The Stromboli Project

VIDEO Stromboli
Video by Davide Cilloni and Emiliano Barbieri

Video - San Vincenzo Campagna Scavi 2009
Video - San Vincenzo Lavori d'inverno (novembre 2009)
Video - San Vincenzo Lavori d'inverno (febbraio 2010)

Archaeology of the Aeolian Islands
The Aeolian Islands are a volcanic archipelago located in the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea between Sicily and Calabria. Valued for their visual control over sea-lanes, these islands were occupied since the Neolithic Age (6th millennium BCE) and closely interconnected as attested by archaeological finds on Lipari and the other six islands. The largest and central island Lipari was an important source of high quality obsidian, which was exported not only on the other islands, but also throughout the Northern Tyrrhenian, indicating trade relations between these areas.
Our comprehension of the Aeolian Islands has been developed through a series of archaeological investigations. The excavations by Luigi Bernabò Brea and Madeleine Cavalier, beginning in 1950, have been the most important to understanding their cultural sequence. The results are relevant for the whole central Mediterranean, as clearly illustrated in the Archaeological Museum Luigi Bernabò Brea at Lipari.

Stromboli-San Vincenzo
Current excavations at Stromboli seek to clarify and to understanding the cultures on the Aeolian Islands from the periphery of the archipelago. Stromboli, the most northeast in the archipelago, is an active stratovolcano that rises 924 meters above sea level.
The site of the excavations is located on the northeastern portion of the island, close to San Vincenzo church, on a natural plateau that grants a commanding view of the Strait of Messina, making it a valuably strategic location. This excavation has expanded the information of the first discoveries in 1980 by Madeleine Cavalier.
A complex occupation pattern of this small and harsh island is revealed with the archeological investigation at San Vincenzo, where the cultural choices are deeply influenced by an active volcano.

The project started in 2009 and is directed by Sara T. Levi (Dept. of Chemical and Geological Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia), together with Soprintendenza of Messina, Museum at Lipari and CNR-ISMA (Roma).
The project is characterized by a strong interdisciplinary and methodological approach involving archaeologists, volcanologists, geologists, chemists, botanic, biological anthropologists, topographers, and archaeological illustrators.

Geoarchaeology and Archaeometry
Stromboli, the “lighthouse of the Mediterranean”, It is famous for its persistent activity that began in the present form between the 3rd and 7thcenturies CE.
San Vincenzo site is built upon lavas and scoriae dated by archaeomagnetism at 6.2 ka ago. These lavas are directly covered by the pyroclastics of the “Secche di Lazzaro”, an eruption occurred at ca. 6 ka ago.
In such a peculiar environment it is crucial understand the interaction between volcanic activity and human occupation. The investigation is based on the detailed study of the stratigraphy on the site and in the laboratories  (archaeomegnetism, geophysics, GIS, petrology, mineralogy, geochemistry, sedimentology, chemical analysis with portable XRF, …).

Bronze Age village
The project is dealing primarily with a Bronze Age village. Forty 14C dates  show continuous habitation from the 21st to the 15th century BCE (Italian Early to Middle Bronze Age I-II). This phase in the region was named Capo Graziano after the first discoveries at Filicudi of typical cultural traits including a typical incised decoration of the pottery (geometrical schematic representation of the sea and of the islands). The excavated areas of the village (about 600m2) show a complex pattern of oval huts and terraces. Some atypical square-shaped structures were also discovered and have raised questions about their function.
Neolithic and Chalcolithic pottery has also been found, indicating that this site was known since 4th millennium BCE.

Mediterranean connections
Contact with other cultures is illustrated by the discovery of Mycenaean pottery (wheel-made and painted), including several Vaphiò cups, and beads imported from the Peloponnese and dated to the Late Helladic I-II (17th - 15th century BCE). The interaction with the Aegean in the Aeolian Islands testify the first appearance of this phenomenon in the Central Mediterranean and our finds underline the strategic position of the site of San Vincenzo.
Stromboli is the north-eastern outpost of the archipelago, located to control the maritime trade involving the merchants from the Aegean to the search of the strategic raw materials, in particular the metal for the manufacture of weapons, including the emerging Mycenaean warrior aristocracy had continued need.
A large program of archaeometrical analysis of the indigenous hand-made Impasto vessels connected them to their raw materials attested on the other islands, Sicily, and Calabria. This work shows that a vibrant system of trade and connectivity existed within the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea involving also utilitarian objects: a situation quite unusual during the Bronze Age.

Historical phases
There is a gap in the archaeological record at San Vincenzo from the end of the 15th century BCE to the Roman period, which could possibly be connected to the change in the eruption pattern of the volcano to the current explosive “Strombolian” activity during the 1st millennium CE.
In the course of excavations in the Bronze Age village at San Vincenzo Roman graves dated to the 4th century CE were discovered.
Preliminary evidence of a building and several coins indicate, for the first time at Stromboli, the presence of a Norman occupation at the beginning of the 2nd millennium CE.

Cultural heritage
The discovery of the past of Stromboli is of great interest for the local population and for the tourists, who are often visiting the site, including the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
Hearths of varying shapes and sizes have been found in the Bronze Age huts, a replica of one is on display in the new installment in the museum at Lipari.

Students at the project come from a diverse and international background; they come from all over Italy, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Greece, Ukraine and Iran. They are involved in all aspects of the project, from the fieldwork to the laboratory.
Seminars are held every week to instruct them on topics both technical, such as the role of the GIS in the project, and theoretical, such as the role of amber production and the stratification of society.
Educational excursions include visits to the Aeolian sites and museums (Lipari, Salina, Filicudi, Panarea).
The project provides an environment which educates the students, from the experience of dealing with Stromboli's difficult stratigraphic layers, to classify pottery, to the organization of the data-base. In addition, the exposure to the other students, their cultures and their viewpoints, is an educational experience in itself.


Bibliography:    (pagina: San Vincenzo Stromboli)