Peltuinum, Abruzzo

Continuing the broad theme of landscapes and urbanscapes, the project at Peltuinum aimed to map the Roman town and contextualise existing findings. This season was a pilot season in order to test the capabilities of two methods of geophysical survey: gradiometer and ground-penetrating radar (GPR).

Gradiometer survey in Peltuinum. The town walls are visible in the background.

Peltuinum lies in the heart of the Abruzzo, just southeast of L’Aquila. The Roman settlement stands on a ridge overlooking the stunning Aterno valley.

Aterno Valley from Peltuinum

The Roman colony was founded in the second half the first century BC which is relatively late compared to other colonies. The ridge is bisected by the via Claudia Nova and at its west end are the standing remains of the monumental Roman gateway. Excavations have been carried out in earnest by La Sapienza University in Rome (directed by Prof. P. Sommella and more recently by Prof.ssa L. Migliorati) and have concentrated on the Temple of Apollo and the theatre complex which lie adjacent to each other in the south of the town.

Peltuinum with the gradiometer survey results overlaid

The integrated geophysical survey concentrated in the central northern portion of the town where there had been sightings of crop marks delineating walls and roads in tandem with discoveries from small excavations.

The gradiometer results clearly reveal a glimpse of the orthogonal layout of the road system, on a northeast-southwest alignment, and between them, many rectilinear structures. The notable lack of perpendicular roads is apparent.

Two test areas were covered with GPR based on findings in the results of the gradiometer survey and the results provided a clearer, more detailed image of the buried archaeology. The GPR survey was, however, hampered by the detection of plough lines but this directly led to a successful collaboration between the BSR and Dean Goodman, the creator of the processing software, GPRSlice, to create a means of processing out this effect from the data. This new application is now available to all users of the software and our data from Peltuinum has been cited as an example in a soon to be published book: “GPR Remote Sensing in Archaeology” authored by Dean Goodman and Salvatore Piro.

Ashby: Travels in the Abruzzo

It is thanks to the acclaimed exhibition of ‘Ashby and the Abruzzo’ a collection of photographs, from the BSR archive, taken by Thomas Ashby during his visits to the Abruzzo, that this archaeological project was initiated. The exhibition was made possible through a collaboration with Ivano Villani of  Ad. Venture srl and it travelled to the main cities of the Abruzzo. It was exhibited in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale d’Abruzzo – Villa Frigerj in Chieti and the then Superintendent per i Beni Archeologici dell’Abruzzo, Andrea Pessina, developed an affiliation with the BSR and together we proposed this archaeological project to study the relationship of the region to forms of urban settlement.

Further reading

G. AZZENA Gli scavi di Peltuinum tra tradizioni e innovazioni tecnologiche, in Arqueologìa viva de le ciutats de l’Antiguitat, I simposi: patrimoni i turisme cultural, Lleida, 4-6 d’octubre 2001, Lerida 2004 pp. 105-112

A. CAMPANELLI (ed.),  Peltuinum. Antica città sul tratturo, Pescara 1996

L. MIGLIORATI, Gli edifici pubblici peltuinati, in Arqueologìa viva de le ciutats de l’Antiguitat, I simposi: patrimoni i turisme cultural, Lleida, 4-6 d’octubre 2001, Lerida 2004 pp. 113-122

L. MIGLIORATI, Peltuinum. Un caso di “pietrificazione” di un’area di culto, in Atti Congr. Int. “Saturnia Tellus”, Roma 10-12 Novembre 2004 pp. 341-356

P. SOMMELLA, Il culto di Apollo a Peltuinum città dei Vestini, in Aa. Vv. Mélanges Raymond Chevallier, 2, 2, Tours 1995, pp 279-291

P. SOMMELLA, Un terremoto del IV secolo d. C. a Peltuinum, in E. Guidoboni (ed.), I terremoti prima del 1000, Bologna 1989, cit a nota 25, pp 482-485

The Exhibition catalogue, edited by Vienna Tordone, Thomas Ashby: Viaggi in Abruzzo /Travels in Abruzzo 1901/1923, is published by SilvanaEditoriale.