Archeological Museum of Egnazia

/Archeological Museum of Egnazia
Archeological Museum of Egnazia2018-07-10T14:09:30+00:00

By the sea
Archeological museum of Egnazia

The Archeological Museum of Egnazia was built between 1971 and 1975. The original project has been subject to a variation because of the discovery of the hypogeum of the Melegrane known also as “Antiquarium among the olives threes” due to the amazing scenery offered by many centuries-old  olive threes.Since 2013 the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism named the museum after Giuseppe Andreassi, its director  from 1976 to 1985.The building is set up by thirteen areas divided into seven sections that show the everyday life in Egnazia from the  Bronze age until the Middle Ages:

  • Egnazia over the Ages
  • Egnazia in the Bronze Age
  • Egnazia in Iapigia
  • Egnazia in Messsapia
  • Egnazia under the Roman Empire
  • The city of the bishop
  • Egnazia in the Middle Ages


During  the 16thcentury the first information about Gnathia have been found out in the archeological literature written by Alberti. The first map of the city has been published by Francesco Pratilli. Ludovico Pepe attributed the start of excavations in 1838 to his family but they were  illegal. The authorized excavation started only in 1912 thanks to  the pressing insistence of the owners of neighboring land. It was lead by the superintendent  Quagliati  and started from the monumental area where there are the most representative buildings of the Roman Empire. In 1939-40 the studies started again lead by the superintendent  Drago. They found the chamber  tomb of Pilastro that was entirely excavated in the rock and painted. In 1952 the provincial administration of Brinidisi supported a new archaeological site. In 1798- 82 Mr Andreassi led the studies in the west  necropolis. From 1965 to 1985 Mr Diceglie, thanks to the  electrical resistance meters method  , let possible the reconstruction of the Roman port with docks and underwater structures.


Apulia is divided into several areas: Gargano, Tavoliere, Murge, Salento. The last one housed the most interesting settlements in the Bronze Age thanks to its geographical e morphological position. During the 2nd Millennium b.C. the characteristic fauna made by Mediterranean essences such as mastic, oleaster and myrtle has been gradually  reduced because of climatic factors and the human hand that exploited the land for the agricultural production. The most small villages settled inland date back to the Bronze Age, while the fortified settlements were located along the coast. The first settlements were located on the acropolis, an artificial hill 9 meters above sea level that has been formed  after the superimposition of several layers of buildings over the ages. In the 2nd millennium similar villages have been built in Monopoli, Torre Santa Sabina and Punta Le Terrare. In the museum of Egnazia are preserved evidences of the various villages that testimony the similar way of life between them and egnazia. In the 2nd millennium   b.C. in Apulia there were different types of funeral rites:   common burial in artificial hypogea, single burials in dolmens , monumental buildings made by galleries lithic slabs covered by tombs for common burials, cremation necropolis. This difference in burials and rites shows the social scale structure of the village. Nutrition was based on agriculture, farming and hunting products. Food was stocked in silos, that now are in the museum. For the cooking they used stones, burners or ovens covered of clay. The main activities were weaving,  metallurgy, bones and pottery manufacturing.  From 17th to 12th century b. C. the relationship with the Aegean area increased. Merchants that came in order to stock up on new goods, also imported china and new processing techniques marking the  beginning of the Italo-Micenean production namely manufacturing with the lathe. Also exchanges with the north European and north African populations  increased, in particular the importation of precious objects made of amber, glass and ivory.


During the 10thcentury the biggest invasion in the history of Apulia took place, Illyrians came from Albania and northern Greece. They melt  with the locals and gave birth to a new civilization called Iapigia, consequently the prehistoric  villages had been subject to changes. In the museum is possible to see pieces of Iapigian pottery, painted with dark brown on a light color background. As regards the funeral aspect, in Salento have been discovered some stone steles that remember deceased members of the high social class. Their social status is suggested by the engravings.


Around the 8th century Iapigian population was named according to the area where settled:  the actual Gargano was territory of  Daunian, Terra di Bari of Pucetian and Salento of  Messapian. Egnazia was part of the Messapia but it was on the border between it and the Peucezia: actually in the area of the coastal necropolis have been found both oval pit graves, typical of the Peucetian civilization, and rectangular pit graves , typical of the Messapian civilization.  All the graves contained the goods belonging to the deceased .In the rooms of the museum is  possible to see the discovered evidences consisting of pottery, ornaments, tools, jewels. Funeral rites  consisted in the burial in pit graves covered by  stone slabs;  they usually contained the body of the deceased with his personal possessions. Then the libation ritual  was celebrated: it consisted in pouring wine near the grave. Starting from the 6thcentury all the poleis part of the Magna Graecia created their own mints, producing silver and bronze coins. The most famous was the mint of Taranto. In Egnazia have been found coins that belongs to different territories witnessing the fact that the city was a meeting point for different populations. In 1933, near the train station  a little treasure made of 179 silver coins has been discovered. From the second half of the 4th century b. C. in Egnazia a demographic increase has been registered, also thanks to a period of peace, majestic city walls were built enclosing it also for a defensive purpose. Between 280 and 266 b.C. Taranti, Messapian and Pirro join their forces against Rome but unsuccessfully.


Egnazia has been a Roman municipality. From 2nd century b. C. until 1st  century a. C., during the Augustan age, a project  for a unitary city was planned. It consisted in the construction of a road network, infrastructures, a port , a forum,  thermal baths and a cryptoportico.

During the Trajan age the via Minucia, a road that passed through Benevento to reach Rome, was rearranged in order to make the connection  faster and then named  via Traiana. On the acropolis was built a sanctuary, solemn symbol of the roman religiosity. In the museum there is a little statue of Venus that has been discovered in the area of the temple;  probably it was really consecrated to the beauty  goddess. They built the square of the market, the most ancient urban public area , and restructured the thermal baths. With the new domination also the funeral rites changed. The cremation in the area inside the city walls was forbidden by a law; starting from the 5th century it was abolished and the urban asset went trough a transformation. The type of burial varied according to the social status of people : to commemorate people of high rank were used stone stele while for lower classed they used amphorae. The ritual consisted in transporting the corpse during  the night.  After the burial the members of the family purified themselves consuming the banquet and the left-overs were offered to the deceased. For the cremation they put the gurney with the corpse on a wood pile and after burned it. The fire was extinguished  with water and wine , the burial could be done in two ways: direct cremation ( leaving the remains in the place of the pyre) or indirect cremation( washing the remains and putting them in urns, terracotta or glass container). The ancient laws forbade the luxury ostentation in funeral rites, for this reason the grave goods didn’t include precious objects. In the museum there is a room dedicated to the sacred in order to venerate the divinities of Egnazia : Cibele, Attis, Syria. In the sacred area of the park was found the head of the guy Attis and his       sacellum. In the same room it is possible to admire the majestic mosaic of the three Graces , it was placed in the forum basilica.


At the end of the 4th century AD  the city was subject to a great change due to the destruction consequent to the earthquake in 365 AD and to the administrative reform of the empire under Constantine. The craftsmanship systems   increased. The thermal baths were transformed in places of production of  lime and  bricks. Furthermore, under the influence of the bishop two important  worship building were built: the Episcopal basilica and the southern Basilica. In the museum it is possible to see the mosaic floors found  in the two places of worship . In the 4th century the sanctuary on the acropolis was transformed:  decorations and the altar were removed in order to use the spaces as dwellings or warehouses. Starting from the 5th century in addition to the merchandises coming from Africa the oriental ones started to arrive. In the museum there is the golden ring representing the Holy Sepulcher  in Jerusalem  that testimonies the strategic position of Egnazia as link with the East.


Starting from the 7th century AD some areas were abandoned because they started to turn in swamp . People moved to the acropolis near the castrum, a quadrangular enclosure with towers at the corners and entry on the sea side.The new areas had multiple purposes: houses, workshops, shelters for animals After the 14th century there was a gradual abandon of Egnazia: people moved toward the hinterland because of  floods, barbarian raids and the fall of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire.

For further information on prices and museum’s opening times visit the website: http://www.egnaziaonline.it/