Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Bronze-Age Venice Volume 55 Number 4, July/August 2002
by Jarrett A. Lobell

A stunning discovery is rewriting the history of southern Italy's Bronze Age. Archaeologists working in Campania have uncovered a 4,000-year-old settlement made up of small artificial islets. Called the "Bronze Age Venice" by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompeii, the new site near Poggiomarino was discovered during construction of a water purification system for the fetid Sarno River.

The site, near Nola, recently heralded as a "Bronze Age Pompeii" ("Move Over Pompeii," March/April), is actually made up of a series of settlements dating from the Bronze Age to the sixth century B.C.

There is evidence of stilt houses and drainage systems, and the settlements' small islets are separated by artificial canals whose edges were strengthened with vertical logs later replaced by squared timbers. Renato Peroni, a leader of the excavation, says this is "the first finding of a swamp community" in southern Italy. The islets, joined by bridges, may have eventually been home to as many as 2,000 people and were enlarged several times over the centuries to accommodate the community's growing population. The remains of wooden huts, stands for dugout canoes, furnishings, as well as evidence of bronze and perhaps amber working, have also been found.

The site was abandoned during sixth-century floods and mudslides, and scholars say it is possible that the deserters of Poggiomarino were, in fact, the founders of Pompeii. Although there were people living in the area that became Pompeii before this time, such an influx would have been the first major population boom for the doomed city. The site will be destroyed during construction of the sewage treatment plant next year. "Once excavations are finished much of what has been found will disappear," says Pietro Giovanno Guzzo, archaeological superintendent of Pompeii.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America