Isle of Man News - POSTED Thu 11-01-2018

The Excavation of a Roman Villa in Southern Italy

by LC

The Excavation of a Roman Villa in Southern Italy - picture UCM’s History & Heritage lecture series continues on Wednesday 17th January with a talk by archaeologist, Dr Richard Fletcher, on the discovery and excavation of a Roman villa in southern Italy.

In the first century BC, the region was home to the Roman poet Horace, who described it as wild and trackless. Today, it is one of the poorest parts of Italy, has a high level of youth unemployment and out-migration, and is little known or visited by tourists.

Before the Vultur project began, the valley was also considered archaeologically uninteresting, if not barren. However, the project has succeeded in proving that Horace’s ‘trackless Vultur’ was, in fact, an area of large farms, villas and bathhouses, and 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.

The archaeology of the area is immensely wealthy. People who think the Etruscans were the pinnacle of Italian culture haven’t looked carefully at South Italy. Burials here can be bursting with precious artefacts and chieftain’s houses can be incredibly rich. One tomb from near the area of this project was of a woman with hundreds of items buried with her: scores of silver broaches, gold and amber jewellery, ivory ornaments, bronze cauldrons, iron feasting equipment, pottery, horse trappings and many other artefacts. Male burials sometimes included entire suits of armour and chariots. These were clearly important people.

The central excavation of the Vulture Archaeological Project is a Roman Villa at Torre degli Embrici. The excavation has revealed a site that was initially a Lucanian household of some importance in the 5th century BC. It then became a Roman Villa of truly monumental proportions that survived the fall of Rome and continued into the late 6th and maybe even into the 7th century AD. Its last incarnation, however, was as a farm in the 13th century. It looks as though one of Frederick’s Arab bodyguards may have been given the land and used the ruins of the Roman Villa to build a farmhouse in the North African style, even importing Egyptian foodstuffs in stamped transport pots.

Dr Fletcher’s lecture on ‘The Vultur: A Hidden Valley in Italy’ will take place at 6pm on Wednesday 17th January in the Main Hall at University College Isle of Man, Homefield Road, Douglas.

The lectures are free to attend, and no booking is required. Further details about this year’s History & Heritage lecture series, together with videos of previous lectures, can be found online.


This lecture series forms part of a new series of free-to-attend #UCMTalks at University College Isle of Man. The talks explore current research in a wide range of disciplines, and aim to encourage discussion, debate, and the development of new ideas.

On 17th January, Russel Gundry will be speaking on ‘What’s Google Doing with my Health Data?’ On 19th January, Cormac Russell will be giving a talk about the benefits of ‘Asset Based Community Development’. These talks take place at UCM’s Nunnery Campus, from 6pm-7pm. Details of further #UCMTalks will be released in due course.

Photo - Remains discovered during excavation at Torre degli Embrici.

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