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The history of surveys and researches about Grumentum

by Francesco Tarlano


The first historical research on Grumentum are dated to the seventeenth century when Holstenius, in his work in Annotationes Italiam Antiquam Cluverii in 1666, sorted out the dispute among scholars on the exact location of the archaeological area, placing it near the current Grumento Nova.

Saponara (Grumento Nova)The first local scholar to make excavations was the saponarese archpriest Carlo Danio; news of his excavations are given in the Letter to Matteo Egizio written by Giacomo Antonio del Monaco in 1713.

In this important paper are discussed several important monumental remains of structures and finds of considerable importance remains during the excavations made by Danio.

Many of the ruins in fact at the time of Del Monaco were emerging in the area of theater, amphitheater (concerning this the scholar erroneously mentions traces of two amphitheaters), forum as well as in the suburbs of Grumento, such as the imposing ruins of the aqueduct.

Del Monaco is also the first to mention the so-called small temple of Serapis, near today's Mother Church on the hill of Grumento Nova.

The numerous inscriptions found in the area of ​​the Roman city were transcribed by the religious Sebastiano Paoli; even the scholar Costantino Gatta in his Memoirs topographical-historical of Lucania province, often cites the many ruins located on the plain center of the ancient city.

Of fundamental importance is the work History Grumentina by the scholar saponarese Francesco Saverio Roselli, published in Naples in 1790. Roselli speaks about the so-called gate Aquilia, which is identified with the southern entrance of the city, access roads to the city, to the aqueduct, to numerous inscriptions, to theater and amphitheater, as well as the forum.

Another important scholar of Grumento’s reality is Antonini, which furnishes accurate information about the toponymy and the locations of ancient cities in Agri Valley.

Other important news about the archaeological evidence of the city and Grumento’s territory were reported in 1832 by the scholar Andrea Lombardi, in his Essay on topography and on ruins of ancient cities Italian-Greek, Lucan, Daunian and Peucetii including today’s Basilicata. Lombardi reports important descriptions of the aqueduct, on the state of the ancient road system, on the city gates and he is the first to report the news of the existence of a Roman infrastructure in locality St. Laverio-Ponte Pagano, probably identifiable with a hydraulic work, but described by the scholar as an underground tunnel used as a secret passage.

Theodor Mommsen, who in 1846 had been in person in Grumentum, collected in 1883 all grumentine inscriptions known until that time in the volume X of CIL, assisted by his students and Robert and Kaibel.

Cirelli in 1852 mentions in his Kingdom of Two Sicilies described and illustrated the various monuments scattered throughout the territory of Grumentum, focusing on barrow-shaped mausoleums and reporting Lombardi's theory according to which the tunnel in locality San Laverio-Ponte Pagano was construed as secret road link between the town and the shrine of Salus Infirmorum (Madonna of Grumentina).

The Fiorelli in 1877 reports in News of excavations information about the remains of a different nature in Grumentum territory and gives also news about aqueduct and viability.

Of fundamental importance is the work of Francesco Paolo Caputi, Small contribution to Grumento’s history, in which are reported with a wealth of details information about the main monuments found in the city, from the forum to the theater, amphitheater, thermal baths, and infrastructure on territory, especially roads and aqueduct; the scholar photographs the state of the art and publishes the archaeological finds occurred at that time.

Between the late nineteenth and mid twentieth century are numerous the scholars who study the ancient city and cite it in their works: from Patroni to Bozza and Lacava, up to the very important work by Giacomo Racioppi, History of Lucania and Basilicata Peoples, via Magaldi and Ramagli.

In 1951, is dated one of the first systematic excavations; Pellegrino Claudio Sestrieri took care of the theater excavation.

In 1964 was established the Superintendency of Antiquities in Basilicata: the first superintendent was Dinu Adamesteanu, who promoted a massive awareness and promotion campaign of Grumentum city and its area.

Since then, there are many universities that have started systematic campaigns of excavation and undertaken studies and researches on the archaeological heritage of the area.

Between the seventies and eighties of last century Adamesteanu oversaw the restoration of theater area, while Liliana Giardino, a professor at the University of Lecce, directed the excavations in the area of theater and temples A and B, in the Domus of Mosaics and many other areas of the city, deepening for the first time issues related to topography and city planning of the area: she was the first scholar to suggest the centuriations in Grumento’s countryside, the issues concerning the viability and to investigate the aqueduct route. Moreover, her studies have played a key role in the reconstruction of the urban layout of Roman Grumentum , and permitted to have new hypothesis on the layout chronology and the individual structures. Finally, thanks to historical and historical-antiquarian studies and through a profound reinterpretation of ancient literary sources, she has reconstructed the history of the city advancing pioneering hypothesis, later confirmed by subsequent excavation data.

Between the eighties and nineties Paola Bottini, an archaeologist of Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Basilicata, directed the excavation of amphitheater, the sacred area of ​​San Marcus and the south-eastern area of ​​the forum where was found the head head of a statue portraying Livia capite velato.

In the nineties Paola Bottini, in collaboration with Andrea Carandini, a professor at the University of Rome 'La Sapienza' assisted by Helga Di Giuseppe, investigated the northwest corner of the forum; in this area have been excavated three domus, an apsidal hall, a tripartite building and a massive circular monument preceded by a semicircular exedra.

Antonio Capano, director of the National Archaeological Museum of Upper Agri Valley-Grumento Nova, took care of excavation of the so-called Republican thermae.

From 1999 to 2003 and Anemone Zschätzsch and Hansjörg Thaler, from University of Innsbruck-Austria, directed the excavation of the area of ​Imperial thermae.

Between 2003 and 2004, the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Basilicata has leaded two excavation campaigns in the forum under the direction of Maria Luisa Nava, bringing to light the basilica, the porticus of the forum and a monumental fountain-nymph.

Investigations in the forum have continued since 2005 and are ongoing today under the direction of Attilio Mastrocinque, ordinary professor at the University of Verona.

Regarding the phase concerning the Christianization of the area are still ongoing excavations in the suburban sanctuary of St. Laverius, led by Gioia Bertelli, professor at the University of Bari.

Finally, since 2007, under the direction of Lorenzo Quilici, Professor of Ancient Italy Topography at Alma Mater Studiorum-University of Bologna, and Enrico Giorgi, head of the Topography Laboratory Groma , at the Department of Archaeology of the same university, are ongoing topography researches on Grumento’s territory and the entire Agri Valley, conducted primarily by Francesco Tarlano: in particular until now have been deepened issues concerning the main Roman infrastructure in the area, such as viability, centuriation, water supply .



Copyright text and images (where there aren't other references ) by Francesco Tarlano.