The forum at Iuvanum












This survey has developed out of the excavation project around Monte Pallano, now directed by Edward Bispham (Oxford University) and Susan Kane (Oberlin College, Ohio), which forms part of the second phase of the Sangro Valley Survey. It was set up in 1999 in conjunction with Sandra Lapenna, the Ispettrice of the Soprintendenza Archeologica for this area, and Prof. E. Fabbricotti, who has excavated at Iuvanum for the last twenty years. The project is directed jointly by Guy Bradley (Cardiff) and Oliva Menozzi (Oxford/Chieti). John Hawthorne (ex Newcastle University) was a co-director of the project in its first year. The project has received financial and other support from the Soprintendenza Archeologica dell'Abruzzo, the British Academy, and the universities of Cardiff and Chieti.

Research objectives

The research objectives of the project are closely related to the extraordinary position of the Roman municipium of Iuvanum, situated high on a plateau between the Aventino and Sangro valleys in central Italy, an area which is dominated by the massif of the Maiella. The site has a pair of temples, a theatre and a monumental forum complex. The survey project will focus on two crucial eras in the history of the town and its territory: from around 500 BC to the early imperial period the local population created hillforts in the territory and then the monumental urban centre; in late antiquity and the early medieval period the city of Iuvanum was abandoned in favour of new sites elsewhere in the territory.

Although there has been considerable archaeological investigation of the city site since the 1940s, no systematic work has been done on the surrounding agricultural territory, which is often assumed to have been dominated by pastoralism and transhumance in antiquity. The results of the first season's survey already suggest that the area immediately round the city was extensively and successfully farmed in antiquity. A high proportion of the  rural sites we have identified from material scatters have produced impasto pottery, characteristic of the period before the Roman conquest, suggesting that striking continuities of rural settlement lay behind the creation of hillforts and the monumental urban centre in this territory.

Iuvanum forum inscription.bmp (104294 bytes)             Roman inscription from the forum

The project is designed to explore what processes were generating these patterns of settlement in the landscape, and aims to go beyond the largely demographic and economic focuses of many survey projects in the Italian countryside. This requires a consideration of the priorities, perceptions and identities both of the area's inhabitants and of the authorities (both local and Roman) under whose domination it fell. How far, for instance, are the apparent shifts in settlement pattern linked to shifts in the identities of the individuals living in this area in terms of ethnic groups and communities centred around towns, hillforts and even villas? The project is also focused on the distribution of ritual space within the landscape alongside economic trends in ancient landholding. To pursue this agenda, archaeological work will be integrated with a thorough examination of local historical evidence.

Methodology and research programme

The main component of our methodology is systematic intensive field walking, mostly in teams of 5 walkers spaced at 10 m intervals. We estimate that fourteen square kilometres can be walked in three seasons, based on the progress of the Sangro Valley Survey, and on the first season's work, which has already covered 180 fields. This area has been divided into selective transects centred on the ancient town; for the first season these were laid on a probabilistic basis around the city site and on the slopes below the hillforts. The success of the initial methodology we employed, which drew on and adapted techniques from the Sangro Valley Survey, strongly suggests that it should be extended beyond the immediate vicinity of the city and hillforts. Further transects will be laid on a random basis to give a more representative cross section of the landscape and its varied topography, and extensive survey of outlying areas beyond the transects will also be conducted.

We aim to complement field walking with other strategies, such as the investigation of scatter sites by excavation and by a geophysical work, which should clarify the extent of structures found by field walking. The team also expects to be able to commission specific aerial photographs of the territory, and will collect paleo-environmental information using material from excavation which will establish the extent to which shifts in settlement pattern were paralleled by environmental changes such as deforestation. These other techniques should enable us to control the data produced by intensive field walking, and to determine the extent to which the visibility of sites within the ploughsoil is being affected by factors such as an increase in pottery supply to the area.

The results of the survey are being entered into a database and a GIS system, and interrogated in conjunction with historical analysis of other material from the area. The aim is ultimately to set the results into their regional context, relating them to comparable surveys in central Italy (e.g. of the Biferno and Sangro valleys), and to patterns of historical change in the societies of central Italy.

This project is planned to last three years in the first instance (from 2000-2002), with each annual season lasting for one month. The survey of the territory of Iuvanum offers an important case study for the use of up-to-date survey techniques in conjunction with a rich variety of other information, both from historical sources and from the excavation of the town centre. It is intended that the Soprintendenza Archeologica will use the results of the survey in the eventual creation of a museum on the site, which will also house material from the current excavations of the urban centre being undertaken by the University of Chieti.

Associated links (Italian homepage for the project)

This document is maintained by Guy Bradley. Last updated on 22.06.01

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