Vigna Masci settlement forms

Between Imperial and Early Middle Ages

The main themes related to the settlement forms of Vigna Masci allow to define the importance of the population in a hilly area of ​​the territorium of Aecae.


The imperial age phase

The main phases of organization of the low hill are related to the conduction in the imperial age of a small-medium-sized rustic villa, to the deconstruction of the rural plant, to the burial needs of a demic nucleus in the early Middle Ages, to the processing of the products farms in the Norman-Swabian age. So extraordinary is the alternation of forms of continuity and discontinuity in the use of spaces, which mark all the centuries from the imperial age to the early Middle Ages, with the functional renewal of the site and changes in the structure of the property. The rustic villa with a rectangular plan therefore constitutes, with its residential character, a building reality well integrated within the framework of rural activities that mark the Aecae district from the Augustan age (fig 1).

The installation, linked to the agricultural use of landed property, is barely legible in its architectural and planimetric reality due to the character of the partial archaeological investigations and the remarkable transformations and functional modifications of the environments in the Late Antique Age, but the general lines of reconstruction of the organism's life phases do not deviate from the evolutionary models analyzed in the rural landscape of northern Apulia. See, for example, construction techniques in medium-thick walls made with stones and decorative plants for floors with cocciopesto (ancient technique for making a natural plaster based on lime and ground bricks) or clay lozenge bricks. This average property must have entered into crisis during the III century AD as revealed by the deterioration of housing forms following the reorganization of land exploitation for large estates.


Late Antique and High Middle age

The continuous attendance of the site emerges with the topographic distribution and the chronological progression of two different burial areas that constitute the main archaeological evidence between the 6th and 7th centuries AD (Fig. 2), in a historical phase of great impact on the dynamics of rural populations for the outcomes of the Greek-Gothic war (535-553) and the subsequent annexation of the Daunia lands in the Longobard duchy of Benevento. The largely degraded rural building with partially shaved walls must have been the landmark of the early medieval community.

From the point of view of the sepulchral typologies reserved for a small nucleus of the local population the cemetery sector located about 82 ft. north from the ruins of the Roman age building from the burial areas in simple terracotta pits with brick covering, with different orientation, occupy previously free bands by aggregating in groups that are continuous and close to the perimeter of the building. The arrangement of inhumations for homogeneous human groups, with burials of adults of both sexes and an important presence of infantile burials, makes it possible to hypothesise family ties, while the social characterization of individuals, for the modesty of the outfits, is problematic.

The northern core of the cemetery is related to a family of 10 individuals with three adult individuals, an undetermined individual and infants of various age groups. The building typologies of this nucleus built in full respect of the structural guidelines of the Roman age see a greater accuracy in the funerary installations with tombs in cashier (Fig. 3) and depositional plan in bare earth with covering in large calcareous blocks. The burials are single except for the multiple tomb 17 with three infants. The nucleus of inhumations in the terrestrial pit is the most numerous, with 10 adult individuals, balanced as a male-female relationship, one not deductible and 9 infantile subjects.

With the exception of a few recurring personal objects destined exclusively for female burials, such as the single bronze earrings, of late-antique, Italic tradition, the connotation of material culture does not express particular associations. An exception is the burial of a young woman from the tomb 26 (Fig. 4) with an articulated set and a highly representative buckle of the type with zoomorphic terminations, with an acclamatory inscription. Calculating the presence of three generations, the burial ground seems to have been in use between the last quarter of the sixth and the middle of the seventh century AD.


The new noble powers

The territory of Troia expresses in Norman times new forms of population in part represented by the fortified nuclei in offshore positions, a prelude to the needs of demographic organization in urban forms and partly by artisanal and productive activities in the countryside subject to control by religious élites and nobles. Troia formed in the Norman age from the conquest in 1048 of Umfredo, eldest brother of Roberto the Guiscardo, the fulcrum of the defensive strategy in Capitanata and the expansionist politics of the Altavilla saw it in the foreground in the military events of the second half of the eleventh century of the duchy of Apulia. The bishopric of Troia, object of privileges and concessions until the Swabian age, is also of extraordinary importance.

The dependencies in the countryside entrusted to homines villani were therefore subject to the domination of monasteries and churches and with heavy duties of work in the fiefs of noble families. In a socio-economic context characterized by intense exploitation of the land, near the open areas of grain storage is located the so-called north building of Vigna Masci, structure with lyric perimeter and internal floor with piled support, significant evidence of the servants of the Norman age. Metallurgical activities were carried out in the annexed courtyard area, as it emerges from the analysis of burnt floors and metal waste. The numismatic find (1085-1087), a copper follaro (bronze or copper coin) attributable to Ruggero I the Granconte, is a good chronological reference for the settlement.


The frumentary pits: store underground

In the Norman age Vigna Masci is a site for storage, becoming a large wheat container as documented the 35 barns with trenches with circular shape. There is a numerical concentration of pits of limited capacity, systematically distributed in alignments that cut most of the early medieval burial pits. The pits are used as a landfill during the XIII century and partly transformed into limestone.

The problems related to the preservation of grains and the production of underground silos are well known in the Middle Ages and in Capitanata where between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries an excellent storage of cereals in hypogean holes is attested, a reflection of intense agricultural practices.

The presence of such a complex system in Vigna Masci presupposes the presence of excavation techniques of the pits, technologies for the conservation of agricultural reserves and specialized figures for the processing of foodstuffs and the sale of the same.

Marisa Corrente