Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

©   Jeff Matthews   entry May 2005

Atella Archaeological Museum


museum brochureTechnically, the name of this small, new, excellent museum in Succivo (one of the Atellan communities) is the Museo archeologico dell'agro atellano. In Italian, agro is a cultivated field, as opposed to a campo, an open field or even a wild area. Thus, while we may translate Campi Flegrei as "Flegrean Fields," we have to look for something else for archeologico dell'agro atellano such as "farmland archaeology." Since I don't know the technical archaeological term in English for that, that will have to do.

In any event, it requires some explanation. A straight line north from the city of Naples for the seven or eight miles to Orta di Atella leads you through solid concrete — wall-to-wall anonymous communities of slab architectural drear, the result of decades of overbuilding. Fields start to become evident only when you get past the east-west state road just beyond Atella. The entire area, of course, was once upon a time almost nothing but cultivated area — open farmland. And the entire area is archaeologically very rich; thousands of years of human culture have come and gone in the area, from anonymous nomads of pre-history to Etruscans to Greeks to Oscans to Romans, not to mention the subsequent inhabitants after the fall of the Roman Empire and on into the Middle Ages.

The museum is dedicated to the ages up to and including the Roman Empire.  The museum opened in 2002, 40 years after urban development of the farmland started to uncover a treasure trove of archaeological items beneath the soil; that is, Oscan-Samnite graves and burial artifacts, temple and dwelling ruins, miscellaneous Greek ceramics, Oscan coins, even ancient rubbish dumps. Such development continues; the new US Naval Support Site at Gricignano (one of the "Atellan communities") uncovered so much material during excavation for construction that a section of the second floor of the museum is given over to just that site. That display is extremely interesting archaeology in that it documents early contact between the newly established Greek colonies of Cuma and Neapolis (Naples) with the indigenous populations of the interior.

The ground floor has seven display rooms:

prehistoric remains from the Bronze Age (2000-1800 b.c.);
necropolis items and ceramics, some of which were uncovered in the 1920s during new railway construction;
necropolis items from nearby Caivano;
items from the area around Aversa, uncovered during railway construction in the 1920s;
urban archaeology of the ancient town of Atella, itself; that is, fragments of the city wall, etc.;
a display of eight continuous centuries (4th b.c. to 4th a.d.) of the "suburban" necropoli of Atella, their placement more or less showing the profile of the ancient town, itself. Much of this material was excavated in the 1990s;
artifacts from the Roman necropolis in the area.

One of the goals of the museum is to serve as a teaching tool for local elementary schools; thus, besides the standard brochure, the museum has printed material especially for school children. The address of the museum is Via Roma 7 in the town of Succivo. Information at tel. 081 5012701.


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