History of research since the Reinassance
The local humanist Antonio De Ferraris, better known as Galateo, was the first, in his book "De situ Iapygiae" (1558), to report the existence of the remains of an ancient settlement upon which Walter VI of Brienne founded a fortified citadel called 'Rocca' in the mid-14th century AD. Other reports on the site were provided by the judge Luigi Di Simone in his "Note japygo-messapiche" (1877), and by Cosimo De Giorgi in the second volume of his "Bozzetti di viaggio" (1888). The priest Guglielmo Paladini must instead be credited with the first excavations at the site, which were carried out between 1928 and 1932 and published in Studi e Memorie Storiche sull'Antica Lupiae o Sibari del Salento. In the course of these excavations were discovered, in particular, different portions of the Hellenistic (4th -3rd centuries BC) walls made of large square blocks of local limestone.
16th century AD tower
After a period of inactivity, archaeological explorations of the area around Roca resumed in a systematic fashion between 1945 and 1950, thanks to the Director of the Provincial Museum of Lecce, Mario Bernardini. Subsequent investigations conducted by the Archaeological Superintendence of Puglia and Giovanna Delli Ponti (who succeeded to Bernardini at the Provincial Museum), included not only the excavation of a portion of the Messapian walls, but also the identification of different contemporary necropolis areas. Since 1981 the Department of Cultural Heritage of University of Salento, under the direction of Prof. Cosimo Pagliara, developed a program of archaeological, environmental and underwater investigations in the area between Otranto and San Cataldo. These studies, conducted in collaboration with both Italian and foreign research institutions, allowed for the identification and analysis of copious archaeological evidence. Notable in particular were the results related to the the Bronze Age of Roca as well as the discovery of a sheer number of epigraphs preserved on the walls of the nearby 'cave-sanctuary' known as Grotta Poesia Piccola. Since 1987, the extensive research funded by the University of Salento focused mainly on the promontory known as Area Castello. The result was the definition of a complex sequence of phases of occupation, destruction and transformation of the site, occurring within a time-span of about 3500 years.