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The protohistoric site of Punta di Casteddu (Sartène, Southern Corsica): a preliminary note

Kewin Peche‑Quilichini, Florian Soula and Florent Châteauneuf
Translated by Madeleine Hummler
p. 195-197
This article is a translation of:
Note préliminaire sur le site protohistorique de Punta di Casteddu (Sartène, Corse-du-Sud)


The protohistoric site of Punta di Casteddu is located in south-western Corsica, in the Sartenais region. It was discovered some twenty years ago and has recently been reassessed as part of an archaeological fieldwalking survey carried out within the research project “Cauria, the megalithic site of Stazzona – I Stantari” directed by André D’Anna. The site was occupied and used from the middle of the Late Bronze Age to the middle of the Early Iron Age, i.e. the pre-and protohistoric periods by far the best represented in this micro-region. The site contains evidence of domestic activity including one or two houses and several clusters of rock cavities or shelters. Among the latter, the western group appears to have been extensively used, as shown by large quantities of material recovered from the surface, especially pottery. This pottery is typologically and technologically typical of the Bronze Age-Iron Age transition in this part of the island that probably saw a significant level of demographic growth and a remarkable degree of cultural unity from the end of the 2nd millennium BC onwards. As a working hypothesis we interpret most rock cavities as having had a funerary use, suggesting for the first time that cremation may have taken place there, introduced to the island from north-western Italy at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age if not earlier. This would partly explain the absence of funerary contexts in this phase of Corsican protohistory.

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Editor's notes

Received January 06, 2014 - Accepted after review January 25, 2016

Full text

1The protohistoric site of Punta di Casteddu is located in the Sartenais region of south-western Corsica. It was rediscovered during fieldwalking undertaken within the research project “Cauria, the megalithic site of Stazzona – I Stantari” (D’Anna et al., 2006a). The site has been known and described over the last twenty or so years (Leandri et al., 1996, pp. 30–31; Codaccioni, 2000, pp. 155–56). The purpose of the present article is to give an overview of what is known about the site, to complement this information with new data and analyses carried out during the recent fieldwork campaigns (2009–2010) and to set the different phases of occupation in their chronological and functional context.

2The Punta di Casteddu is a steep granite summit, its highest point lying at 228 m asl, with two secondary points located at 166 and 160 m asl. It is a prominent landscape feature dominating from the north the lower valley of the Ortolu and the passes leading from this region to the plateaus of Pastini and Cauria, which are areas where occupation in the periods concerned is particularly well documented (D’Anna et al., 2006a, 2006b, 2007a, 2007b). In a wider perspective, the region is located at a crossroads of traditional routes of communication linking the Alta Rocca to the Sartenais and to the southern tip of the island (Soula, 2012a, 2012b).

3The central plateau of the Punta di Casteddu takes the form of a large terrace of 1–2 hectares, sloping slightly towards the south-west. Stretches of terracing in large stone block define its edges. The stone blocks delimit internal divisions and probably also areas where the terrain has been consolidated. Below the northern point of the massif there are two dwelling structures (Structures 1 and 2); their shape is elliptical and they consist of footings made up of large stone blocks (Cuciurpula type; Peche‑Quilichini et al., 2012). This type of dwelling is well known today in the south of the island and appears to be typical of Late Bronze Age (1200–850 BC) and Early Iron Age (850–550 BC) villages (De Lanfranchi et al., forthcoming; Peche‑Quilichini et al., 2012, forthcoming 1, 2 and 3). The occupation of the eastern sector of the site, close to Structure 1, has yielded remains attesting to a further occupation or agricultural activity area. These remains are directly associated with several rockshelters, some of which were probably used in tandem with the domestic space.

4A substantial number of rockshelters show signs of frequent use. Many of them, notably some with a considerable quantity of finds, were probably not used for domestic purposes because they are narrow and difficult to access. All the cavities in the eastern part of the site are of such type.

5The artefacts collected during the survey consist mainly of pottery sherds (around 800 sherds). They come from the settlement area as well as from the rockshelters. The whole assemblage is made up of coil-built vessels. The thickness of their walls is generally quite regular over the entire vessel and their surfaces are quite carefully finished. Burnishing is the most common surface treatment. Firing was in most cases in an oxidising atmosphere, although a few vessels, generally those made of finer clay, have a black sheen sometimes enhanced by polishing or burnishing.

6Rather than presenting the ceramic assemblages context by context, we have chosen to present the pottery by typological groups so as to show the assemblage as a whole before going into some particularities, including associations relating to their functional or chronological position.

7Low shapes are well represented. They belong to classic Late Bronze Age vessels that continue into the Early Iron Age. Globular or open vessels in the shape of a truncated cone are also among the most frequently encountered forms. In this case their dating centres around the end of the Bronze Age. Biconical vessels with a composite, everted and segmented rim constitute the third-most common type. It is a type especially well represented in the southern Corsican Late Bronze Age. Sub-cylindrical vertical-sided forms, closed ovoid shapes with or without a straight rim, S-shaped vessels and a bottle with a wide neck have also been recorded. All these types can be assigned to the Late Bronze Age. A single impressed form of decoration is recorded: a horizontal groove applied where the vessel shape changes, as is typical for the Late Bronze Age. The assemblage includes applied elements, the most typical being a handle extended by cordons which make it look like a horned-animal protome. Such elements are characteristic of the first half of the Early Iron Age and are usually associated with contexts possessing a symbolic value (e.g. foundation deposits or funerary contexts; see Peche‑Quilichini 2010a). The Punta di Casteddu ceramic assemblage thus consists entirely of artefacts date d from the middle of the Late Bronze Age to the middle of the Early Iron Age (Peche‑Quilichini, 2009, forthcoming; Peche‑Quilichini et al., forthcoming 1). It appears to be homogeneous, despite having come from zoned surface collection. The spatial distribution of the data suggests that the rockshelters of the north-western sector were used somewhat earlier than the settlement area; indeed the latter has remains attributable to the Early Iron Age whereas the sherds that are more typical of the late 2nd millennium BC come from the rock cavities. It is therefore possible that we are dealing with two occupations, a priori fulfilling different functions; these two occupation episodes also seem to differ chronologically, though they are partly contemporary.

8If there is no longer any doubt as to the interpretation of the two oval structures made of granite blocks as dwellings (De Lanfranchi et al., forthcoming; Milletti et al., 2012; Peche‑Quilichini et al., 2012, forthcoming 1, 2, 3), the question of the use to which the rockshelters were put remains open. They vary greatly in terms of type and surface area. Some very large examples (over 30 m²) have a low ceiling; others are merely narrow, almost inaccessible passages while others provide a reasonable amount of space. All yielded pottery sherds. There are no storage vessels, which is quite surprising given the evidence from other rock cavities on the island. The ceramic assemblage consists almost entirely of small vessels, apart from a few medium-sized containers. For some cavities that can be considered mere crevices rather than rockshelters, a domestic use connected with a nearby dwelling must often be excluded owing to the narrowness of the crevice. Hence it is possible to envisage that this part of the site formed a group of funerary cavities.

9In Corsica the use of rockshelters as funerary sites goes back to the Mesolithic. It is a characteristic of the entire Neolithic and Early Bronze Age and endures throughout the Iron Age. But no funerary context is known on the island from the Early Bronze Age II to the middle of the Early Iron Age, apart from the reuse of a cist at Cuntrasarda (Peche‑Quilichini, forthcoming). Given the poor historiographical context, a massive adoption by southern Corsican groups of north-Italic biconical vessels with everted short rim is not entirely implausible. In Piedmont, Liguria and Toscana the rite of cremation becomes established from the Late Bronze Age II/Final Bronze Age I; the ashes were kept in biconical urns of open form of a type similar to the vessels of the same period found on sites all over Corsica. If north-Italic cultural elements entered the Corsican material vocabulary as something more than mere imitation and affected aspects more deeply anchored in the socio-cultural sphere of southern Corsican communities, it is not too fanciful to envisage that the rite of cremation was introduced (even if only partially) in this part of the island around 1250/1150 BC, i.e. at a time when the practice spread all over the Tyrrhenian area. Punta di Casteddu could thus be an example of a kind of syncretism between an exogenous rite and the millennia-long local tradition of placing the deceased in natural cavities. In this context, the identification of an urn from the nearby site of Punta Campana, which is decorated in a manner similar to that used on the funerary vessels of the proto-Golaseccan cemeteries of the Piedmont, is of particular interest. Our conclusions will however have to remain hypotheses until careful excavations are conducted on sites likely to belong to this current.

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Bibliographical reference

Kewin Peche‑Quilichini, Florian Soula and Florent Châteauneuf, « The protohistoric site of Punta di Casteddu (Sartène, Southern Corsica): a preliminary note », Gallia Préhistoire, 56 | 2016, 195-197.

Electronic reference

Kewin Peche‑Quilichini, Florian Soula and Florent Châteauneuf, « The protohistoric site of Punta di Casteddu (Sartène, Southern Corsica): a preliminary note », Gallia Préhistoire [Online], 56 | 2016, Online since 30 October 2017, connection on 20 May 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/galliap.376

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About the authors

Kewin Peche‑Quilichini

INRAP Méditerranée, laboratoire ASM – UMR 5140, 390 avenue de Pérols -F-34970 Lattes –

Florian Soula

Post-doctorants, UMR 7269 – LAMPEA, Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, Ministère de la culture et de la communication, 5 rue du Château de l’Horloge, BP 647, F-13094 Aix‑en‑Provence cedex 2 –

Florent Châteauneuf

Post-doctorants, UMR 7269 – LAMPEA, Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, Ministère de la culture et de la communication, 5 rue du Château de l’Horloge, BP 647, F-13094 Aix‑en‑Provence cedex 2 –

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