The Archaeology of Grotta Scaloria: Ritual in Neolithic Southeast Italy


Series: Monumenta Archaeologica 38
ISBN: 978-938770-07-4
Publication Date: Apr 2016
Price: Hb $89, eBook $70
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Ernestine S. Elster, Eugenia Isetti, John Robb, and Antonella Traverso

“The excavation was never fully published. This volume is the product of efforts to correct that fact. And it is much more. The team, led admirably by Dr. Ernestine S. Elster of UCLA, pulled together (not without strain) the “legacy data” and applied extensive analyses, including new scientific methods.”
 — Barbara Voytek, Current Anthropology, 2017

Scaloria Cave, Grotta Scaloria, is in Apulia, where the Tavoliere Plain rises to meet the Gargano peninsula. Hundreds of villages were located there during the Neolithic period, the villagi trincerati first identified from aerial photographs taken by the British RAF during WW II. Certainly some of these Neolithic villagers of the Tavoliere visited Scaloria Cave, for refuge from the elements, and for the mysterious rituals held in both the Lower and Upper Chambers. Scaloria ceramic

Grotta Scaloria was first discovered and explored in 1931, excavated briefly in 1967, and extensively from 1978–80 by a joint UCLA-University of Genoa team, but never fully published. The Save Scaloria Project was organized to locate this legacy data, and to enhance that information by application of the newest methods of archaeological and scientific analysis.

Finally, this important site is published, in one comprehensive volume that gathers together the archaeological data from the Upper and Lower Chambers of Scaloria Cave, which indicate intense ritual and quotidian use during the Neolithic (ca 5600-5300 BC). The Grotta Scaloria project is also important as historiography, since it illustrates a changing trajectory of research spanning three generations of European and American archaeology. 

Recipient of the Jo Anne Stolaroff Cotsen Prize

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Grotta Scaloria: An Archaeological History by Ernestine S. Elster

  • Comments, Scaloria Day, Genoa 2008 by Santo Tiné

Ch. 2 Introduction to Scaloria Cave

  • Ch. 2.1 Discovery and Explorations of the Cave, 1931-2013 by Eugenia Isetti
  • Ch. 2.2 Research in Occhiopinto Cave by Nicoletta Bianchi, Eugenia Isetti, and Antonella Traverso
  • Ch. 2.3 Radiocarbon Dating and Absolute Chronology by John Robb

Ch. 3 The Ancient Cave and Its Human Occupation

  • Ch. 3.1 Geoarchaeological Studies by Ivano Rellini, Andrea Ciampalini, Marco Firpo, and John Hellstrom
  • Ch. 3.2 Archaeobotanical Analysis: Paleoenvironmental Implications by Girolamo Fiorentino and Cosimo D’Oronzo
  • Ch. 3.3 Prehistoric Animal Remains from Grotta Scaloria by László Bartosiewicz and Éva Ágnes Nyerges
  • Ch. 3.4 Sensory Worlds of Grotta Scaloria by Sue Hamilton, Mike Seager Thomas, and Ruth Whitehouse
  • Santo Tiné: A Special Tribute by Ruth Whitehouse
  • Ch. 3.5 Cults and Rites at Scaloria Cave: The Contextual Evidence by Eugenia Isetti, Antonella Traverso, and Anna Maria Tunzi Sisto

Ch. 4 The Cave’s Occupants in Life and Death

  • Ch. 4.1 The Human Skeletal Remains from Scaloria Cave by Christopher Knüsel, John Robb, and Mary Anne Tafuri
  • Ch. 4.2 Diet during Life: Paleoeconomic Studies of Human Diet Using Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotopes by Mary Anne Tafuri, Tamsin C. O’Connell, Ellon Souter, Nunzia Libianchi, and John Robb
  • Ch. 4.3 Mobility, Landscape, and the Function of the Cave: Evidence from Strontium Isotopes by Mary Anne Tafuri, Tamsin C. O’Connell, John Robb, Christopher Knüsel, and Paul Fullagar
  • Ch. 4.4 The Upper Cave: Taphonomic Analysis of the Treatment of the Dead by Christopher Knüsel, John Robb, and Mary Anne Tafuri

Ch. 5 Material Culture I. Pottery: Form, Decoration, and Distribution

  • Ch. 5.1 Pottery Morphology and Typology by Antonella Traverso
  • Ch. 5.2 Pottery from the Upper Chamber 1978 Excavations by Antonella Traverso
  • Ch. 5.3 Pottery from the Lower Chamber by Eugenia Isetti and Antonella Traverso
  • Ch. 5.4 Pottery from the Upper Chamber by Eugenia Isetti and Antonella Traverso
  • Ch. 5.5 Marija Gimbutas’s Notes of Tavoliere Sites and Drawings of Scaloria Pottery: 1976-1980
  • Ch. 5.6 Archaeometric Analysis of Ceramic Materials by Italo M. Muntoni and Giacomo Eramo
  • Ch. 5.7 Scaloria Cave Ceramics in Museo Archaeologico Nazionale, Taranto: The Quagliati and Drago Collection by Mariantonia Gorgoglione, Eugenia Isetti, and Antonella Traverso

Ch. 6 Material Culture II. Stone Tools and Artifacts of Bone and Shell

  • Ch. 6.1 The Lithic Industry of the 1978 Excavation Campaign by Cecilia Conati Barbaro
  • Ch. 6.2 In Daily Use: 1979 Assemblage of Chipped Stone by Ernestine S. Elster
  • Ch. 6.3 The Ground and Polished Stone Assemblage by Patrizia Garibaldi, Eugenia Isetti, Irene Molinari, and Guido Rossi
  • Ch. 6.4 Bone Tool Industry by Donatella Pian
  • Ch. 6.5 Shell from the Grotta Scaloria by David S. Reese

Ch. 7 Conclusions by John Robb, Ernestine S. Elster, Eugenia Isetti, and Antonella Traverso