In Macchiabate with University of Basel team

IncontriIn Macchiabate with University of Basel team
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We discovered Macchiabate necropolis of Francavilla Marittima in the province of Cosenza thanks to a fortuitous and fortunate encounter. Generally we choose in advance who to interview in our Incontri but this time it did not go that way. Because the visit to the Iron Age necropolis together with Professor Martin A. Guggisberg of the Institute of Classical Archeology of the Department of Ancient Sciences of the University of Basel was not planned.

Macchiabate

A fortuitous and lucky encounter

We met Domenico Brunacci on the streets of the town and immediately afterwards we got to know the team that deals with unearthing the tombs of Macchiabate, one of the most interesting necropolises in southern Italy.

Macchiabate

Of course we immediately wondered why the oldest university in Switzerland is involved in archaeological excavations in this village overlooking the plain of Sibari. To answer this question, Professor Guggisberg and his assistant Marta Billo-Imbach invited us to visit the group directly in the workplace and study.

Macchiabate

Hence the idea of ​​carrying out an interview with the project director, also chatting with his assistants Marta and Domenico. And it was the Swiss teacher who accompanied us with exquisite availability to the tombs of the Macchiabate necropolis in Francavilla Marittima, explaining that the University of Basel has been conducting investigations there since 2009. It all started long ago: the first news about archaeological finds in the area dates back to 1841, but it was in 1879 that Inspector Gallo reported the discovery of finds during the construction of the new Pollino road.

Macchiabate

Subsequently, in the 1930s, remains of an indigenous protohistoric culture emerged between Macchiabate, Timpone dei Rossi and Timpone della Motta, mainly represented by grave goods. The professor told us that the artifacts found were almost always the result of random discoveries made by local farmers who gave them to the town doctor, Dr. Agostino De Santis, a enthusiast archeology.

Macchiabate

He was responsible for the discovery of the important “Tomb of the road” in which a Phoenician embossed bronze cup was found. Similar specimens in more precious metals have been found in Cerveteri, Palestrina and Pontecagnano, testifying how important oriental influences were on the Italian territory even before the settlement of the oldest Greek colonies. Up to this moment the cup, together with an ax and a chisel, found in one of the largest burials in the whole area during the excavation in 1963 by the famous archaeologist Paola Zancani Montuori and connected to the tools with which Epeo had built the Trojan horse, are certainly the most relevant elements.

Macchiabate

But the aim of the studies at the University of Basel – the project director underlined – is to deepen the relationships between indigenous peoples and Greek settlers. Not a simple intent because the area of ​​the Macchiabate necropolis is vast and covered by Mediterranean scrub, the tombs are stratified and often the funeral objects have been plundered or destroyed by phenomena related to water infiltration.

Macchiabate

And it is precisely about a story that binds the clandestine excavators who sacked the Timpone della Motta and Macchiabate and the finds ended up in private collections or in foreign museums, such as the Getty Museum in Malibu, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotbek in Copenhagen or the Institute of Classical Archeology of the University of Bern, that the University of Basel begins to take an interest in the necropolis and to finance the excavation work as a kind of moral and material compensation.

In 2002, thanks to the excellent success of the so-called “Francavilla-Berna-Malibu Project” activated by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, five thousand artifacts stolen from the Timpone della Motta were returned to the Sibaritide Museum where they are kept.

Macchiabate

In 2009 the excavation campaign of the Swiss University starts with the aim – added Professor Guggisberg – to give a critical reading and a different evaluation of the encounter between the Greeks and the indigenous cultures of the Iron Age in southern Italy in the eighth century BC well before the foundation of Sibari: these are the themes of the volume that presents the results of the excavations from 2009 to 2016.

Macchiabate

From these excavations it emerged that Francavilla Marittima represented a very important junction on the road connecting the two seas, the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian. Archaeological investigations by the Institute of Classical Archeology of the University of Basel have unearthed graves of different types in a burial area reserved for high-ranking people.

Macchiabate

There are almost 200 burials formed by mounds of large elliptical river stones. In the oldest the dead was laid with his legs bent with his funeral equipment made up of ceramic pottery and bronze objects such as spear points and fibulae. In the more recent ones the deceased were buried on their backs and in the kit there are objects arrived by sea that testify contacts with the Greek-Eastern world even before the foundation of Sybaris in 708-707 BC.

We asked why the excavation work of the University of Basel focused on the necropolis and the professor replied that there are essentially two reasons. The first is that the area of ​​the acropolis of Timpone della Motta where there was a sanctuary for the Goddess Athena, was studied for a long time by the Dutch archaeologist Marianne Maaskant who considered it the mythical city of Lagaria, founded by Epeo the builder of the Trojan horse when it landed in southern Italy. Later the area was entrusted to the Danish Institute of Rome (D.I.R.) and to the Unical University of Calabria led by Paolo Brocato. The second reason is that it was considered very interesting to explore the city of the dead to understand more about the living and the contacts and exchanges between peoples.

Macchiabate
On the left above Marta Billo-Imbach and below Domenico Brunacci

At this point we just have to tell you about our first meeting, the one with Domenico Brunacci, because it is he who told us about the university mission and invited us to interview his professor and visit the excavations. Who is Domenico? Originally from Massafra, therefore from Puglia like us, he is currently an assistant at the University of Basel, but he graduated in Bari where he followed the courses of Professor Roscino to whom – he told us – he owes his choice to leave Italy to move in Switzerland and become a “real” archaeologist. And, what a surprise, Milly Roscino was my high school friend and always a dear friend!

It is not the only discovery. Domenico moved to Basel to be able to work in this excavation in Calabria which is very close to his heart because his father is originally from Alessandria del Carretto, not far from Francavilla Marittima, a territory he has frequented since he was a child. The path was not easy. He had to learn German and also keep his studies so as not to weigh too much on his parents due to the high cost of living in Switzerland.

He proudly pointed out that not many foreign students in Switzerland decide to follow a humanistic curriculum, moreover archaeological. But he had clear ideas and with his head down he went ahead with his project. Now, on the threshold of thirty years, he has to decide what to do when he grows up: his goal would be to continue digging and finding artifacts while forming a family with his Spanish girlfriend who… guess what her name is? Rosalia!

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Rosalia
Rosalia
This travel blog with the dog is a personal selection of our best experiences, our favorite spots and secrets places around the world curated by Rosalia e Michele.

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