The Vultur: a hidden valley in Italy

Dr Richard Fletcher, University College London

6.00-7.00pm, Main Hall, University College Isle of Man (free admission, no booking required)

The Vultur Archaeological Project is a large excavation and survey in a valley in the mountainous region of south Italy, known in antiquity as Lucania. The area is dominated by an extinct volcano called “Il Vulture”, described by Horace as a wild place from his youth. Its only other claim to fame was that in the 13th century the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II used the area as his favorite hunting spot, and built or restored three castles within the area at Melfi, Lago Pesole and in the Ofanto, creating a ring of castles around the Vultur valley.

Before the Vultur project, the valley was considered archaeologically uninteresting, if not actually barren. The success of the project has been in proving that Horace’s “trackless Vultur” was, in fact, an area of large farms, villas and bathhouses that has been continuously occupied from the Palaeolithic through to the present. The people who lived in this valley span Homo erectus, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, Mesolithic hunters, Neolithic farmers and all the people of Italic history – even Hannibal purportedly had a winter camp here. The central excavation of the project is a Roman villa of enormous dimensions, which was occupied well into the 7th century AD and had its last incarnation as a farmhouse for what may have been on of Frederick II’s Arab bodyguards.

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