The Faculty of Classics of the University of Cambridge (Prof Martin J. Millett, Dr Alessandro Launaro), in collaboration with the British School at Rome and the Archaeological Prospection Services of Southampton (Universrity of Southampton) and the Soprintendenza Archeologica del Lazio (Dr Giovanna R. Bellini), and with the support of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research and the Comune di Pignataro Interamna, has carried out preliminary non-destructive archaeological research at the site of the Roman town of Interamna Lirenas and in the territory immediately to the North from there (Contrada Termine, Santa Croce). This fieldwork season (5-25 September 2010) has involved 4 main activities:
- geophysical prospections (6-11 September);
- recording of standing archaeological remains (13 September);
- systematic field-survey (15-20 September);
- analysis and study of archaeological materials (6-24 September).
The 2010 Fieldwork Season: areas of geophysical prospection (light red) and field survey (light green), the main urban area of Interamna Lirenas (red outline) and the via Latina vetus (yellow line) (for a larger view click here).
All results from the different fieldwork activities converge in confirming the substantial success of the chosen methodologies in relation to the environmental and archaeological nature of the study area.
Magnetometry has unquestionably shown its effectiveness by collecting a huge amount of data in a relatively short amount of time. Accordingly, the nature of the buried archaeology combined with the specific topographic and geological features of the area have doubtlessly indicated this technique as the most suitable. On the other hand, systematic field-survey hugely benefitted from its intensive character, which – among other things – is the reason behind the recovery of 4 new sites in areas already investigated by the Canadian team. The fact that these sites are of rather limited size supports this opinion (a similar argument can be made with reference to offsites).
A lot of time has been devoted to the analysis and study of collected archaeological materials. Results have surpassed our most optimistic expectations in terms of both quantity and quality of finds. Out of ca. 1802 field-survey finds, about 221 were diagnostic and therefore comparable with published materials. Coarseware especially has provided outstanding results as for its dating potential. Nonetheless it is clear that the quantity of collected finds has ended up absorbing more resources than might have been necessary. Indeed it is certainly possible – and to some degree even advisable – to accelerate the analysis and study of archaeological materials in such a way as to allow a wider – and in this sense more representative – territorial coverage by field-survey. This can be actually achieved by being more selective during onsite collection, that is by introducing a sampling strategy limited to diagnostic sherds, sufficiently diffused and informative to allow a proper and complete understanding of the surface evidence. In any case, the knowledge of local fabrics and forms – which has been effectively acquired during this first season – will certainly improve the speed of data-processing in future campaigns.
In terms of archaeological interpretation, the geophysical prospection suggests the existence of better-preserved urban sectors towards NO. Nonetheless it is still premature to present global interpretations based on such a limited investigation. Same caution must be paid to any interpretation of the landscape which cannot be based on such a limited (i.e. un-representative) statistical population (6 sites and 15 offsites).
This exploratory fieldwork season aimed to produce a preliminary appraisal of the effectiveness of well defined methodologies in relation to the archaeological and environmental nature of the area. Such an appraisal – it is worth stressing it – has produced outstanding results and prompts further fieldwork seasons to be carried out.
In addition to proper research activities – and somewhat complementary to them – a lot of emphasis has been put towards making our presence and fieldwork well known to the local population. During the whole period of the geophysical survey the archaeological area has been kept constantly open to anyone curious about it and willing to spend some time getting to know it. Groups of people were taken on tours of the site and explained about the work we as archaeologist were actually doing. In addition to that, a public presentation was made at the local Library of Pignataro Interamna for an audience made primarily (but not exclusively) of students from the local school (10-14 years old). On initiative of the Mayor of Pignataro Interamna we received the visit of a journalist form the Italian newspaper Il Messagero – Frosinone and a long article was therefore published in the September 11th issue.
These preliminary results have been presented at the 8th Annual Conference of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Lazio (31 March - 2 April 2011) and will be published in the Lazio e Sabina proceedings (2012).
It seems appropriate at this point to define possible lines of fieldwork research to be adopted in future activities to promote both knowledge and preservation of Interamna Lirenas and its territory.
In light of what has been presented and discussed so far it is clear that a geophysical prospection (inclusive of topographic survey) covering the whole urban area (ca. 27 ha still to be done) could not but help towards preserving, understanding and promoting the urban area, also in consideration of possible future excavations. In the same way it appears crucial to extend the field-survey in such a way as to define a wider and spatially consistent study area, in this way capable of constituting the base of a punctual and efficient map of archaeological risk (possibly in GIS format). It goes without saying that none of the above activities can properly take place apart from appropriate analysis and processing of the material culture, especially in its local and sub-regional expressions.