Version classiqueVersion mobile

Hellenistic and Roman Pontecagnano

I Introduction

Helle W. Horsnæs

Texte intégral

I.1 Former research and excavations at Pontecagnano

  • 1 Horsnæs 1995, 312-313; Horsnæs 2001, 8-10.
  • 2 Sestieri 1960.
  • 3 Several monographs in the AION ArchStAnt Quad, series, plus articles; see d’Agostino 1996.

1The necropoleis of ancient Pontecagnano are well-known and documented. The earliest known objects provenanced "Ponte di Cagnaro” can be traced back to the mid-19th century1, and material from ancient tombs in the area was noted again in 1868 (the Tyszkiewicz bowl). Modern excavations were first undertaken by P.C. Sestieri in 19592 and have been continuing since then. The excavations in the necropoleis have been undertaken as rescue excavations, necessitated by the urban growth of modern Pontecagnano. So far more than 7500 tombs have been unearthed, but – as is often the case with rescue excavations – only a minority have been published3.

  • 4 Iron Age: d’Agostino & Gastaldi 1988. Orientalizing: d’Agostino 1968; d'Agostino 1974a, 18-22; dAgo (...)

2The cemeteries of Pontecagnano have yielded tombs dating from the Neolithic to the late Roman period. Pontecagnano is particularly famous for its Iron Age and Orientalizing tombs with rich grave goods revealing that Pontecagnano in these periods played a pivotal role for exchange and cultural interactions in the greater part of the Italian peninsula and Sicily4.

3The exploration of the ancient habitation/settlement, however, is still at an early stage. Both the excavations of the cemeteries and geophysical investigations undertaken by the Fondazione Lerici in 1978-1979 have shown that the settlement was most likely situated to the east and northeast of the vast necropolis area, between the highway Salerno-Reggio Calabria and the S.S. 18 (Fig. 2a). In fact, it was during the construction of the highway in the 1960s that the first remains of the ancient settlement appeared. The authorities have succeeded in buying parts of these areas, which have thus been saved from modem construction work. An archaeological park was inaugurated in the Via Stadio area in 1999.

  • 5 For a more detailed history of research, see Cinquantaquattro 1994, 121-126; d'Agostino 1996 with b (...)

4The first excavations in the presumed urban area took place in the late 1960s, however in a sporadic manner, and it was not until the period from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s that systematic excavations were carried out5.

  • 6 Cf. Bailo Modesti et al. 2005a; Bailo Modesti et al. 2005b, fig. 2.
  • 7 For update on excavations, see Tocco Sciarelli 2003.

5The findings comprise e.g. postholes and pozzi from the Orientalizing period. From the Archaic period remains of two sanctuaries, an Apollo sanctuary in Via Verdi (southwestern part of the habitation area) and a sanctuary for a female divinity of chthonic character in loc. Pastini (northwestern part of the habitation area), have been identified. Both sanctuaries continued in use until the early 3rd century BC when they were demolished6. Moreover, industrial zones are documented in loc. Pastini and near Via C. Colombo. Excavations continue to reveal both tombs and new parts of the settlement area7.

  • 8 d’Agostino 1970, 638 fig. 646.

6In the 1960s B. d’Agostino excavated an NE/SW orientated insula front in Prop. Truono, located to the west of Prop. Avallone (Figs. 2a-2b)8, and the layout of this insula became decisive for the alignment of the 40 x 40 m grid that forms the basis of the archaeological work at Pontecagnano.

  • 9 Bailo Modesti 1984.

7This excavation combined with the Lerici investigations led d’Agostino to suggest that the Prop. Avallone area would be central to the ancient settlement. Furthermore, the finds from the Archaic layers in Quadrante 335 gave hope that it would be possible to find evidence of the Iron Age and Etruscan settlement remains in the central part of ancient Pontecagnano9. The Danish excavations in Prop. Avallone were undertaken to test this theory.

I.2 The site, its topographical situation and geological characteristics

8Modern Pontecagnano is situated in Campania, some 8 km southeast of Salerno and some 4 km from the coast, in the northern part of the great alluvial plain formed by the Sele as well as a large number of smaller rivers. The Sele Plain forms a great triangle between Salerno to the north and Agropoli to the south, enclosed by the mountainous hinterland.

9The calcareous mountains are rich in natural springs. The water from these springs, as well as from melting snow and rain, feeds the many rivers in the plain. The water, of course, brings silt that settles in the lowlands, but it should also be noted that the water of the rivers is very calcareous. This was already well known to ancient geographers; in fact Silius Italicus describes the water of the Sele as “water that, according to some, transforms branches that are dipped into it to stone” (Punica 8.580-581).

  • 10 Pedley 1990, 32-34 and figs. 9-10.

10Recently formed travertine layers have been encountered above the ancient strata during the excavations at Paestum10. This testifies to the amount of calcium carbonate in the water, but it also stresses that flooding of the plain in the late-antique period must have been a major problem.

  • 11 Soil samples brought to Denmark were analyzed by Mikael Pedersen.

11Calcareous deposits were detected in almost all excavation strata in Prop. Avallone, and a very large number of the finds was covered with a layer of calcareous material precipitated from groundwater, the carbonate-rich nature of which reflects the limestone-dominated lithologies in the “Piana del Sele” area11. Examples of lime-sediment with impressions of rotten-away leaves have been found. There were examples of sherds that were found wholly covered by lime sediment, and a lime impression of the inner side of a vessel clearly shows the contours of the clay. Moreover, lime sediments in the form of small tubes were found several times in hollows left by plant roots, e.g. in E V, H III and H V (Fig. 3).

I.3 Excavation and post excavation methods

12The whole area of Pontecagnano had been divided into a 40 x 40 m grid. Each square is labelled with a number. The Danish excavations mainly took place in square 174, but also squares 160, 173, 187 and 188 were touched upon (Fig. 4). The grid is aligned NE/SW, but to facilitate daily work it was decided that the expressions ‘north’ and ‘east’ should be used rather than ‘north-east’ and ‘south-east’. It was also decided to use metric coordinates during the excavation, and a local system was established with the point 80.0/120.0 in the south-west comer of square 174. The excavation area in Prop. Avallone measures c.70 x 50 m, and the 13 trenches comprise an area of c. 143 m2

13When the trenches were laid out, they were labelled according to the coordinate of the south-west corner, and this name was used throughout the study of the material. However, to facilitate the reading of the many catalogue entries, it was decided to use a simpler name for the publication. Each trench, including its extensions, was therefore named by a letter (A-H and J-N). The strata were numbered by Roman numerals. Thus “trench 174-88.5/136.5 stratum 3” is called trench H stratum III. All finds that were measured individually during the excavation have kept this original information in the record. Equation of trench names with the metric system:


metric designation according to south-western comer




173 + 187





































14During excavation the material was collected in boxes (cassette), marked not only with the trench, stratum and date of excavation, but also labelled with an individual serial number that allows for sub-divisions of the strata. Throughout the excavation stratum I designates the relatively thin layer of topsoil that is heavily eroded and mixed. Stratum II is a greyish layer often containing rolled pottery fragments that underline the layer’s generally mixed appearance.

15Throughout the excavations change of stratum took place, when the character of the layer seemed to change. Therefore, there is a tendency that the material from the cassette derives from horizontal strata, whereas the later analysis of the sections revealed a more complex situation.

16All finds used in the various catalogues are numbered individually. Finds from the 1986 excavation carry a number consisting of: #[number of square]-[unità stratigrafica]-[serial number]. For the finds from square 174, the unita stratigrafica (u.s.) 1-9 are identical to strata I-IX in trench D (81.0/122.0); the u.s. 51-57 are strata I-VII in trench G (85.0/126.0); and the u.s. 101-105 are equivalent to the strata I-V in trench M (100.5/128.5). For the finds from square 160, u.s. 1-9 are equivalent to strata I-IX in trench N (120.5/156.5). An example: #174-53-103 would be ‘G III find 103’.

17The unita stratigrafica-system (developed from the'Harris matrix’) was used in an attempt to correlate with the Italian excavations nearby, but after the study season in 1987, Ingrid Strøm found the system inconvenient, and finds from the next two seasons are therefore numbered: #[excavation year]-[serial number]. An example: #89-1074 would be ‘find 1074 from 1989’. This means that the find number does not contain information on the find circumstances. It is therefore necessary to indicate also the trench and stratum for these finds.

18Generally, the catalogues contain a selection of each group of material and the identified types. The catalogues of pottery do not contain even samples of each type. Some groups are published almost in their entirety. A good example is the Archaic material, where only minute fragments have been excluded from the catalogue. All identified lamp fragments, fragments of terracotta figurines, coins etc. are of course listed.

19During the registration seasons all boxes of material, c. 500, were registered with short lists of contents. This enabled an evaluation of the areas/layers in which the presence of these types is most obvious. During this process and the preparation for publication more items were registered individually.

20No total sherd count of each pottery group took place. Nor were the different groups of material weighed.


1 Horsnæs 1995, 312-313; Horsnæs 2001, 8-10.

2 Sestieri 1960.

3 Several monographs in the AION ArchStAnt Quad, series, plus articles; see d’Agostino 1996.

4 Iron Age: d’Agostino & Gastaldi 1988. Orientalizing: d’Agostino 1968; d'Agostino 1974a, 18-22; dAgostino 1974b, 209-212; d’Agostino 1974c.

5 For a more detailed history of research, see Cinquantaquattro 1994, 121-126; d'Agostino 1996 with bibliography 193-198.

6 Cf. Bailo Modesti et al. 2005a; Bailo Modesti et al. 2005b, fig. 2.

7 For update on excavations, see Tocco Sciarelli 2003.

8 d’Agostino 1970, 638 fig. 646.

9 Bailo Modesti 1984.

10 Pedley 1990, 32-34 and figs. 9-10.

11 Soil samples brought to Denmark were analyzed by Mikael Pedersen.

Le texte et les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont sous Licence OpenEdition Books, sauf mention contraire.

Cette publication numérique est issue d’un traitement automatique par reconnaissance optique de caractères.
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search