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  • Vagnari
  • Gravina in Puglia



    • The Italian Database is the result of a collaboration between:

      MIBAC (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali - Direzione Generale per i Beni Archeologici),

      ICCD (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione) and

      AIAC (Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica).

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    Summary (English)

    • The settlement

      The excavation of an imposing structure identified by a resistivity survey in the north part of the site was begun in 2008 and continued in 2009 (Fig. 1).

      Period 3A (end of the 1st century AD)

      The first phase of construction is represented by a wall (F242) made of blocks of stone bonded in a sandy mortar. In construction technique it resembles other walls, already excavated, which can be dated to the beginning of Period 3. The fact that it terminates without walls attached to it at right angles shows that the building to which it belonged was open to the south-west.

      Period 3B(i) (2nd century AD)

      Two walls, F241 and F256, which join at a right angle belong to the principal building being investigated. They were made of small stones bonded in a hard white mortar, and measure ca. 0.7 m in thickness – the thickest walls so far excavated at Vagnari. F241 corresponds to the south-east wall of the rectangular building identified by the resistivity survey, from which it can be inferred that the eastern corner of the building was situated not far outside the limit of the trench. The external walking surface was formed by the natural clay. Inside, however, the floor layer must have been much lower, because a trial trench 1.0 m wide was excavated in the fill of the room to a depth of 0.7 m without arriving at the bottom. The fill contained much demolition rubble mingled with domestic and industrial rubbish.

      Period 3B(ii) (early 3rd century AD)

      The wall F236, which seems from the resistivity survey to have formed the south-west boundary of the site, belongs to this phase. It was constructed of rough stones loosely bonded in clay – a technique of construction already noted at Vagnari in some walls of Period 3B (late 2nd or early 3rd century AD). The wall was cut by the construction of the structure F238 in Period 5.

      Period 4 (2nd half 4th century – end 5th century AD)

      After the construction of wall F236 a layer (308) of greyish brown silty clay was deposited, containing destruction material missed with more domestic refuse including animal bones, charcoal and pottery. The layer merges with another (F239) consisting of pot sherds, small stones, and numerous tile fragments which formed a walking surface laid down over the remains of the destroyed wall F241. A limited excavation inside this layer yielded some fragments of Late Roman Painted ware datable after the middle of the 4th century AD. A large piece of iron slag found inside the floor F239 suggests that there was a smithy in the vicinity.

      Period 5 (?6th century AD?)

      The last phase of construction is indicated by three tegula fragments (F238) bonded in mortar with their flanges facing upwards, and aligned north/south.They seem to represent the lowest layer of a wall of the beginning of the medieval period which has been almost completely destroyed by ploughing.

      The study of the material

      The material recovered in the excavation will be studied in detail in the spring of 2010. (Alastair Small)

      The cemetery

      Excavation of the Vagnari cemetery continued in 2009 with the excavation of a 6m x 8m trench (no. 59) immediately South of trench 39 (excavated in the 2008 field season). Nine tombs were exposed, but only 6 were fully excavated due to time constraints. Another concentration of tiles was uncovered in the eastern part of the trench, but requires further excavation to establish that this is a tomb. The orientation of the tombs was variable, with the majority in an East-West direction.

      All of the exposed tombs were ‘a cappuccina’ (with the deceased covered with large tiles set obliquely in the ground to form an angled roof), except for one pit burial (F253) that had no apparent burial structure. The burial is atypical for this cemetery, as the individual was buried in a semi-flexed position with grave goods at the knees and feet. The majority of the depositions were in a normal supine position with the arms at the sides of the body or across the pelvis. Five of the burials contained adults and the sixth contained the poorly preserved remains of an infant (F251).

      Four of the six tombs contained grave goods, typically located at the feet of the deceased, with the exception of a number of metal objects and items of personal adornment. As in previous years, most of the ceramic vessels found in the tombs were broken and/or fragmented. One tomb of a young adult female (F245) contained a large number of objects including 3 metal rings found on the left hand, a ‘Butrint’ casserole dish (from Albania), another casserole dish in African Terra Sigillata, an oil lamp, a bone needle, and a plain ware vase. The infant burial (F251) contained a glass bead, but no other grave goods. Unlike previous years, no bent iron nails were recovered in any of the excavated burials. Until restoration and study of the artifacts can been completed, only a provisional date can be provided. These burials are likely contemporaneous with tombs excavated in previous seasons, that is, predominantly of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Ongoing analysis of the skeletal remains and grave goods is currently underway. (Tracy Prowse)

    • Alastair M. Small - University of Edinburgh, School of history and Classics 



    • Tonia Petrafesa
    • Tracy Prowse - Southern Illinois University Carbondale
    • Sally Cann
    • Philip Kenrick

    Research Body

    • University of Edinburgh, School of history and Classics

    Funding Body

    • Banca Popolare di Puglia e Basilicata
    • Fondazione Ettore Pomarici Santomasi, Gravina in Puglia
    • Munro Fund, University of Edinburgh
    • University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale


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