The aim of this paper is to spread some light on the socio-economics and environmental dynamics which took place between the Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, and which played a role in the reshaping of the post-classical settlement pattern in the Salento region (Southern Apulia). The research programs carried out over the last two decades by the Laboratory for Medieval Archaeology of the University of Salento have led to the creation of a GIS database of settlements and other archaeological evidence dating to the Middle Ages. This huge archaeo-historical dataset is correlated with evidence from different disciplines (archaeobotanic, archaeozoology, geology, pedology, climatology and many others). The extensive survey of the region has been integrated by more in-depth “micro-regional intensive survey” projects aimed to seek an answer to specific research questions. During the late roman imperial period and until the first decades of the 6th century, the local settlement pattern was characterized by few major cities, a certain number of rural villages (vici) and a huge quantity of small sites, mostly recognized by pottery scatters individuated during fieldworks and usually interpreted as generic farmsteads. Quantitative analyses based on archaeological datasets clearly display that a substantial decrease in the number of settlements took part during the course of 6th century, when many roman towns and villages underwent abandonment or severe resize. The dissolution of the pre-existent settlement pattern can be read as an aspect of the collapse of the Roman Imperial and Late Antique economic system, also due to traumatic events such as the Greek-Gothic War, the Justinianic Plague and the Lombard conquest of Italy. Many of the imported artefacts, mainly African and Aegean transport amphorae and domestic fine wares, broadly diffused also in the smaller rural sites in the inland part of the region until the mid-6th century, suddenly disappear from later ceramic assemblages, with the only exception of those found in few privileged places such as Otranto. However, the general picture of the rural organisation during the transitional period between the end of the 6th and the mid-7th century is far for clear, due to the lack in our knowledge about local material culture. According to the evidence collected through different fieldworks, after the hiatus of the 6th-7th century, the region witnessed a sensible and diffuse growth in the number of rural settlements. Surveys conducted in the Alimini Lakes area, north of the port-town of Otranto, revealed a flourishing of medium and small Imperial and Late Antique settlements in a previously almost deserted landscape, reflecting a situation documented elsewhere in Salento (e.g. in the hinterland of Vaste). A general reassessment of the settlement pattern took place during the Early Byzantine period, with the abandonment of some of the afore mentioned sites and the appearance of a certain number of farms and villages in previously unoccupied locations. One of these sites, at Loc. Pagliarone, excavated in 2010, has revealed traces of occupation spanning from at least the 8th until the 13th century. Palynological analyses show a rapid growth of olive cultivation in the area, confirming the picture emerging from archaeological researches. A similar demographic trend is recorded in the strip comprised between the city of Lecce and the Adriatic port of San Cataldo, where 13 small farms or hamlets dating to the 7th-9th century have been recognized during field survey. Also along the west coast of the peninsula, in the territory of Nardò, archaeological fieldworks showed that many of the casalia mentioned in the late medieval documents were already in existence during the Early Middle Ages. In addition to the aforementioned fieldworks, some infrasite surveys and excavations have been conducted with the intent to enhance our knowledge about early medieval settlement dynamics and forms. The site excavated at Loc. Scorpo, near Supersano, is the best known local example of a Byzantine village. It consists of a group of sunken-featured structures, some of which have been interpreted as huts (grubenhauser), located in a marginal landscape, at the near edges of a forest and a marsh. The village lifetime spans from the second half of the 7th to the end of the 8th or the beginning of the 9th century, as proved by radio carbon and RHX dating. A short and sporadic reoccupation of the site is documented around the 10th-11th century. The early medieval village found at Scorpo was founded in a previously unoccupied area, and apparently the only roman imperial settlement in the vicinity (Loc. Falconiera) is about 1 km far. On the basis of excavations and infrasite surveys, at least three settlement models have been recognized, which summarize the archaeological records of the region: Byzantine rural settlements which developed in the same location or in proximity of pre-existent Roman sites and disappeared within the Early Middle Ages (e.g. the village found at Loc. S. Elia, Corigliano); Byzantine rural settlements which occupied the same location of pre-existent Roman sites and survived until the end of the Middle Ages (e.g. the multistratified site at Loc. Badia, Cutrofiano); early medieval foundations which survived at least until the end of the Middle Ages (e.g. the medieval village of S. Maria de la Vetrana). The domestic assemblages found at these early medieval sites show strong link with byzantine models until the second half of the 9th century, revealing the existence of a cultural koiné including the lower Adriatic territories. Long distance trades seem to involve only the major cities and the coastal towns, while pottery and globular amphorae of local production are predominant in the hinterland villages. The only imported artefacts found in the excavations at Scorpo and Apigliano are some rotary querns made from volcanic stone maybe from Etna and Melos and a few high valuable objects. According to the presented archaeological data, collected through excavations and fieldworks in various part of the Salento, the number of rural settlements seem to increase during the very first centuries of the Early Middle Ages, maybe already at the end of the 7th century. The archaeological evidence clearly testifies that in most of the cases we deal with small human foci, with a predominantly autarchic economy and sometimes inclined to the production of small surpluses. The growing number of villages and farms is not necessarily linked with a demographic boost, yet it could be the consequence of an extreme fragmentation of settlement dynamics during a period of economic reorganization. At the status of our knowledge is pretty hard trying to define some hierarchical structure. However, it seems possible to identify a complementary role played in the regional economy by village communities devoted to agricultural production and a few major élite centres of consumption and redistribution of goods. Anyway, this exasperated fragmentation of the human habitat could be one symptom of the expansion of cultivated areas, probably linked to the initiative of the Byzantine élites and/or authorities. A new reassessment in the local settlement pattern is documented in the Salento between the second half of the 9th and the beginning of the following century, when many small villages and farms were abandoned to the advantage of some privileged centres, in the context of a general reorganization of the land system in Terra d’Otranto.

Il Salento rurale nell’Altomedioevo. Territorio, insediamenti e cultura materiale

Arthur P.;Leo Imperiale M.;Muci G.
2018

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to spread some light on the socio-economics and environmental dynamics which took place between the Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, and which played a role in the reshaping of the post-classical settlement pattern in the Salento region (Southern Apulia). The research programs carried out over the last two decades by the Laboratory for Medieval Archaeology of the University of Salento have led to the creation of a GIS database of settlements and other archaeological evidence dating to the Middle Ages. This huge archaeo-historical dataset is correlated with evidence from different disciplines (archaeobotanic, archaeozoology, geology, pedology, climatology and many others). The extensive survey of the region has been integrated by more in-depth “micro-regional intensive survey” projects aimed to seek an answer to specific research questions. During the late roman imperial period and until the first decades of the 6th century, the local settlement pattern was characterized by few major cities, a certain number of rural villages (vici) and a huge quantity of small sites, mostly recognized by pottery scatters individuated during fieldworks and usually interpreted as generic farmsteads. Quantitative analyses based on archaeological datasets clearly display that a substantial decrease in the number of settlements took part during the course of 6th century, when many roman towns and villages underwent abandonment or severe resize. The dissolution of the pre-existent settlement pattern can be read as an aspect of the collapse of the Roman Imperial and Late Antique economic system, also due to traumatic events such as the Greek-Gothic War, the Justinianic Plague and the Lombard conquest of Italy. Many of the imported artefacts, mainly African and Aegean transport amphorae and domestic fine wares, broadly diffused also in the smaller rural sites in the inland part of the region until the mid-6th century, suddenly disappear from later ceramic assemblages, with the only exception of those found in few privileged places such as Otranto. However, the general picture of the rural organisation during the transitional period between the end of the 6th and the mid-7th century is far for clear, due to the lack in our knowledge about local material culture. According to the evidence collected through different fieldworks, after the hiatus of the 6th-7th century, the region witnessed a sensible and diffuse growth in the number of rural settlements. Surveys conducted in the Alimini Lakes area, north of the port-town of Otranto, revealed a flourishing of medium and small Imperial and Late Antique settlements in a previously almost deserted landscape, reflecting a situation documented elsewhere in Salento (e.g. in the hinterland of Vaste). A general reassessment of the settlement pattern took place during the Early Byzantine period, with the abandonment of some of the afore mentioned sites and the appearance of a certain number of farms and villages in previously unoccupied locations. One of these sites, at Loc. Pagliarone, excavated in 2010, has revealed traces of occupation spanning from at least the 8th until the 13th century. Palynological analyses show a rapid growth of olive cultivation in the area, confirming the picture emerging from archaeological researches. A similar demographic trend is recorded in the strip comprised between the city of Lecce and the Adriatic port of San Cataldo, where 13 small farms or hamlets dating to the 7th-9th century have been recognized during field survey. Also along the west coast of the peninsula, in the territory of Nardò, archaeological fieldworks showed that many of the casalia mentioned in the late medieval documents were already in existence during the Early Middle Ages. In addition to the aforementioned fieldworks, some infrasite surveys and excavations have been conducted with the intent to enhance our knowledge about early medieval settlement dynamics and forms. The site excavated at Loc. Scorpo, near Supersano, is the best known local example of a Byzantine village. It consists of a group of sunken-featured structures, some of which have been interpreted as huts (grubenhauser), located in a marginal landscape, at the near edges of a forest and a marsh. The village lifetime spans from the second half of the 7th to the end of the 8th or the beginning of the 9th century, as proved by radio carbon and RHX dating. A short and sporadic reoccupation of the site is documented around the 10th-11th century. The early medieval village found at Scorpo was founded in a previously unoccupied area, and apparently the only roman imperial settlement in the vicinity (Loc. Falconiera) is about 1 km far. On the basis of excavations and infrasite surveys, at least three settlement models have been recognized, which summarize the archaeological records of the region: Byzantine rural settlements which developed in the same location or in proximity of pre-existent Roman sites and disappeared within the Early Middle Ages (e.g. the village found at Loc. S. Elia, Corigliano); Byzantine rural settlements which occupied the same location of pre-existent Roman sites and survived until the end of the Middle Ages (e.g. the multistratified site at Loc. Badia, Cutrofiano); early medieval foundations which survived at least until the end of the Middle Ages (e.g. the medieval village of S. Maria de la Vetrana). The domestic assemblages found at these early medieval sites show strong link with byzantine models until the second half of the 9th century, revealing the existence of a cultural koiné including the lower Adriatic territories. Long distance trades seem to involve only the major cities and the coastal towns, while pottery and globular amphorae of local production are predominant in the hinterland villages. The only imported artefacts found in the excavations at Scorpo and Apigliano are some rotary querns made from volcanic stone maybe from Etna and Melos and a few high valuable objects. According to the presented archaeological data, collected through excavations and fieldworks in various part of the Salento, the number of rural settlements seem to increase during the very first centuries of the Early Middle Ages, maybe already at the end of the 7th century. The archaeological evidence clearly testifies that in most of the cases we deal with small human foci, with a predominantly autarchic economy and sometimes inclined to the production of small surpluses. The growing number of villages and farms is not necessarily linked with a demographic boost, yet it could be the consequence of an extreme fragmentation of settlement dynamics during a period of economic reorganization. At the status of our knowledge is pretty hard trying to define some hierarchical structure. However, it seems possible to identify a complementary role played in the regional economy by village communities devoted to agricultural production and a few major élite centres of consumption and redistribution of goods. Anyway, this exasperated fragmentation of the human habitat could be one symptom of the expansion of cultivated areas, probably linked to the initiative of the Byzantine élites and/or authorities. A new reassessment in the local settlement pattern is documented in the Salento between the second half of the 9th and the beginning of the following century, when many small villages and farms were abandoned to the advantage of some privileged centres, in the context of a general reorganization of the land system in Terra d’Otranto.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11587/445165
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