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  • San Vito dei Normanni
  • Castello di Alceste
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  • Italy
  • Apulia
  • Province of Brindisi
  • San Vito dei Normanni

Credits

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Periods

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Chronology

  • 800 BC - 400 BC

Season

    • Excavations in previous years identified a complex of structures, on top of the hill, interpreted as a “palatial” residence, probably belonging to one of the dominant social groups with important functions in the community settled in the area. The building occupied an area of circa 600 m2 and was characterised by walls with substantial foundations, over 1 m wide. The covered structures seemed to be concentrated in the eastern part, whilst the central and western zones seem to have been occupied by a vast open courtyard. Beyond a large open space where two roads converged, other smaller walled structures were identified, probably houses. The excavation undertaken in 2005 concentrated on the area of the large building on the hilltop, uncovering the various phases of collapse. The perimeter walls of the foundations were between 70 cm and 1 m wide, whilst those of the dwellings were circa 50 cm wide. This fact demonstrates the structure’s social importance. However, the size parameter is not the only significant element: in fact the walls were built with a parallel double facing of larger blocks placed on edge to reinforce the structure, and various materials were used. The perimeter and corner walls were made with rectangular blocks, as they were subject to the heavier load of the roof. The internal dividing walls were made entirely of limestone from Altamura, also with a double facing, but with squared blocks on the outside and a core of smaller stones. The study of the collapses showed that the first rows of the standing walls were constituted by squared calcarenite blocks placed on edge and forming a double facing. The rest of the wall was built of blocks squared on the exterior with a core of irregular sized stones. The discovery of an architectural fragment suggests a decoration with circular antefixes decorated with volutes, which can be compared to Laconian temple decoration, in particular at Laphior or in the temple of Artemis Orthia at Sparta. Furthermore, an imbrex from the eaves with the attachment for an antefix was found. This find further attests the level of development reached by the Messapian craftsmen in the archaic period and the influences from Greek spheres, especially from Taranto. The discovery of two fragments of Black-figure craters and loom weights attests the importance of this building, part of the so-called “palatial complex”, that was not only residential but also had cult and public functions.
    • The seventh excavation campaign was undertaken as part of the work to set up the M_useo Diffuso Castello d’Alceste di S. Vito dei Normanni_. Excavations concentrated on the upper part of the site, where an abandoned farmhouse stands. During work on the restoration of the building and the dry-stone walls enclosing the fields a substantial stretch of the internal curtain wall was identified. The archaeological investigations led to a better definition of its line, previously only partially legible from aerial photographs. Preceding investigations had shown that in the archaic period the wall surrounded the upper part of the hill, incorporating the extensive palace complex built in the 6th century B.C., and known as the _grande edificio_. The enclosure structure, circa 3 m wide, was traced inside the farmhouse and in the two courtyards behind it for a total length of 28 m. It was constituted by a double facing of roughly squared medium-large stones with a core-fill of smaller stones. The destruction levels, datable to the beginning of the 5th century B.C. showed traces of alteration caused by heat, probably the result of a fire. Inside the courtyards of the rural complex the remains of walls and collapses also emerged. These are still to be defined in detail but related to dwellings situated outside of the fortifications. A foundation structure relating to an oval hut dating to the 8th century B.C. phases also came to light. Work in the area of the _grande edificio_ concentrated on the area of Room 5, uncovering layers of collapse and destruction relating to the structure and the area to the west of it. Traces of robbing from the walls of the room were identified, thus it was possible to precisely define the structure’s plan.
    • This campaign concentrated on the study of the _grande edificio_, the extensive archaic complex situated on the hill summit. The stratigraphy inside one of the rooms in the residential part (room 5), characterised by substantial perimeter walls, showed the negative traces of a series of elements of furnishing. Evidence for the use of fire was attested by patches altered by heat that were particularly clear in the centre of the room. Of great importance for the interpretation of the function of this structure was the find of a votive deposit with faunal remains and fragments of Ionic cups. The analysis of the main walls showed that room 5 was the earliest structure in the archaic _grande edificio_. The excavation results support the evidence suggesting that ritual activities took place in this room. An important result was the identification of the lower curtain wall, to date known only from aerial photographs which indicated the position of its line below the dry-stone walls of the farm. An explorative investigation along the north-western line verified the existence of the wall and dated it to the archaic phase. A further intervention involved the Iron Age hut. The excavation defined its plan and the construction technique of the perimeter walls (timber posts inserted into a stone structure). Inside the hut a hearth was partially examined by a micro-excavation undertaken in collaboration with the Paleo-botany laboratory of the University of Salento aimed at studying the traces of heat alteration and the hearth’s function.
    • La campagna di scavo 2012, si è concentrata nell’area a ridosso del Grande Edificio, dove le ricerche effettuate nel corso delle precedenti campagne avevano messo in evidenza una serie di livelli di crollo, stratificatisi all’esterno della imponente struttura muraria che rappresenta il limite est del complesso palaziale. Obiettivo dei lavori era quello di verificare la natura dei depositi e chiarire la funzione degli spazi. La rimozione dei crolli ha permesso innanzitutto di identificare una serie di ambienti coperti con tutta probabilità con sistema di tettoie, circostanza che consente di escluderne una funzione residenziale. Lo scavo si è poi concentrato all’interno di uno degli ambienti semicoperti, permettendo di identificare una serie di installazioni destinate ad ospitare contenitori di grandi dimensioni, unitamente ad una piattaforma sopraelevata realizzata con pietre sbozzate. L’organizzazione spaziale delle installazioni, insieme alla rilevante presenza di contenitori legati all’uso del vino (anfore, brocche, crateri), suggerisce l’ipotesi che tali installazioni possano essere riferite ad un impianto per la spremitura delle uve e la fermentazione del vino. Per verificare tale ipotesi è stato avviato un campionamento sistematico dei sedimenti da sottoporre ad analisi chimiche dei residui organici e, successivamente a flottazione. Le strutture sembrerebbero compatibili con la presenza di una pressa, probabilmente a contrappeso, come nei vasi attici a figure nere (v. Brun J. P., Archéologie du vin et de l’huile de la préhistoire à l’époque hellénistique, Paris 2004, p. 91). L’impianto è databile in età tardo arcaica come mostrano i materiali diagnostici (coppe ioniche tipo B2, fr. anfore del tipo corinzio B degli inizi del V sec.a.C.). In attesa che le analisi chimiche e paleobotaniche, insieme alla continuazione dello scavo, confermino tale ipotesi, non si può non segnalare la notevole rilevanza della scoperta, data la sostanziale rarità di questo tipo di impianti, anche nel mondo greco, in età arcaica.
    • The 2014 campaign concentrated on the area next to the large building, in room 8, where previous excavations exposed a series of structures used for grape pressing and wine fermentation. In the adjacent room 7 (to the south) the evidence suggests the presence of structures for olive pressing: a structure made of ‘pietra leccese’ found in the room can be interpreted as a press, and substantial traces of fatty acids indicating the presence of vegetable oils were identified thanks to chemical analyses and gas-chromatography. Based on these results, it was decided to continue the exploration in the northern part of room 8, to look for evidence confirming the interpretation of this zone as a service area for the working of agricultural products. The excavations took place in quadrants M 1-2-3 and N 2-3. The removal of the surface layer exposed a level of collapse, containing few tiles suggesting it related to a semi-covered area, probably with shed roofs. Two walled structures in the east zone can be associated with the working of cereals. Two stone elements from a millstone (US 799) were found connected to structure 790 (quadrant M2). The particularity of this installation lay in the rectangular shape of the millstone and the presence of housings in the upper block. Based on the primary observations, it is possible to link this particularity to the presence of a rotary mill, based on a traction system with staffs and ropes that provided a rotary action with a minimum physical effort. The introduction of rotary mills is at the centre of recent research, which tends to place their origin in the Punic or Iberian area during the course of the 5th century B.C. The 5th century, to which the introduction of this type of technically more advanced mill is usually dated, saw the transition from the ‘va et viens’ system, known from the earliest phases of prehistory. The example at Castello di Alceste, dates to the late 6th-early 5th century B.C., therefore just at the time when this important innovation developed, probably simultaneously in several regions. In the area next to the mill, an arrangement of circular stones (US 787-789) was identified. A comparison can be made with a similar installation found at L’Amastuola and interpreted as the base of a granary. Therefore, the service spaces of the large building seem connected with the transformation of the main products that were fundamental for Mediterranean agriculture: oil, wine, and cereals. At the end of the excavations, the structures were back-filled leaving only the perimeter walls visible. During the 2014 campaign, maintenance work was undertaken on the archaeological area, including the clearance of grass/weeds and new coverings for the more delicate archaeological levels (beaten surface and interior floors).

Bibliography

    • Grazia Semeraro, c.s., Le prime fasi della civiltà messapica, in Le antiche civiltà del Salento.
    • A. Cocchiaro, 1996, S. Vito dei Normanni (Brindisi), Castello, in Taras XVI, 1: 58-61.
    • G. Semeraro, 1995, San Vito dei Normanni (Brindisi), località Castello, in Taras XVII, 1: 58-61.
    • A. Cocchiaro, 1998, La ricerca archeologica in località Castello a S. Vito dei Normanni (1994-1995), in AA.VV., L\'area archeologica in località Castello a san Vito dei Normanni. La ricerca come risorsa, Brindisi: 13-26.
    • G. Semeraro, 1998, Scavi a San Vito dei Normanni (1996) in AA.VV., L\'area archeologica in località Castello a san Vito dei Normanni. La ricerca come risorsa, Brindisi: 27-37.
    • G. Semeraro, 1999, San Vito dei Normanni (Brindisi), località Castello, in Taras XIX, 1: 63-65.
    • G. Semeraro, 2000, San Vito dei Normanni (Brindisi), località Castello, in Taras XX, 1-2: 70-72.
    • G. Semeraro, 2003, San Vito dei Normanni (Brindisi) in M. Guaitoli (a cura di), Le collezioni dell\'Aerofototeca Nazionale per la conoscenza del territorio, Roma: 320-322.
    • G. Semeraro, 2009, Forme e funzioni dei vasi attici in contesti cultuali di età arcaica: nuovi dati dall’insediamento messapico del Castello di Alceste (S. Vito dei Normanni – BR), in S. Fortunelli, C. Masseria (a cura di), Ceramica Attica da Santuari della Grecia, della Ionia e dell’Italia”, Atti del Convegno Internazionale (Perugia, 14-16 marzo 2007), Venosa: 495-506.