In Messapia, during the 6th century B.C., a deep transformation of peopling dynamics occurred. The settlement system was hierarchically organized with major and secondary towns. Small villages, sometimes arosing on the coast near a natural harbour, were distributed around and connected with few large size settlements. Major towns, like Cavallino, Oria and Ugento, get proto-urban characteristics like city walls, roads with conduits for the collection of rainwater, places of worship and houses with roof tiles. On a hill of the town of Oria, a sanctuary dedicated to Demetra was erected around the middle of the 6th century; its use continued till the 70’s of the 5th century. Monte Papalucio has been the subject of stratigraphic excavations conducted by the Università del Salento in cooperation with Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Puglia, under the direction of prof. Francesco D’Andria. The analysis of the stratigraphic sequences and the study of artefacts and ecofacts allow us to reconstruct some meaningful features of the holy place, like spatial organization and ritual performances. The functional analysis of the finds, in particular, has been carried out to recognize tools and offerings, and has brought to the identification of ablutions, libations, sacrifices, cooking and consumption of ritual meals. At the same time, the interaction between the place of worship and the town appears to be fundamental, and so, more generally, the interconnection with the settlement system in Northern Messapia. In particular, as has already been underlined, elements of discontinuity exist in the archaeological record. In the very same historical and cultural context we find different ways of spatial organization and cult management, as we can infer from the comparison between the data coming from the town of Oria and the small settlement of San Vito dei Normanni, where a kind of aristocratic palatial building has been brought to light.
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