Basentello Valley Regional Survey

320 px wideWhile the excavation of the imperial estate at San Felice/Vagnari and its associated necropolis has produced a great deal of archaeological, osteological, and environmental data over the past decade that informs us about economic activities at the site, its ownership and architectural history, and the origin, health, and diet of the site’s residents, without context it is extremely difficult to interpret the significance of these date sets. As a result of this, the directors of the Basentello Valley Archaeological Research Project (BVARP) decided to initiate a substantial, extensive regional field survey to the west of the Basentello River in tihe territories of Genzano di Lucania, Banzi, and Irsina. In part, the decision to focus on this territory was determined by its proximity to the imperial estate at San Felice/Vagnari. It was also evident that the survey of this territory would complement previous regional analyses, including survey work elsewhere in the Basentello Valley directed by Carola Small in the territories of Gravina and Irsina, as well as surveys directed by Maria Luisa Marchi (Ager Venusinus), Peter Vinson (the route of the Via Appia between Venusia and Silvium), and Helena Fracchia (Upper Bradano/Oppido Lucano).

The survey allows us to understand better the settlement patterns, site types, and site hierarchies that developed within the region from the Iron Age through the Medieval period, although we collect material from all historical periods. Moreover, in our search to understand the effects of the Roman presence in this part of southern Italy, we are keen to discern changes of settlement, site types, land ownership patterns, and demography during key historical periods and to ascertain to what degree these changes may be linked to the development of new or hybrid cultural systems in the Basentello River Valley. As our survey territory touches on both the Basentello and elements of the Upper Bradano River Valley, we are also curious to see if there are significant spatial variations in all of the aforementioned elements.

The survey territory covers approximately 200 square kilometers and is comprised of small hills and plateaux, a few small river valleys, and the fluvial terrace to the west of the Basentello River. Roughly at the center of the survey territory is the hill of Monte Serico on which rests the recently restored Castello di Monte Serico, although the southern part of the survey territory consists of a number of eroded hills (Serra Montavuto; Serra di Battaglia) that are almost as large. Almost the entire survey zone, save for small woodlands to the immediate east of Genzano di Lucania and above the Lago di Serra del Corvo, is currently given over to cereal agriculture, so the potential for field survey is exceptional. Indeed, after the harvest and ploughing, from mid-July through to October, it is possible to conduct systematic field walking throughout almost the entire territory.

320 px wideStarting in the summer of 2011, we began preliminary work on the field survey, refining our methodology and determining how we might approach field walking, collection, and recording. The summer of 2012 marked the first full-scale field survey, which involved a group of 20 field walkers divided into three teams that covered a total of ca. 30 square kilometers. During the summers of 2013 and 2014, teams managed to cover an additional 45 square kilometers, much of it the highlands to the immediate west of the Basentello. In the summer of 2015 we indend to bring the total area covered to just a little over 100 square kilometers. To date, we have identified a total of 177 sites of various sizes (from less than 1/10 of a hectare to the site at Monte Serico, where the surface scatter covers almost 10 hectares), from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages, including a significant number of Late Antique sites.

We intend to apply for permission to engage in both remote sensing and test-pitting at a selection of sites throughout the survey territory during the summer of 2016.