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Excavation

  • Vagnari
  • Gravina in Puglia
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    Credits

    • 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).

    • AIAC_logo logo

    Summary (English)

    • In 2010 excavation was resumed in the large partly subterranean structure identified in the north part of the site by resistivity survey and already partly explored in 2008 and 2009. The purpose of the excavation in 2010 was to determine the full extent and depth of the building, and to clarify its chronology and its relationship to other structures in the area. In conjunction with the excavation an additional geophysical survey was undertaken by Nicola Masini and Raffaele Persico of CNR-IBAM at Potenza to augment the results of the previous surveying techniques.

      Four trenches were opened (Trenches 41-44) at targeted locations. In all four, large portions of the perimeter walls were revealed which made it possible to locate the four corners of the structure. In Trench 42 (which was effectively an extension of Trench 38 excavated in 2008 in the south quadrant of the building) the floor was encountered at a depth of ca. 1.55 m from the surviving top of the wall, and about 1.00 m below the ground level of the time. It consisted of natural yellow clay. The flanking walls were coated internally with a layer of hard, probably impermeable, plaster.

      When the building was abandoned, the walls were destroyed above ground level, and the subterranean part was filled with layers of destruction rubble mixed with organic material, including animal bones and carbon. Among the rubble infill were two small fragments of funerary inscriptions which must have been brought in as filling material from elsewhere on the site.

      The purpose of the structure

      The external measurements of the building are as follows: length, NW side: 17.25; length, SE side: 15.65; width, SW side: 11.0; width, NE. side: 10.85. The walls range between 50 and 70 cm thick. The size of the building, the strength of its walls, its semi-subterranean construction, and its impermeable floor confirm the hypothesis, advanced in 2009, that the structure was a cistern. Its primary function is likely to have been to store water for use in a bath building situated lower down the slope. No remains of it have yet been excavated, but a scatter of hypocaust tiles collected by Carola Small’s survey team in an area ca. 20 m to the west suggests that a bath suite was located in this area. The cistern must have been served by an aqueduct which is likely to have brought water from a source in the vicinity of the Masseria Vagnari, about 400 m to the east.

      The date of the building

      The building was probably constructed in the last part of the 2nd century AD (Period 3B). Its destruction can be dated by the latest material in the layers of fill which includes several fragments of African red slip of Hayes’ Form 50, with a maximum date range of ca. AD 230-400+. There are also fragments of burnished cooking-pot wares of the 4th/5th century. This material is still being studied, but a provisional analysis suggests a date near the end of the 4th century AD for the destruction..

      A later building

      Not long after the destruction of the cistern, a new structure was built over the remains of it, made of roughly cut or uncut stones bonded in clay. It appears to have consisted of a single row of rooms opening onto a yard, and was possibly used as a stall for livestock. It can be dated to the early 5th century (Period 4) and appears to have remained in use for only a short time.

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

    Director

    Team

    • Alan Dalton - University of Edinburgh, School of History, Classics and Archaeology
    • John W. Hayes - University of Oxford, Institute of Archaeology

    Research Body

    • University of Edinburgh, School of history and Classics

    Funding Body

    • Nuova Energia s.r.l.

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