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Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy


In the Autumn of 2015 the Archaeological Superintendence of Fine Arts and Landscape of Abruzzo, with the support of the Archeoclub of Crecchio, started the first archaeological investigations in the district of S. Maria Cardetola bringing to light precious ancient materials in the same area where, in 1855, the famous stele with an Oscan inscription was discovered.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
During the excavations numerous artefacts belonging to a large votive deposit were brought to light and identified, including black painted pottery, numerous terracotta statuettes depicting animals, female priests and divinities, clay plaques depicting a mysterious face of a woman flanked by a torch, testifying to an ancient Italic cult evidently attributable to a cthonic goddess, perhaps Keres or Kardea who, with Greek iconographic attributes typical of Demeter or Persephone, was venerated by the Frentanians.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
Almost 100 burials have been excavated so far, dating from the end of the sixth to the fourth centuries BC. The richness of the necropolis and the variety of grave goods unearthed is remarkable, especially from this latter period.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
The discovery of two unique bronze helmets, one of Montefortino type (T.52) and one of Negau type (T.53), is particularly exceptional. The first of the two is very well preserved, an important fact considering that of the forty or so helmets discovered in Abruzzo so far only 4-5 come from specific archaeological contexts.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
In one tomb (T.13), in addition to the abundant pottery, a bronze band that widened on the forehead of the deceased to form a circular phalera or cameo was recovered, a discovery so far unparalleled in Abruzzo or neighbouring regions, and which is thought to be a sign of the high social status of the deceased, perhaps a magistrate or a priest.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
In some of the male tombs there are rarer items, which illustrate the evolution of military weapons in Italy during and after the Samnite wars, including several narrow and long javelin points (T.52) similar the Roman 'pilum' or the 'saunion' of the Samnites and two short swords (Tombs 21 and 52), possible forerunners of the Roman 'gladii'.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
Other finds in male burials include 8 bronze waist bands, a symbol of citizenship that Samnite warriors wore with pride. Another 3 waist bands belonging to infants have also been recovered. Funeral banquets is testified by the frequent presence of complete cooking utensils, including knives and skewers of various types and sizes.


Of particular importance, given the agrarian economy of the territory, is the information provided by the excavations for the consumption of wine, evidenced in the burials by the deposition of cups, large olla or wine jars, bronze sieves or strainers, and graters used to aromatize wine with spices. Resin residues found in one wine jar (T.33) were still perceptible by smell at the time of excavation, and may reveal interesting palaeobotanical evidence.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
Numerous bronze vases, including cauldrons and a rare patera with an omega hook (T.53), were also found, perhaps imported from Magna Graecia or the Tyrrhenian Sea; other imports include painted Daunian ceramic vases from northern Apulia.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
The combination of internment and incineration burials, a practice almost unknown among the Italic tribes in Abruzzo, and various foreign items like the Greek strigil, bear witness to important cultural changes that occurred after the Samnite Wars with the opening of these territories to the larger Mediterranean world. Likewise, the discovery of three chamber tombs with a descending dromos is also typical of the Hellenistic Mediterranean, from Puglia to the Middle East.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
The numerous female tombs are also characterized by rich grave goods, and typically include iron or bronze fibulae placed on the shoulders of the deceased on which precious imported objects were hung, testifying not only to a display of wealth but also to the commercial contacts that probably took place through the nearby port of Ortona, which was certainly already active in the fourth century BC.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
Other objects found in the female burials include bronze pendants of various shapes, precious yellow and red Baltic amber, discs made of ivory from North Africa, necklaces of beads made of blue glass paste, simple or adorned with eyes, of clear Punic origin, gold decorations that once adorned clothing, and fibulas of silver, perhaps of Tarantine origin.

Large Frentani necropolis excavated in Central Italy
Credit: SABAP Abruzzo
The tombs identified so far were located at a considerable depth, ranging between 1 and 4 metres, and filled with stones and rubble sometimes exceeding a ton of weight, which fortunately made it difficult for illegal excavators to find them.

The surveillance of the area by the local authorities has allowed and still allows work to be carried out on this valuable site, the discovery of which represents an important opportunity for the development of the local economy.

Source: Fame di Sud [July 22, 2018]

TANN

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