Annunciation and enthroned Christ, rock crypt of Santa Cristina in Carpignano Salentino (LE), Puglia (photo by M. De Giorgi)

The ‘Byzantine Heritage of Southern Italy’ project aims to be an archaeological exploration of some 500 years of Byzantine domination of Italy, when a substantial part of its power lay in a large interconnected, yet spatially fluctuating, block of territory that included Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia. Not only did this territory provide a fundamental resource to the survival of the Empire, but it also helped to forge the future of the Mezzogiorno. This includes settlement patterns and connectivity, language and religion, food and society, and, perhaps we might add, mentality. Nonetheless, this large territory was constantly changing in volume and boundaries and in social composition through politics and mobility. So even if we may speak of it as a significant entity, it was also somewhat of a palimpsest. The examination of the ‘Byzantine Heritage of Southern Italy’ is thus an examination of differences and contrasts, in which we will explore unity in disunity.


Byzantine Heritage of Southern Italy: the project

From an archaeological point-of-view, much has been written about the Byzantine reconquest of Italy in the 6th century and on the transition from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Paradoxically, whilst there are various historical works, similar archaeological studies, that assemble varied knowledge-bases, for the long period of Byzantine domination in the South, from the 6th to the 11th century, have not been attempted.

There is little interdisciplinary analysis and the various territories have largely been considered as separate entities. The period of some 500 years contributed substantially to culture, economy, settlement pattern and the landscape of the South, including the island of Sicily, until recently considered somewhat marginal, but now, despite its own regional diversities, gradually regaining its central role in the assessment of Byzantine politics and economy.

The connectivity across the Empire even impacted upon the genetic profile of the people, through contact, exchange and migrations between Western Europe, the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. The aim of this project is, thus, to provide a view of the Byzantine heritage and its role in the formation of the society of southern Italy, creating a dialogue between different sources (archaeological, documentary, climatic and environmental, anthropological, genetic, etc.) and above-all making the data from the diverse regions of southern Italy interact in a systemic fashion, through structured databases managed through a GIS, and as far as possible open-access.

The proposed integral vision relies on a plethora of sources, which analysis represents a distinct and coherent part of the research and an intermediate project objective.

The ultimate aim of the project is that of ‘rewriting’ part of Italy’s history from an original point-of-view, envisaging the southern part of the peninsula in its role as geographical centre of the Mediterranean Sea through an approach of global analysis or, in other words, finding explanation through the interaction of science-based data of varying nature. In part, this data has been gathered over the years by research institutions and Archaeological Suprintendencies, and often have not been processed, analysed or compared and contrasted with scientific precision.

The project also aims at playing an active role in communicating and divulging research results even amongst the general public, in line with the modern trends of public archaeology and history, hopefully also through an exhibition on “The Byzantines”, mirroring the recent and successful exhibition on “The Lombards” at the MANN Museum in Neaples, which might be hosted by both Italian and foreign museums. Therefore, the processing of the information, other than the normal scientific outlets, envisages public presentation, as well as the involvement of schools, so as to impact on local understanding and international tourism.


Animal resources: Jacopo De Grossi Mazzorin (responsible), Claudia Abatino

Anthropology (+ stable isotope analysis): Giorgia Tulumello

Archaeology of architecture: Roberta Giuliani (responsible), Nancy Mangialardi, Angelo Cardone, Stefania Alfarano

Botanical resources: Girolamo Fiorentino (responsible), Annamaria Grasso

Buildings of worship: Roberta Giuliani (responsible), Brunella Bruno

Cave settlements: Francesca Sogliani (responsible), Bruna Gargiulo, Stefano Calò

Census – BasilicataGrazia Lubraco / Gabriella Gramegna / Valentino Vitale

Census – Central northern Puglia (BA, BAT, FG)Valentino Romano

Census – Southern Puglia (LE, BR, TA): Stefania Alfarano / Giuseppe Muci

Ceramic material culture: Lucia Arcifa / Marco Leo Imperiale

Characterization of settlement  types and communications: Paolo Marcato / Angelo Cardone

Classical heritage in Byzantine artistic culture: Manuela De Giorgi / Katia Mannino

Frontiers and borders: Pasquale Favia (responsible), Luca d’Altilia

Funerary Archaeology: Brunella Bruno

Geomorphology, pedology, climate and natural resources (water and building materials): Maurizio Lazzari (responsabile), Ilenia Petrarulo

Institutions and administration: Salvatore Cosentino

IT System, database, GIS, standards: Paolo Marcato / Stefania Alfarano / Giuseppe Muci

Language and literature of oral tradition of the Hellenophone minorities of Apulia and Calabria / Manuscript tradition of classical and Byzantine texts in Southern Italy: Francesco Giannachi (responsible)

Monasticism: Adele Coscarella (responsible), Paul Arthur, Chiara Raimondo

Monetary circulation: Rocco Aricò, Daniele Castrizio, Claudia Devoto, Bruna Gargiulo, Gianluca Mandatori, Domenico Moretti, Alfredo Ruga, Alfredo Maria Santoro, Giuseppe Sarcinelli (responsible), Adriana Travaglini

Non-ceramic material culture: Adele Coscarella (responsible), Anna Surdo, Vasco La Salvia (metallurgy)

Outreach / Third mission / Communication: Paolo Marcato / Giuliano De Felice

Population, demography and nutrition: Paul Arthur

Sphragistics: Vivien Prigent

Toponymy: to be defined

Underwater Archaeolgy: Rita Auriemma