1. About this introduction
2. Early Greek colonization
3. Greek settlement of Metaponto
4. UT archaeology at Metaponto
This introduction was created to provide users of the Lago del Lupo data with a minimum of background information. It is not intended to be, nor should it be considered, a definitive authority regarding Greek or Metapontine history and/or archaeology. For additional research in this area, you may wish to consult the References section of this introduction. Highlighted words are linked to other parts of this document or relevant images.
What may seem as a trivial point is actually a very important concept. Ancient Greek colonies were, in many respects, independent polities. There most definitely were political and economic ties with their founding territories, but the idea that these were far reaching extensions of an imperialistically motivated, unified Greek regime is erroneous. Greek colonization, therefore, should be thought of as an introduction of Greek culture into a new area by any one of a number of contemporaneous Greek civilizations.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that Greek colonization persisted, almost continuously, throughout ancient Greek history. Nevertheless, certain periods witnessed a greater degree of colonization than others. The period between 750 and 550 BC, for example, marked the first large-scale exodus of Greek culture from the Aegean, and was mainly targeted towards the Crimea and Marseilles. This expansion was motivated by an increased demand for trade goods by the flourishing and rapidly growing Aegean city- states. Another important period of colonization began around 440 BC, and was largely a consequence of peace (the war between Athenian allies and Persia ended in 448 BC, and the war between Athens and Sparta ended in 445 BC). Establishing colonies in Italy, Sicily, and the Black Sea territories were the main objectives this time.
Although these periods of colonization are well documented, they are typically generalized. New colonies are usually only referred to as Greek, even though a particular Greek territory was most likely responsible for the colonizing effort. Linking a colony to a particular Greek territory requires an extensive study of both the colony and any potential region of origin. Only relatively recently, have such detailed studies become commonplace.
Though the city of Metaponto was successful in its own right, it was the Metaponto chora that enabled the system to work. This symbiotic complex between the rural chora and urban center characterized the majority of Greek colonies, not just Metaponto. What makes Metaponto unique is that it is one of the few places where this relationship is directly observable in the archaeological record.
The Metaponto chora, provides an appealing archaeological opportunity for several reasons. First, the preservation of land division lines is rare. Very few sites still exhibit these ancient clues to rural land organization, and the potential information that they offer is immense. A second consideration is that, like most parts of the world, good land is a prime commodity in southern Italy, and archaeological sites continue to lose out to agricultural expansion. A final factor is that few studies have concentrated solely on rural settlements. Urban sites tend to receive the majority of archaeological attention and resources (the ancient urban center of Metaponto, for example, has been undergoing excavation for decades). An opportunity to shed light on unexplored areas is a goal of every archaeologist.
The goals of the UT Metaponto project, since its inception, have been to chronicle the changes in livelihood of the rural populations that inhabited the Metaponto chora, throughout Greek and Roman occupation (about 700 BC - 400 AD). Over the years, the project has evolved into a international multi-disciplinary collaboration, where specialists in the various sub-fields of archaeology could pool the resources and work towards a common goal. Accomplishments include the survey of a 42 square kilometer area (revealing over 500 sites), extensive excavation and study of ancient crops and fauna, as well as the excavation of almost a dozen rural sites, including several burials . Thousands of artifacts have been collected to aid in the analysis (including several hand- painted vases and other ceramic vessels ). In addition to Metaponto, the field crew has been working in the chora of Croton since 1983, conducting similar investigations.
Though analysis and interpretation phases of the study are still ongoing, much has been learned about the chora's inhabitants. Thanks to multi-disciplinary efforts, we now know intimate details about the health and nutrition, working conditions, eating habits, agricultural techniques, burial practices, material goods , and many other aspects of the everyday lives of the rural population of the Metaponto chora. To learn more about Metapontine history and archaeology, please refer to the References section of this introduction.
Carter, J. C. Excavations at Metaponto, 1978. Institute of Classical Archaeology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1978.
Carter, J. C. Excavations at Metaponto, 1979. Institute of Classical Archaeology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1979.
Carter, J. C. Excavations in the Territory, Metaponto, 1980. Institute of Classical Archaeology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1980.
Carter, J. C. (editor). The Territory of Metaponto 1981-1982. Institute of Classical Archaeology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1977.
Carter, J. C. (editor). The Pantanello Necropolis 1982-1989: An Interim Report. Institute of Classical Archaeology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1990.
Henneberg, Maciej, Renata Henneberg, and Joseph Coleman Carter. Health in Colonial Metaponto. National Geographic Research & Exploration, 8(4):446-459, 1992.
Uden, Grant (editor). Greece (Ancient). Longman Illustrated Encyclopedia of World History: 375-378, Ivy Leaf, London, 1989.