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The McMaster Metaponto Archaeological Project Completes Its Third Season


The Field Project

The Metaponto Archaeological Project conducted its third season of fieldwork in 2019; this year marks the expansion of the project to include archaeological excavation at the Iron Age site Incoronata in addition to field survey.

Figure 1: Aerial View of Incoronata (Pisticci, Basilicata, Italy)


The Site

The ancient Greek city of Metaponto was founded towards the end of the seventh century BCE in what is today Basilicata, located on the instep of the boot of the Italian peninsula. The territory of Metaponto was already home to Greek settlers living within indigenous communities at that time, but the formal foundation of the city changed that relationship with the appropriation of vast territory called the chora, amounting to over 400 km2. This land had many functions, but, above all, was used for agricultural production including grain, vines, and olive groves. Accordingly, it was occupied by farmsteads, necropolis, and sanctuaries. While excavations of Greek cities provide a clear picture of urbanization and the development of central spaces, occupation of the chora is more difficult to assess; archaeological field survey in the chora of Metaponto has permitted nearly unparalleled insights into the territory of a Greek city and land use in antiquity.


The Project

The Metaponto Archaeological Project, co-directed by Dr. Sveva Savelli and Dr. Spencer Pope, conducts archaeological research thanks to a concession from the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio della Basilicata. Housed in the Department of Classics, the project collaborates with the McMaster GIS Laboratory and the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences. The project is aimed at reconstructing ancient patterns of land use and tracing the interactions between the indigenous populations of Southern Italy and Greek settlers.


Archaeological Excavation

The Metaponto Archaeological Project began excavations at Incoronata ‘greca’ in 2019. Located c. 8 km from the city centre of Metaponto in the modern Municipality of Pisticci, the site was first home to an extensive settlement by the indigenous population of the area, the Oenotrians, and later became an extraurban sanctuary of the Greek city. The site is particularly significant for a period of co-occupation by Greeks and Oneotrians prior to the foundation of Metaponto circa 630 BCE. The “mixed” settlement demonstrates both the mercantile nature of early Greek presence on the Ionian coast and the willing reception of Greek goods and culture on the part of the Oenotrians.

Excavations in 2019 yielded portions of indigenous huts that contained both Greek and indigenous ceramics, and a portion of a street, an indicator of nascent urbanism at the site.

Figure 2: Dr. Pope works with McMaster undergraduate Shanna Ingram


Figure 3: Dr. Savelli examines a find with McMaster Classics PhD student Christine Davidson and McMaster M.A. graduate Jayden Lloyd.


Archaeological Surface Survey

Field survey comprises systematic scanning of open spaces to collect artifacts found on the surface of the ground. Finds are mapped with GIS technology and then analyzed for date and type. Together these studies are able to reconstruct the history of occupation of the countryside.

Figure 4: Archaeological surface survey with McMaster Classics major Olivia Parker, Ph.D. student Adrian Proestos, and Prof. Spencer Pope. Photo by Christine Davidson.


The Team

In 2019, eight McMaster students, ranging from undergraduate to doctoral candidates, participated in the fieldwork and contributed to all facets of the research. A rotation of students participated in field survey, and on most days spent time on the excavation. The team passed most afternoons in the laboratory carrying out analyses of the finds and the consolation of field data. GIS maps were updated with survey area and find spots and added to the data base, while finds from the excavation were washed, labeled, sorted, identified, and photographed. Special finds were also drawn.

Figure 5: Prof. Pope and Christine Davidson assist Prof. Patrick Deluca of the McMaster GIS Laboratory and the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences carry out remote sensing with a drone flight.



Figure 6: Christine Davidson, Chris He, Silvia Zhu, Shanna Ingram, Olivia Parker, Eric Del Fabbro, and Adrian Proestos, Sveva Savelli, Spencer Pope



Figure 7: Drone selfie with (l-r) Eric Del Fabbro, Jayden Lloyd, archaeologist Felice Perciante, archaeologist Amedeo Rossi, Shanna Ingram, Christine Davidson (with blackboard), Adrian Proestos, archaeologist Leonardo Castellaneta, Spencer Pope.



Figure 8: M.A. student Chris He (left) works with McMaster Classics major Silvia Zhu sorting pottery from the excavation.



Figure 9: The team was pleased to host McMaster University Faculty of Humanities Associate Dean (Academic), Dr. Sean Corner (second from right), for a visit to the site. The municipality recently dedicated a statue to Pythagoras to record that the Greek mathematician and philosopher passed away at Metaponto. L-R Adrian Proestos, Mack Hilton, Erid Del Fabbro, Pythagoras (inside glass), Christine Davidson, Shanna Ingram, Chris He, Sean Corner, Spencer Pope.



Figure 10: McMaster Classics PhD candidate Christine Davidson is master of all she surveys.


The full team includes Archaeologists Amedeo Rossi, Felice Perciante, Lara Cossalter and Francesca Silvestrelli; Illustrator Miranda Siklenka and Prof. Elzbieta Grodek of the Dept. of French at McMaster University.