There were two phases to the 2016 excavations on the site of Muro Tenente, undertaken by Amsterdam Free University. Phase one involved a magnetometer survey, while the second saw the opening of two excavation areas to check the previously collected data and continue investigation of the settlement’s inner circuit wall. These investigations provided a wider vision of the inner, and earliest, fortification on the site, and also uncovered several previously unknown structures.
The magnetometer survey, using a Fluxgate Geoscan FM 256 gradiometer, covered as area of c. 16,800 m2, situated in the central-southern quadrant of the site. Despite the presence of several anomalies caused by the large amount of modern detritus in the area, a large road and probable associated structures were identified. The road, c. 5 m wide, seemed to border the south side of the acropolis and continue to the west, forking at the latter’s south-west corner.
The two trenches confirmed these results and continued the investigation of the inner defensive circuit and its relationship with the so-called lower city. The first, trench 43, c. 800 m2, was opened on the southern slope of the acropolis, parting from the inner fortification wall uncovered in 2009 and reaching almost as far as the south-west corner of the topographical survey. Starting from the northern part of the trench, the complete line of the inner fortification was exposed, although not fully excavated. So far, no towers have been discovered like the Hellenistic structure excavated in previous campaigns. The wall was in a very bad state of preservation, damaged almost down to foundation level mainly by modern agricultural activity, or perhaps dismantled in order to reuse the blocks.
The presence of grey ware pottery in the layers abutting the wall suggests the area was occupied much later than the beginning of the 3rd century BC, to which the final phase of the defensive wall dates. The discovery of a large amount of such late pottery must relate to the primary contexts, such as buildings and floor levels. The building of the road visible in the geophysics survey, probably in the 1st century B.C., must have disturbed the area, removing both the rubble of the Hellenistic period and probably the 2nd century layers (two Roman coins were found in the razing of the Hellenistic walls). The creation of this large road is evidence that the site was still occupied in the 1st century, even though it had lost its urban characteristics. A U-shaped building was identified to the south of the curtain wall, in the western part of the trench. It opened to the east and the internal walls were built of large rectangular limestone blocks. A fragment of a choroplastic, a female head, was found in this structure, which seemed to have two phases. Considering its shape, size, and the associated finds, it may be suggested that this building had a cult function; this will need to be clarified in subsequent campaigns. South of the road, three small rooms belonging to what was probably a domestic building were documented, but not excavated. The building continued beyond the south section. It is also interesting to note that all the Hellenistic buildings were parallel to the 1st century A.D. road, probably because it followed the line of the earlier 4th-3rd century one.
The second trench, denominated 44, covered c. 600 m2 and was opened to the west of the first one, with the aim of investigating the anomalies recorded by the magnetometer survey. A stratigraphic sequence similar to that in the previous trench was documented. In fact, the latest occupation evidence probably dates to the 1st century B.C. and consisted of the continuation of the road found in trench 43. Some badly preserved walls, dating to the same period, can be interpreted (based on the associated finds) as belonging to a rustic/rural house.
Contrary to what was documented in the trench on the southern slope of the acropolis, the 2nd century contexts were significant. In the north-eastern corner of the trench there were two walls, c. 50 cm wide, built of stones forming the south-eastern corner of a large structure. To the south, this building was connected to a crushed-tufa road that was obliterated by the 1st century road, while to the west basoli with traces of cart tracks running north-south were present. The abandonment layers of this structure contained fragments of yellow wall plaster. Evidence of craft-working activity were found close to this building, probably iron-working and the transformation of agricultural products, as seems to be indicated by the plastered vat to the east of trench 44, already excavated in 2011.
The importance of this evidence lies in the possibility of gaining a better understanding of the transformations that led this flourishing Messapian town to be abandoned and then become part of a Roman latifundium, as the presence of the large late Republican building, probably a rural villa, suggests.
- Raphaëlle-Anne E. Kok
- Matteo Merlino
- Gert-Jan Burgers - VU-Università di Amsterdam/Reale Istituto Neerlandese di Roma
- Gabriella Carpentiero
- Emanuele Marotti
- Jitte Waagen
- VU Universita’ Amsterdam
- Comune di Latiano
- Comune di Mesagne
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