Antiquity and Poesia Cave


The occupation of the site Roca is plausibly connected, from the earliest stages of life, with the frequentation for ritual purposes at Grotta Poesia, located to the South of the peninsula that houses the ruins of the protohistoric site. The cave, irregularly elliptical in shape, is also known as Poesia Piccola to distinguish it from another neighboring cavity connected to it, the Poesia Grande.
The name given to the caves could derive from the medieval Greek pósis, with reference to the presence of an ancient source of fresh water. Originally dry, dark and accessible from the ground, the Poesia Piccola is, in its current state, being invaded by the sea in the lower part and is open upwards due to the collapse of the vault.
The archaeological importance of the monument comes from the discovery, made by Prof. Cosimo Pagliara in 1983, of an extraordinary set of signs and graffiti preserved along the entire inner perimeter of the walls. The oldest evidences, also the most damaged from the invasion of the sea, are concentrated on the lower band.
These are representations of hands and feet as well as anthropomorphic, zoomorphic or abstract figures which are reflected in similar subterranean sanctuaries from late prehistory, such as the Grotta dei Cervi at Porto Badisco. Also deserving attention is the identification of figurative motifs of probable Aegean inspiration, such as, for example, the already mentioned combination of double axe and ox skull.
The most recent attestations consist mainly of votive inscriptions in the Messapian language and Latin, as well as, in rare cases, even in Greek. The inscriptions, dating from the middle of the 4th to the end of the 2nd century BC, are attributable to both elite and ordinary people, turning to the male indigenous deity Thaotor Andirahas, Tutor Andraios in Latin.


Cast of a portion of the walls of the cave. It is possible to notice a hand, a double axe, and a bull's head (click to enlarge)

In the texts of the Republican era, the only fully translatable, a dedication made a request for help to the god accompanied by a list of offered goods (wine, livestocks etc.) in exchange for protection. The partial flooding of the cave has led to the dispersion of the original archaeological deposits, preventing the possibility to establish whether other cult activities were held there, evidenced by things such as pottery or animal sacrifices.


Early Iron Age Medieval period