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  • Grotta Reali
  • Rocchetta a Volturno
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    Monuments

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    Chronology

    • 35000

    Season

      • The discovery of the Musterian deposit of Grotta Reali, in the territory of Rocchetta a Volturno (Is) occurred in 2001 following a field survey in the locality of Olivella, near the Madonna delle Grotte, an area where karstick phenomena have led to the formation of cavities of various sizes. As the cave opens at the base of a travertine rock face whose morphology has been altered by quarrying activity, research took the form of survey with the collection of lithic and faunal surface material. This first phase included the study of the stone finds which, in the absence of data regarding the way in which the deposit was formed, provided a date for the complex within a late horizon of the middle Paleolithic (75-35000 years ago) and to the Musterian facies. The stratigraphic excavation evidence of occupation consists of a large quantity of stone and bone finds, some of which bearing traces of discolouration caused by exposure to heat. This evidence, together with ashes and lumps of charcoal and the heavy presence of organic material in general, suggests that this was a hearth or an extensive area of burning. The highly fragmented nature of the bones can be attributed to human activity, as attested by the butchering marks and percussion cavities present on some bones. The faunal study revealed the presence of various species such as deer, roe deer, ibex, aurochs, bear, hyena, fox and wolf, some of which probably caught in the area near the cave. The presence of waterfowl, such as duck, indicates that the environment surrounding the cave was probably characterised by expanses of water. (MiBAC)
      • The Neanderthalian site of Grotta Reali is situated in the municipality of Rocchetta al Volturno, a short distance from the source of the river Volturno, at circa 500 m a.s.l. Discovered by the amateur archaeologist P. Berardinelli in 2001, the site was surveyed in 2001 and 2005 and excavations were undertaken in 2006 and 2007. This research produced a picture of how the deposit was formed and of the settlement dynamics. The site opens in a wall of _calcareous tufa_ partially eroded by quarrying activity which has limited the legibility of the original morphology. However, it appears that this was a small cave occupied by a group of Neandertals during the last inter-glacial period at a time of interruption in the tufa’s formation. The stratigraphic analysis of a deposit circa two metres deep showed two occupation horizons (US 5 and US 2β-2γ) characterised by the presence of numerous flint artefacts, bone fragments and two hearths, alternating with sterile layers (US 3 e 4). Following the abandonment of the cave it was occupied by carnivorous animals. Traces of their activity was present in the more recent layers (US 1 and US 2abc) and were predominant over the traces left by man. The lithic industry of Grotta Reale was constituted by 8000 artefacts, made of local flint collected in the vicinity and taken to the site in its natural state where it was refined and worked. Therefore, all phases of the working process were undertaken on the site. In fact, elements from the various stages were present in the occupation layers: flakes from the initial rough preparation, by-products from the formation of the nucleus, waste products, finished artefacts, nuclei. Various methods were used for producing flakes and retouched tools such as scrapers and toothed implements from opportunist production aimed at the fast production of the largest number of usable flakes possible to a predetermined production such as Levallois flakes. The faunal study established that the group of humans had occupied the cave and had mainly eaten deer, roe deer, ibex and primitive ox, all species probably hunted in an area relatively close to the cave and characterised by the presence of forests, open areas and rivers. The archeo-zoological analyses identified diverse traces linked to anthropological activity. Examination under a stereoscopic microscope revealed the presence of cut marks on a number of bones produced by lithic tools during the butchering of a carcass, and signs of intentional fracturing in order to get at the bone marrow. The site of Grotta Reale represents some of the earliest evidence, analysed in depth, of the occupation of Homo neanderthalensis in the territory of Molise. Its radiometric dating to 33-40.000 years BP places it in the final phases of the middle Paleolithic, making it one of the reference sites for this period.

    Bibliography

      • M. Arzarello, P. Berardinelli, A. Minelli, M. Pavia, E. Rufo, B. Sala, U. Thun Hohenstein, C. Peretto, 2004, Il sito Paleolitico medio di Grotta Reali (Rocchetta al Volturno, Molise). Rivista di Scienze Preistoriche LIV: 249-269.
      • C. Peretto, A. Minelli (a cura di), 2006, Preistoria in Molise. Gli insediamenti del territorio di Isernia. Collana Ricerche 3: 393.
      • E. Rufo, 2008, Sistemi tecnici di produzione nel Musteriano recente. Analisi tecnologica dell’industria litica del sito di Grotta Reali (Rocchetta a Volturno, Molise, Italia). Tesi di Dottorato. Università di Ferrara.