Article of the Issue: Issue 41

Understanding Late Pleistocene landscapes of Central Italy: a multidisciplinary approach

In focus: Maurizio Gatta

What first sparked your interest in archaeology?

My interest in archeology is not attributable to a specific time in my life. Having grown up in Italy, I had the advantage of being in contact with it from a young age. I always remember that to the typical question from adults "what do you want to be when you grow up?" my answer was immediately "an archaeologist!!". I think a key role in this was played by my family, who have always done everything possible to help me cultivate my passions. University sealed this love. I met people with a similar passion and generosity who have taught me everything I know and allowed me to take the next step with a PhD at York.

What are your main interests and possible future research ideas or plans?

While at university in Italy I had the opportunity get close to prehistory, especially to the Palaeolithic. My interest is particularly focused on the development of some aspects of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, such as subsistence strategies, visual culture, lithic technology, the approach to death and environmental studies. These represent some of the most researched topics in prehistory, at least individually, whilst I like to think in a broader perspective combining these disparate factors.

As my article demonstrates at the moment my interest is completely absorbed by the environmental reconstruction of the Pontine region in Latium, starting from the materials found at the key site of Località Muracci in Cisterna di Latina. The main research expectations are directed at the forthcoming palynological analysis of coprolites, the results of which will be added to faunal information and will complete the framework of the site. Looking to the near future, prospects of research include an extension of the area covered by the paleoenvironmental reconstruction through the study of new sites, in order to provide a more extensive and more accurate context. The final result of the PhD project is to obtain an extensive and reliable environmental reconstruction that can be used as a base in future studies.

Why did you decide to choose this particular topic for the focus of your article?

In Latium there have been many developments in archeology since the beginning of the last century, and several sites have been investigated with the tools and methodologies of that time. The result of this is the almost total absence of data-input from those disciplines that have been created or seen improvement from technological innovations, including bio-archeology, palynology and archaeozoology.

When the opportunity to study the findings from Cisterna di Latina arose, the huge potential that it held for the environmental studies of the region was evident. The possibility of overcoming, at least partially, a gap that any scholar interested in the region has to face and the real possibility of offering a tangible contribution to future archaeological studies inspired me to take on this project.

Understanding Late Pleistocene landscapes of Central Italy: a promising start

A review by Professor Terry O’Connor.

Maurizio Gatta’s article describes a mouthwatering opportunity to recover a wide range of closely-integrated data regarding a new Late Pleistocene site in Central Italy. Bones from clefts and cavities exposed by quarrying are notoriously difficult to comprehend with hindsight, and it is good to see that Maurizio can base the interpretation of this assemblage on first-hand records of the find-spot and excavation. And 47 hyena coprolites! As Maurizio says, they are potentially a great resource for placing the site in its environmental context. Understanding the taphonomy of the bones will be crucial, too. Is this a single deposit or a highly time-averaged one? In the latter case, does that explain the mixed environmental signals? And how do the lithics relate to the animals;- chance juxtaposition, or did people ‘time-share’ with the hyenas? Although it is very early days in this investigation, the potential is genuinely exciting and no doubt The Post Hole will carry more articles on this fascinating project.

ISSN 2052-0778 (print)
ISSN 2051-9745 (online)

The Post Hole
The King's Manor
Department of Archaeology
University of York
editor [at]