Thursday, July 2, 2015


Joseph Coleman Carter, Alberto Prieto (ed.), The Chora of Metaponto 3: Archaeological Field Survey - Bradano to Basento (4 vols.). Austin: Institute of Classical Archaeology; Packard Humanities Institute; University of Texas Press, 2011. Pp. 1,648. ISBN 9780292726789. $200.00.

Reviewed by Raphaëlle-Anne Kok-Merlino and Jitte Waagen, Universiteit van Amsterdam (;

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

This is the third publication on the seminal work directed by Joseph Coleman Carter in the chora of Metaponto for nearly forty years. Numerous scholars have contributed to this thorough work by writing chapters on subjects of their expertise. It is the first extensive and systematic publication of the results of a large and long-running survey project in the territory of a Greek colony in Southern Italy and as such is of great importance. Like the other components of this series1 these volumes are lavishly illustrated with full colour photographs, maps, tables and graphs and extensively annotated with footnotes, leaving the reader nothing to wish for. It is an impressive accomplishment that the definitive publication of this fieldwork has finally been realized.2

There are 4 volumes, of which the primary documentation on the survey is presented in Volume 1 (geology and geomorphology, methods and analytical tools, survey materials) and the atlas as well as the site gazetteer in Volume 4. Volumes 2 and 3 are dedicated to the contextualization of the survey results, relating these findings to excavations, ancient texts and aerial photography.

The first part of the first volume assesses the geology and the geomorphology as well as the geoarchaeology of the Metapontino. Detailed and thorough descriptions and analyses are followed by an assessment of the effects of geophysical processes on the formation of the archaeological record of the research area in terms of site visibility and preservation. It is clearly demonstrated that an understanding of geomorphology is essential in order to assess the degree to which earlier research may have been based on a distorted or partial sample of archaeological material. Such practical conclusions offer valuable insights for current research and provide warnings and recommendations for future survey methodologies.

The second part of the first volume sheds light on the field methods and analytical tools. The surveys have been mainly site-oriented, which has been stimulated by a rich pre-existing knowledge base from earlier work on site typology and assemblages by Adamesteanu (73). The focus on sites has also been encouraged by their clear presence as material concentrations against a background of very marginal noise, i.e. offsite materials. The survey areas were established based on the topographical, geological and geomorphological features of the Metapontino excluding the coastal plain which was regarded as being too disturbed by building and agricultural activities, as well as alluvial sedimentation.

Methodologically, archaeological field survey in the Metapontino developed from rather extensive and unsystematic fieldwork to a more intensive and systematic undertaking. Though starting, for example, with subjective criteria for site identification and employing a qualitative sampling strategy at sites, the surveys become organized towards rigorous quantitative spatial sampling in later phases of fieldwork between 1992 and 1999. Effects of post-depositional processes were recognized, offsite material was dealt with, the effects of ground visibility were taken into account and quantitative criteria for establishing site boundaries were introduced. This posed some obvious problems for comparing the results of the various campaigns. For the final analyses presented in these volumes, the decision was made to modify the new data to fit the old data (for which the actual transformation remains unspecified in the chapter). This has some consequences for the comparability of individual site samples. Moreover, for many of the sites, identification criteria for presence, typology and area have been partly based on subjective judgment by fieldworkers, and so the quantitative representativeness of the samples cannot be reliably established, which poses potential problems for comparison of sites within the chora as well as for comparison with data from other projects.

The issue of representativeness of the sites as a proportion of the distribution and intensity of activity in antiquity is then assessed. Stating the impossibility of total recovery, the authors argue that their sample is likely to be an apt reflection of the past: they collected a large sample, proportionally distributed over the different topographical and geomorphologic elements, and human error was limited since resurveys in different seasons showed comparable results. The authors claim that the little offsite material present should likely be explained by post-depositional processes causing movements of artefacts from areas they were originally deposited in antiquity.3

In Chapter 4, the GIS methods are explained, but the statistical procedures for establishing site dates and relative site importance draw the most attention here. Two important metrics used throughout the interpretative parts of the volumes may be singled out for comment. The first is the Estimated Artifact Weight (EAW). Dates for single sites are established by a complex procedure: several probabilistic date distribution curves are plotted in one histogram per site for its datable artefacts, clusters are then established by assessing date ranges with the largest cumulative probability, and after this their average is recorded as a 'best date'. The score for each 50-year date bin is called the EAW, which above a certain threshold is categorized as significant (it must be stressed that the 'significance levels' defined for the EAW are judgmental, and do not represent formal statistical significance). This is a clever way to deal quantitatively with site dating, though a problem might be that the number of datable artefacts used for such a quantitative approach is not large enough to warrant such precise outcomes: the material can often not be dated to narrow time-frames, and one sample of fine wares is not necessarily quantitatively comparable with another.

The second key index, Multiple Criteria Evaluation (MCE), was developed to determine the relative importance of the farms, 'based on a weighted linear combination of expert opinions, subjective judgments, quantitative measurements and fuzzy estimation' (120). The exact calculation for the Final Multiple Criteria Evaluation (FMCE) incorporates a lot of metrics, but a good discussion of the factors included and excluded is lacking. Since the quantitative factors such as the EAWs may not always be completely robust, it all appears a bit more formal than it actually is. In any case, the end result is a well-defined and thought-provoking methodology that allows for processing all sites and categorizing them by date, type and relative importance; but the potentially problematic quantitative constructions need some rigorous tests to confirm their efficacy.

In Chapter 5, quantification of the actual survey assemblages is dealt with in two parts: a description of site types through aggregated sherd assemblages, and a demonstration of key features per site type. The site types are based on subjective criteria which are mentioned, but not listed in detail, in Chapters 3 and 18. The site types are quantitatively assessed, leading to the interesting conclusion that differences in site type are apparent in the relative proportions of ware classes, which is a very useful result not only for this project but for site typing in general. Jumping to page 635 in Chapter 19, Carter concludes that site assessment in the field has been solid because the functional profiles of the assemblages are also consistent, which could be a nice indication that those criteria may have been suitable.

These methodological considerations are at the core of the chapters on the historical analyses of the results (Vol. I Chapters III, Vol. II Chapters IV-V and Vol. III Chapters VII-VIII); maps are created that show sites with significant EAWs for 50-year periods, as well as their respective FMCEs for that period. Carter is clear about the intentions of his work, and does not aim towards a single reading of the data or reconstruction of historical events: 'The quantitative analyses employed throughout aim to be rigorous so that the arguments are clear, but the ultimate goal is to trace the broad movements in the population of the chora' (644). It is, however, important to approach the plotted results with some caution: for example, in figure 23.1 (746), which depicts the situation in the study area between 475 and 425 BC, the placement of some farmhouses with significant EAW (e.g. 113, 335) is based on two sherds dated to this period, of which the dating range is sometimes as broad as a century.

The second and third volumes focus on the historical interpretation of the survey findings. The second volume starts with a consideration of the prehistory of the research area, the types of structures and the approach to the chora. For the delimitations of the chora the traditional boundaries have been used, although it is recognized that the territory under control of Metaponto is known to have been larger.4 The rest of the second volume is to a large extent dedicated to the Greek polis and the early years of Roman control in Southern Italy. A major objective for the survey project was to contextualise the excavated sites in the chora of the city, and clearly the period between the late 7th and the late 1st centuries left the most traces in the landscape. The survey results are also placed convincingly in their historic contexts by using historical sources that describe what happened in the Metapontine countryside with regard to settlement dynamics, necropoleis and sanctuaries, and by elaborating on the significance, the geography and the continuity of the data in each period. The length of this review does not permit us to elaborate on the wide and thoroughly documented corpus which is organized into chronological periods, but it is evident that it is an essential reference for all scholars of Magna Graecia.5

This volume finishes with many illustrative and clarifying appendices, consisting of tables of the dated sites in the different periods (Appendix A), tables of the farmhouse significance FMCE (Appendix B), basic graphs and tables which show overviews of the types of sites in the different localities in the different periods, but also rates of occupation of sites with a significant EAW, and graphs with duration of necropoleis and much more (Appendix C). Finally, Appendix D gives insight into statistical analyses by Alberto Prieto.

The third volume is devoted to the Roman, medieval and post-medieval periods. The evidence for Imperial and Late Roman activity in the research area is significantly less than that which was recovered for earlier periods. From the tables that illustrate the dating of sites, it is striking that very few sites show continuity with the presence of a Late Roman farmhouse and (early) medieval activity. The Roman, medieval and post-medieval remains are presented in the same way as the earlier material, including a description of the survey results and a catalogue of the pottery.

In the remaining chapters of the third volume the focus is mainly on the division lines in the landscape of the chora, a much debated subject.6 These are elaborately and eloquently dealt with using a wealth of new evidence: geomorphological, geographical and topographical data, a very precise digital model of the terrain, and the mapped lines and data from excavations and surveys. A convincing argument is made for the interpretation of the lines as a drainage system, in which the actual presence of ditches must be understood in terms of local terrain morphology and historical development instead of as a single, chora-wide system.

Some of the most valuable parts of this publication are contained within the extensive chapters on ceramic finds in the third part of the first volume. The chapters are organized according to the different ceramic classes. They devote attention to quantification, which is illustrated with clear tables, and to the fabrics through a catalogue of the fabrics with photos of the fragments, their sections and eventual surface treatment in detail.

The Archaic and black-gloss fine wares are treated in a single lengthy chapter. The analysis of these materials has revealed some interesting data, such as pottery locally produced in the earliest phase of Greek occupation of the chora which can be considered as re-elaboration of proto-Corinthian and East Greek models in the second half of the 7th century. Surprisingly, the chora has not yielded many black-gloss production centres, but the black gloss that was found is likely to have been produced in a rural production centre and not in the Metapontine Kerameikos. The different locations of production in the chora share a similar sedimentology which, together with comparable practice, resulted in analogous productions. Especially for the Hellenistic period, the survey revealed a wide range of black-gloss fragments producing a large dataset of different forms and the refinement of traditional chronologies of several shapes.

The study and analysis of grey wares has led to the identification of Metaponto as a production centre for which both Pantanello (Pizzica) and Sant'Angelo Vecchio have yielded evidence. The surveys revealed relatively scanty figured wares, which belonged mostly to Lucanian and Apulian red-figured pottery, some Attic black- and red-figured pottery and a few Gnathia vessels. A large number of fragments have not been attributed to a workshop and sometimes not even to the Lucanian or Apulian group, due to their bad preservation. However, some observations have been made on distribution patterns and the functional range in the chora.

The plain and banded wares make up a large part of the dataset, of which the principal shapes and a typology of the most common forms of 'table wares' are shown in detail. The high number of fragments discussed in this chapter is partially due to the combination of these classes with the pottery made of coarse fabric, all brought together under the term 'utilitarian ware'. This ware is divided into table, storage and kitchen wares, directly associating a function with the pottery as opposed to the distinctions between other classes which are based on chronology, surface treatment or style. Even if the detailed division into different functions might be debated (considering that other classes have been divided on the basis of decoration or surface treatment and not on their function), it is well explained and therefore transparent and open for reassessment. The lamps have been given a separate chapter with attention paid to fabrics, quantification, distribution and typology. In addition, the Greek and Roman Republican cooking wares are treated separately in Chapter 11, which includes a useful detailed discussion of the differences between pans, casseroles and cooking pots.

Chapter 12 deals with the Archaic to Late Republican transport amphorae and presents interesting new evidence for the production of local and regional amphora types. The useful catalogue presents not only the form, but also the fabric with a picture in microscopy, a thin section and a detailed description of both. The terracotta objects, mostly figurines and relief plaques, are comprehensively treated in Chapter 13, with a description of the different types of terracotta in the different periods and a catalogue organized by site, in which the objects are presented in chronological order. The terracottas, together with associated finds, have helped to distinguish at least five sites interpreted as rural sanctuaries in the research area. A separate chapter is dedicated to the loom weights, associated as always with female activity; the part with the material evidence concludes with the presentation of the (nine) bronze coins from the mint of Metaponto.

Finally, the fourth volume is a splendid and, to the reviewers' knowledge, unprecedented publication of maps and a site gazetteer; this level of detail and presentation, whether in this form or digital, is more than exemplary.

In summary, the contribution of these volumes to the state of historical knowledge on Magna Graecia is immense, and the set of volumes is likely to be an essential work of reference for researchers for many years to come. The publication describes a unique project—complementary surveys and excavations—which benefited from a barely spoiled landscape that contained archaeological remains with an excellent degree of preservation and closely dated ceramics. The volume does not engage directly with the ethnic and social implications of the results of the survey, especially regarding the first phases of the contacts between Greek and indigenous peoples; but perhaps this venue is not best place to elaborate on such complex questions.7

Table of Contents

Volume I
Acknowledgements xi
Introduction, Joseph Coleman Carter xvii
I. The Land
1. Geologic Background of the Metapontino, Robert L. Folk 3
2. Geomorphology and Geoarchaeology of the Metapontino, James T. Abbott 31
II. Methods and Analytical Tools
3. Survey Design and Field Methods, Alberto Prieto 71
4. GIS Methods and Considerations, Peter H. Dana 93
III. Survey Materials and Assemblages
5. The Survey Assemblages, Keith Swift 129
6. Archaic and Black-Gloss Fine Ware, Elisa Lanza Catti, Francesca Silvestrelli, Keith Swift, Amelia Tubelli, and Eloisa Vittoria 271
7. Grey Ware, Eloisa Vittoria 271
8. Figured Ware, Francesca Silvestrelli 303
9. Plain and Banded Ware, Eloisa Vittoria 337
10. Lamps, Emanuela Conoci with Eloisa Vittoria 425
11. Greek and Roman Republican Cooking Wares, Ruth Smadar Gabrieli 439
12. Archaic to Late-Republican Transport Amphorae, Keith Swift 455
13. Terracotta Objects, Rebecca Miller Ammerman 489
14. Loom Weights, Lin Foxhall 539
15. Coins, Anna Rita Parente, 555

Volume II
IV. Prolegomena to the Settlement of the Chora, Joseph Coleman Carter
16. Introduction 559
17. The Prehistory of the Chora 569
18. Types of Structures in the Chora, Alberto Prieto with Joseph Coleman Carter 591
19. An Approach to the Chora 617
V. The Historic Development of the Chora, 625-25 BC, Joseph Coleman Carter
20. The Pioneers: Historical Development of the Chora, 600 641
21. Golden Harvests: The Expansion of the Mid-6th Century BC 677
22. Crisis in the Chora, 500 727
23. Reform and Rebirth: The Mid-5th Century BC 745
24. The Chora in 400 785
25. The Refounding of Metaponto 809
26. A Century of Decline 869
27. The Last Two Centuries BC 893
A. EAW of Dated Sites, 600-50 923
B. Farmhouse Significance (FMCE), 600-50 951
C. Basic Graphs and Tables 963
D. Exploratory Statistical Analyses, Alberto Prieto 1007

Volume III
VI. Division Lines: New Data and Analysis
28. The 1999 Pizzica Excavations: The Division Lines Reconsidered, Joseph Coleman Carter 1027
29. Catalog of the Objects from the 1999 Pizzica Excavations, Joseph Coleman Carter, with contributions by Lucilla Burn, Anna Rita Parente, Francesca Silvestrelli, Keith Swift, and Eloisa Vittoria 1053
30. The Human Remains, Renata J. Henneberg and Maciej Henneberg 1107
31. Aerial Photography and the Organization of the Chora, Alberto Prieto 1115
VII. The Roman Period
32. Imperial and late Roman Settlement in the Metapontino, Erminia Lapadula 1137
33. Imperial and Late Roman Ceramics, Erminia Lapadula 1147
VIII. The Medieval and Post-Medieval Periods
34. Medieval and Post-Medieval Settlement in the Metapontino, Erminia Lapadula 1161
35. Medieval and Post-Medieval Ceramics, Erminia Lapadula 1173
IX. Reference Materials
References 1205
Index 1255

Volume IV Atlas
I. Introduction, Jessica Trelogan vii
II. Overview Maps 1
III. Period Maps 7
IV. The Modern Landscape 35
V. Localities, Alberto Prieto 47
VI. Gazetteer of Sites, Alberto Prieto and Cesare D'Annibale, Jon Morter, Steve Thompson, Allison Devereux 55
VII. Assemblage Tables, Keith Swift, Allison Devereux 87
VIII. Index of Place Names 121


1.   Carter, J.C. 1998, The Chora of Metaponto. The Necropoleis, University of Texas Press, Austin; Bökönyi, S., Gál, E, edited by L. Bartosiewicz 2010, The Chora of Metaponto 2. Archaeozoology at Pantanello and Five Other Sites, University of Texas Press, Austin; Lapadula, E., edited by J.C. Carter 2012, The Chora of Metaponto 4. The Late Roman Farmhouse at San Biagio, University of Texas Press, Austin; Catti, E.L., Swift, K, edited by J.C. Carter 2014, The Chora of Metaponto 5. The Greek Farmhouse at Ponte Fabrizio, University of Texas Press, Austin.
2.   Several preliminary reports on the survey have been published, including: D'Annibale, C. 1983, Field Survey of the Chora of Metaponto, 1981-82, in Carter, J.C. (ed.)The Territory of Metaponto, 1981-82, Austin, 4-9; D'Annibale C. 1983, 'Field Survey of the Chora of Metaponto', in Archaeological Survey, 191-194; Carter, J.C., L. Costantini 1994, 'Settlement Density, Agriculture, and the Extent of Productive Land Cleared from Forest in the Time of the Roman Empire in Magna Grecia', in Frenzel, B. (ed.), Evaluation of Land Surfaces Cleared from Forests in the Mediterranean Region During the Time of the Roman Empire, Stuttgart/New York, 101-118; Carter, J.C. 1999, Ancient Territories 1999. Metaponto and Chersonesos. Annual Report, Austin; Carter, J.C. 2001, 'La chora di Metaponto. Risultati degli ultimi 25 anni di ricerca archeologica', Atti Taranto 40, 771-792; Thompson, S.M. 2001, 'The Metaponto Archaeological Survey 2001', in The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2001 Annual Report, Austin, 72-80; Prieto, A. 2001, 'Field Survey 2000, Metaponto', in The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2000 Annual Report, Austin, 15-22; Prieto, A, et al. 2002, The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2002 Annual Report, Austin, 46-66; Davis, D. 2003, '2003 Gradiometer Survey in the Chora of Metaponto', in The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2003 Field Report, Austin, 76-80; Prieto, A. 2003, 'Field Survey of the Metapontino', in The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2003 Field Report, Austin, 71-75; Carter et al. 2004, 'Dividing the Chora', in Kolb, F. (ed.), Chora und Polis, Schriften des Historische Kolloquien 54, Munich, 127-145; Thompson, S.M. 2004, 'Side-by-side and Back-to-front: Exploring Intra-regional Latitudinal and Longitudinal Comparability in Survey Data. Three Case Studies from Metaponto, Southern Italy', in Alcock, S.E., Cherry, J.F. (eds.) Side-by-side Survey: Comparative Regional Studies in the Mediterranean World, Oxford, 65-85.
3.   Although that may certainly be the case, the study, according to the reviewers, would have benefited from a detailed assessment based on quantitative, qualitative and spatial characteristics of the offsite materials to substantiate that claim, especially in the light of the wider debate on the nature and explanatory potential of offsite materials. See e.g. Bintliff, J. and Snodgrass, A. 1988. 'Off-site Pottery Distributions: A Regional and Interregional Perspective', Current Anthropology 29.3: 506-513; Fentress, E. 2000. 'What are we counting for?' in Francovich, R. and Patterson, H., eds. Extracting Meaning from Ploughsoil Assemblages, Oxbow Books, 44-52; Caraher, W.R., Nakassis, D. and Pettegrew, D.K. 2006. 'Siteless Survey and Intensive Data Collection in an Artifact-rich Environment: Case Studies from the Eastern Corinthia, Greece', Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 19-1: 7-43.
4.   Indeed, recent archaeological research at Ginosa and Castellaneta Marina points to a boundary that was situated more towards the north (De Siena, A. 2002, 'Appunti di topografia metapontina', in Bertelli, G, Roubis, D. (eds). 2002, Torre di Mare I. Ricerche archeologiche nell'insediamento medievale di Metaponto (1995-1999), Bari, 25-40, 35-36; De Siena, A. 2005, Tramonto della Magna Grecia: la documentazione archeologica dai territori delle colonie greche di Metaponto ed Herakleia, Atti Taranto 46, 433-458, 436-437; De Siena, A. 2007, 'L'Attività archeologica in Basilicata nel 2006', Atti Taranto 46, 407-463; Castoldi, M. 2008, 'Oltre la chora: nuove indagini archeologiche nell'entroterra di Metaponto', in Zanetto, G. et al. (eds.), Nova vestigial antiquitatis, Cisalpino, 143-160, 143), To the south the funerary remains on the other bank of the Cavone indicate an expansion in that direction (Osanna, M. 2008, 'L'Attività archeologica in Basilicata nel 2007', Atti Taranto 47, 911-944).
5.   One aspect of the research that perhaps cannot remain unmentioned is the phenomenon that occurred when Metaponto was founded. Carter chooses a position in the centre in the debate on the early phases of colonization. He stresses that the organization of the city and its territory was 'practical and logical' and 'It did not casually evolve, but […] was carefully planned from the beginning in response to immediate and pressing needs' (641). However, the conclusions regarding the early contacts between Greek and indigenous communities remain cautious, lying in wait for the volume bearing the publication of the excavations of L'Incoronata.
6.   Uggeri, G. 1969, 'Κλήροι arcaici e bonifica classica nella χώρα di Metaponto', in La Parola del Passato CXXIV, 51-71; Adamesteanu, D. 1973, 'Le suddivisioni di terra nel metapontino', in Finley, M. (ed.), Problèmes de la terre en Grèce ancienne, Paris – La Haye, 49-61; Adamesteanu, D., C. Vatin 1976, 'L'arrière-pays de Métaponte', Compte Rendu de l'Académie des Inscriptions, 110-123; Guy, M. 1995, 'Cadastres en bandes de Métaponte à Agde. Questions et méthodes', in Arcelin, P. et al (ed.), Sur les pas des Grecs en Occident : hommage à André Nickels, Paris, 427-444; Carter, J.C. 1999, Ancient Territories 1999. Metaponto and Chersonesos. Annual Report, Austin, 24; De Siena, A. 1999, 'Il Metapontino: insediamenti antichi e bonifiche', in Archeologia dell'Acqua in Basilicata, Soprintendenza Archeologica della Basilicata, Potenza, 53-72; Nava, M.L. 2003, 'L'Attività archeologica in Basilicata nel 2002', Atti Taranto, 653-717, 664-676; Carter, J.C. 2008, La scoperta del territorio rurale Greco di Metaponto, Venosa, 149-176. The survey transects were established as the Bradano-Basento transect (1981), the Pantanello transect (1983) and the SNAM transect (1999), and have been systematically surveyed wherever possible.
7.   To assess the partly completed online database on the digital companion to the print series, please follow this link.

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