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.
- Philippe Pergola - Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana - Città del Vaticano
- Alessandro Garrisi - Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana
- A. Bona - Università “Cattolica” di Milano
- E. Kas Hanna - PIAC
- Elena Dellù
- Gabriele Castiglia - Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana
- Giovanni Svevo
- Fondazione Nino Lamboglia onlus - (Comune di Albenga, Coop Liguria)
- Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana
- Comune di Riva Ligure
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