Early Iron Age


Location of the main evidence dating to the Early Iron Age

As in previous periods, even after the destruction by fire of the Final Bronze Age, the settlement of Roca is not abandoned, but rather suddenly reorganized. Due to the intense disturbances dating to the Messapian and Medieval period, the evidence from the Iron Age (mid/late 10th - early 7th century BC) was preserved worse than previous periods. The existing fortifications were neither rebuilt nor dismantled, but left standing in ruin at the western edge of the peninsula.
Despite signs of possible decline or contraction, however, what emerges is of great importance also with respect of the later protohistoric horizon. The first element of interest is in the continuing strategic importance of the center. After an apparent interruption of trans-Adriatic contact, from the eighth century BC the import of fine ceramics and amphorae of Corinthian/Corcyraean production is attested. This implies an active involvement of the settlement of Roca in the networks of so-called 'pre-colonial' and 'proto-colonial' seafaring directed towards the Gulf of Taranto, Sicily and the Southern Tyrrhenian regions.
A second distinguishing feature is the identification of substantial evidence of ritual nature. In this regard, it is worth taking further the intriguing hypothesis that connects the particular concentration of structures and areas intended for ceremonial or cultic activities in the zones close to the Bronze Age fortifications, with the celebration of 'cults of the ruins' or 'cults of memories'.


Apsidal structure dating to the Early Iron Age

Ritual practices involving the sacrifice of a perinatal pig seem to be involved, for example, in the remains found in a complex apsidal structure, leaning against the collapsing wall, dating between the end of the 9th and the first decades of the 8th century BC. The remaining portion of the building consisted of a floor connected to a series of three raised platforms. On the floor were found, in addition to the remains in anatomical connection of the pig, a fragment of a bronze pin, three loom weights, an impasto spindle whorl and a collection of a fine, handmade, unpainted and locally produced olla. The size and shape of the vessel suggest a use for the storage of dry foodstuffs.
Of the three platforms, the only fully conserved one was fashioned through the use of clay identical to that used to realize the pavement. The same platform, along its top surface, presents a line of small circular cavities. The second platform was devoid of a clay lining and can be interpreted as a kind of shelf for storage of food. Within this area of the structure were recovered, among other items, more fragments attributable to the fine clay olla found on the floor, a large container for liquids of the same ceramic class and an impasto dish. The third platform similarly to the first has also a series of 'trays' of baked clay that crown the upper face.
Relevant indications of ritual or ceremonial activities emerge also from later levels. There are, in particular, two ceramic-rich deposits filling large shallow pits. This included indigenous impasto ceramics, and valuable fineware for drinking, eating and containing, attributable to the local Late Geometric II style (bowls, mugs, anforette, jugs, jars). In addition there was also unusual amount of drinking containers (beakers, cups etc.), and amphorae from trans-Adriactic commerce, similarly attributable to the last decades of the 8th and early 7th century BC.
The vessels generally show limited signs of wear and are frequently burnt. It is also worth noting that most of the ceramic material can be reconstructed almost completely. This is valid both for indigenous and imported examples, attributable to Corinthian- Corcyraean productions, in large part connected to the use or transportation of wine. Excluding a number of shallow bowls, an olla (local storage vessel) fully reassembled and some items related to spinning and weaving (spindle whorls, small weights-spools), the impasto material tends to be more patchy and dispersed.
The exceptional statistical incidences of fineware, both local and imported, in relation to contemporary settlements known, encourage the rejection of the hypothesis that the two deposits may be understood as common habitation refuse. It appears more convincing the possibility that these deposits represented a deposition of pottery remains used during ceremonies of possible community relevance, such as symposia, libations or similar.
In addition to the frequency of vessels for storing, mixing, drawing, pouring and drinking fluids, clues of the validity of this hypothesis are to be found in the attestations of 'symbolic' motifs in the context of local geometric productions. This is the case, for example, of the anthropomorphic subject reproduced in a stylized fashion on the body of a boccaletto. Similar figures are attested in several Italian necropolis of the Iron Age and are often considered representations of worshipers or deities. It is less easy to determine whether the occurrence of 'swastika' decorations is due to exclusively stylistic factors or whether they may also refer to solar cults. Also worth of attention is the presence of miniature amphorae and jugs of local fineware. Both in the protohistoric era and later, the frequency of these forms is extremely reduced in settlement areas, but grows exponentially in the funerary or ritual contexts.

Final Bronze Age Antiquity and Poesia Cave