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Pedo-tephrostratigraphic context of Palaeo-Mesolithic occurrences at Frigento, Hirpinia (Campanian Apennine)

Cadre pédo-téphrostratigraphique des horizons paléolithiques et mésolithiques de Frigento, Hirpinie (Apennin campanien)
Contesto pedo-tefrostratigrafico di orizzonti archeologici paleolitico-mesolitici a Frigento, Irpinia (Appennino campano)
Francesco Fedele, Biagio Giaccio and Roberto Isaia
p. 109-117

Abstracts

For the first time a stratigraphic framework has been provided for several Palaeolithic and possible Mesolithic occurrences of the Campanian Apennine, on the basis of the numerous manifestations recognized at Frigento (Avellino). Knowledge of the Palaeolithic peopling of the mountainous region of southern Italy was, until now, extremely poor. In 2006 a geoarchaeological project identified a stratified sequence comprising four main pedological units intercalated with no less than six Late Pleistocene and Holocene tephra layers. Five archaeological horizons indicating both Middle and late Palaeolithic (and/or Mesolithic) occupations were precisely located in the sequence. The latter suggest affinities to some advanced Epigravettian industries of central-southern Italy, previously unknown in the region. All Palaeolithic technologies show original adaptations to the silica-rich argillites of the area, or pietra di Frigento.

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1 - Location, background and project context

1The ancient region of the Hirpini, bounded by Campania and Samnium, occupies a crucial portion of the southern Apennines at mid-distance between the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic Seas (fig.1).

Fig.1 - Frigento (Avellino province, Campania) in southern Italy.

Fig.1 - Frigento (Avellino province, Campania) in southern Italy.

2The region has been a genuine crossroads since at least the later prehistory. Frigento, one of the oldest towns of Hirpinia and indeed a former regional capital endowed with rich historical memories, is itself located very close to the Apennine watershed where it is at its lowest and most negotiable. Here the mountain range has a reticulate configuration rather than linear. This sum of factors has made the Frigento area a central area for human circulation between an eastern and a western geo-climatic province within southern Italy. There is little doubt that such pre-conditions and their consequences have been in effect for a very long time, and presumably throughout the Holocene.

3Frigento coincides with a relatively isolated relief 911 m high, a small domed mountain whose hilltop commands a 360-degree view over interior Hirpinia, Alta Irpinia in Italian. Whereas the southern hillside has been extensively opened to agriculture and is being partly modified by residential developments, the northern quadrants of the hill have retained most of their woodland cover. The dominant vegetation of the submontane belt as represented at Frigento is a mixed deciduous forest with a Mediterranean character (Laudadio, 1996). A large part of the hill, including the northern sector where the present research was conducted, belongs geologically to the “Flysch Galestrino” Formation, Lower Cretaceous in age and a component of the Frigento Tectonic Unit as recently defined by Basso et al., 2002; “GAL” in their geological map. For the geomorphology of the middle Úfita Valley we refer to Basso et al. (1996a, 1996b) and the digital terrain model in fig.2, while a summary of the geology and geomorphology of the Frigento area can be found in Santangeloand Santo (2008).

4The lithology of Frigento includes a peculiar class of hard, dark, silica-rich argillites well suited to the formation of prismatic or acicular clasts, or producing conchoidal-fractured clasts under percussion. Because of both its local dominance and its importance in Palaeolithic stone-knapping, as detailed below, this group of rock types has been colloquially labelled pietra di Frigento (i.e. Frigento’s stone; Forgione and Giovanniello, 2002; Forgioneand Fedele, 2008, p.76-83).

5During the past fifteen years, sustained field reconnaissance by a resident naturalist and teacher, Dr Salvatore Forgione, has brought to light in the Frigento area a considerable number of Palaeolithic and more recent artifacts, lithics in particular. Submitted to the attention of the senior author since 2000, such finds were recognized as potentially very significant for the understanding of the early human peopling of the southern Apennines. Although mostly from surface situations, some findings were made from exposed sections, particularly in the woodland. From the outset, three considerations suggested their importance: the occurrence within a vast area of mountainous peninsular Italy where very little Palaeolithic industry had been elucidated, and normally out of context (cf. Talamo, 1996); what appeared to be original adaptations of lithic technology to the pietra di Frigento; and the apparent association, in a few places, of lithic implements and fossilized animal bones (Forgione and Giovanniello, 2002).

6Additional, systematic collection in 2005-06, and, concurrently, the discovery of volcanic or “tephra” layers, suggested that research should be put on a better footing and the investigation of the Palaeolithic be given priority. The presumed potential of Frigento for a study of the earliest peopling of the region was further underscored by a fragment of a fossil human femur – identified as Pleistocene Homo sp.– accidentally exhumed from a formerly buried context near the hilltop (Fedele, 2008b). On the basis of the above observations, a research project was launched in 2006 by Naples University, in conjunction with the CNR’s Institute of Environmental Geology and Geo-Engineering, the INGV’s Vesuvian Observatory, and the municipality of Frigento (Fedele et al., 2008b). Among the aims of the project is to adopt a geoarchaeological approach, coupled with an emphasis on tephrostratigraphy as a key to ordering, correlation and dating. This paper provides a comprehensive report on the results of the first field season in the light of subsequent laboratory analyses.

2 - Stratigraphy and chronology: a framework

2.1 - Stratigraphy

7Excavations were conducted in October-November 2006 at the so-called Pietraliscia, locality A (coded PLA), within the wooded northern sector of the Frigento hillside (fig.2: b). The locality was selected on the basis of the presence of tephra deposits, however ambiguous initially, and the abundant occurrence of lithic artifacts that could be found near a small section due to erosion. Two excavations were opened, both at an altitude of 706-708 m a.s.l. on a 5°-20° sloping surface: PLA 1 at the present archaeological site, where a combination of vertical and horizontal procedures were employed in digging; and PLA 2, where 5 m sounding was made. All sediments from PLA 1 were sieved at 0.5 cm and expertly hand-picked for artifacts, resulting in a collection of about 1500 pieces; no cultural material was found at PLA 2.

8In spite of the short duration of fieldwork, less than a week due to weather conditions, the results were outstanding in terms of both stratigraphy and archaeology. The most representative profile was obtained from PLA 1, the sounding at PLA 2 only giving a detailed picture of the upper units to be seen in a condensed series at PLA 1. No less than five horizons with Palaeolithic material were recognized, representing at least two distinct “epochs” of cultural activity (see below). The depositional framework is composed of about a dozen elementary sediment units, which, for the sake of simplicity, can be subsumed under four principal strata. These are here named volcanic-pedo-sedimentary units (VPS units), as defined on the basis of both field and laboratory evidence. They provide preliminary contexts for the most recent Palaeolithic industries at Frigento. The litho-pedo and tephrostratigraphic sequences are shown in fig.3.

9The VPS units are here intended as discrete horizons originating from either sedimentary or pedogenetic processes as recorded at Pietraliscia. All recognized VPS units, numbered top-down from the youngest, VPS-1, to the earliest, VPS-4 (fig.3), contain a certain amount of reworked pyroclastic material.

Fig.3 - Pietraliscia, Frigento: litho-, pedo- and tephrostratigraphic sequence as recognized in 2006 at site PLA 1.

Fig.3 - Pietraliscia, Frigento: litho-, pedo- and tephrostratigraphic sequence as recognized in 2006 at site PLA 1.

The position of the analysed geological samples is marked; archaeological horizons are indicated as HA to HE and refer to Palaeolithic sensu lato industries.

10Being affected to a different extent by pedogenetic modifications, the juvenile clasts vary in condition from relativey fresh (in the uppermost units) to strongly weathered (lowermost units). Nevertheless, the observation under binocular microscope of a relativey large amount of the wet-sieved sand fraction (250÷125 μm) from samples of the VPS units, allowed a sufficient number of fresh glass shards (10 or more) to be hand-picked. On such shards microprobe (WDS-EDS) chemical analyses were performed. This procedure was successfully applied to the lowermost units, subjected to heavier pedogenetic and weathering processes (VPS-4b, VPS-4a and VPS-3c).

11The results (tab.1 and fig.4) provided the basis for identifying the volcanic source of the pyroclastic material.

Tab. 1

Unit

VPS4

Sample

PLA-1

PLA-2

Population

a

b

a

b

c

n=5

sd

n=8

sd

n=2

sd

n=7

sd

n=2

sd

SiO2

60.37

1.04

61.73

0.43

57.05

0.66

61.80

0.54

62.45

0.00

TiO2

0.42

0.03

0.41

0.03

0.56

0.01

0.39

0.04

0.43

0.01

Al2O3

18.59

0.62

19.00

0.49

17.87

0.11

17.92

0.10

18.08

0.02

FeO

3.55

0.47

2.89

0.14

5.49

0.36

3.32

0.26

2.94

0.05

MnO

0.18

0.05

0.24

0.05

0.12

0.01

0.12

0.03

0.20

0.05

MgO

0.73

0.30

0.35

0.04

1.92

0.19

0.73

0.13

0.35

0.01

CaO

2.59

0.71

1.68

0.05

5.32

0.39

2.68

0.25

1.74

0.01

Na2O

5.00

0.94

6.46

0.23

3.22

0.04

3.66

0.44

6.45

0.05

K2O

8.01

0.76

7.08

0.12

7.80

0.23

9.16

0.32

7.11

0.06

P2O5

0.13

0.06

0.05

0.02

0.43

0.05

0.15

0.04

0.05

0.01

F

0.23

0.11

0.37

0.10

0.22

0.01

0.12

0.10

0.39

0.05

Cl

0.61

0.07

0.72

0.04

0.47

0.01

0.47

0.10

0.73

0.03

SO3

0.05

0.03

0.04

0.02

0.22

0.03

0.08

0.06

0.04

0.05

Original total

98.71

0.54

98.97

0.91

97.20

0.39

97.08

0.79

98.22

0.47

Unit

VPS4

Sample

PLA-3

Population

a

b

c

d

n=3

sd

n=3

sd

n=2

sd

n=2

sd

SiO2

57.39

0.41

59.52

0.24

60.61

0.18

63.13

0.03

TiO2

0.56

0.03

0.46

0.01

0.47

0.07

0.39

0.02

Al2O3

17.91

0.18

18.02

0.12

17.92

0.10

17.90

0.06

FeO

5.25

0.21

4.26

0.14

3.81

0.11

3.00

0.10

MnO

0.20

0.01

0.14

0.07

0.17

0.01

0.21

0.06

MgO

1.67

0.13

1.13

0.10

0.88

0.04

0.48

0.02

CaO

4.92

0.26

3.68

0.13

2.96

0.07

1.85

0.03

Na2O

3.36

0.24

3.25

0.17

4.09

0.08

5.31

0.11

K2O

8.06

0.19

9.08

0.40

8.89

0.07

7.55

0.12

P2O5

0.39

0.03

0.24

0.03

0.14

0.00

0.11

0.00

F

0.13

0.08

0.08

0.03

0.17

0.07

0.17

0.15

Cl

0.46

0.01

0.44

0.07

0.60

0.00

0.51

0.06

SO3

0.29

0.03

0.21

0.03

0.07

0.01

0.06

0.05

Original total

96.79

0.82

96.89

1.91

97.72

0.91

99.16

0.00

Unit

VPS3

VPS-2

Sample

PLA-4

PLA-5

Population

a

b

c

b

c

n=4

n=16

n=9

n=6

n=16

SiO2

57.39

1.14

60.30

0.47

61.73

0.43

54.12

0.84

54.24

1.31

TiO2

0.61

0.06

0.47

0.03

0.45

0.05

0.45

0.08

0.46

0.09

Al2O3

18.12

0.98

18.47

0.31

18.15

0.30

20.92

0.85

20.89

0.91

FeO

5.23

0.77

3.90

0.19

3.37

0.18

4.56

0.69

4.91

0.66

MnO

0.18

0.02

0.14

0.04

0.15

0.04

0.15

0.02

0.18

0.04

MgO

1.74

0.58

0.75

0.23

0.56

0.06

0.84

0.53

0.88

0.60

CaO

4.75

0.43

2.84

0.28

2.40

0.10

4.87

1.05

5.30

1.26

Na2O

3.58

0.16

4.03

0.26

4.42

0.20

4.82

0.76

6.73

0.94

K2O

8.09

0.41

8.93

0.36

8.65

0.12

9.26

1.01

6.42

0.64

P2O5

0.30

0.12

0.15

0.06

0.10

0.03

0.14

0.09

0.22

0.25

F

0.15

0.03

0.16

0.07

0.26

0.12

0.37

0.18

0.45

0.19

Cl

0.53

0.09

0.59

0.07

0.71

0.06

0.84

0.10

0.96

0.24

SO3

0.02

0.01

0.07

0.04

0.05

0.04

Original total

98.39

0.15

98.73

1.14

98.91

1.00

97.00

1.16

96.65

1.20

Average major-element composition (WDS-EDS analyses) of fresh glass shards from units VPS-2, VPS-3 and VPS-4 at Pietraliscia site A, Frigento (wt.% normalized to 100%); see fig.3 for the stratigraphic position of the analysed samples

Fig.4 - Total alkali-silica classification diagram of glass fragments from the Pietraliscia volcanic-pedo-sedimentary (VPS) units, Frigento.

Fig.4 - Total alkali-silica classification diagram of glass fragments from the Pietraliscia volcanic-pedo-sedimentary (VPS) units, Frigento.

Data from Table 1; see fig.3 for the stratigraphic position of the samples.

12In table 2 a correlation is proposed to known and well-dated tephra layers of the central Mediterranean.

Tab. 2

Tephra

PLA-5

AP3

PLA-4

TM-8 (NYT)

PLA-2/3

Site

Pietraliscia

Vesuvius

Pietraliscia

Monticchio

Pietraliscia

Population

b

c

a

b

c

a

b

b

c

d

n=6

n=16

n=4

n=16

n=9

n=5

n=4

n=6

n=12

n=4

SiO2

54.12

54.24

54.02

57.39

60.30

61.73

56.77

61.66

57.26

61.03

62.87

TiO2

0.45

0.46

0.61

0.61

0.47

0.45

0.60

0.43

0.56

0.42

0.41

Al2O3

20.92

20.89

21.10

18.12

18.47

18.15

18.51

18.35

17.89

17.94

17.99

FeO

4.56

4.91

5.23

5.23

3.90

3.37

5.32

2.87

5.34

3.64

2.97

MnO

0.15

0.18

0.15

0.18

0.14

0.15

0.14

0.15

0.17

0.13

0.21

MgO

0.84

0.88

0.89

1.74

0.75

0.56

1.63

0.44

1.77

0.86

0.42

CaO

4.87

5.30

5.44

4.75

2.84

2.40

4.83

2.18

5.08

2.98

1.80

Na2O

4.82

6.73

6.02

3.58

4.03

4.42

3.50

4.91

3.30

3.63

5.88

K2O

9.26

6.42

6.53

8.09

8.93

8.65

8.00

8.49

7.95

9.09

7.33

P2O5

0.14

0.22

0.30

0.15

0.10

0.36

0.05

0.41

0.17

0.08

F

0.37

0.45

0.15

0.16

0.26

0.00

0.00

0.17

0.12

0.28

Cl

0.84

0.96

0.86

0.53

0.59

0.71

0.44

0.62

0.47

0.48

0.62

SO3

0.02

0.07

0.05

-

-

0.26

0.11

0.05

Original total

97.00

96.65

98.39

98.73

98.91

96.96

97.14

98.97

Tephra

TM-24b (X5)

C-27 (X5)

PLA-1

TM-27 (X6)

C-31 (X6)

S10 (X6)

Site

Monticchio

Tyrrhenian Sea

Pietraliscia

Monticchio

Ionian Sea

S. Gregorio

Population

a

b

a

b

a

b

a

b

a

b

n=5

n=6

80.00

20.00

n=5

n=8

20%

80%

SiO2

58.14

61.29

60.79

62.47

60.37

61.73

61.95

61.44

60.17

61.74

62.38

TiO2

0.54

0.40

0.47

0.40

0.42

0.41

0.45

0.48

0.47

0.49

0.40

Al2O3

19.18

19.06

18.41

18.39

18.59

19.00

18.64

18.75

19.45

19.19

18.86

FeO

4.70

3.36

3.53

3.11

3.55

2.89

2.79

3.01

3.7

3.1

2.81

MnO

0.16

0.13

0.16

0.22

0.18

0.24

0.20

0.32

0.24

MgO

1.30

0.63

0.75

0.39

0.73

0.35

0.45

0.31

0.77

0.43

0.29

CaO

4.15

2.58

2.60

1.81

2.59

1.68

1.91

1.75

2.51

1.72

1.61

Na2O

4.02

4.05

3.71

5.88

5.00

6.46

5.92

7.29

4.03

6.03

6.02

K2O

7.52

8.37

9.28

7.17

8.01

7.08

7.61

6.62

8.69

7.31

7.39

P2O5

0.29

0.11

0.01

0.00

0.13

0.05

0.07

0.04

F

0.00

0.00

0.23

0.37

0.00

0.17

Cl

0.45

0.40

0.54

1.00

0.61

0.72

0.63

0.90

SO3

0.28

0.16

0.05

0.04

Original total

98.71

98.97

Comparative major-element composition (wt.% normalized to 100%) for tephra layers from Pietraliscia site A, Frigento, and pyroclastics from relevant volcanic eruptions of the Campanian volcanoes.

13Concerning the recognition of the volcanic components in the uppermost units, VPS-3b to VPS-1, no chemical data were produced, because an identification based on their peculiar lithological and textural characters was considered both reliable and sufficient. A description of the four VPS units, including their age and origin, is reported below and summarised in fig.3.

14VPS-1. The unit essentially is a reworked pyroclastic deposit of fine ash and well-vesiculated grey to whitish pumice, with some small fragments of pietra di Frigento from the flysch substratum. This deposit represents the post-eruptive downslope re-mobilization of a pyroclastic fallout, whose components and textural features allow an attribution to the Plinian eruption of the Pomici di Avellino, originating from Mount Vesuvius 3800-4000 years ago (e.g. Rolandi et al., 1998; Santacroce et al., 2008). *

15VPS-2. This is a slightly reworked volcanic layer truncated by an erosional surface. The deposit comprises millimetre-sized grey dense porphyritic scoria with black and green clinopyroxens, feldspar, leucite and mica crystals. Glass chemical analyses of this tephra (tab.1, sample PLA‑5) show a tephri-phonolitic composition comparable with the so-called AP3 eruption (tab.2; fig.4), one of a cluster of minor explosive events from Vesuvius that occurred between the major eruptions of the Pomici di Avellino (see above) and Pompeii, AD 79 (Rolandi and Petrosino, 1998; Andronico and Cioni, 2002).

16VPS-3. A sandy dark brown to yellowish buried soil, characterised by high porosity and poor cohesion. Its parent material is represented by three overlapping and variably altered, reworked pyroclastic deposits. The topmost, VPS-3a, can be identified as equivalent to VPS-1 and consequently deriving from the pyroclastic products of the Pomici di Avellino. The relatively fresh underlying deposit, VPS-3b, has components and textural characteristics corresponding to those of the Pomici di Mercato eruption (a.k.a. Pomici di Ottaviano, see Rolandiet al., 1993), again from Vesuvius, around 9700 years ago (Santacroce et al., 2008). The lowermost deposit, VPS-3c (tab.1, sample PLA-4), is a substantially altered, reworked pyroclastic unit whose chemical composition allows it to be correlated to the Neapolitan Yellow Tuff (tab.2), the second largest explosive event of the Campi Flegrei volcanic area north of Naples (Orsi et al., 1992), dated to about 15,000 years BP (Deino et al., 2004).

17VPS-4. This is a high-cohesion, reddish, clayey palaeosol with decimetre-thick rubble lenses; a rubble layer within VPS-4a is distinctly associated with Palaeolithic horizon HC. The soil parent material is made up of at least two overlapping, strongly altered pyroclastic deposits, mainly characterized by sanidine crystals and rare dark grey or transparent glass fragments. The chemical composition of hand-picked glass shards from three samples collected at basal, middle and top levels (tab.1, samples PLA-1, 2 and 3) clearly indicates that these products were generated during two or more Campi Flegrei eruptions. In particular, we believe that we can identify two eruptions whose tephra are still poorly known on land in proximal areas, but have been widely recognized from cores in the Mediterranean Sea as the X6 and X5 tephra layers (tab.2). They are respectively dated to 108,000 and 105,000 years BP (Keller et al., 1978; Narcisi and Vezzoli, 1999; Wulf et al., 2006).

2.2 - Depositional history

18The stratigraphic units of Pietraliscia A testify to a complex history of local interaction between pyroclastic fallout, depositional-erosional mechanisms, and pedogenetic processes. The explosive activity of the Campanian volcanoes is well represented. The main geo-environmental events responsible for the formation of the Pietraliscia sequence during the last 110,000 years, with reference to the marine isotope stages (MIS), can be outlined. The recognition at Frigento of diagnostic tephra which occur in the Lago Grande di Monticchio sequence, occupying the Vùlture crater (Wulf et al., 2006; Braueret al., 2007), allows a correlation of lacustrine and subaerial records in the region. In addition to dating, this further provides an opportunity to appreciate the geomorphic processes operating on the Frigento hillside in the light of a regional palaeoclimatic framework (fig.5).

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

Tephrostratigraphic correlation between the palaeoenvironmental records from Lago Grande di Monticchio (Brauer et al., 2007) and Pietraliscia. Tephra abbreviations: PA, Pomici di Avellino; PM, Pomici di Mercato; NYT, Neapolitan Yellow Tuff.

19Between 110,000 and 100,000 years ago, during MIS 5, two major explosive eruptions from Campi Flegrei dispersed their products over a wide area of the central-eastern Mediterranean (tephra X6 and X5). In the Frigento area, after limited downslope redeposition, both pyroclastic deposits were involved in a marked and possibly long soil formation reasonably to be associated with the warm and humid second half of MIS 5, c. 100-75,000 BP, well documented at Monticchio by very high values of arboreal pollen (fig.5). The relatively cold climatic phases of the Last Glacial (MIS 4, c. 75,000-15,000 years ago; fig.5) were not recorded by sediments or soils at Pietraliscia and in the surroundings, apparently. This would imply that all volcanic products of the Last Glacial, including extreme events, were systematically and more or less rapidly eroded from the northern hillslope. An event of hemispheric importance such as the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption of about 40,000 years ago, closely investigated in order to define its impact on the Palaeolithic population (Fedele et al., 2008a, with references), could not be recognized.

20Sediments and palaeosols at Pietraliscia only record chronological intervals related to the Last Interglacial and Late Glacial-Early Holocene periods (fig.5). This latter interval, which began about 15,000 years ago, saw the development of a composite buried soil on the products of three subsequent eruptions (Neapolitan Yellow Tuff, Pomici di Mercato and Pomici di Avellino), which suggests a phase of relative geomorphological stability. Such a phase is paralleled by a rapid increase of arboreal pollen at Monticchio. This long stasis came to an end after sedimentation of the AP3 tephra about 3500-3000 years ago. At this point the composite soil and the superposed AP3 level were buried at Pietraliscia A by colluvia deriving from the erosion of the palaeosol’s uppermost horizon, which mainly included material from the Pomici di Avellino eruption (fig.3 and 5).

3 - Archaeology, with an emphasis on the terminal Palaeolithic/Mesolithic horizons

21As mentioned, five Palaeolithic artifact horizons were recognized at Pietraliscia A. They will be briefly described from top to bottom (fig.3).

22HA, HB. A level with largely worn, redeposited artifacts (an aggregate rather than a proper assemblage) was brought to light at the surface of unit VPS-2 (HA). Some sedimentary structuring of the lithics and other clasts suggests that the aggregate derives from short or mid-distance debris-flow transport, linked to the emplacement of unit VPS-2 during a later part of the Holocene. However, 10% of the artifacts are unworn and at least one episode of more or less in situ stoneworking is documented. HA is followed lower down, in the upper part of unit VPS-3, by a similar artifact level, HB, which presents a greater frequency of sharp-edged artifacts (about 50%) and some chipping waste produced in situ. Some HB material can be said to be in a primary position: the horizon is the result of metric-distance transport from a primary site located upslope in the area.

23Both HA and HB are largely composed of small artifacts, both flakes and blades, 1-3 cm in size (fig.6).

Fig. 6 - Pietraliscia, site PLA 1.

Fig. 6 - Pietraliscia, site PLA 1.

A selection of the small-artifact and small-tool component of the archaeological collection from horizon HA, terminal Palaeolithic and/or Mesolithic. Finds include: a, borers and becs; b, sharp-edged débitage; c, denticulates; d, endscrapers; e, partly utilised bladelets; f, micro-borers; g, a trapezoid geometric; h, thermally damaged pieces with fire cupules. Scale in cm.

24A 95% utilization of pietra di Frigento has heavily conditioned blank choice in tool making, providing a large number of naturally shaped pieces for immediate use (utilised unretouched tools or “utilizzati” in Italian; Fedele, 2008a). Typological assortment in both horizons is dominated by borers, becs, pointed tools, notches and denticulates, and “thick-edged utilizzati”. Among the intentionally fashioned, retouched tools one can note in HA a rabot and the occasional endscraper and burin. The collection from excavated HB shows a greater frequency of becs, borers and endscrapers (which also dominate the chert component), micro-utilizzati, denticulates, and several thermally or fire-damaged pieces. The latter provide indirect evidence of nearby hearths. Two in situ macroliths, otherwise resembling much earlier Palaeolithic implements, appear to be an integral part of this industry.

25Horizons HA and HB, although generally emplaced by downslope redeposition, contain materials that seem exclusively related to a culture or cultures of the advanced Upper Palaeolithic and/or Mesolithic. “Palaeo-Mesolithic” in the title of our paper is shorthand for a placement within the Upper Palaeolithic-Mesolithic segment of the cultural succession, as represented elsewhere in southern peninsular Italy (Mussi, 2001; Palma di Cesnola, 2001). In spite of technological peculiarities, HA and HB give the impression of belonging to a single industry within the recent-terminal phases of the Epigravettian technocomplex. With due regard for the different raw material, affinities might perhaps be noted with the roughly-defined “Bertonian” from a more northern Apennine area, in the Abruzzo region, attributed to a particular mountain-specific culture of the Epigravettian (Radmilli, 1977, p.143-230). Further evidence from Frigento might indeed contribute to a better definition of such presumed mountain variants of the southern Upper Palaeolithic.

26At the same time, the shape and frequency of certain small tool types, such as circular endscrapers, invites comparisons with the so-called “Romanellian” variant of the advanced southern Epigravettian, identified in Apulia eighty years ago (Guidi and Piperno, 1992, p.209-215; Bietti, 2003, with references); its further developments, sometimes referred to as “Epi-Romanellian”, in fact belong to the Mesolithic (Palma di Cesnola, 2003). A chert artifact assemblage recovered by S. Forgione from a different site of Pietraliscia in 2007 (unpublished) indeed evokes formal Romanellian typology based on an explicit microblade technology. From Forgione’s surface findings at Pietraliscia A we also report a highly unusual lithic object, which could be described as a stone figurine – a bear? – not out of place in an Upper Palaeolithic tradition (Forgione and Fedele, 2008, p.70-75). No cultural material later than HA was found in the locality.

27HC, HD and HE. These three horizons are entirely different in artifactual composition as well as much deeper than HA-HB in terms of pedo- and tephrostratigraphy. They clearly belong to the Middle Palaeolithic, and the sharp, often mint condition of their lithics – more pronounced in HD and HE – basically points to primary occurrences. Traces of charcoal were found in HE. The archaeological details will be dealt with elsewhere.

28Striking originality in lithic technology and utilisation, contingent upon pietra di Frigento and its suite of natural and ready-to-use clasts, can already be observed as a constant throughout the whole range of Palaeolithic levels at Pietraliscia. This was one of the main subjects whose investigation prompted our project. Led by the abundance and properties of such rocks, Pleistocene human groups from different periods and cultures found it convenient to deploy what can be termed “opportunistic” behaviours. They adapted their own tool-making and tool-using knowledge to the offerings and constraints of rock type. For instance, one can find almost continuous variation between utilised blanks and more formal retouch-fashioned tools, as well as remarkable examples of expedient lithic technology in L.R. Binford’s terms (Fedele, 2008a, with references). In this perspective, Frigento offers excellent opportunities for a study of the relationships between rock resources and human behaviour through time, cultures, and environmental conditions.

Conclusions

29For the first time an ordering and dating for several Palaeolithic industries in the Campanian Apennine can be proposed. In addition to at least a Middle Palaeolithic manifestation to be dated within the Last Interglacial, we believe that a terminal Palaeolithic or Mesolithic industry can be identified, pending a better definition, and this again is the first report of such a stage in the mountainous region concerned.

30Crucial to these results was a first assessment of the tephrostratigraphic basis, in itself a clear demonstration of the importance of tephra as a correlation tool (hence a tool for indirect dating), and of tephra studies as a powerful ally of geoarchaeology in suitable regions. Furthermore, the main results obtained not only provide a chronological framework for the cultural horizons at Frigento, but are equally relevant for understanding the evolution of hillslope pedo-sedimentary systems during the Last Interglacial-Last Glacial cycle on a wider scale, possibly the whole of Hirpinia, albeit in a preliminary fashion. This evolution clearly derives from an interaction between pyroclastic deposition, pedogenesis, and erosional processes, in their turn closely related to the main climatic fluctuations of the last 110,000 years.

The 2006 field season of the “Palaeo-Hirpinia” Project was supported by the Avellino Province Administration with additional funds from scientific partners (Anthropology, Naples University; IGAG, CNR, Rome; Osservatorio Vesuviano, INGV, Naples). We are very grateful to A. Famiglietti and the Mayor (L. Famiglietti) and officers of Frigento for their contributions, and to S. Forgione, S. Ciarcia, V. Giovanniello and Prof. O. Picariello for scientific advice. The excavations were authorized by the Archaeological Directorate for Avellino and Benevento, then directed by G. Tocco, and we thank P. Talamo for his valuable assistance. M. Rolfo (University of Rome Tor Vergata), A. Cittadini (IGAG) and F. Di Grazia took part in the excavations.

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List of illustrations

Title Fig.1 - Frigento (Avellino province, Campania) in southern Italy.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3279/img-1.png
File image/png, 240k
Title Fig.3 - Pietraliscia, Frigento: litho-, pedo- and tephrostratigraphic sequence as recognized in 2006 at site PLA 1.
Caption The position of the analysed geological samples is marked; archaeological horizons are indicated as HA to HE and refer to Palaeolithic sensu lato industries.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3279/img-2.png
File image/png, 127k
Title Fig.4 - Total alkali-silica classification diagram of glass fragments from the Pietraliscia volcanic-pedo-sedimentary (VPS) units, Frigento.
Credits Data from Table 1; see fig.3 for the stratigraphic position of the samples.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3279/img-3.png
File image/png, 25k
Title Fig. 5
Caption Tephrostratigraphic correlation between the palaeoenvironmental records from Lago Grande di Monticchio (Brauer et al., 2007) and Pietraliscia. Tephra abbreviations: PA, Pomici di Avellino; PM, Pomici di Mercato; NYT, Neapolitan Yellow Tuff.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3279/img-4.png
File image/png, 36k
Title Fig. 6 - Pietraliscia, site PLA 1.
Caption A selection of the small-artifact and small-tool component of the archaeological collection from horizon HA, terminal Palaeolithic and/or Mesolithic. Finds include: a, borers and becs; b, sharp-edged débitage; c, denticulates; d, endscrapers; e, partly utilised bladelets; f, micro-borers; g, a trapezoid geometric; h, thermally damaged pieces with fire cupules. Scale in cm.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3279/img-5.png
File image/png, 247k
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References

Electronic reference

Francesco Fedele, Biagio Giaccio and Roberto Isaia, « Pedo-tephrostratigraphic context of Palaeo-Mesolithic occurrences at Frigento, Hirpinia (Campanian Apennine) », Méditerranée [Online], 112 | 2009, Online since 01 January 2011, connection on 23 June 2017. URL : http://mediterranee.revues.org/3279 ; DOI : 10.4000/mediterranee.3279

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About the authors

Francesco Fedele

Laboratory of Anthropology
University of Naples Federico II
ffedele01@yahoo.it

Biagio Giaccio

Istituto di Geologia ambientale e Geoingegneria
CNR
Roma

Roberto Isaia

Osservatorio Vesuviano INGV
Napoli

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Copyright

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