Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Information:

  • Access

Actions:

      • Send article to Kindle

        To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

        Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

        Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

        Prehistory at high altitude: new surveys in the central-southern Apennines
        Available formats
        ×
        Send article to Dropbox

        To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

        Prehistory at high altitude: new surveys in the central-southern Apennines
        Available formats
        ×
        Send article to Google Drive

        To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

        Prehistory at high altitude: new surveys in the central-southern Apennines
        Available formats
        ×
Export citation

Abstract

The ‘Molise Survey Project’ aims, through systematic survey, to document evidence for the prehistoric occupation and exploitation of the Apennine Mountains. Here, we present some of the first results of the archaeological surveys, with a focus on the evidence from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age.

Introduction

In 2016, the Molise Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio (SABAP) granted a permit for the archaeological survey of a ~60km2 area that includes some of the highest mountains of the Molise region of southern Italy (Figure 1). Building on previous research (Barker 1995; Minelli & Peretto 2006), the main objective of the ‘Molise Survey Project’ is to investigate pre- and proto-historic human occupation of this upland area, with a particular focus on an ethnographical approach.

Figure 1. Map of the study area. Bronze Age sites: 1/16, 7/16, 8/16; Middle Palaeolithic sites: 2/16, 6/16, 9/16, 10/16, 11/16 (map by Enrico Lucci).

Located approximately 15km east of Isernia, this previously unstudied area is characterised by a pronounced physiography, with rocky spurs that reach 1400m asl, deep valleys and small lake basins subject to seasonal variation in water level (Figure 1). Mountain ridges, which represent the majority of the area under examination, are characterised by grassland vegetation; the mountain slopes are covered with woodland. Historically, the economic livelihoods of local communities were based on the exploitation of the available resources—water, grassland and agricultural soils—which were especially suited to transhumant pastoralism and the breeding of sheep, goat and cattle. Testimony to these pastoralist activities is found in the many stone structures, disused and ruined, scattered throughout the territory (Figure 2). Over the last 15 years, hundreds of wind turbines have been installed across the area, threatening the archaeological landscape.

Figure 2. Example of a pastoralist structure (photograph by the Molise Survey Project Archive).

Prehistoric presences at high altitude

Our first surveys have focused on the highest elevations—territory over 1000m asl—with particular attention given to the rocky spurs and small lake basins (Figure 3). A large number of lithic artefacts, mostly from the shores of the lakes (Figure 1), relate to the Middle (Figure 4) and Upper (Figure 4.10) Palaeolithic. Two isolated lithic artefacts may relate to Neolithic and/or Copper Age activity (Figure 4.11–12). On the rocky spur of Pesco la Messa (Figure 1: 1/16), two arrowheads (Figure 4.13) and a huge number of potsherds were discovered (Figure 5A: 1–4, 6; Figure 5B: 2–4); these are attributable to the Bronze Age, particularly to the mid second millennium BC, although the raised handle (Protoappenninic) type (Figure 5A: 5) probably relates to the first half of the second millennium BC. Just over 3.5km north of Pesco la Messa stands the rocky spur of Morgia Quadra (Figure 1: 7/16 & 8/16). Several sherds of pottery have also been found at this location, including decorated fragments (Figure 5B: 1) attributable to the Middle Bronze Age (the mid second millennium BC). Due to the high concentration of items at several sites, the artefacts were collected using a sample area inside a grid composed of units of 1m2 (Figure 6). Taking into account previously proposed interpretative models (Puglisi 1959), no other Bronze Age sites of central-southern Italy are known with these geomorphological characteristics. Thus, these sites provide new data about the exploitation and occupation of the Apennine Mountains during this period.

Figure 3. The highland landscape under investigation (photograph by the Molise Survey Project Archive).

Figure 4. 1–4 & 6) Mousterian industries from 11/16; 5) Levallois flake, sporadic; 7) undifferentiated core from 11/16; 8) blade-core rejuvenation from 6/16; 9) blade-core rejuvenation from 2/16; 10) blade fragment from 2/16; 11) Neolithic blade from 1/16; 12) Neolithic/Copper Age arrowhead from 3/16; 13) Bronze Age arrowhead from 1/16 (photograph by the Molise Survey Project Archive).

Figure 5. A1–2) jars from 1/16; A3–4) bowls from 1/16; A5) raised handle from 1/16; A6) decorated ceramic fragment from 1/16; B1) decorated ceramic fragment from 5/16; B2–4) decorated ceramic fragments from 1/16 (figure by the Molise Survey Project Archive).

Figure 6. View of sample collection area, Carpinone Lake—11/16 (photograph by the Molise Survey Project Archive).

Conclusions

The data collected during our initial fieldwork enriches our knowledge of prehistoric human activity in the Apennine Mountains. Future multidisciplinary work, including systematic excavation of Palaeolithic and Bronze Age sites, will further enhance understanding of the exploitation of these uplands and of human-environment relations across a wide chronological framework. The development of our scientific knowledge of the archaeological and ethnographic evidence of this region accompanies and supports the aim of local authorities to promote and protect this territory and the remains of its extraordinary cultural history.

Acknowledgements

We are extremely grateful to M. Moscoloni, G. Recchia, SABAP Molise, La Molisana S.P.A., the municipal administrations of Oratino and Frosolone and to the whole team of friends and young archaeologists who made this project possible.

References

Barker, G. 1995. The Biferno Valley survey: the archaeological and geomorphological record. London: Leicester University Press.
Minelli, A. & Peretto, C.. 2006. Preistoria in Molise: gli insediamenti del territorio di Isernia. Roma: Aracne.
Puglisi, S.M. 1959. La civiltà appenninica: origine delle comunità pastorali in Italia. Firenze: Sansoni.