From the 9th century until the 14th century A.D. the population of Egnathia moved to the hinterland because of the fall of the Roman Empire and the following invasions. The area was characterized by a rock easy to dig, the local “tufo”, where had been possible to excavate entire hamlets composed of houses, churches and workshops.
These settlements were located in the “lame” that had been shaped during the centuries by the flowing of ancient rivers that carved the calcareous stone.
To date, around 25 settlements have been discovered. The most important is Lama d’Antico thanks especially to the good state of conservation. The settlement is located nearby the railway station and it is one of the biggest in Apulia and probably it was already inhabited in the 10th century A.D.; it included oil mills, drugstores, workshops, storages and houses excavated in a single compartment and an inner alcove for the animals rest.
The church, carved on an elevated position in the central area of the lama, has a rectangular plan with a central nave and a small lateral nave where is located a pulpit. A sequence of arches and some seats had been carved along the side wall. In the apse is possible to see traces of ancient frescoes portraying a Deesis of the 11th-12th century that includes Christ in Majesty, the Madonna Odegitria and Saint John the Baptist. In the blind arches there are some frescoes depicting bishops. Outside, on the right side there in a little chapel with a Greek cross plan and two entrances.
The Seppannibale’s temple belongs to a constructional building typology developed during the Longobard age in the 8th century, it is located in Masseria Calefati. The church could have been dedicated to the saint John the Evangelist or to the Virgin, it has a quadrangular plan with three naves, in the central one there is an apse where can be seen an inscription that hides the name of the committer bishop. The entire building is supported by two monolithic pillars with sculpted capitals and originally, the interior must have been totally frescoed. Nowadays only a fragmented cycle with episodes from the Apocalypse of St John can be seen.
The settlement of San Marco is located in the area of the homonymous masseria. It is composed of several caves hosting houses and a refectory with cells for monks and a frescoed chapel that has been converted in oil mill. Among the frescoes there is a Deesis including Christ Pantocrator and the saints Cosma and Damiano.
The settlement of San Lorenzo in composed of some caves on two levels. The church has a crypt with a trapezoidal plan and is composed of anarthex, a cella and a presbytery. The narthex has a quadrangular shape with a central pillar while the presbytery has a rectangular shape with two apses. Among the frescoes can be recognized San Giorgio piercing a dragon. In lama Tammurrone there is the little church of San Giovanni. Its crypt has a rectangular plan composed of a narthex, a cella and a presbytery. It was probably used for celebrating baptisms.
Other nothworty settlements are San Donato, Santa Vigilia, Lamacupa, Lamalunga, Difesa di Malta, San Basilio, Fascianello, Ottava Grande, Sciurlicchio, Campanelli.