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  • Capo Don
  • Riva Ligure
  • Costa Balenae
  • Italy
  • Liguria
  • Provincia di Imperia
  • Riva Ligure

Credits

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  • AIAC_logo logo

Periods

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Chronology

  • 100 BC - 1200 AD

Season

    • The site of Capo Don is situated in the modern territory of Riva Ligure (IM), on its border with the territory of Taggia (IM). At the site, the via Aurelia heads west forming a curve to the north (“giro del Don”) that borders the archaeological area. In antiquity, just beyond the “giro del Don” towards the west lay the mouth of a torrent, the _Tabia_ (later _Taggia_, now Argentina), which runs the length of the present Argentina valley. Today the course of the torrent lays a few hundred metres to the west, and the ancient riverbed has disappeared to be replaced by a flat area, which on historical maps of the 1500s is named _Prata_ (now Prati). From the 2nd or 1st century B.C. onwards, the landing-place at the mouth of the torrent was used by a Roman villa, found beyond the “giro del Don” at about 3 m below ground level. Although only very little of the building has been excavated, the evidence suggests continuity of use until the 3rd or 4th century A.D. The discoveries made during the years 2009-2011 and 2014 during excavations by the Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana have dispelled any doubts about the presence precisely at this point of the landing-place known in ancient topographical and cartographical sources as _Costa_ _Balenae_. There is no certain evidence for the Cristianisation of the site pre-dating the first half of the 6th century when the “basilica di Capo Don” was built with its baptismal font and large cemetery area. It was probably erected on the wishes of the bishop of Albenga, within whose diocese the site lay. The church administered common liturgy, had a baptistery and funerary spaces both outside the structure and in the north aisle and the north part of the narthex. Therefore, it ensured the _cura_ _animarum_ of a vast area without an actual urban centre. In 2014, the Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana undertook the first excavation campaign. The investigations looked at the area surrounding the remains of the early Christian basilica, revealing a series of pre-existing rooms, adjacent to it, one of which had a mosaic floor and at least two layers of wall plaster corresponding with two occupation phases. Very faint traces of red paint on a white background were visible on the later of the two. The continuation of the excavation of stratigraphy identified between 2009 and 2011 along the northern edge of the area revealed small sections of structures aligned on an E-W axis, suggesting the presence of metal, glass, and pottery workshops (probably to be associated with the landing-place known as _Costa_ _Balenae_). A preliminary analysis of the pottery finds confirmed a complete chronological sequence from the 1st century B.C. to the 7th century A.D.
    • The site of Capo Don is situated in the territory of Riva Ligure (IM), on the border with that of Taggia (IM). The via Aurelia, travelling west, curves around the site (“giro del Dom”) and delimits the archaeological area. In antiquity, the mouth of the _Tabia_ torrent (later the _Taggia_, now the Argentina) was situated just beyond the “giro del Don” to the west. The watercourse now runs along the entire Argentina Valley. From the 2nd or 1st century B.C. onwards, the landing place at the torrent mouth was used by a Roman villa, found beyond the “giro del Don” at about 3 m below ground level. The villa was only partially excavated, but the archaeological data suggests continuity of use until the 3rd or 4th century A.D. The discoveries made during the excavations by the Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana have settled almost all doubts about the presence in precisely this point of the landing place known from ancient topographical and cartographical sources as the _ Costa_ _Balenae_. There is no certain knowledge of the Christianisation of the site prior to the first half of the 6th century A.D., when the “basilica di Capo Don” with its baptismal font and large funerary area was built, probably on the wishes of the bishop of Albenga, in whose dioceses the site lies. PIAC’s 2014 campaign concentrated on the area surrounding the Early Christian basilica, leading to the identification of a series of earlier rooms adjacent to it. One of these had a mosaic floor and at least two layers of wall plaster corresponding with two occupation phases. Very faint traces of red paint on a white background were visible on the latest plaster layer. Continuation of the investigation of the stratigraphies identified between 2009 and 2011 along the northern edge of the area revealed several small sections of structures on an east-west alignment, suggesting the presence of metal, pottery, and glass workshops (probably to be associated with the presence of the landing place of _Costa_ _Balenae_). A primary analysis of the pottery finds confirmed the complete chronological sequence from the 1st century B.C. to the end of the 7th century A.D. The 2015 excavations continued work on the rooms to the west of the basilica leading to the find of a fragment of floor mosaic with a vegetal motif. Excavations immediately north of the basilica identified a room used for the reworking of the metals from the basilica, probably relating to the recovery of construction materials (c. the mid 9th century). Inside the basilica, multiple burials were discovered inside several sarcophagi (identified during excavations in the 1980s by the Superintendency but not excavated) and a burial in a stone coffin, all situated in the basilica’s north aisle.
    • The site of Capo Don is situated in the territory of Riva Ligure (IM), on the border with that of Taggia (IM). The via Aurelia, travelling west, curves north around the site (“giro del Don”) and delimits the archaeological area. In antiquity, the mouth of the _Tabia_ torrent (later the _Taggia_, now the Argentina) was situated just beyond the “giro del Don” to the west. The watercourse now runs along the entire Argentina Valley. From the 2nd or 1st century B.C. onwards, the landing place at the torrent mouth was used by a Roman villa, found beyond the “giro del Don” at about 3 m below ground level. The villa was only partially excavated, but the archaeological data suggests continuity of use until the 3rd or 4th century A.D. The discoveries made during the excavations by the Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana have settled almost all doubts about the presence in precisely this point of the landing place known from ancient topographical and cartographical sources as the _ Costa_ _Balenae_. There is no certain knowledge of the Christianisation of the site prior to the first half of the 6th century A.D., when the “basilica di Capo Don” with its baptismal font and large funerary area was built, probably built on the wishes of the bishop of Albenga, in whose dioceses the site lies. PIAC’s 2014 and 2015 campaigns concentrated on the area surrounding the Early Christian basilica, leading to the identification of a series of earlier rooms adjacent to it, one of which had a mosaic floor, continued the investigation of the stratigraphies identified between 2009 and 2011 along the north-west edge of the area, and began to investigate the stratigraphy immediately north of the basilica. Here, a room was identified that was probably used in the early medieval period for reworking building materials and metals from the basilica. The first partial exploration inside the basilica also began, with the identification of multiple burials inside a number of sarcophagi found during earlier excavations and in a stone coffin, all in the basilica’s north aisle. The 2016 campaign began excavation in the north aisle of the Early Christian basilica, which identified a new series of sarcophagi made of Finale stone; almost all in a row and aligned east-west (only one was perpendicular to the others and aligned north-south). Investigation continued of the stratigraphy in the area abutting the north side of the basilica. In the 9th century, this area was certainly used for the reworking of materials from the basilica. The discovery of three hearths led to the identification of small limekilns used to rework pieces of sarcophagus (a few were found in the immediate vicinity showing signs of the effect of fierce heat).
    • The site of Capo Don is situated in the territory of Riva Ligure (IM), on the border with that of Taggia (IM). The via Aurelia, travelling west, curves north around the site (“giro del Don”) and delimits the archaeological area. In antiquity, the mouth of the _Tabia_ torrent (later the _Taggia_, now the Argentina) was situated just beyond the “giro del Don” to the west. The watercourse now runs along the entire Argentina Valley. From the 2nd or 1st century B.C. onwards, the landing place at the torrent mouth was occupied by a Roman villa. The villa has only been partially excavated, but the archaeological data suggests continuity of use until 4th century A.D. The discoveries made during the excavations by the Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana have settled almost all doubts about the presence in precisely this point of the landing place known from ancient topographical and cartographical sources as the _ Costa_ _Balenae_. There is no certain evidence for the Christianisation of the site prior to the first half of the 6th century A.D., when the “basilica di Capo Don” with its baptismal font and large funerary area was built. The 2014 and 2015 excavations carried out by PIAC investigated the area surrounding the Early Christian basilica, while from 2016 onwards excavation began inside the church. The 2018 excavations worked in three different areas. Outside the basilica (Area 3000-Sector F), in the northernmost strip of the excavation area, the investigation began with the surviving modern stratigraphy and identified, which revealed the same contexts identified in 2009-2014 further to the west. This stratigraphy was formed by agricultural trenches present across the entire area probably from the late 19th century onwards. The first layers of road surface, also identified in other sectors during previous campaigns, appeared below the agricultural stratigraphy. Also outside the church (Area 3000 –Sector Z), two early medieval tombs were excavated, whose suggested dating is between the mid 7th and the early 9th centuries A.D. The burials in stone coffins each contained one individual: “Tomb 14” contained the remains of a man over 40 years old and there were signs of disturbance to the primary covering; “Tomb 15” contained the remains of a woman aged between 60 and 69 years old, whose cranium presented the non-metric trait of metopism. Inside the basilica (Narthex – North part) the north part of the exonarthex was excavated. This zone was excavated in the 1980s by G. Martino and then by P. Pergola, the latter finding the only intact inscription from the entire site here (so-called “Epigrafe di Maria”. The 2018 excavations uncovered an “a cappucina” infant burial, which has been given a preliminary date of the 7th century A.D. or later. The stratigraphy around the burial was of particular interest and seemed to indicate a collapse in this sector prior to the creation of the tomb.

Bibliography

    • L. Gambaro, A. Cagnana, 2015, La basilica funeraria e battesimale di Capo Don (Liguria. Riva Ligure-IM). Nuove ipotesi sulla sequenza delle fasi costruttive dalla tarda età imperiale all’età post-medievale, in Isole e terraferma nel primo cristianesimo. Atti dell’XI Congresso Nazionale di Archeologia Cristiana. Cagliari, Sant’Antioco, 23-27 settembre 2014, Cagliari: 847-852.
    • C. Corsi, 2000, Le strutture di servizio del Cursus publicus in Italia – Ricerche topografiche ed evidenze archeologiche, BAR International Series, 875, Oxford: 105, 159, 309-310 e passim.
    • P. de Vingo, A. Frondoni, L. Gambaro, 2013, La basilica paleocristiana e l’area archeologica di Riva Ligure (Imperia): gli ultimi risultati di scavo, in Vescovo, Città, Territorio, Atti del XV Congresso Internazionale di Archeologia Cristiana (Toledo, 8-12 settembre 2008), a cura di O. Brandt, S. Cresci, J. López Quiroga, C. Pappalardo, Città del Vaticano: 1279-1302.
    • N. Lamboglia, 1942, Nuovi scavi a Taggia e a Sanremo, in RStLig, VIII: 25-30.
    • G. P. Martino, 1986, L'area archeologica di Costa Balenae, in Atti dell'XI Congresso Internazionale di Archeologia Cristiana (Lione – Vienne – Grenoble – Ginevra – Aosta, Settembre): 2267-2269.
    • Ph. Pergola, P. Battistelli, F. Cocchini, M. Giacobelli, E. M. Loreti, R. Martorelli, 1989, Nuove ricerche sul complesso cristiano tardoantico ed altomedievale di Capo Don a Riva Ligure, in BdA, 55: 44-56.
    • Ph. Pergola, A. Garrisi, A. Cagnana, L. Gambaro, E. Dellù, G. Svevo, 2014, La chiesa battesimale e funeraria di Capo Don a Riva Ligure alla luce dei risultati della campagna 2014, in concessione ministeriale al Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, in Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, 90: 381-412.
    • Ph. Pergola, A. Garrisi, S. Roascio, E. Dellù, G. Castiglia, 2015, Presenze cristiane nella Liguria di Ponente: i casi di Capo Don (Riva Ligure) e San Calocero (Albenga), in P. ARTHUR, M. LEO IMPERIALE (ed.), "Atti del VII Congresso Nazionale di Archeologia Medievale", Firenze: 158-163.