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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)

    • VAGNARI – Vicus
      Excavations continued in the vicus at Vagnari in the summer of 2017, the sixth season of research here by the University of Sheffield. Work concentrated on the eastern side of a building partially excavated in 2015 in which a Roman winery was preserved. In 2016 in this part of the site, circular storage pits filled with pottery and other artefacts of the 2nd century B.C. were found which suggested that there had been a settlement at Vagnari predating the Roman imperial estate. To investigate this more thoroughly, work in 2017 concentrated on the investigation of an adjacent unexcavated sector of the vicus and on the re-excavation of the deepest deposits and features in three small trenches that had not been completely explored in previous seasons. The results of this work are outlined in the following.

      The existence of a settlement in the 2nd to the mid-1st centuries B.C. is attested by storage pits filled with refuse and by pottery found in various locations immediately above the natural subsoil. This settlement, possibly in private hands as part of the senatorial elite’s appropriation of Roman state land following the conquest of Apulia in the 3rd century B.C., predates the establishment of the vicus of the imperial estate. In the next phase of the site, new buildings with very well-built walls and drains were erected, and in them were several storage pits. The ceramics confirm that this second phase dates to the early 1st century A.D., and its material culture may indicate a new influx of settlers. Therefore, two distinct phases of settlement activity are clear, with a clear “break” in occupation and a change in ceramic assemblages between the middle of the 1st century B.C., when the pre-imperial settlement came to an end, and renewed building activity and occupation in the early 1st century A.D., when the Roman emperor acquired the territory as a revenue base and established the imperial vicus.

      When a winery was added to the vicus, the basins cut into the ground for the wine dolia sliced through two drains of the first half of the 1st century A.D. and made them obsolete. The winery, therefore, appears to date to the late 1st century or 2nd century A.D. It is not yet clear precisely how long it was in use, but in the fourth century some of the dolia were either completely removed or smashed, leaving only the base or the bottom third of the vessel in place. Fragments of pottery of 5th-century date in the fill of a robber trench of a wall indicate clearly that vicus structures were being quarried for their stone and building materials, almost certainly for the new, smaller village that was established at this time on the other side of the ravine, as excavations by the University of Foggia in 2001/2002 indicated.

      Our work in 2017, therefore, has shed light not only on the earliest phases of occupation at Vagnari, but also on the end of the settlement and the salvaging of materials from it.

      VAGNARI – Cemetery
      The 2017 field season in the Vagnari cemetery involved opening a new trench (10m E-W by 6m N-S) immediately to the West of the 2016 excavations, further exposing the northern extent of the cemetery. We also reopened a trench in the southern area of the cemetery that was initially excavated in 2003 by Hans vanderLeest (Mount Allison University, Canada). This southern trench was originally opened to investigate a strong anomaly indicated by geophysical
      survey, but excavation revealed the presence of additional cappuccina burials, so work in the area was halted and no burials were excavated. The 2017 trench was 4m (E-W) by 5m (N-S) and three burials were exposed, with the participation of a team of high school students from the community of Gravina in Puglia.

      We identified a total of 16 tombs and excavated ten of them in the 2017 field season. As in previous years, most of the tombs excavated were ‘alla cappuccina’, containing inhumations of both children and adults with the individual in a supine extendend position and grave goods deposited around the legs and feet. Two burials had flat tile covers reinforced with large quantities of rock and mortar. Both these burials also had libation tubes (constructed out of curved imbrices) inserted vertically into the burial and held in place by the surrounding rocks and mortar. Of particular interest was the presence of a flat, circular, perforated piece of lead covering the libation tube of one of the burials (F333), which is the first to be recovered from this cemetery (Fig. 2). Three of the burials excavated this season appear to have been disturbed in antiquity, including one burial (F342) that is unique for the cemetery as it is the first burial with a ‘cassa in laterizio’ structure inside the disturbed cappuccina tomb structure. Fortunately, a bronze alloy coin was recovered from an undisturbed section of the burial, so it may be possible to provide a date range for this interment. Another disturbed burial appears to have been a simple pit burial (F339) that was disturbed by the construction of a later tomb (as yet unexcavated).

      Fig. 1 Vagnari vicus 2017. Documenting the excavated walls, drains, and pits of the early 1st century A.D.

      Fig 2. – Flat lead piece with perforations (SF 129-011) found on top of a libation tube in burial F333. The perforated part of the object (a sieve?) has collapsed into the libation tube.

    • Maureen Carroll - University of Sheffield 
    • Tracy Prowse – McMaster University 



    • Jonathan Moulton- University of Sheffield
    • Liana Brent- McMaster University
    • The British School at Rome
    • Kelsey Madden, University of Sheffield
    • Marissa Ledger - Cambridge University

    Research Body

    • Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, Canada
    • Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
    • The British School at Rome

    Funding Body

    • Rust Family Foundation
    • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)
    • The British Academy/Leverhulme Trust
    • The Roman Society
    • The University of Sheffield


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