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This paper proposes a general framework for the data concerning metalworking in the post-classical phases of Roman villas in Italy from the 5th to the 7th centuries AD. Archaeological evidence for the presence of production processes linked to the manufacturing and recycling of metals have been described for some villas of particular significance (such as Mola di Monte Gelato, Colombarone, Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi, Barricelle, Faragola), as well as those with less detailed documentation. By interpreting such sites, it emerges that metallurgical activities are an important indicator for framing the social and economic characteristics of post-villa contexts between the Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.

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Notes de l’auteur

I would like to warmly thank Gabriele Castiglia (Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology), Veronica Testolini (University of Sheffield) and Isabel M. Cook (University of Sheffield) for suggestions and English proof-reading of this article.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Hong et al. 1996.
  • 2 Fleming 2012, p. 6-7.

1Taking a global perspective, the scale of mining and metalworking in the Roman Empire was such that it could also be assessed by its polluting effects1. Metal processes in Roman system reflected the complexity of social structures, economic trajectories and multiple succession of specialised processes2. This is a good indicator of the relationship between material evidence and socio-economic patterns, in particular for investigating the transition between Late Roman period and the beginning of the Early Middle Ages.

  • 3 Giannichedda 2008, p. 204.

2During this transition, the continuity of techniques in metalworking does not mean the absence of changes such the reduction of the scale of extraction activities, the growth of salvaging and recycling, and the decrease in the amount of people with specific technical knowledge3.

  • 4 Munro 2011, 2012.

3The emergence of metalworking as an impact of a change in the function of rural settlements in post-roman West, especially in villas, is a documented phenomenon across a wide geographic area4.

  • 5 Fleming 2010.
  • 6 Fleming 2012, p. 15.
  • 7 Loveluck, p. 554.

4After the second decade of 5th century, towns and rural sites of Roman Britain had been abandoned5 and had become supply basins for recyclable metals6, as seen in the villa of Little Oakley in Essex, or in the case of the Doughnut-shaped lead ingots found in the Anglo-Saxon rural settlement of Mucking and derived from the plundering of a nearby Roman villa. A shift in settlement patterns during the 6th-7th centuries is also shown by the presence of craft-specialists was strongly connected to the settlement of elite powers in new central places, most of which were fortified7.

  • 8 Leroy 2008.
  • 9 Peytremann 2003.
  • 10 Balmelle 2001, p. 119-120.

5The organisation of metal production on a large scale in Late Roman Gaul (Puisaye, Berry, Clérimois) strongly changed by the 5th century when production become more dispersed and located in many different regions. Three modes of metal production have been identified : small isolated units specializing in the production of raw iron, which can be combined with a metal shaping or transformation activities; grouped reduction workshops within large raw iron production centres; workshops that develop different stages of metalworking process inserted into rural settlements8. In this last group may be clustered the cases of metal activities associated to re-occupations of ancient villas (metalworking : Arpent Ferret / Île-de-France, 5th century; Le Mardat / Île-de-France, late 5thcentury; Climat des terres Noires / Île-de-France, 6th-7th century9; bronze working : Castelculier-Lamarque / Aquitaine, 6th-7th century10).

  • 11 Chavarria Arnau 2007.

6Metallurgical activities linked to the formation of new settlements in replacing of Roman villas is well attested in Hispania between 5th and 7th century (Vilauba; L’Aiguacuit; El Romeral; La Malena; En Catarroja; Torre-la-Cruz; Los Quintanares de Rioseco de Soria; La Olmeda; Prado; Monte da Cegonha; Beloño; El Val; Tinto; La Torrecilla; Las Tamujas; La Cocosa; Valdetorres del Jarama; Els Munts; Arellano; Veranes)11.

  • 12 Ricci 2001.
  • 13 La Salvia 2016.

7In Italy, the emergence of metalworking workshops during the age of the transition has been better analysed in the frame of urban landscape dynamics (especially in specific contexts of Rome such as Crypta Balbi12 or Piazza della Madonna di Loreto13) instead of trends in rural areas.

  • 14 Among the extensive bibliography, we highlight some recent and significant contributions related t (...)

8This article overlooks the traditional discourse surrounding the ‘end of the villas’14, and aims to address a specific issue; the presence of evidence related to metalworking in the post-classical phases of Roman villas in Italy. The chosen period is between the 5thand the 7th centuries AD, in order to take into account only those contexts in which significant changes occurred, rather than the original function during the Roman era. The first section will be a synthesis of the main evidence for metallurgical activities in the ‘post-villa’ phases. The quality of the documentation regarding such evidence appears to be variable, only a few cases possessing a great level of accuracy, either stratigraphic/chronological or interpretative. The systematic collection of data is a key instrument to facilitate the construction of knowledge, but also to highlight the need for improved focus in the recording and studying the scarce evidence yielded by these crafts. In the second section, the aim is to study the emergence of metalworking, together with its social and economic features, within a new settlement types – compared to the classic ‘villa’ model – in a deeply modified rural system.

Overview of metalworking evidence from 'postclassical' contexts in Roman Villas across Italy (5th-7th centuries AD)

9The collection of detailed and high-quality information on the later settling stages of the Roman villas is not always an easy task, since in many contexts, only the monumental evidences of the villa itself have been published and analysed in details, with little attention has been paid to the later periods. Nevertheless, there has been a series of significant excavations which have been important for understanding the level/diffusion of metallurgical activities. There will be, thus, taken into account the case studies which have been excavated stratigraphically, and that had been extensively excavated and fully well-documented (Mola di Monte Gelato; Colombarone; Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi; Barricelle; Faragola). These case studies represent a sample for framing metallurgical activities by re-shaping of Roman villas connected to to different purposes :

  • The link between metalworking and building of Christian churches (Mola di Monte Gelato; Colombarone).

  • Planned recycling processes (Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi).

  • The presence of metalworking in post-classical rural communities (Barricelle, Faragola).

10There will also be a discussion of other villas that, despite a lower degree of accuracy, include evidence of metalworking dating between 5 th and the 7th centuries AD (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 – Map of the sites discussed in the text: 1) Castelletto Brenzone-San Zeno de l'Oselet (Veneto); 2) Manerba (Lombardy); 3) San Cassiano (Lombardy); 4) San Pietro in Carpignano (Liguria); 5) Colombarone (Marche); 6) Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi (Tuscany); 7) Santa Cristina in Caio (Tuscany); 8) Mola di Monte Gelato (Lazio); 9) Altipiani di Arcinazzo (Lazio); 10) Faragola (Apulia); 11) San Giovanni di Ruoti (Basilicata); 12) Barricelle (Basilicata); 13) Contrada San Luca (Sicily) (GIS map).

Fig. 1 – Map of the sites discussed in the text: 1) Castelletto Brenzone-San Zeno de l'Oselet (Veneto); 2) Manerba (Lombardy); 3) San Cassiano (Lombardy); 4) San Pietro in Carpignano (Liguria); 5) Colombarone (Marche); 6) Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi (Tuscany); 7) Santa Cristina in Caio (Tuscany); 8) Mola di Monte Gelato (Lazio); 9) Altipiani di Arcinazzo (Lazio); 10) Faragola (Apulia); 11) San Giovanni di Ruoti (Basilicata); 12) Barricelle (Basilicata); 13) Contrada San Luca (Sicily) (GIS map).

Mola di Monte Gelato (Mazzano Romano, Roma) (fig. 2)

  • 15 Potter – King 1997, p. 59-60.

11At Mola di Monte Gelato, a large room originally paved with mosaics, adjacent to the thermal baths of a Roman villa, was radically re-functionalized between the late fourth and early 6th century AD. The northern area of the room, accessible through a large opening, probably without a door, has been interpreted as a barn for large animals, such as cattle. This is because there are postholes possibly indicating delimiting fences and a drain in the centre of the room. To the south there was a hearth that was likely to be covered by some sort of structure with a wooden roof, linked to various post holes. The discovery of bronze cast scraps and lead fragments suggest the presence of a furnace for the recycling of metal components from the baths, to which some iron (pruning or reaping hook, linch pin, metalworking hammer, two axe-adzes maybe for woodworking) and bronze (bronze harness mount) objects, found both inside and outside the building, may be related15. This type of productive activity therefore occurred slightly earlier than, or alongside, the construction of the first Christian worshiping building in the late 5th century AD, built in an adjacent area and characterised by an entrance not facing the villa but in axis with an external road.

Fig. 2 – Mola di Monte Gelato (Marzano Romano, Roma) : diachronic transformations and late Roman phase (in red the space used for metalworking) (re-elaboration from Potter – King 1997, fig. 12 and 39).

Fig. 2 – Mola di Monte Gelato (Marzano Romano, Roma) : diachronic transformations and late Roman phase (in red the space used for metalworking) (re-elaboration from Potter – King 1997, fig. 12 and 39).

Colombarone (Pesaro, Pesaro-Urbino) (fig. 3)

  • 16 Tassinari et al. 2008, p. 16-41.
  • 17 Tassinari 2007, p. 151-156.
  • 18 Tassinari 2007, p. 65-67.

12The transformation of the late antique villa of Colombarone occurred during the mid-6thcentury AD, during which hearths were lit on the mosaic floors, post holes were set up and production activities were installed. There was also the re-conversion of a residential space into an early Christian basilica (St. Christoforo ad Aquilam), while the burials dug in the ruins of the Roman buildings date back to the 7th century AD16. The coenatio (mid-5thcentury AD) around the mid-6th century AD was transformed into a Christian basilica with one apse and a mosaic floor17. At the same time, as the important restructuring phases of the church (the elevation of the presbytery and the insertion of a continuous seat/synthronon into the apse) took place, between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, the bi-apsidal hall of the late antique villa was used for productive activities and crafts. In two distinct, but close, phases small hearths, made by bricks or flanked by scrap stone materials, were set up in an area together with wooden structures. Within the records of the excavation, there is no evidence for identifying the type of work connected to these hearths, generically defined as traces of « production activities »18.

Fig. 3 – Colombarone (Pesaro, Pesaro-Urbino): reconstruction and plan of the church built reusing the Roman villa (re-elaboration from Tassinari et al. 2008, p. 30).

Fig. 3 – Colombarone (Pesaro, Pesaro-Urbino): reconstruction and plan of the church built reusing the Roman villa (re-elaboration from Tassinari et al. 2008, p. 30).

Aiano, Torraccia di Chiusi (San Gimignano, Siena) (fig. 4)

13In the late antique villa of Aiano, in Torraccia di Chiusi, within the rooms to the south and west of the hall with three apsidesis, the organisation of the production processes was very detailed and complex. Between the 6th and the 7th century AD, this part of the Roman building was reused only for productive purposes. In addition to the production of ceramics and the possible processing of iron, bone and horn, there are indications of activities relating to the production of objects from copper alloy, glass, and gold.

Fig. 4 – Aiano-Torracchia di Chiusi (San Gimignano, Siena) : aerial photo (2009 from Cavalieri 2013a, p. 455) and general plan of the reoccupation of the Roman villa by craft workshops (7th century AD) (re-elaboration from Cavalieri 2013b, p. 319).

Fig. 4 – Aiano-Torracchia di Chiusi (San Gimignano, Siena) : aerial photo (2009 from Cavalieri 2013a, p. 455) and general plan of the reoccupation of the Roman villa by craft workshops (7th century AD) (re-elaboration from Cavalieri 2013b, p. 319).
  • 19 Cavalieri 2013b, p. 302 ; Cavalieri et al. 2009, p. 513-513 ; 2010, p. 17-18.
  • 20 Cavalieri 2013b, p. 303 ; Cavalieri et al. 2009, p. 514-515.
  • 21 Cavalieri 2013b, p. 298-301 ; Cavalieri et al. 2009, p. 511-512.
  • 22 « Le due pietre di paragone recuperate, quindi, sono da considerare attrezzi propri di un’oreficer (...)

14In compartment B, traces of a workshop for the manufacturing of iron tools and objects have been identified (fig. 5). A central pit, deeper than 1 meter, linked to a small channel used for water adduction (filled with an iron sickle and a jug with ingobbiatura rossa [a red engobe], impressed with a ‘comb’ decoration, dating back to the 7th century AD) were also discovered. A second, deeper pit characterized by a lining which reduced the diameter of the edges, is apparently linked with quenching and tempering, due to the presence of iron oxide within the pit. Near the eastern wall, a semi-rectangular hollow in the floor has also been identified, containing quartz allogeneic sand and a thick lithic slab, re-used, used as working surface for steel working19. In the northern area of the excavation, between the ambulatio and ‘Room I’, processing scraps and traces of the refining of copper-based alloy have been found : melting and refining slags clearly indicate that copper alloys were processed in some part of the site and that the residues of the workshops of copper artisans were thrown in the landfill with other wastes and scraps. The discovery of some pins, not in a funerary context, could be sign of a production in situ20. Moreover, the discovery of a significant amount of burned frames for tessere ialine (not yet covered with gold) and of two protective sheets, which demonstrate gold recovery21 (also confirmed by the discovery of two copies of touchstones) might as well be connected with a further specialized manufacturing activity22.

Fig. 5 – Aiano-Torracchia di Chiusi (San Gimignano, Siena): workshop for the manufacture of iron (from Cavalieri et al. 2010, 16).

Fig. 5 – Aiano-Torracchia di Chiusi (San Gimignano, Siena): workshop for the manufacture of iron (from Cavalieri et al. 2010, 16).

Barricelle (Marsicovetere, Potenza) (fig. 6)

  • 23 Russo – Pellegrino – Gargano 2012, p. 276-281.
  • 24 « Anche nel caso della Val d’Agri le dinamiche di trasformazione del popolamento rurale altomedioe (...)

15Between the middle of the 6th and the 7th century AD, the villa of Barricelle23 underwent a systematic dispossession of furnishings and finishes, while the western part of it suffered a complete restructuring, through the construction of partition walls, the opening of new entrances, and the blocking of old ones. This caused significant changes in the organization of spaces and their primary use. In the western part of the site, through the construction of walls that reused large blocks of limestone, without mortar, four new rooms of around 24m2 were created. The roof was made of perishable materials, they were paved with earthfloors, and there was a circular hearth in the middle, bordered by stones. This type of housing may well be associated with the development of a community divided into different individual households24. Other fireplaces, of varied forms (circular, semi-circular, elliptical, rectangular) were made over the entire surface of the site : some were formed by a brick plane, often delimited by stones, others were only characterized by distinct traces of burned clay. Only one, however, was made by a rectangular cooking surface positioned in the south-eastern corner of one of the rooms. Beneath a roofing of perishable material, leaning to the southern side of the peristyle, four fireplaces for manufacturing activities were placed. The peristyle area, located in the eastern part of the complex, was also exploited for the installation of a small lime kiln and a rectangular tank, useful for shutting the lime down, and a long-shaped furnace, intended for the re-melting of metals.

Fig. 6 – Barricelle (Marsicovetere, Potenza): plan of the late antique/early medieval phase and some materials of the mid 6th-7thcentury AD (zoomorphic fibulae; ring with chrismòn; cloak pins in bronze and silver; bone combs) (re-elaboration from Russo – Pellegrino – Gargano 2012, p. 279, 281).

Fig. 6 – Barricelle (Marsicovetere, Potenza): plan of the late antique/early medieval phase and some materials of the mid 6th-7th century AD (zoomorphic fibulae; ring with chrismòn; cloak pins in bronze and silver; bone combs) (re-elaboration from Russo – Pellegrino – Gargano 2012, p. 279, 281).

Faragola (Ascoli Satriano, Foggia) (fig. 7)

  • 25 Volpe et al. 2012, p. 240.

16The recent excavations at Faragola, a rich residential villa enriched with a rare stibadium during the late-5th century AD, are one of the cases in which the post-villa phases have been more carefully investigated, thus, shading new light on the complex process of the formation of the new settlement core during the Early Middle Ages. The period of the early medieval occupation has been divided into three different phases25 :

  1. Early 7thcentury AD. The founding of a village, within the structures of the villa, largely still standing, characterized by a remarkable good quality of material culture and by a reasonable level of architectural spaces built ex novo.
  2. Second half of the 7th century AD. Development of various manufacturing activities in combination with agricultural and pastoral practices.
  3. 8th century AD. Structural changes in the settlement, with the construction of huts in perishable materials, inclusion of burials and the presence of families engaged in small farming and significant forestry managing and pastoral activities.
  • 26 Goffredo – Maruotti 2012, p. 656-658 ; Volpe et al. 2012, p. 245-249.

17In the second half of the 7th century AD there were organized small workshops, dedicated to different production practices, indicating the presence of specific working areas for special purposes, mainly for the production of agricultural tools and carpentry. In total, five workshops have been identified26 :

  1. In a rectangular room in the northern part of the coenatio, traces relating to the accumulation of the wastes and discharges from nearby manufacturing areas were found. The 7th century, in fact, did not present standing structures, but an earth floor with burning traces and fragments of iron slag caps, tapped slags, and remains of furnaces linings. Another adjacent room, divided by a wall of large blocks and repaved with a clay layer, was used for the manufacture of various metal objects and lead bars for the repair of large containers.
  2. In the eastern part of the complex, on the outside of the western front of the coenatio, a pit oven covered by a roofing of perishable materials was built. In a second stage, it was covered with decking for a new pit oven, for the purpose of re-melting recycled lead elements.
  3. In the room in front of the coenatio, the pavement was removed for the development of a work area characterized by three pit for the furnaces (diameter : 40 cm, 40 cm, 50 cm; depth : 11 cm, 12 cm, 19 cm) used for the casting of objects from recycled lead. The remains of these structures are characterized by pits with concave walls coated with clay, baked during the melting process, and filled by layers of ashes rich in coals and lead processing residues. The covering of these structures was made of stones and pieces of bricks bound by clay.
  4. A small room, south of the workshop 2, was re-used, perhaps taking advantage of the remaining walls, for a roof made of perishable materials, thought to cover a space for the hot working of metal. In a central position there was a pit filled with ashes and charcoal (a fireplace), while a structure consisting of a single row of stones and pieces of bricks could serve as a support for a work-surface. Typing slags and sporadic semi-finished products in iron confirm the presence of specialized forging activities.
  5. In the southern part of a room located in the eastern porch of the coenatio, a semi-circular shaped forge (60 x 80 cm) was built, filled with ashes and charcoals, and flanked by a pit used for holding the wooden support of a stone block that was used as an anvil.

Fig. 7 – Faragola (Ascoli Satriano, Foggia): the 7th century AD occupation of the Roman villas characterized by the presence of 5 areas of workshops (re-elaboration from Goffredo – Maruotti 2012, p. 657).

Fig. 7 – Faragola (Ascoli Satriano, Foggia): the 7th century AD occupation of the Roman villas characterized by the presence of 5 areas of workshops (re-elaboration from Goffredo – Maruotti 2012, p. 657).

Other villas

18Within the many excavations of Roman villas in Italy, it has been only possible to trace fragmentary evidence of metalworking during the Imperial age. However, it is nonetheless important to report also this scant evidence in order to emphasize the wide spread of this phenomenon, which requires accurate methodological and stratigraphic approaches to be properly interpreted, both economically and socially.

  • 27 Bruno – Tremolada 2011.

19In the Roman villa of Castelletto Brenzone-San Zeno de l’Oselet (Verona) a continuous sequence of occupation, spoliation and reconstruction is documented between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages27. Between the end of 5th and the second half of the 6th – 7th century, the walls were still standing and the rooms used for household purposes, as testified by the accretions of walking levels and hearths. Moreover, the discovery of several furnace slags indicates towards the manufacturing of iron and lead. During this phase, new structural masonry additions were made : in a two-story building, a large pillar bases or buttresses was built and a staircase made of recycled blocks and other rooms were turned into warehouses. Inside this structure, a mono-apse and single-nave church was built and five burials were found outside, where a bronze armilla has been recovered that enables us to date one grave to the 7th century.

  • 28 Carver – Brogiolo – Massa 1982, p. 243, 250, 261.
  • 29 « Á Manerba (Brescia), un petit oratoire est associé à quelques maisons en bois qui s’installent a (...)

20During the reoccupation of some structures of the Roman villa discovered at Pieve di Manerba (Manerba del Garda, Brescia), the presence of small pit hearths, connected to metalworking activities (iron and bronze), dating between the 5th and 7th centuries AD was documented28. It is likely that these areas were in use during the first phase of the church construction in the 6th-7th century AD, on the site of the villa already occupied by buildings of perishable materials29.

  • 30 Crosato 2005.

21In Frazione San Cassiano in Cavriana (Mantova), a 2ndcentury BC-late 3rd century AD villa was re-occupied in the late-6th to 7th century AD, as proven by several structures of perishable materials and the rests of manufacturing activities, such as an ellipsoid pit (2.50 x 2 m), with sub-vertical walls and a flat bottom (average depth : 25 cm), filled with ashes, charcoal fragments, a sandy-silt layer, very compact and brownish-gray in colour, mixed with iron slags, sparse pebbles and a few brick fragments30.

  • 31 Bulgarelli – Frondoni – Murialdo 2005, p. 140-141.

22The small furnaces made during the re-occupation of the Roman villa at San Pietro in Carpignano (Quiliano, Savona) suggest a new settlement function for the 6th-7th century AD, geared towards activities connected with forest and pasture31.

  • 32 Fiore – Appetecchia 2011.

23At Altipiani di Arcinazzo (Arcinazzo Romano, Rome), at the end of the 5th-6th century AD, a long corridor in the villa of Traianus32, underwent intense spoliation activities and was partially used for housing. Two hearths were found, containing pottery fragments and burned animal bones (goat, equine and poultry, with traces of slaughter). In front of them was a small furnace pit, irregularly ovoid in shape, with scraps, lead wastes, abundant charcoal and overheated clay.

  • 33 Small 2008, p. 465.

24During the last phase of its occupation, in the villa of San Giovanni di Ruoti (Potenza), in the mid-sixth to late-7th century AD, the stables were converted into generic workshops where iron tools were found (two gorges, two chisels and a drill), while the function of other furnaces in some rooms is not still clear33.

  • 34 Vassallo – Zirone 2009, p. 674.

25In the phase dating between the end of the 5th and the second quarter of the 6th-7th century AD of the villa of Contrada San Luca (Castronovo di Sicilia, Palermo), layers of ashes, slag and pits have been detected, which indicate the working of iron for the production of tools (knife blades)34.

Interpreting the metal workshops in the ‘post-villa’ contexts : some considerations

  • 35 The localization of this church is very significant, being built in a corner of the old courtyard, (...)

26At Mola di Monte Gelato, the proximity of a shelter for animals and a small furnace may indicate a temporary production carried on in a short amount of time, either previous or subsequently, the re-fusion of some bronze and lead objects obtained from the spoliation of the Roman baths. It is not easy to attribute directly this type of operation to the building of the church within the same site, although we cannot exclude a connection between the two activities. Another hypothesis could postulate a direct link between the location of the settlement, extremely close to the road system35, and the market, eventually to sell recycled materials, semi-processed raw materials or finished objects. This type of evidence, however, indicates new strategies to reuse 'old' items, completely different from the previous functions of the Roman villa.

27A relationship between the creation of a building within the same site and the need to produce metal objects could be conceivable for the restructuring phases (7th-8th century AD) of the church of the late antique villa of Colombarone maybe Pieve di Manerba or Castelletto Brenzone-San Zeno de l’Oselet.

  • 36 « Ceux-ci [les ateliers] sont étonnament fonctionnels et organisés. On retrouve différentes offici (...)
  • 37 Indicators of a ‘non-native’ presence could be a « fibbia di cintura ovoidale con ardiglione a scu (...)
  • 38 Cavalieri et al. 2010, p. 20.
  • 39 « Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi, infatti, sembra divenire, nei secoli finali della sua storia, una ver (...)

28Signs of planning in the organization and management of a sort of recycling industry are visible in the transformations undergone in the villa of Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi during the 7th century AD : a rational system of diversified production activities appears to have been the exclusive use of the villa, as there are no traces of dwellings. Therefore, a purposeful choice was made to re-use the Roman building as a ‘extraction site’ for raw materials as well as manufacturing purposes. In the organization of these new features, including the residential spaces of the villa, it is evident that there was an actor who was able to attract, manage and exploit the artisans specialized in various skills, as it is unlikely that a community of ‘independent’ peasants could have managed and controlled this complex and multifunctional area36. According to the archaeologists37, it has been a small community, linked to a foreign cultural horizon, probably Lombard38 which had managed the different working areas. By following this interpretation, the actor who may have promoted and directed the re-use of the villa could be identified as independent from the old late Roman owner, having the will and the capacity to produce goods, including fine goods, in a significant quantity for commercial purposes to or for specific commissions39.

  • 40 The archaeobotanic and archeozoologic data indicate a prevalence of cereal crops and legumes and t (...)
  • 41 The 7th century settlement would therefore be the dominicum of a curtis ‘company’, where different (...)
  • 42 Goffredo – Maruotti 2012, p. 660 ; La Salvia 2011, p. 80-81
  • 43 Among the findings inside a warehouse it is possible to report various iron tools for agriculture (...)

29The system of small workshops during the late-7th century AD in the villa at Faragola indicates an organized management of the production processes. This appears to not be linked to the primary processing of iron, as there is a total absence of indicators related to the reduction of the ore. Rather, it appears to be connected to the processing of semi-finished products, with smithing or recycling activities of common elements present in the Roman structures (fistulae, bars, structural pins for columns), perhaps to get the ‘ingots’ to produce new objects. The structuring of this type of activity within a community otherwise devoted to extensive agricultural and farming practices40, suggests a response to specific economic needs. Furthermore, it underlies various social dynamics related to the presence of new forms of control and management of both the productive forces and means of production41, according to a tight and « virtuous circle »42 between agricultural, domestic and construction practices (in particular carpentry) and the availability of metal tools and objects produced in situ43.

  • 44 Russo – Pellegrino – Gargano 2012, p. 287-280.

30Presently, it is difficult to comment on the social structure of the mid 6th-7th century phase of the villa in Barricelle, where the dwellings with singular hearths suggest a more homogeneous populace of peasants and a metal-working activity much closely linked to the everyday needs. However, on the other hand, the discovery of certain types of luxury goods, underlines also the economic capacity of the people who settled in the ruins of the villa, suggesting a greater technological complexity and social segmentation. These findings include : zoomorphic fibulae (horses, peacocks and doves); ringed fibulae opened in snake head; omega fibulae with spirals; digital rings including one with chrismòn; necklaces beads in glass paste and amber; bone combs; cloak pins in bronze and silver44.

Concluding remarks

31Drawing conclusions from the fragmentary archaeological evidence presented here is not easy; many factors need to be considered, and there are too few excavated sites really focusing on the question of the re-use of the space and structures of former Roman villas. Nonetheless, it is possible to outline some general trends characterising the contexts in which post-villa metalworking activities were located.

  • 45 On the interpretation concerning the production site that developed following the dismantling of t (...)

321. Production cycles. In the described contexts, only metallurgical-technical (thermo mechanical/chemical), forging and re-melting/recycling (iron, bronze, lead) processes are found, while there are no examples of complete production cycles that have resulted in mineral processing, for instance traces of washing-roasting-reduction steps.
2. Metals, construction sites and churches. The relationship between the construction of Christian buildings within the ruins of an already deconstructed villa (between the end of the 5th and the 7th century AD) and the installation of furnaces for re-melting and processing metal items, is not yet well established, although it is possible to hypothesize for the cases of Mola di Monte Gelato, Colombarone or Manerba (as, possibly, also for Castelletto Brenzone-San Zeno de l'Oselet). It would be interesting to understand if the construction stages of a Christian building actually needed the contemporaneous production of metal equipment or components. Furthermore, the connection between the construction of a building and the metalworking activities could be an indicator of other very important factors in defining the socio-economic context : the management of man-power; the ability to buy tools on the market or convenience in producing them in situ; the presence of specialized craftsmen; planning of dispossession activities conducted by the ‘commissioner’ of the cult building.
3. Metal processing and indicators of power. The craftsmanship in the production of semi-finished and/or metal objects could be also an indicator of the existence of forms of power that directed and managed their articulation in the post-villa contexts. New owners settled in the spaces left by the previous Roman possessores and, in different ways, ran diverse dwelling-production organisations : in Faragola an agricultural dominico centre developed, where the control of the metal production was closely related to agricultural and building practices, while in Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi we can see evidence of a power capable of organizing a multifunctional manufacturing centre in a rational way, probably unrelated to agricultural or pastoral functions. but perhaps linked to the needs of commercial network.
4. Voluntary spoliations?. At present, we do not have any evidence to indicate the precise and deliberate will of an owner to strip and recycle the components of his own villa with the purpose of reselling the materials on the market. This does not mean that it is a phenomenon that we will never discover in future archaeological excavations, considering the fact that some secondary settlements along the roads (public relevance?) may have suffered a spoliation targeted to the ‘capitalisation’ of the recycling elements (eg. Santa Cristina in Caio, Buonconvento-Siena)45, be it building materials, semi-finished metal or instruments/tools.

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Notes

1 Hong et al. 1996.

2 Fleming 2012, p. 6-7.

3 Giannichedda 2008, p. 204.

4 Munro 2011, 2012.

5 Fleming 2010.

6 Fleming 2012, p. 15.

7 Loveluck, p. 554.

8 Leroy 2008.

9 Peytremann 2003.

10 Balmelle 2001, p. 119-120.

11 Chavarria Arnau 2007.

12 Ricci 2001.

13 La Salvia 2016.

14 Among the extensive bibliography, we highlight some recent and significant contributions related to interpretations about the end of the Roman villas  : Ripoll – Arce 2000; Francovich – Hodges 2003; Lewit 2003, 2005; Bowes – Gutteridge 2005; Wickham 2005, p. 201-202, 475-486; Brogiolo 2006; Chavarría Arnau 2007; Valenti 2011; Castrorao Barba 2014.

15 Potter – King 1997, p. 59-60.

16 Tassinari et al. 2008, p. 16-41.

17 Tassinari 2007, p. 151-156.

18 Tassinari 2007, p. 65-67.

19 Cavalieri 2013b, p. 302 ; Cavalieri et al. 2009, p. 513-513 ; 2010, p. 17-18.

20 Cavalieri 2013b, p. 303 ; Cavalieri et al. 2009, p. 514-515.

21 Cavalieri 2013b, p. 298-301 ; Cavalieri et al. 2009, p. 511-512.

22 « Le due pietre di paragone recuperate, quindi, sono da considerare attrezzi propri di un’oreficeria specializzata e non certo appartenenti a maestranze che solo occasionalmente produceva piccoli ornamenti » (Cavalieri 2013b, p. 300).

23 Russo – Pellegrino – Gargano 2012, p. 276-281.

24 « Anche nel caso della Val d’Agri le dinamiche di trasformazione del popolamento rurale altomedioevale appaiono piuttosto complesse   : la fase di passaggio tra fine VI e VII non può più essere interpretata come un momento di cesura, ma, al contrario, è caratterizzata da un’occupazione capillare del territorio secondo rinnovate forme insediative. Le grandi ville, come quella di Barricelle, ormai in abbandono, si trasformano in abitati, con numerose unità abitative, dotati di veri e propri quartieri artigianali… C’è da chiedersi se questo incremento demografico in Val d’Agri, in particolare lungo le principali direttrici viarie, sia anche rafforzato dall’arrivo di nuovi gruppi dall’Italia centrosettentrionale, da connettere con l’avanzata longobarda nel Meridione ; comunque sia, l’attestazione di oggetti di pregio, non di produzione locale, sia nelle tombe che nella fase di rioccupazione tarda della villa, testimonia la vivacità della rete di commerci e di scambi. Segni di trasformazione, con l’abbandono dei siti di fondovalle, si possono cogliere solo alla fine del VII-inizi dell’VIII secolo, in analogia anche a quanto riscontrato in altre aree della Basilicata » (Russo – Pellegrino – Gargano 2012, p. 280-281).

25 Volpe et al. 2012, p. 240.

26 Goffredo – Maruotti 2012, p. 656-658 ; Volpe et al. 2012, p. 245-249.

27 Bruno – Tremolada 2011.

28 Carver – Brogiolo – Massa 1982, p. 243, 250, 261.

29 « Á Manerba (Brescia), un petit oratoire est associé à quelques maisons en bois qui s’installent aux VIe-VIIe siècles sur les restes d’une villa romaine » (Cantino Wataghin 2000, p. 223). « Infine troviamo le chiese altomedievali edificate molto dopo l’abbandono delle ville già occupate da insediamenti di VI-VII secolo costruiti con materiali deperibili. Ad esempio, le chiese rinvenute in relazione alla pieve romanica di Manerba del Garda (Brescia) costruite in una villa, dove già nel V secolo erano comparsi edifici in legno » (Chavarría Arnau 2011, p. 238).

30 Crosato 2005.

31 Bulgarelli – Frondoni – Murialdo 2005, p. 140-141.

32 Fiore – Appetecchia 2011.

33 Small 2008, p. 465.

34 Vassallo – Zirone 2009, p. 674.

35 The localization of this church is very significant, being built in a corner of the old courtyard, behind the rural late Roman settlement and with its facade directed not towards the villa, but to a public road leading to a nearby village   : « una collocazione che sembra significativa circa il ruolo pubblico dell’edificio, la cui fruizione i fondatori (o comunque chi risiedeva in loco), evidentemente, condividevano con le comunità dei dintorni » (Fiocchi Nicolai 2007, p. 114).

36 « Ceux-ci [les ateliers] sont étonnament fonctionnels et organisés. On retrouve différentes officines diffusées sur toute la surface de la villa fouillée à ce jour. Elles sont destinées à des activités diverses mais connectées entre elles, selon toute probabilité, afin de coordoner et rationnaliser la production, les transports et l’emploi des combustibles nécessaires à différents ouvrages, également de nature pyrotechnologique. Les pièces, réadaptées et parcellisées selon le besoin, sont également desservies par un système complexe de canalisations qui acheminait l’eau nécessaire aux travaux dans les zones les plus adaptées des pièces transformées en officines » (Cavalieri 2013a, p. 462).

37 Indicators of a ‘non-native’ presence could be a « fibbia di cintura ovoidale con ardiglione a scudetto, fusione massiccia, sezione circolare ; tipologia tra le più diffuse nel Mediterraneo occidentale tra VI-VII secolo ; già presente in Pannonia nel IV secolo » (Cavalieri 2008, p. 18, fig. 28) » and especially some cowbells locally produced, similar in shape, working technique and material to some specimens found in Hungary « nella zona occupata da tribù di origine germanica, come i Longobardi, i Gepidi ed i Goti, nel periodo di dominazione unna. I campanacci rinvenuti in Ungheria sono stati ipoteticamente attribuiti agli unni, ma è risaputo che la classe guerriera ‘unna’ era in realtà estremamente eterogenea e comprendeva molte etnie e tribù di varie origini. La notevole somiglianza con i manufatti ungheresi suggerisce che questi oggetti siano da attribuire alla tradizione di tribù germaniche » (Giumlia-Mair 2005-2012). Moreover, a comparison provided by the archaeologists about the furnace for the glass’ recycling always refers to the Lombard area   : « è interessante notare che un’officina del vetro, dotata di strutture molto simili a quelle descritte e datata al V-VI sec. d. C., è stata individuata anche a Trento, città in cui Euin, importante capo longobardo, pose la capitale del suo ducato (574-584 d.C.) successivamente all’assassinio di re Alboino. Anche qui gli scavi condotti negli anni ‘90, hanno riportato in luce i resti di una o forse due fornaci e di una canaletta per l’approvvigionamento idrico. Ulteriori ritrovamenti, inoltre, sembrano indicare che anche l’officina tridentina riciclasse frammenti di vetro » (Cavalieri et al. 2009, p. 508).

38 Cavalieri et al. 2010, p. 20.

39 « Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi, infatti, sembra divenire, nei secoli finali della sua storia, una vera e propria cava a cielo aperto donde si estraggono varie materie prime, quali marmi e metalli, e ove si giunge a riciclare anche il vetro, rifondendo le migliaia di tessere in pasta vitrea che avevano decorato le pareti di alcuni dei suoi più lussuosi ambienti. Il rinvenimento di manufatti e semilavorati in vetro e bronzo porta ad ipotizzare un sistema di reimpiego delle materie prime per un uso ed un mercato più vasto dell’ambito locale… La produzione di oggetti di lusso, quali vaghi di collana in pasta vitrea e la sistematizzazione in filiera del riciclaggio delle materie prime, non possono essere lette a nostro avviso come uno squatting destrutturato, tanto meno in rapporto a finalità di consumo interno dei prodotti » (Cavalieri 2013b, p. 304, 308) ».

40 The archaeobotanic and archeozoologic data indicate a prevalence of cereal crops and legumes and the exploitation of mainly sheep and goats (also for a wool production), some pigs and cattle (perhaps used to work in the fields outside the village), in addition to a discreet presence of poultry (Buglione 2009; Caracuta – Fiorentino 2009).

41 The 7th century settlement would therefore be the dominicum of a curtis ‘company’, where different elements of social hierarchy, rational, and controlled exploitation on economic activities and population are tangible   : « la presenza di edifici destinati alla raccolta e all’immagazzinamento di derrate agricole e alla conservazione di attrezzi e strumenti per il lavoro e di vasellame destinato a vari usi, la costruzione di un grande vano con funzione verosimilmente residenziale, l’accentramento degli impianti artigianali per la lavorazione dei metalli e per la produzione di ceramiche, l’uso ‘collettivo’ delle cucine e di altri spazi funzionali e l’impiego ‘comunitario’ del vasellame da cucina, da mensa e da dispensa, degli attrezzi di lavoro e degli arnesi utilizzati nelle attività di carpenteria e di edilizia » (Volpe et al. 2012, p. 256).

42 Goffredo – Maruotti 2012, p. 660 ; La Salvia 2011, p. 80-81

43 Among the findings inside a warehouse it is possible to report various iron tools for agriculture (an axe with two perpendicular cuts, a sickle, a wheezing, a small axe, a hatchet, a bailer, two knives) and construction (a trowel, two chisels, two scrapers) works   : « Il rinvenimento di questi oggetti, in un unico e ben caratterizzato contesto archeologico, rafforza le ipotesi avanzate circa una irreggimentata produzione agricola, verosimilmente scandita da forme di organizzazione centralizzata del lavoro contadino, con una possibile gestione collettiva dello strumentario quotidiano, motivata dall’accorta manutenzione a cui le parti in ferro degli oggetti dovevano essere sottoposte, per le difficoltà di approvvigionamento della stessa materia prima » (Volpe et al. 2012, 244-245).

44 Russo – Pellegrino – Gargano 2012, p. 287-280.

45 On the interpretation concerning the production site that developed following the dismantling of the baths of the vicus/mansio of Santa Cristina in Caio see La Salvia 2015 and Bertoldi 2016.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Map of the sites discussed in the text: 1) Castelletto Brenzone-San Zeno de l'Oselet (Veneto); 2) Manerba (Lombardy); 3) San Cassiano (Lombardy); 4) San Pietro in Carpignano (Liguria); 5) Colombarone (Marche); 6) Aiano-Torraccia di Chiusi (Tuscany); 7) Santa Cristina in Caio (Tuscany); 8) Mola di Monte Gelato (Lazio); 9) Altipiani di Arcinazzo (Lazio); 10) Faragola (Apulia); 11) San Giovanni di Ruoti (Basilicata); 12) Barricelle (Basilicata); 13) Contrada San Luca (Sicily) (GIS map).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/3692/img-1.jpg
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Titre Fig. 2 – Mola di Monte Gelato (Marzano Romano, Roma) : diachronic transformations and late Roman phase (in red the space used for metalworking) (re-elaboration from Potter – King 1997, fig. 12 and 39).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/3692/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 141k
Titre Fig. 3 – Colombarone (Pesaro, Pesaro-Urbino): reconstruction and plan of the church built reusing the Roman villa (re-elaboration from Tassinari et al. 2008, p. 30).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/3692/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 122k
Titre Fig. 4 – Aiano-Torracchia di Chiusi (San Gimignano, Siena) : aerial photo (2009 from Cavalieri 2013a, p. 455) and general plan of the reoccupation of the Roman villa by craft workshops (7th century AD) (re-elaboration from Cavalieri 2013b, p. 319).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/3692/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 117k
Titre Fig. 5 – Aiano-Torracchia di Chiusi (San Gimignano, Siena): workshop for the manufacture of iron (from Cavalieri et al. 2010, 16).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/3692/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 230k
Titre Fig. 6 – Barricelle (Marsicovetere, Potenza): plan of the late antique/early medieval phase and some materials of the mid 6th-7th century AD (zoomorphic fibulae; ring with chrismòn; cloak pins in bronze and silver; bone combs) (re-elaboration from Russo – Pellegrino – Gargano 2012, p. 279, 281).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/3692/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 46k
Titre Fig. 7 – Faragola (Ascoli Satriano, Foggia): the 7th century AD occupation of the Roman villas characterized by the presence of 5 areas of workshops (re-elaboration from Goffredo – Maruotti 2012, p. 657).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/3692/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 157k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Angelo Castrorao Barba, « Metalworking in the ‘Post-Classical’ phases of Roman villas in Italy (5th-7th centuries AD) », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge [En ligne], 129-2 | 2017, mis en ligne le 03 avril 2018, consulté le 21 octobre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/3692 ; DOI : 10.4000/mefrm.3692

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Auteur

Angelo Castrorao Barba

Università degli Studi di Palermo, castroraobarba@gmail.com

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