In August 2012, work continued in trench IV to complete the excavation of the apsidal structure partially exposed in the previous season. The following phases were identified:
- Phase one: the 7 m long structure originally housed six burials. No archaeological material was recovered as the burials had been opened in antiquity during a period when the basilichetta was no longer in use. – Phase two: eight burials were added to the first six, arranged in two rows of four and elongating the structure by about 13 m. The tombs have been very badly disturbed by modern clandestine excavations. – Phase three: these levels attested the structure’s definitive abandonment, when a series of rooms obliterate the basilichetta. A wide wall divided the building in two parts and raised its floor level.
Use of the site as a necropolis is attested from the 5th century A.D. onwards, the period in which the Sabiniana basilica was built. In the 5th century Christianity became widespread in rural Puglia and the Canosa region, whose agricultural landscape shows clear signs of vitality for this period. The population had clearly increased to such a degree that it needed an autonomous ecclesiastical organisation with its own structures, hierarchy, functions, and liturgical-sacramental office.
The presence of an important cult building, the city’s religious hub throughout the early medieval period, justifies the increase in number and overlapping of the burials in the surrounding area, as it does the building of churches. Rural parishes and the related cura animarum must have been quite widespread in the area, especially from the 5th-6th century onwards, as the result of the need to promote the spread of Christianity, which by then had solid bases in the urban centres.
An important discovery was made in the season’s final week, an infant burial placed between two imbrices. It was on a north-south alignment with the head to the south (in the direction of the basilica) and the body was in a fetal position. This funerary practice used for the burial of babies has ancient origins and is widely attested in Roman and Late Roman cemeteries, continuing into the early medieval period, but always limited to cemeteries or residential buildings. For example, in the 8th-6th century B.C. phases in the necropolis of Fossa near L’Aquila (Abruzzo), about 200 infant burials are attested, the majority lying between two imbrices; for the Roman period there are examples at Egnatia and in Lombard cemeteries such as Acquafredda with 14 babies also buried in this way. In Rome, two infant burials in imbrices dating to the 5th-6th century A.D. are documented on the Caelian. This type of burial probably derives from the ancient ritual of the enchytrismos.
- Vincenzo Graffeo - “Sapienza” Università di Roma
- Patrizio Pensabene - Sapienza Università di Roma
- Bruno Vivino - Sapienza Università di Roma
- "Sapienza" Università di Roma
- Comune di Canosa di Puglia
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