activity in this area. The resistivity survey produced a plan of possible structures based around a central open courtyard area. The disturbed results of the magnetometer survey, whilst not defining individual structures, did suggest activity in this portion of the field thus confirming expectations. The ephemeral traces of structures detected in the resistivity survey results made interpretation difficult. However it must be appreciated that the nature of the buried remains may not create strong responses and that the geology may mask archaeological features. The success of the magnetometer survey in detecting the remains of a kiln does suggest that the buildings are probably associated with this feature.
- In 2004 a research programme began on the Roman villa situated below the crest of S. Felice hill aimed at defining the villa’s relationship with the Imperial estate of Vagnari. The first excavation campaign in 2005 brought to light floors and walls suggesting the presence of a peristyle, as in the classic form of the Roman villa. In 2006 a trench was dug next to the pavement discovered in 2005, this revealed further walls and floors belonging to the villa.
- Since 2004, a team of archaeologists led by Drs. Hans vanderLeest and Myles McCallum have engaged in archaeological research at San Felice, a Roman villa site occupied from the last quarter of the first century BC to the early decades of the third century AD. Research at the site has included geophysical prospection, excavation, and finds analysis. To date, we have excavated over 700 square metres of the structure at San Felice. Our investigations have revealed that the site was initially a private estate which subsequently came into the possession of the emperor, likely during the first century AD. Activity at the site can be divided into three occupational phases (late 1st BC to early 1st AD; mid first AD to early second AD; mid second AD to early third AD) and a post-occupational phase of unknown date (likely either the late third AD or the early seventh AD). The structure was originally a peristyle villa set on a terraced basis villa with a series of well-appointed rooms lining the edge of the terrace, each with a view over the Basentello Valley. During the third phase, much of the site was converted from a residence to a facility engaged in wool processing, textile production, sheep rearing, and possibly hunting. Throughout its occupation, the site shows evidence for commercial contacts with the colony of Venusia, and several new ITS stamps likely associated with pottery production at Venusia have been recovered at the site. During the post occupational phase, the building material and metal from the site was reused and recycled for use either in the expansion of Vagnari in the late third/early fourth century AD, or the construction of a medieval village on the top of Serra San Felice during the seventh century AD. Archaeobotanical evidence suggests that during the last occupational phase and the post-occupational phase, the site’s inhabitants may have been subsisting on a starvation-level diet, although further excavation and analysis is required to confirm this. During excavations in 2008, we recovered a _mortarium_ stamped with a menorah in contexts associated with the third phase. This suggests that there was at least one Jew at the site during this period. It will be interesting to see if this Jewish presence is corroborated by excavation and analysis of the human skeletal remains at the Vagnari cemetery (directed by Dr. Tracy Prowse, McMaster University). Future work will seek to clarify the activities carried out here during the third phase, regional commercial links to sites such as Venusia and other imperial sites in Puglia and Basilicata, and why the site was abandoned.
- During the 2010 field season, excavations of the Roman period villa at San Felice continued work initiated in the 2009 field season. This included: expanding excavations along the western edge of the structure to better define this side of the building; continuing excavation of an early second century AD midden within a central peristyle in an effort to carefully remove all artifacts and ecofacts and to fully define this architectural feature; and excavating beneath a beaten earth floor surface datable to the latter half of the 1st century AD to the northeast of the peristyle to better understand the earlier occupational history of this part of the villa. The excavation all of these areas included the systematic collection of artifacts and faunal remains by sieving with a 5mm mesh screen, as well as the collection of at least 12 litres of soil from each archaeological context for flotation in order to collect archaeobotanical remains, principally seeds. Excavations along the western edge of the building revealed an approximately 3.8 x 4.0 m N-S x E-W room dating to Phase 1 (latter half of the first century BC to early first century AD), paved with painted a painted concrete floor, with a doorway at the center of its western wall and the remains of a stone step along its eastern wall. If the structure is symmetrical, this room may be the mid-point of the western side of the structure, if the doorway was the primary entranceway on this side of the building. Excavations of the midden were slow and painstaking. The midden was covered by a wall collapse comprised of over 1000 kg of tile and stone, and, based excavations in 2009 during which part of this same midden was excavated to the north and east of our 2010 trench, is approximately 1.25 m deep. The midden produced several hundred bones and bone fragments, 7 loom weights, over 1500 sherds of pottery, primarily cookware, including examples of clibani, but with some fine tablewares as well, including ITS and Regional Red Slip (a term coined by Philip Kenrick who has studied the pottery from the nearby excavation of a Roman cemetery at Vagnari). The midden appears to be associated with food preparation, including bread baking and butchery, and provides evidence for textile production at the site. The midden must have been created when the central peristyle, which appears to have been used for water collection, possibly from a neighboring spring, went out of use, which may also mark a change in the villa’ s function from a primarily residential unit to a structure more closely associated with animal husbandry. Excavations to the northeast of the peristyle revealed that the surrounding corridor was initially paved with river cobbles set into a beaten earth floor. Unfortunately, excavations of the foundation of this floor failed to produce any artifacts or charcoal, so we are still not able to precisely date the first phase of occupation at the site. The archaeobotanical remains are currently under analysis.
- During the months of July and August, 2011, a team of 25 archaeologists and archaeology students from Canada and the United States continued excavating the Roman villa site at San Felice, work which commenced in the summer of 2005. The goals of the excavation were to determine the layout and nature of rooms surrounding a central peristyle courtyard/pool area; to better understand the nature of activity at the site during a post-occupational phase dating to the late second through early third century AD; to determine, if possible, the nature of renovations to the structure in the late first century AD; and to generally better understand the transition of the site from a primarily residential structure to a centre of artisanal production. Excavations in 2011 provided a great deal of evidence related to the post-occupational phase of the structure. To begin with, a series of tile surfaces, composed of reused tegulae, imbrices, and dolium covers were constructed directly on top of a thick layer or rubble, a phenomenon that was particularly easy to discern in the south western section of the excavation where the level of overburden protected the rather delicate archaeological remains of the post-occupational phase. These surfaces all show evidence for burning and are accompanied by hearth features. Sediment samples were taken for flotation by Anthony Taylor while charcoal samples were examined by Dr. Robyn Veal in the hopes of understanding better the activities associated with the post-occupational phase. We also discovered a relatively well-preserved pottery kiln that had been dug into an early phase floor surface. Although we only excavated the _praefurnium_, it is likely that the kiln was used to produce oil lamps as. It is also now quite clear that by the end of the late first century AD much of the villa, including its central peristyle, was converted from a residential to an artisanal or industrial function. This involved raising the floor levels in certain parts of the structure, filling in some doorways, inserting dolia defossa and diverting the water present in the central peristyle pool. The finds from archaeological strata associated with this renovation suggest that wool working and the preparation of textiles was an important activity at the site. While we had hoped to find evidence for the northern limit of the structure, based on our northernmost trench it now seems clear that plough damage is too great in this area to ever recover the plan of the structure’s northern edge, although we did find some small, well-preserved patches of painted concrete flooring in this area. Still, it is possible that future excavations may find evidence of the _basis villae_. Finally, the finds associated with the first two phases of activity at the site, from the second half of the first century BC to the mid-first century AD, suggest that the site’s inhabitants were of a relatively high social status. These finds include pieces of an iron candelabra, a carnelian intaglio, and a great deal of tack and harness.
- S. Hay, 2005, San Felice, Puglia Geophysical Survey Report February 2005. Unpublished report.
- M. McCallum, J. vanderLeest 2009, Excavations at San Felice, July 2008, in Papers of the British School at Rome 77: 326-327.
- M. McCallum, J. vanderLeest 2008, Excavations at San Felice, July 2006, in Papers of the British School at Rome 76: 332-333
- M. McCallum, J. vanderLeest, R. Veal, A. Taylor, L. Brown, W. Cooney, forthcoming, 2011, A preliminary report on excavations at San Felice (Gravina in Puglia), 2005 to 2010, Mouseion 10.2.
- C.M. Small, A.M. Small, 2005, Defining an imperial estate: the environs of Vagnari in south Italy, in P.A.J. Attema, A. Nijboer and A. Zifferero (eds), Papers in Italian Archaeology VI. Communities and Settlements from the Neolithic to the Early Modern Period. Proceedings of the 6th Conference of Italian Archaeology held at the University of Groningen, Groningen Institute of Archaeology, The Netherlands, April 15 – 17, 2003, British Archaeological Reports, International Series 1.452, Oxford: 894-902.
- M. McCallum, J. vanderLeest, 2010, Excavations at San Felice, June – July 2010, in Papers of the British School at Rome, 78: 334-336.