Preparation for a geo-archaeological project as this includes a first global analysis of the landscape as historical territory in view of its chronological evolution and geomorphologic differentiation. This means getting a grip of the character and evolution of the natural environment and the types of landscape and micro-landscape involved, analysing the potential of soils and natural sources for human use in the considered past. Basic problems of hydrography and coastal change as well as the general outline of occupation history known from written sources and earlier archaeological research should be assessed. This includes dealing with the research biases inherent in regional archaeological data, including data from rescue excavations, survey, archives and literature.

The main research phase aims at a new and detailed archaeological evaluation of human evolution within the changing landscape from the early Iron age to the early Medieval period, with attention to earlier and later periods of settlement history. This means deployment of the full battery of techniques available to archaeological landscape research in the total area, as well as in well-chosen sample zones evenly distributed over the Potenza valley and nearby hills. The techniques used here include: systematic fieldwalking, active aerial photography from a low flying aircraft, regressive study of cartographic material and vertical aerial photographs, study of satellite imagery, research of toponymic and selected historic written information (see cornerstones). Where necessary existing archaeological collections and finds are being studied. All geographically linked information is assembled and analysed, together with results of geomorphologic research, in a Geographic Information System (GIS) specifically developed for this project.

While most of these research activities concern the whole valley, from source to mouth and in width limited by the watersheds of parallel river valleys, the first intensive field surveys (2000 - 2003) were only carried out in three large sample zones: transects of some 10 to 25 km² each, systematically spaced at regular intervals across the ca. 80 km long region. They cover all the main landscape types of the region and represent in particular the upper, middle and lower valley. The choice was made on geographical grounds, but also on the basis of cultural-historical features, such as the vicinity of Roman towns (for which they acted as hinterland) or of known protohistoric centres, such as hillsites with important élite cemeteries. One of the strengths of this kind of intensive field survey is its ability to shed light on long-term changes in settlement pattern and land use.

During a second phase of the project (from 2004 onwards) intensive intra-site fieldwork was mostly carried out on the main protohistoric centers in the valley and especially on the four real Roman towns located in the Potenza corridor (Potentia, Ricina, Trea and Septempeda). An integrated field approach, involving detailed artifact surveys, geophysical prospection, intensive aerial photography, geomorphological and geomatical operations and historical cartographic analyses, was chosen in order to map and study these larger agglomerations in detail. Small scale excavations (2007-2010) were undertaken in the Roman colonial town of Potentia, in order to supplement the surface data with stratigraphic information and to test the validity of some of the hypotheses proposed by the systematic use of non-invasive survey techniques.


Important protohistoric centers and the Roman towns in the valley.

Important protohistoric centers and the Roman towns in the valley.

Finally the regional results from the Potenza area should be directly confronted with results from systematic survey work elsewhere in Central Italy and beyond, such as recent or on-going intensive surveys in Tuscany, Umbria, Molise, Lazio, Etruria and the Marches.